I tend to see all remix albums as suspect, a ploy by labels to sell you the same set of songs twice. “Perseverance: The Madlib Remix” is even more suspect, because it is the same producer remixing his own work, so it can’t even offer a radical reinterpretation of the songs. Should consumers pay money to hear a producer remix himself? Would you pay to hear the Neptunes remix “Hell Hath No Fury,” Timbaland remix “Miss Eâ€¦So Addictive” or Dr. Dre remix “The Chronic?”
Maybe you should. Far from feeling like a cash-in rip off, “The Remix” is actually an interesting reimagining of Percee’s “Perserverance.” What’s great about this album is that it changes the relationship between producer and rapper. Since the days when Kool Herc was spinning block parties in the South Bronx, hip hop has been about MCs rapping over beats; in other words, the rappers are usually the ones riffing off of what the DJ is doing. On this album, Madlib gets the opportunity to riff off of the MC, which results in beats that sound more energized and engaged. Madlib is able to craft his beats and samples around Percee’s rhymes, not the other way around.
This disc doesn’t really feel like a remix album. Part of this has to do with the fact that Madlib plays it fairly safe here, offering another version of the song rather than totally deconstructing it or screwing and chopping it. That’s fine with me, as I’ve always hated noisy, glitchy, seven-minute remixes. I personally am not that interested in listening to how bugged out a DJ can make a track sound, and much prefer the more straightforward approach Madlib takes.
“Put it on the Line” offers creeping guitar in place of the keyboards on the original; “No Time For Jokes” replaces hard boom bap with a jazzy flute loop; The funk breaks on “Legendary Lyricist” and “Last of the Greats” are replaced by electro beats. Some of the tracks are mirror images of the original, like “The Hand That Leads You,” which offers a slightly different variation of the original beat. Some beats are more radical reworkings, like on “Throwback Drum Attack,” in which Percee’s “Throwback Rap Attack” is refigured over a drum fill. “The Remix” also offers a new track, the Soul II Soul inspired “Real Talk.” The end result is 14 new Madlib beats, all of which are good, and none of which are merely recycled from his other production work.
Percee’s vocal tracks stay intact throughout the disc, with Madlib weaving his way around Percee’s bombastic flow. As with “Perseverance,” Percee stays in overdrive, and Madlib attempts to chill P out with is beats. In some ways, “The Remix” does a better job of balancing Percee’s single-minded flow than the original, and the result is a listening experience that is mellower and subtler than “Perseverance.” I did miss the harder funk of “Perseverance,” and I felt that in general there was more excitement on that disc than on these remixes. Still, “Perseverance: The Madlib Remix” is a solid album, and is as good as the original. Madlib’s beats are always worth checking out, and longtime fans of his work won’t be disappointed. People who slept on “Perseverance” should check out “The Remix,” but if you weren’t a fan of Percee’s rapping on the original, there is nothing on here that is radical enough to make you change your mind. That said, either version of “Perseverance” is worth owning, and you might as well get both.