Saturday, September 28, 2019

"You Be Illin'" by Run-D.M.C.

Song#:  2905
Date:  10/25/1986
Debut:  86
Peak:  29
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rap

Pop Bits:  Hip-hop would never be the same after this trio's third album, Raising Hell. It was a turning point for the genre and it would be the first rap album to go multi-platinum. That was mainly thanks to the rap-rock crossover hit "Walk This Way," which got to #4 at Pop and #8 R&B. Up next was this third single from the album. It was an original work and it ended up doing fairly well getting to #12 at R&B and making it inside the Pop Top 30. "Walk This Way" certainly helped to open doors and it helped this song make a bit of an impact on the charts. More mainstream acceptance of rap was still a ways away, but the fact that these guys put a full-on original rap/hip-hop tune in the Pop Top 30 was a signal that times were changing.

ReduxReview:  I was so unhip at the time (I'm only slightly better these days) that I thought "you be illin'" meant the person was actually sick. Especially since the rap included food things like KFC. In reality, I was the one that was illin' as it really means acting foolish. Yeah, that's pretty much me. Despite me not being hep with the lingo, this was a pretty great track. The scratching, bass line, and the horn stabs were a solid foundation for a terrific rap. It should have been a Top 10 hit, but since pop radio was still reluctant to rap music as the time, Top 30 wasn't a bad result. Regardless of chart position, it was another classic from the trio.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  While many artists cover hit songs or classic tracks from various genres like pop, rock, R&B, jazz, etc., not as many take a stab at remaking a rap tune. Rap can be much more difficult to cover since it is nearly like trying to recite another artist's vision or poetry. Plus as artist has to be quite clever to figure out how to present a rap in a new way. There are several successful examples of rap tracks being remade by non-rap artists. "You Be Illin'" is one of them. It was covered by the Americana old-time string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Their folk-ified version was a bonus track on their 2012 album Leaving Eden. The trio had been together since 2005 and had released two albums before breaking through to a wider audience with their 2010 effort Genuine Negro Jig. The LP would reach #1 on the Bluegrass chart and #2 at Folk. It would also win the Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album. Lead singer and violin/banjo player Rhiannon Giddens branched out to a solo career in 2014. She would earn three Grammy nods with two of her releases being nominated for best Best Folk Album. (Note: I have a couple of favorite offbeat rap covers. Irish folk artist Luka Bloom did an excellent version of LL Cool J's 1987 #1 R&B/#14 Pop hit "I Need Love" for his 1992 album The Acoustic Motorbike. Singer/songwriter Tori Amos recorded a creepy version of Eminem's "'97 Bonnie & Clyde" for her 2001 covers LP Strange Little Girls. Look 'em up.)


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