Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery as the saying goes and nothing screams that louder than watching your favorite rapper or singer cover their favorite artists' songs. Cover songs have a deep-rooted history in music. Before making it big and having the opportunity to write and perform their own music, many artists used covers as their demo tapes to make it in the game.
Prior to embracing the status of "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul," Mary J. Blige was a teenage girl with dreams of making it out of Yonkers, N.Y. When she was 17, she recorded her first demo tape in a makeshift novelty recording kiosk at a mall close to her home. The amateur recording, which later find its way into Diddy's hands, featured a young MJB singing Anita Baker’s “Rapture of Love” -- she was her favorite artist at the time. Blige's raspy cover of the soulful staple helped land her a deal at Diddy's Bad Boy Records.
More recently, in 2012, internet sensation and rising star Niykee Heaton scored a deal with All Def Digital in conjunction with Capitol Records thanks to her acoustic covers of Chief Keef’s “Love Sosa” and Lil Wayne’s “Rich as F---.”
Of course, no two artists are the same and covers are all about illustrating admiration and offering a new interpretation of new and classic hits. But even though we may love the original track we have to admit a good cover is always awesome. Take a look at 10 cool covers from some of the most respected stars in hip-hop and R&B.
Lauryn Hill Covers Nina Simone's "Feeling Good"
With the Nina Simone documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone? released on Netflix this summer, Lauryn Hill paid homage to the jazz legend by covering her 1965 classic “Feeling Good.” Not straying far from Simone’s original, L. Boogie’s take on the track, which has been sampled numerous times and covered by everyone from Michael Buble to the Pussycat Dolls, is arguably the best version to date. If you like the rapper's cover of “Feeling Good,” she has more where that came from. Hill played a huge role in composing Nina Revisited: A Tribute to Nina Simone, the soundtrack for the film. She also recorded five other tributes including a performance of “African Mailman” and "Black Is The Color of My True Love’s Hair.”
Chance the Rapper Offers His Version of DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince's "Summertime" and the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy"
Chance the Rapper not only made a surprise appearance at the 2015 Bonnaroo music festival during Earth Wind & Fire’s performance, but he returned for Bonnaroo SuperJam! to put on a showstopping set of his own featuring throwback covers of some of the best '90s hip-hop tracks. Backed by a live band and DJ Pretty Lights, Chance got the crowd hype to Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s Grammy Award-winning eternal summer anthem “Summertime” before paying tribute to Brooklyn’s finest with his take on Biggie’s “Juicy.” To add to the moment, he played the accompanying visuals to each track on the big screen behind him.
Beyonce Delivers Emotionally-Charged Take on Lauryn Hill's "Ex-Factor"
Everyone knows Beyonce performs her own arsenal of hits whenever she graces the stage, but while she was on her 2014 On the Run Tour, co-headlined by her husband Jay Z, the singer also decided to cover Lauryn Hill‘s “Ex-Factor,” the second single off of L. Boogie's critically-acclaimed debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Just as Lauryn slayed the vocals in 1998, Queen Bey served an applause-worthy performance of the heartbreak ballad at nearly every stop on the tour. In fact, Bey showed so much emotion in some of her performances that she fueled pesky divorce rumors between herself and Hov.
Trey Songz Pays Homage With Usher's 'Nice & Slow"
When BET wanted to honor Usher at the 2015 BET Honors, they went to Trey Songz to salute the veteran R&B star with a tribute of his 1998 throwback “Nice & Slow.” Dressed in all-white everything, Trigga was obviously the man for the job as he embodied Usher’s sexy swag and goose bump-inducing vocals. He even attempted and nailed Usher's big rap moment with "They call me U-S-H-E-R-R-A-Y-M-O-N-D / Eh, baby tell me what you wanna do with me / Gotta n---- feenin' like Jodeci."
Ed Sheeran Gives Fetty Wap's "Trap Queen" an Acoustic Flip
Although Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” dropped more than a year ago in April of 2014, fans still can’t get enough of the hip-hop banger. Even British star Ed Sheeran loves the song. A day after appearing on XXL’s 2015 Freshman Class cover, the Grammy Award-winning singer teamed up with the Roots to deliver an acoustic version of “Trap Queen.” While the original version may make you want to throw wads of cash in the air or get into twerk mode, Sheeran’s take on the track transforms it into an R&B love song that is equally as dope.
Drake Covers Kanye West's "Only One" and Rihanna's "FourFiveSeconds"
Drake established himself as a versatile rapper and singer from his career start, so when the OVO head owl in charge decided to bust out in full-out karaoke mode, singing Kanye West’s “Only One” and Rihanna’s Yeezy and Paul McCartney-assisted “FourFiveSeconds” at a Sprite NBA All-Star Weekend concert, concertgoers were elated. The performances were brief, but Drizzy had a goal in mind with the showcase -- to pay homage to 'Ye. "Kanye West, that's like a mentor to me. He's one of the greatest artists. Period, in life,” he shared before jumping into “Only One.”
Chris Brown's Hilarious Take on Sam Smith's "Stay With Me"
This may not be considered a serious cover, but Chris Brown sure does offer an interesting take on Sam Smith’s ballad “Stay With Me.” As opposed to singing the original lyrics, Breezy makes a spoof out of the international hit with his bars. “Oh won’t you stay with me / 'Cause I bought your new weave / Now I didn't spent my cheese / Bitch you owe me,” CB sang in a 2014 social media post. His lines are harsher than Smith's original, but there's no denying Brown has the pipes to pull off a proper performance.
Miley Cyrus Offers a Country Spin on Andre 3000's "Hey Ya"
Miley Cyrus has certainly proved herself to be a versatile artist. Over the years, she’s gone from country music to teetering on the edge of pop and R&B. But somehow, she always seems to remain true to her southern roots. Take her epic cover of Andre 3000’s “Hey Ya,” which she performed during a Bangerz Tour stop in 2014. She added her own folksy, country twang to the hip-hop tune and it’s actually pretty good. Leave it to Miley to make sure she was shaking what her mama gave her when the appropriate lyrics arrived.
The Weeknd Shows Out With Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana"
As untouchable as the King of Pop's music is, Michael Jackson is certainly an inspiration for many artists. Canadian crooner The Weeknd, who has captivated audiences with his own unique serenades, stepped on the scene with his Echoes of Silence EP in 2011, which featured a very special dedication to Jackson. Abel Tesfaye chose to cover MJ’s classic “Dirty Diana” and gave his version the appropriate title "D.D." While we love the original, his dark, bass-heavy spin would make MJ proud.
Miguel Covers Usher's "Bad Girl"
It’s safe to say that Usher paved the way for artists like Miguel. Ursh helped create the lane for the kind of lyrical sex talk showcased on Miguel's newest album, Wildheart. That could likely be the reason why he decided to pay respect to the veteran singer during a visit to Live on Choice FM with Max by performing Usher’s 2004 hit “Bad Girl.” We must confess, Miguel’s sultry voice backed by the acoustic guitar strings is a sweet reminder of Usher’s excellence and huge influence in R&B music.
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