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Is recycling hip?

What Is Hip?
What Is Hip?
By various artists

Warner Bros.: 2004

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This review first appeared in the Winter 2004 issue of Turbula.

If any music would seem to not lend itself to hip hop remixes, it would the mainstream rock of the 1970s. And yet, that is, in large part, what makes up "What Is Hip?", a new compilation from Warner Bros. in which classic '70s FM staples are turned into house dance tracks.

Such unlikely chestnuts as the Doobie Brothers' "Listen to the Music" and Ambrosia's "Biggest Part of Me" become ambient house tracks in the hands of Malibu and Soul Hooligan, respectively. Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" gets even more disco-fied in the hands of Halou, Seals & Croft's "Summer Breeze" becomes a slow funk number in its reworking by Philip Steir and Ramin Sakurai, and Nicollete Larson's hit versin of Neil Young's "Lotta Love" is turned into a chill shuffle by Nic Jodon.

Of course, this being a Warner Bros. project, the songs available were limited to those from the Warner vaults. So there aren't any Earth Wind & Fire or Ohio Players cuts to really liven things up here. Even material that would seem to lend itself to a nice remix doesn't always turn out as well as one might supposed. Steir and Sakurai don't do much at all with Devo's "Whip It," except upping the percussion and adding some new bridges. And Tower of Power's title track is actually ramped down in energy by Meat Beat Manifesto.

The closest we get to a real breakout song is the remix of Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band's classic "Express Yourself." Modern Worker remixes the song by slicing it into shorter passages, then stringing them together giving it an even funkier, meatier dance-ready beat.

What's most interesting about this recording as a whole, though, is how representative the Devo cut is of the entire project. There is remarkably little remixing done to most of the tracks, at least compared to similar projects that Blue Note and Verve have produced with their classic jazz libraries. In many cases, the original jazz song was barely recognizable. That's never true here, and in some cases there are entire passages that seem unchanged.