Nothing Good Happens When J. Cole Rick Rolls Janet Jackson: The Remix Report Card, Third Quarter 2015

Plus, we grade remixes of Rita Ora, Lil Durk, Major Lazer, and more. Thank God for Fetty Wap.

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Oct 9 2015, 2:09pm

It’s autumn: the leaves are falling, everyone’s back in school, and the victory lap remixes of the songs that ruled the summer are still trickling out. Fetty Wap is predictably ruling the remix circuit, perennial guest rapper all-stars Lil Wayne and T.I. make the rounds, J. Cole is sticking himself places , and French Montana never ever goes away.

Continued below...

“Body On Me (Remix)” by Rita Ora featuring Fetty Wap and Chris Brown

In the latest, most awkward chapter of the continuing saga of the music industry seeking to establish Rita Ora as America’s second favorite Rihanna, Rih’s ex Chris Brown has been drafted to help her sneak onto US airwaves. And the remix of the single adds one of urban radio’s other current golden boys, Fetty Wap, to sweeten the deal. It really is a huge improvement to the song, with Fetty the open-hearted romantic declaring “I wasn’t scared to let you in, baby, gave you the keys to every Benz, baby.”

Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B+

“I Like Tuh (Remix)” by Carnage featuring Lil Wayne, G-Eazy and ILoveMakonnen

“I Like Tuh” is a deeply annoying song that matches Makonnen’s tongue-in-cheek uncanny valley version of southern rap tropes to DJ Carnage’s smudged tenth-generation Xerox of a long-forgotten idea of whatever “trap” beats are supposed to sound like. The remix doesn’t promise to be much less annoying by drowning it in eye-rolling punchlines from two very different rappers. But it does have one structural quirk that I really enjoyed—Lil Wayne does his own version of Makonnen’s warbling piano outro, and then the song kicks back into gear for G-Eazy’s verse.

Best Verse: Lil Wayne
Overall Grade: B-

“Like Me (Remix)” by Lil Durk featuring Lil Wayne, Jeremih and Fetty Wap

“Like Me” made it into light national radio rotation thanks to a Jeremih-powered hook a few months ago, around the time Lil Durk’s Def Jam debut dropped in June. So it was surprising to be reminded of the song’s existence by a remix featuring two big name stars in September, way way after the original disappeared from playlists. But again, it can’t hurt to have a Fetty Wap version when you’re trying to breathe some life into a record in 2015. The new verse from Durk is even worse than his bland singsong on the original “Like Me,” or maybe his melodic rapping suffers from appearing alongside two masters of the form.

Best Verse: Fetty Wap
Overall Grade: B+

“Locked Away (Remix)” by R. City featuring Lil Wayne and Adam Levine

R. City, a pair of brothers from the Virgin Islands, have been kicking around the pop charts for the last seven or eight years, writing and producing dozens of hits and occasionally making annoying vocal cameos (the Migos-lite backing vocals on Usher’s “I Don’t Mind” and the faux-Future ad libs on Ciara’s “I Bet”). They finally scored a major hit of their own recently by letting one of Top 40’s few sure things, the inexplicably unstoppable Adam Levine, sing the hook. The song’s platitudes about a lover holding you down when you get locked up don’t hit very hard when the guy from Maroon 5 is whining them, but having Weezy rap from some of his own personal experiences gives the song at least a little more heft.

Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C+

“Lean On (Remix)” by Major Lazer featuring Ty Dolla $ign and MØ

MØ is probably the most wooden, uninspiring vocalist to front a global pop hit in 2015. So Ty Dolla $ign is a very different and entertaining choice to lend a dash of flavor to the official remix. He doesn’t do much other than see how many times he can fit the phrase “this bitch” into one verse (the answer: six), but it’s still an improvement on the original.

Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B+

“Nasty Freestyle (Remix)” by T-Wayne featuring Ty Dolla $ign and Chedda Da Connect

In the post-Shmurda landscape, there’s really no sense that a beat belongs to whoever used it first, not if someone else blew up bigger off of it. Less than 12 months ago, “Nasty” was a track by Bandit Gang Marco featuring Young Dro that racked up only a million hits on YouTube. Then an equally unknown rapper named T-Wayne rapped over the beat, and his “Nasty Freestyle” went viral and rocketed into the Top Ten of the pop charts, so now we have a remix of the remix. It’s odd, however, that T-Wayne’s remix has less starpower than Bandit Gang Marco’s remix with Young Thug and Kevin Gates. The new version is a complete overhaul of the beat, with T-Wayne’s famous opening line from the previous chorus-free track looped up as a hook, which seems like way too much effort for something that kind of blew up by accident to begin with. Chedda Da Connect, perhaps the only rapper who stuck gold more undeservingly than T-Wayne this year, holds the remix back from adequacy.

Best Verse: Ty Dolla $ign
Overall Grade: C-

“No Sleeep (Remix)” by Janet Jackson featuring J. Cole

This was a cruel switcheroo: In June, Janet Jackson released “No Sleeep,” the smooth and soothing lead single from her first album in seven years. And then a month later, she hit us with the surprise that J. Cole would be featured on the official version of the track in its video and on the album—a Cole Roll, if you will. At one point, the small handful of rappers who’d appeared on Janet Jackson albums was a prestigious little club, but now Khia’s in it, so it’s hard to really argue that Cole doesn’t belong.

Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: D

“We In Da City (Remix)” by Young Dro featuring T.I.

Nine long years after “Shoulder Lean,” Young Dro recently scored his biggest hit without a T.I. assist. So I have mixed feelings about Tip jumping on the remix—Dro just proved he could make a smash without his superstar buddy, and then he cedes the spotlight to him once again. But more than that, “We In Da City” had a certain elegant logic as it was, with Dro shouting big goofy catchphrases in the first verse, and then switching up to a faster, more intricate flow for the second verse. So slotting a new T.I. verse in between the two original Dro verses kinda messes with that structure and blunts the impact of the last verse. Still, these guys always sound like they have so much fun bouncing off of each other’s flows.

Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B

“Why You Mad (Infinity Remix)” by Mariah Carey featuring French Montana, Justin Bieber, and T.I.

The weird thing about Mariah’s remixes is that they sometimes seem kind of like they’re roping unrelated parties into Mariah’s rivalries. She once treated us to the odd spectacle of Gucci Mane joining in on her Eminem diss track, and here we have an all-star cast seeming to jump into Mariah’s divorce from Nick Cannon with their own breakup platitudes. French Montana is annoying enough as an opening verse, but just when you think it’s over, a couplet from his verse gets looped up as part of a refrain at the end of the track.

Best Verse: T.I.
Overall Grade: C+

Al Shipley is a writer living in Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter.