Rap retreads

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Flo Rida is getting lazy. Like, Puff Daddy levels of lazy.

The hit-making emcee, whose breakthrough single "Low" made drunk relatives gyrate inappropriately at wedding receptions worldwide and soundtracked Tom Cruise's bizarre dance in Tropic Thunder, continues to put up big numbers.

"Low" sat atop the Billboard singles chart for 10 straight weeks last year. Then "Right Round," the lead single from this year's sophomore album R.O.O.T.S., sold a record-setting 636,000 digital copies in its first week.

But as the pun-loving Miami native prepares to play Bar of Modern Art on Monday, his choice of source material is starting to sound conspicuously goofy.

First, he translated Dead or Alive's new-wave freak show "You Spin Me Round" into "Right Round," a club banger that trades the original's androgynous weirdness for Flo's own brand of awkwardness. Fair enough; rappers jack old pop songs all the time. Everything about "Right Round" is overkill, but at least it's fun to picture Flo Rida belting out the original's triumphant glory note while creepily playing with his teased-out hair.

"Right Round" has some redeeming value, but new single "Sugar," released this week, crosses the line. Of all the tracks this guy could have repurposed, no choice could have been more maddening than Eiffel 65's novelty dance hit "Blue (Da Ba Dee)." But that's the song he borrowed from here. (The original is probably stuck in your head now. Sorry.)

What could possibly have possessed Flo Rida to do this? And furthermore, is America going to let him get away with it by turning it into another No.-1 single? These questions linger as shamefully as "Blue" lingered on the radio.

This bewildering turn of events seems like cause to look back on some of rap's most mystifying retreads. Some of them worked. Some would best be forgotten. All of them are better than the new Flo Rida single.

T.I. and Rihanna, "Live Your Life" (2008)

The most recent strange rap remake came when this superstar duo sampled and repurposed O-Zone's "Dragostea Din Tei" (a.k.a. the "Numa Numa" song from the popular YouTube video). This should have been a disaster on par with Flo Rida's latest, but it turned out to be a vast improvement on the source material and one of last year's most infectious singles.

Joe Budden, "Stained" (2006)

One link in a long chain of rappers who like god-awful rock music, Budden pitch-shifted Staind's "Outside" for his Mood Muzik 2 mixtape. The original acoustic ballad is best known as a duet with Fred Durst, so in a way this track brought rap's lowest of the low full circle, from Bizkit to Bizkit.

Puff Daddy and Jimmy Page, "Come With Me" (1998)

By the late '90s, Sean Combs had already become the poster boy of uncreative sampling, most famously for uprooting The Police's "Every Breath You Take" and replanting it as "I'll Be Missing You," his tribute to deceased pal Biggie Smalls. So it wasn't surprising when he converted Led Zeppelin's badass "Kashmir" into an ego-driven monstrosity much more gruesome than Godzilla. The shocking part was Jimmy Page's endorsement of the ordeal.

Will Smith, "Just the Two of Us" (1998)

Right around the time his acting career hit full throttle, the former Fresh Prince supplanted Puffy as rap's most notoriously lazy sampler. There's no worse offender than "Just the Two of Us," which translates Bill Withers' sexy serenade into a schlocky ode to Smith's son Jaden. (Side note: Have you heard that kid has the audacity to star in a remake of The Karate Kid? Disgraceful!)

Jay-Z, "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)" (1998)

Apparently 1998 was the peculiar rap sample's pop cultural coming-out party. By pillaging a tune from the Broadway hit Annie, Jay-Z made it OK to flip something precocious into something fly.

What: Flo Rida

When: 9 p.m. Monday, March 23

Where: Bar of Modern Art, Downtown

Web: bomaevents.com