SWV & Wu-Tang Clan’s Remix Did Not Sound Like Anything Before It (Audio)
In 1994, SWV (a/k/a Sisters With Voices) had become one of the most successful acts in the new guard of R&B-Pop. With its Gospel roots, the RCA Records machine (thanks to some demo tapes packaged with sparkling water) helped transform Taj, Coko, and Lelee into top-of-the-charts sensations. Like fellow New York City native Mary J. Blige, SWV injected Hip-Hop and sampling into its sound for something referential and fresh at once. Late 1992’s It’s About Time was met with a multi-platinum response, thanks to #1 slow-drag classic “Weak,” and Teddy Riley’s “Human Nature”-sampling remix to “Right Here.”
Unpacking the album with singles and hit remixes through ’92 and ’93, Sisters With Voices needed a new way to communicate in ’94. Luckily, they had friends in high places, thanks to Dr. Dre and Death Row Records. The Beverly Hills, California-based label had emerged simultaneous to Lelee, Taj, and Coko—thanks to G-Funk, Gangsta Rap, and a lot of controversy to complement the rugged sound of Dre, Snoop Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound, and The Lady Of Rage.
While only acts like Bushwick Bill and The Dramatics had been outsiders at Death Row’s musical gangsta party, ’94’s Above The Rim soundtrack allowed Suge Knight and Dre’s label to invite some guests. Tupac Shakur starred in the Jeff Pollack—directed, Barry Michael Cooper-written (Pollack also got co-writing credit) film about basketball, family, choosing a pathway to success. Naturally, ‘Pac and Thug Life appeared (with ‘Pac releasing “Pain” on the cassette version too). The other established guests were Aaron Hall, Al B. Sure, and one of the hottest groups out, SWV. However, soundtrack Supervising Producer Dr. Dre and Executive Producer Knight seemingly had an idea for the Sisters to sound a bit more, gangsta.
“Anything,” which appeared as a hit video single on SWV’s ’92 debut, was remixed. The slow ballad was put in the fast-break, thanks to old-school sample accents and filthy dirty drums from their producer Brian Alexander Morgan and ALLSTAR. The song fell into a new groove, the perfect juxtaposition of street and soft, with samples of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five (“Freedom”), which covered “Get Up And Dance” by Freedom for the drums and horns. In a Death Row soundtrack to a film set in Harlem, New York—this mix had lots of Uptown flavor.
Moreover, appearing on the maxi-single (carrying both the RCA/BMG and the Death Row logo) and the remix EP (released two months later) the hottest new Rap group, Wu-Tang Clan—sprinkled verses. Breakout group star Method Man, clique jester Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and the mahogany-voiced U-God splashed the track with fast musings that were a chest-pass away from the song’s R&B roots.
Plus, as Death Row and Tupac (who joined the label 18 months after the film released, following a prison bid) would declare war on Bad Boy Records and much of the East Coast—this was an early reminder that Wu was immune. Two years later, Method Man (as well as Inspectah Deck, though his vocals were erased) would record for ‘Pac’s All Eyez On Me double-album.
Above The Rim soundtrack lived up to its name, reaching #2 on the charts. The popular companion to the beloved B-ball film launched Death Row into a soundtrack canon that would sustain the label throughout the next decade—even when Dre left, and Suge was incarcerated. For artists on and around the label, evident in SWV’s case, these were opportunities to make big statements, and hang with a once “untouchable” musical franchise.
#BonusBeat: The soundtrack version, without Wu-Tang:
Sisters With Voices met Brothers with lyrical swords, and Heads are still noddin’.