Friday, April 24, 2009

Vocal Processors are the New Vocoders.

Every now and then, there's something that completely disarms us. There's always that heady subject that we're convinced is going to end our world as we know it, then somebody comes along and reminds us that we're all fools. In 1992, Dr. Dre released the landmark album, titled "The Chronic", which remains today one of the best selling albums of all time. Dr. Dre and his former group, NWA, are known for being the penultimate gangsta rap group, known for their accounts of the gangsta lifestyle. Though none of them ever had a criminal record beyond basic moving violations, they were considered the most dangerous rap group in America.

Then, one day, a white guy from North Carolina decides to make a cover of the Dr. Dre song "Bitches Ain't Shit", which was one of the finest examples of the gangsta rap style. The cover retains all of the elements of the original song, including all of the the derogatory terms toward women and the gratuitous use of swear words, but also adds guitar choruses, chord organs, lives drums, live bass, etc. The Ben Folds cover takes all the venom out of the original Dr. Dre track and puts in its place legitimate musical production. I will contest that the Ben Folds cover is one of the most brilliant covers I have ever heard. I figured I would share it with you.

Ben Folds - Bitches Ain't Shit (Live)

Many would consider this cover satire and I would agree with them. Some of my favorite photography has involved social commentary in the same way this song does. It reminds us not too take things too seriously. It also reminds us that the taste-makers aren't always the best authority on what art is and should be. There was a time when this song was in vogue. Seventeen years later, it just seems absurd.

I once saw a band play a cover of the song "Gay Bar" by the Electric Six as their final song, before pack their gear up. The cover was pretty good, I'll admit. Then, the next band came to the stage and pointed to the other band and said, "Now we're going to play a proper cover." The first song they played was "Gay Bar", which was better than the previous band's attempt by a long shot. Sometimes, we need to inform others that their attempts are lackluster and unimaginative. Ben Folds informed Dr. Dre that "Bitches Ain't Shit" was exactly that, lackluster and unimaginative and sought to make a better version of the song than had been previously available.

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