5 Unexpected, but Awesome, Covers of Rap, Hip-Hop and R&B songs

By Olivia Billbrough

More and more we are seeing rap or hip-hop songs being covered by artists of other genres like blue grass or alternative rock. The cover songs aren’t necessarily better than the original, but they are definitely amazing in their own right and use the lyrics or sound of the original to take the song to a new level. Here are five really cool covers of some rap, hip hop and R&B songs you’ve probably heard and liked, transformed into something really cool.

1. Bitches Ain’t Shit

Original by Dr. Dre

Dr. Dre’s original version features Daz Dillinger, Kurupt, Snoop Dogg (is he going by Snoop Lion now?) and Jewell, and was released on his 1992 album The Chronic. It’s been remixed and covered several times by other rap artists, but most notably, it was covered by Ben Folds in 2005 where it reached number 71 on the Billboard Hot 100. Folds apparently had to stop playing it for a while after receiving some harsh negative views, but has recently begun to perform the song again. Folds’ cover includes piano, drums and synthesizer making the song sound almost cute rather than the harder sound it had in Dr. Dre’s version.

Cover by Ben Folds

2. Umbrella

Original by Rihanna Ft. Jay-Z

Released in march of 2007 and winning two awards at the MTV video music awards, Rihanna’s “Umbrella” is certainly a stand out song. But what happens when you take out the beats and electronic sound and replace it with a single voice and guitar? Marie Digby’s cover, that’s what. Taking the best parts of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” Digby creates an uplifting acoustic version that will stay with you long after you’ve listened to it.

Cover by Marie Digby

3. Hey Ya

Original by OutKast

Be real, we all remember this song. Sixth graders never looked so cool shaking their hands like they were holding polaroid pictures and singing along to André 3000’s catchy chorus of “Hey Ya”. Released in 2003, “Hey Ya” was well received and I bet you can still remember most, if not all of the lyrics today. Covered by a wide array of people, one cover is quite beautiful. The Blanks, an Acappella group and reoccurring  band on the show Scrubs, do an amazing cover of “Hey Ya”. Featured on Scrubs during a wedding scene, the cover is slower and melancholic, but still feels sweet and heartwarming, though maybe an odd choice for a wedding scene. 

Cover by The Blanks

4. 99 Problems

Original by Jay-Z

Focusing on racial profiling issues, Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” was released in 2004 on The Black Album. The chorus and title are from Ice-T’s “99 Problems” but the content is very different and apparently the “bitch” in Jay-Z’s version refers to a police dog. Covering Jay-Z’s version, Hugo’s country-blues “99 Problems” is very different. Using banjo, a foot stomping beat and deep bass made it a great song to end the movie Fright Night with. The video itself is also creepy adding to the new feel of the song.

Cover by Hugo

5. No Scrubs

Original by TLC

Another classic from our childhood, TLC’s “No Scrubs” released in 1999, won a Grammy and was number one on the charts for weeks. Without this song what else would we call scrubs? The song has been covered several times by artists such as Blink 182 and Kelly Clarkson, but one cover that stands out to me is the Bastille cover. Maybe more of a cover and a mashup, “No Angles” by Bastille uses the music of The XX’s “Angels” and dialogue from the movie Psycho, along with the lyrics to “No Scrubs” as sung by Ella and Bastille. More intense and with a darker feeling due to the Psycho dialogue, “No Angles” is an addicting cover to the popular “No Scrubs.”

Cover by Bastille

Obviously, there are hundreds of amazing covers of all different genres of music. There is even a rock version of Will Smith’s Men in Black out there. And while for most people a cover can never replace the original song in their hearts, they can still add it to their ITunes library along side it. Have a favorite cover? Share it in the comments below!

*Bonus* Here’s a bonus video of Joseph Gordon-Levitt covering Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”.

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