Puffy didn’t invent the remix. Even the idea of reconstructing a song so it was almost completely different from the original and calling it a remix existed before Puffy. However, his re-rub of Bad Boy’s first hit set a couple of precedents and served several purposes. Oh, and it might also be the best hip-hop remix ever. It’s at least top five.
Anyway, here are some of the things that happened as a result of the “Flava In Ya Ear” remix being released.
*It lengthened the shelf-life of the original “Flava”, catapulting the song into the top 10 on the pop charts and setting up shop at the top of Billboard‘s rap list.
*It cemented The Notorious B.I.G.’s reputation as one of the illest cats to ever touch a mic. Biggie’s verse is insane from the opening line “niggas is mad/I get more butt than ashtrays”. Before his 16 is done, Big will give a shout out to his down South brethren (“not from Houston/but I rap a lot”), drop a reference obscure to everyone but early ’80s kids that watched Diff’rent Strokes (“invisible bully/like the Gooch¹/vamoose, disappear/you’re wack to me”) and assert his dominance over his contemporaries “you’re mad ’cause my style is admiring/don’t be mad, UPS is hiring.” And he rhymes the entire verse in a blasé monotone that suggests he was getting his nail filed (or getting blown) while in the vocal booth.
*It officially kicked off Busta Rhymes’ solo career and confirmed him as an all-time song stealer. Bussa Bus wasn’t new to setting fire to posse cuts. After all, his closing verse on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” was already legendary. But the unhinged energy of Busta’s “Flava” verse was on some other shit. It was his first real appearance since the dissolution of Leaders of the New School, and got heads open for his first solo project.
*It gave LL a much needed shot in the arm. Cool J’s verse is nonsensical (to put it mildly). However, only a legend like LL could drop a 16 that left 90% of hip-hop fans scratching their heads in confusion and still come off. Ladies Love Cool James was coming off of a disappointing effort (1993’s 14 Shots To The Dome), had already accepted a cushy sitcom job (In The House) and his appearance alongside the hottest new East Coast rappers of the day bolstered his credibility among hip-hop diehards who dropped you at any sign of a sell out. LL’s next album (released a year after the “Flava” remix) went multi-platinum and scored three top 10 pop hits, all in the beat-jacking Puff Daddy style.
Unfortunately, the two emcees the “Flava” remix didn’t do much for were Rampage (whose appearance on the track must’ve been the result of some successful bartering by his cousins Busta) and…the guy who was the lead artist on the track. Craig’s verse is dope, but dope as it was, he was the fourth most memorable cat on his own record. In short order, Biggie would become Bad Boy’s focus and Craig Mack would get lost in the sauce. Talk about life imitating art.
¹-The Gooch was Arnold Jackson (as played by Gary Coleman)’s bully on Diff’rent Strokes. The character was mentioned in numerous episodes, but never actually appeared on screen.