phil collins hip hop

Tracing hip-hop’s love affair with Phil Collins

A rap tribute album, an appearance in a Bone Thugs-N-Harmony video, and everything in-between

- Apr 15, 2016

This past January, The New York Times ran an article called "Does Anybody Still Loathe Phil Collins?" The article was sympathetic to the legacy of Phil Collins, but it still came as quite a shock to me. Coming from a hip-hop background, all I know is respect for him from as far back as I can remember: sampling, remakes of his songs, hip-hop movies with Phil on the soundtrack, and even an entire tribute album where rap and R&B artists covered his songs.

Perhaps it's a reciprocal respect. In the early days of hip-hop, many establishment stars fought tooth and nail against the new genre, while Phil Collins did the opposite. Take 1983’s “Mama” single by Genesis: Collins’ laughing on the track is said to be an ode to Melle Mel’s performance on “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. This was not a common reverence from the rock establishment of the early '80s. Phil Collins was different, and rappers noticed.

It should be expected that selling over 150 million records worldwide, winning seven Grammys and getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would bring its fair share of haters, but for the former Genesis prodigy, the hip-hop community has always been his strongest proponent — from Eminem’s “Stan” shoutout, to Kanye West naming Collins as an influence on 808s & Heartbreak.

As Phil Collins invites a new look at his legacy with reissues of his classic albums (complete with recreated covers), Chart Attack traces five classic Phil Collins hip-hop moments.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard, “Sussudio"

OL' DIRTY BASTARD - Sussudio

The late Ol’ Dirty Bastard may have seemed like an odd choice to take on this song in the 2003 hip-hop and R&B tribute to Phil Collins, Urban Renewal, but remember that ODB was Wu-Tang's pop crossover thanks to his collaborations with the likes of Mariah Carey and Kelis among others. Plus, the original song’s “Sussudio” title is said to have been a Phil Collins improvisation over a drum machine loop, which was classic ODB style.

Mike Tyson in The Hangover 

Hangover - In the air tonight with Mike Tyson (HD - 720p)

Mike Tyson’s well publicized friendship with 2Pac forever connected Tyson with the hip-hop community, and 1981’s “In The Air Tonight” contains one of the first pop music traces of what’s now recognized as a hip-hop beat (2Pac had also sampled the song). So perhaps it’s only fitting that the boxer is responsible for movie history’s most memorable use of the song’s drum break.

Lil’ Kim, “In The Air Tonite” 

Lil' Kim - In The Air Tonight

Lil’ Kim displays her vintage Brooklyn flow for this single from Urban Renewal, which followed a 1998 DMX remake of “In The Air Tonight” and preceded a 2007 Sean Kingston reggae version. Let's also not forget Eminem misnaming the song "In The Air of the Night" in "Stan." That song's legendary drum break is a producer's dream.

Fredro Starr & Jill Scott, "Shining Through”

Fredro Starr - True Colors (Save the last dance soundtrack)

Although “True Colors” was originally released in 1986 by Cyndi Lauper, the 1997 Phil Collins version (featuring production and backing vocals by Babyface) seems a more likely influence to this remake. Featuring Jam Master Jay protégé Fredro Starr (of Onyx) and Questlove protégé Jill Scott, “Shining Through” was released in 2000 on the Save The Last Dance soundtrack.

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, “Home” 

Bone Thugs N Harmony - Home

Wouldn’t it be fun to travel back in time to 1988, and shock music fans by telling them about an N.W.A. and Phil Collins dalliance that happens 14 years in the future? Eazy-E signees Bone Thugs-N-Harmony achieved the closest thing with “Home,” released on their 2002 Thug World Order album by Ruthless Records. The music video features Phil Collins performing his original chorus while bopping his head to Bone Thugs verses, which include an Eazy-E shoutout. Yes, that links Eazy-E and Phil Collins.

Raoul Juneja is a NYC native turned Toronto columnist, TV producer, and award-winning literacy advocate. Follow him on Twitter @raouljuneja

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