I was bouncing around youtube tonight looking for some performance footage of Asher Roth and happened upon this video of Ash doing a cover of "Boom Boom Pow" by the Black Eyed Peas for BBC Radio 1. It's good. Ash and his crew, The Roth Boys (hmmm...), seem to be having a good time and making things fun for the listeners.
But more than that, Asher has allowed someone to record him and his crew doing a cover of another hip hop song. That got me thinking. I've seen artists like The Roots, Common, and Talib Kweli do bits of other artists' tracks in their live performances, but rarely do I see those bits recorded. Why is that? Why is it hip hop artists don't do recorded covers? I mean, there's this video, the In Tha Beginning...There Was Rap compilation album, Snoop's "Paper'd Up" (which was Eric B and Rakim's "Paid in Full"), and that's about all I can think of.
Perhaps it's due to the fear in the hip hop community of being criticized for borrowing and re-imagining a new idea, which is ironic because that's what hip hop beat makers have been doing since around 1974.
Or maybe it's simply a case of hip hop not having enough historical source material from which to sufficiently revisit an idea. But honestly, that would be a really lame excuse. There are dozens of memorable artists and memorable tracks from hip hop's past that I would love to hear rediscovered and reworked. Imagine OutKast doing their take on "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo" or Kanye West taking on a new "Planet Rock" project. How incredible would that be?
Best of all, projects like these would allow younger generations in the culture to continually be exposed to hip hop history in way that's more digestible. They won't feel they're being scolded for "not knowing their roots". They would have the opportunity to enjoy these songs with the same sense of discovery and excitement as those who were so fortunate to experience them at their inception.
I vote more covers in hip hop!