The Top 20 Rap Remixes of 1994
Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
1994 was a very special year for me as a hip-hop fan. Not only were many of my favorite albums and singles of all-time released in ‘94, but it was the year that I bought myself my first set of turntables. I saved all the money I made working as a day camp counselor that summer in White Plains, and made the pilgrimage to Upstairs Records on Avenue X in Brooklyn to throw down cash on a DJ starter package I saw advertised in The Source. It was the priciest purchase I had made as a teenager to date.
Funny thing is, I never became a DJ (I couldn’t scratch for shit). Instead, I started writing rhymes to the instrumentals that appeared on the 12 inches I was copping like a crack addict, and recording them to cassette using the shittiest mic in the history of audio equipment. But I didn’t buy records just for the beats. Back then, the most efficient way to get my hands on official versions of the ill remixes and B-sides I heard on mixtapes was to buy singles on vinyl. I copped my fair share of cassette and CD maxi-singles from Sam Goody in The Galleria too, but I hit the Music Factory on Fordham Road weekly to spend the majority of my cheese on records, just so I could listen to all the dope new joints in my room and make pause tapes to bump in the whip. It was a glorious time.
If you’ve been following our feature content here at NahRight closely, then you already know we’ve begun celebrating the 20th anniversary of 1994’s excellence with our Nas #MixtapeMemories song list, and our Making of Stress: The Extinction Agenda with Organized Konfusion interview. So to keep the nostalgia pumping, and take the celebration to the next level, we present you with The Top 20 Rap Remixes of 1994, featuring vocals by everyone from Biggie Smalls to The Beatnuts to the Beastie Boys, and production by the cream of the crop, including DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor, Q-Tip, Diamond D, Dr. Dre, Erick Sermon, Buckwild, and more. This is a list I personally hold near and dear to my heart, as I still keep one lonely crate with many of these records stashed under the desk at my office for daily inspiration (unfortunately my cassette singles are long gone). Hope you enjoy it as much as we did putting it together. Aiight!
*Honorable Mention* Souls of Mischief “Never No More (76 Seville Mix)” and “Make Your Mind Up (Rock On Mix)” (tie)
Souls of Mischief’s debut LP 93 ’til Infinity obviously dropped in 1993, but they released the single for “Never No More” in ’94 to keep the album promotion pumping, and it included two tight, in-house remixes on it. Snupe handled production on the “Never No More (76 Seville Mix),” while Domino was behind the boards for the “Make Your Mind Up (Rock On Mix).” Listen below, and also peep our making of No Need For Alarm interview with their Hiero bro Del the Funky Homosapien if you missed it (Snupe and Domino both produced tracks on there). And speaking of Del, die-hard Hiero fans may also fondly remember the Casual remix of his No Need For Alarm single “Wrongplace.”
“Never No More (76 Seville Mix)”
“Make Your Mind Up (Rock On Mix)”
20. M.O.P. “Rugged Neva Smoove (DJ Premier Remix)”
Originally produced by DR Period for M.O.P.’s debut album To the Death, “Rugged Neva Smoove” was remixed by their fellow Brooklynite DJ Premier, who would go on to also produce almost half of their sophomore album Firing Squad. As you can hear, the chemistry between them was there from the jump.
19. O.C. “Time’s Up (Eclipse Remix)”
O.C.’s debut solo single “Time’s Up” is a bonafide classic, thanks to his lyrical realism and Buckwild’s banging production. But hopefully you got far enough through the CD single (if you had it back in the day) to check out DJ Eclipse’s remix, because it’s fresh. Eclipse of course went on to host WNYU’s legendary program The Halftime Show, and play a major part on the New York City underground hip-hop scene overall. Good stuff right here.
*Bonus* O.C. “Born 2 Live (Eclipse Remix)”
This was officially released later, and didn’t appear on the original pressing of the “Born 2 Live” single, but it’s dope, so we’re throwing it in as a bonus. Eclipse slickly took Nas’ “Life’s a Bitch” line “my physical frame is celebrated ‘cause I made it” and turned it into a hook. Well done, E.
18. Nas ft. Sadat X “One Love (One L Remix)”
The “One Love (One L Remix)” is credited to Godfather Don and Victor Padilla, who flipped an entirely new instrumental and also brought in Brand Nubian MC Sadat X to replace Q-Tip’s chorus. This was a mixtape favorite for DJs who had already exhausted Illmatic’s tracklist on previous street releases, but it could’t touch the original. That said, it’s still worthy of inclusion here.
17. Outkast “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (Diamond Remix)”
Diamond D told Complex that he couldn’t take any credit for the success of Outkast’s title track second single, but he did admit that Big Boi once said, “Diamond’s remix helped us get a little footing up in New York.” And Big Boi was right. In ‘94, Outkast wasn’t as universal as they are today, and Diamond gave Big Apple-based DJs an option by providing an accessible version for local listeners who were more in tune with the New York City sound of the times. Respect the fusion.
16. The Beatnuts “Get Funky (Remix)” and “Hellraiser (Remix)” (tie)
The Beatnuts may be the most underrated rap group in the history of hip-hop when it’s all said and done. Their name is perfect, too, because they’ve got beats for days, and they’re nuts with the lyrics! And in ‘94, they gave two of their Street Level songs sick makeovers, equipped with banging new beats that rival the quality of the originals. No knock on the album versions at all, but these both could’ve made the LP if you ask us.
“Get Funky (Remix)”
15. Scarface ft. Ice Cube “People Don’t Believe (M. Dean Remix)”
Mike Dean’s name has been associated most recently with Kanye West’s string of critically acclaimed albums, but his roots are in the South, as he came up producing for dudes like the Geto Boys and UGK. And he worked his magic on this remix of Scarface’s collabo with Ice Cube, putting his smooth, Southern fried funk sounds underneath two of the greatest MCs in rap history. And yes, that’s Devin the Dude on the hook, people!
14. The Lady of Rage “Afro Puffs (G-Funk Remix)”
The Lady of Rage scored a huge hit with “Afro Puffs,” keeping the momentum created by Death Row smashes The Chronic and Doggystyle going strong in ‘94. Dr. Dre, who co-produced the original version with Daz, also gave Rage’s debut single the G-Funk treatment with this remix. It’s a nice alternative to the original if you’re looking for a slightly different flavor.
13. Beastie Boys “Sure Shot (Large Professor Remix)”
Large Professor, who told Complex that he’s been a fan of the Beastie Boys since the days of “Cooky Puss,” remixed the Beasties’ second Ill Communication single, putting a boom bap spin on the album version. It’s an awesome flip, and he kept it simple, saying, “I didn’t want it to be all over-produced. I just wanted to filter my bass line, put my drums in there, and get busy.” And that’s exactly what he did.
*Bonus* Beastie Boys ft. Q-Tip “Get it Together (Buck-Wild Remix)”
In addition, Buckwild gave the Beasties’ Ill Communication collabo with Q-Tip some D.I.T.C. flavor for its single release. Check it out.
12. Pete Rock & CL Smooth “Take You There (Remix)”
Pete Rock turned The Main Ingredient single “Take You There,” which in its original form has a female singing the hook and a chilled-out groove, into a more gritty and edgy joint with this awesome remix. The beat is much harder, and the female vocals have been replaced with scratches. Backpackers rejoice!
*Bonus* Pete Rock & CL Smooth “Get On the Mic (Remix)”
The “Get On the Mic” remix on the flipside of “Take You There” is nice, too. Peep.
11. Craig Mack “Get Down (Q-Tip Remix)”
It’s no wonder that after the success of A Tribe Called Quest’s first three albums Q-Tip was in high-demand for production. He was the guy behind all the beats for the group, so why not see what he could cook up for you, right? Craig Mack took advantage, and tapped Tip for the remix to his “Flava In Ya Ear” follow-up “Get Down,” and Tip went ahead and flipped it perfectly. He even added a guest verse to the end, announcing, “Here I stand, the rawest of the raw.” You can’t deny this.
10. The Fugees “Vocab (Remix)”
The original version of “Vocab” that appears on The Fugees’ debut Blunted on Reality is basically a drumless ditty, with the trio flexing their techniques over a stripped-down guitar riff. But the remix bangs with a hard-ass drumline, new flows, and the infectious chorus, “One, two, three, the crew is called Re-Fu-gee-ee-ees….” It came out so dope that they made a video for it and put it out as a single to follow-up their breakout hit “Nappy Heads.”
9. Common Sense “Resurrection (Extra P Remix)” and “Resurrection (Large Professor Remix)” (tie)
Large Pro ended up doing two different “Resurrection” remixes for Common because as much as Com liked the first one that was submitted (the “Large Professor Remix”), he asked LP to come back and do another one that was “in an iller zone.” So Extra P stepped up, and gave him the one that became the fan favorite of the two. They both bang, but the “Extra P Remix” definitely has a bit more originality and emotion. You can decide which one you like more for yourself below.
“Resurrection (Extra P Remix)”
Common “Resurrection (Large Professor Remix)”
8. The Notorious B.I.G. “Big Poppa (Remix)”
Jermaine Dupri put his spin on Biggie’s hit single “Big Poppa,” replacing the classic Isley Brothers sample that appeared on the original with his own smooth, So So Def sound. And Biggie blessed it with some alternate lyrics too, remixing his original rhymes a tad, and adding a new verse to the end of the song. And anyone who is old enough to remember 1994 knows how in-demand any new Biggie verse was. Baby bay-baay!
*Bonus* The Notorious B.I.G. “Juicy (Pete Rock Remix)”
Check for Pete Rock’s “Juicy (Remix)” below too, which isn’t that different from the original, other than a reworking of the drums and a subtle change in the sample usage. Still dope, though. Read more about it here.
7. Organized Konfusion “Stress (Extra P Remix)”
Last week, we published The Making of Stress: The Extinction Agenda with Organized Konfusion, where Pharoahe Monch and Prince Po broke down all the songs on their classic sophomore album. So it’s fitting that here we shine light on the remix of the album’s lead single and title cut “Stress,” which was masterfully given new life by fellow Queens artist Large Professor, who also contributed a verse to the track as well. Pharoahe and Prince Po laid down brand new bars too, making this an entirely new song for fans to cherish, with a less stressful vibe than the original. Read more about the making of the collabo here.
*Bonus* Organized Konfusion “Bring It On (Buckwild Remix)”
This lost remix by Buckwild wasn’t officially released until 1996, but since it’s circa ‘94, and we’ve been in an OK zone this month, so we felt the need to include it as a bonus.
6. Artifacts ft. Busta Rhymes “C’Mon Wit Da Git Down (Remix)”
The album version of “C’Mon With Da Git Down” is dope, but Buckwild’s remix of the song is not to be slept on, at all. It’s got a cool-out vibe, even with energetic MC Busta Rhymes appearing on it, but the drums are still hard to the core. Add in new lyrics by Tame One and El Da Sensei, and you’ve got one of the most underrated remixes of ‘94, for sure. Busta’s known for a lot of guest appearances, and we’ll get to one of his most famous ones shortly, but this joint is often overlooked. Props to all involved.
5. Redman “Rockafella (Remix)”
We kind of wish that this “Rockafella (Remix)” appeared as the album version, because as great as the original is, we couldn’t get past the fact that for a first single it had the same sample flip as “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang.” It was a bit too soon for us, even though we hold Dare Iz a Darkside in extremely high regard and would never actually question the Funk Doc. But the remix came with that spaced out shit, and felt a little more futuristic and aligned with how out-of-this-world Redman was in ‘94. And other MCs loved it too. Yup, both Biggie and Busta Rhymes made memorable appearances rhyming over this beat back in the day. Props to Erick Sermon for the ill track.
4. Jeru the Damaja “Can’t Stop the Prophet (Pete Rock Remix)”
Jeru’s a lucky son-of-a-gun. As if it wasn’t enough to have DJ Premier produce the original “Can’t Stop the Prophet” for his debut album The Sun Rises in the East, he got fucking Pete Rock to do the remix! We can debate all night about which version is better, but there’s no question that Pete stepped up and did his thing on this. Even Premier loved it.
3. Nas “The World is Yours (Tip Mix)” and “It Ain’t Hard to Tell (Large Professor Remix)” (tie)
All of Nas’ official Illmatic singles got the remix treatment in ‘94, each by different producers, too. Large Pro, who helped usher Nas into the game and who also produced three tracks on Illmatic including the original version of “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” provided a remix of his own work, which quickly gained popularity on mixtapes and during radio mix shows. And Q-Tip, who produced “One Love” for Nas, remixed Pete Rock’s masterful production on “The World is Yours,” and it came out dope, especially with a few new Nas lyrics to top it off. The video for it was flames, too.
“The World is Yours (Tip Mix)”
“It Ain’t Hard to Tell (Large Professor Remix)”
2. Black Moon “I Got Cha Opin (Remix)”
“I woke up in the morning, hopped on the train and saw my man/He had an L in his hand…” Buckshot was flowing his ass off on this song! Yes, the album version is tough as hell (Eminem recently did his own remix of it). It’s ridiculous. But this is how you flip a hardcore song and make it radio-friendly, while still maintaining your integrity and Brooklyn flyness. Don’t front, you know this got you open. And it’s “not too underground to make you stop when you mingle.” Duck Down!
*Bonus* Black Moon “Buck Em Down (Da Beatminerz Remix)”
Black Moon had another nice remix in rotation in ‘94 too. “Buck Em Down (Da Beatminerz Remix)” didn’t stray too far from the album version (the same “Wind Parade” sample and drums appear), but Buckshot’s verses and hook are tamer, which gave this Black Moon album cut some extra radio-readiness also.
1. Craig Mack ft. The Notorious B.I.G., Rampage, LL Cool J, and Busta Rhymes “Flava In Ya Ear (Remix)”
Let’s keep it a buck fifty. Craig Mack had the song of the summer in ‘94. Yes, “Juicy” was ringing off and Biggie was the new Don in town, and all the underground heads were still pumping Nas’ Illmatic on repeat, but this shit had everyone going bananas when it came on the radio and in the clubs. And when Puff went and got Busta Rhymes and LL Cool J on the remix? It was over. And Busta’s Flipmode Squad homie Rampage did his thing, too, as did Mack. The moment we heard Puff doing his Warriors impression on the intro, we knew this remix was gonna be off the hook. All that was left to do was argue about who killed it the most. As classic as this B.I.G. verse was, LL may have stolen the show here. And Busta goes apeshit at the end as usual, so he’s automatically in the running. Fuck it, they all went in. It’s one of the greatest posse cuts of all-time, and hands down the hottest rap remix of 1994.
All Complex articles linked above were originally conducted by the author.