There are million YouTube videos of people covering rap, hip-hop and R&B songs, and it can be overwhelming to sift through them all—so we’ve done it for you. Here are 10 songs that you should hear.
10. “Umbrella” (Rihanna ft. Jay-Z) – Mandy Moore
This was one of two songs on this list that came about thanks to Billboard’s Monday Mashup series. Moore used to be a pop starlet but after an artistic metamorphosis, decided make this a ballad instead of a dance anthem. Her voice on the track may be better than Rihanna’s on the original. Only downside: no Jay-Z in the beginning.
9. “Heartless” (Kanye West) – the Fray
Say what you will about Isaac Slade’s sing-song voice, but it does wonders to Kanye’s heavily auto-tuned break-up jam. The band’s cover is haunting and you can really feel the pain behind the lyrics.
8. “No Diggity” BlackStreet – Klaxons
This is a huge departure for Klaxons, who deliver a very spot-on cover. It has the rhythm, and it has the blues; if you heard it without knowing anything about the song, you would certainly think it was another R&B band with a catchy tune.
7. “Cry Me a River” (Justin Timberlake) – Glen Hansard
Hansard is used to writing songs about relationships, especially with the Swell Season. His solo rendition of Justin Timberlake’s epic “screw you” song is slowed down a bit, but you can still feel how angry he is. Did Hansard decide to cover this after his break up with band mate Marketa Irglova? At least their relationship is better than Justin’s and Britney’s.
6. “Whatever You Like” (T.I.) – Anya Marina
Thanks to exposure from Gossip Girl (that’s right) this song flew into all of our hearts with Anya Marina’s exotic voice singing to pre-jail T.I. Sung from a female perspective, Marina seem completely in charge. it’s more pop than rock, but it’s still an amazing rendition.
5. “Bitches Ain’t Shit” (Dr. Dre) – Ben Folds
This song was the inspiration for this list. It’s everything a rap cover needs to be: make it original without changing lyrics. So why is it so low? Keep scrolling, you won’t be disappointed.
4. “Single Ladies” (Beyoncé) – Sara Bareilles
On another Billboard Monday Mash-Up, Bareilles takes her baroque pop styling and spins it on the song that was “The best video music of all time” according to Kanye West. Her piano hook drives the song while her voice lends it self perfectly to the R&B tune. She definitely does Beyoncé’s original vocals justice.
3. “Hey Ya” (OutKast) – Obidiah Parker
You may never have heard of Obidiah Parker, but the band’s version of OutKast’s funky single is gorgeous. While some of the covers on this list are novel, this song doesn’t feel like a cover, but a well-written piano driven, acoustic pop song.
2. “Baby Got Back” (Sir Mix-A-Lot) – Jonathan Coulton
Sure, Coulton’s version skips the opening “Oh. My. God. Becky, look at her butt” skit, but this folk version holds it’s own compared the bootylicious original. He slows up the hook instead of delivering it with the punch that Mix-A-Lot did, but also adds the perfect back-up vocals when you least expect it.
1. “Hot In Herre” (Nelly) – Jenny Owen Youngs
Hearing a soft-spoken Jenny Owen Youngs sing “I was like, good gracious ass is bodacious / flirtaticious, tryin’ to show faces / lookin’ for the right time to shoot my steam” is the best way to open the most awesome rap cover ever. Throughout the song she sings with such seriousness about “poppin’ the bottles” that you’ll have to listen to it twice to hear through the laughter.
While these covers are amazing, there are some songs that we’d love to see certain musicians cover. Click to the next page to see a list of pairings that would make us here at Paste very happy.