In the mid-90s and early 2000s, the genre of the remix was living the dream. It swooped in and championed flat lining R&B, pop and hip-hop singles and gave them another chance for the charts. DJs and producers have been remixing songs for decades – dancehall, disco, hip-hop and electronic genres have deep histories of remixes that go back to the ’60s – but there’s no question that the remix was ruling popular music in the mid-’90s and early 2000s.
What’s odd about this musical era is that nearly all of these remixes were drastically superior than their original versions. With disco, hip-hop and electronic remixes of the past, the chosen originals were almost always established hit singles before they were remixed – similarly to the EDM remixes that are being produced by DJs today. So what happened in the mid-90s and early 2000s? Were remixes purposefully aimed at reworking weaker songs? Whatever the reason, the remix appears to have been that era’s saving grace in a way that it isn’t utilized today.
Here’s a list of 10 original songs and the remixes that blew them away.
“Only You” – 112 Feat. The Notorious B.I.G. 
The remix of “Only You” transforms the original from a sleepy love song into an R&B/hip hop jam that still kills on dance floors. Biggie takes over the original by snagging the first verse of the track adding some hip-hop grit. 112’s smooth harmonies are even more appealing when shout outs from Biggie and P.Diddy are layered overtop. And then there’s Mase’s verse: “Even though I’m not the one that gave you the stone / On your days alone I can make you moan.” Forget the gushy romance of the original; the remix is all about flaunting that sexy swagger, Bad Boy style.
“Only You (Bad Boy Remix)” – 112 Feat. The Notorious B.I.G. & Mase 
“I’m Real” – Jennifer Lopez 
After the remix was released with Ja Rule’s intro “What’s my motherf*#%ing name!?” no one cared about J-Lo’s original version. Ja Rule’s raspy vocals paired with J-Lo’s smooth tone was so popular they seemed to own the airwaves with their two duets. Both “I’m Real” and “Ain’t It Funny” hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts – the remixes, that is. The remix of “I’m Real” slows down the tempo, adds a heavier beat and gives J-Lo a new street cred she hadn’t had before. Her earlier singles, “If You Had My Love”, “Waiting For Tonight” and “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” were dance and pop driven but the remix of “I’m Real” sparked a new direction for J-Lo and resulted in hugely successful singles that featured hip hop artists like “Ain’t It Funny” with Ja Rule, “All I Have” with L.L. Cool J, “Get Right” with Fabolous, “I’m Gonna Be Alright” with Nas, another remix of “I’m Gonna Be Alright” featuring 50 Cent, etc. The list of Jennifer Lopez’s collaborations with rappers is huge and the success of this remix started it all.
“I’m Real (Murder Remix)” – Jennifer Lopez Feat. Ja Rule 
“I’m Not A Player” – Big Pun 
Who even knew “Still Not A Player” was a remix!? The original version, “I’m Not A Player”, is almost completely unrecognizable from the remixed version. It begins with a sample of the O’Jays’ “Darlin, Darlin’ Baby (Sweet Tender Love)” and only until Big Pun’s first line, “I’m not a player I just f*%$ a lot”, do you have any clue that this was the original. This was Big Pun’s first single and after it achieved mild success, he released the remix featuring Joe the next year and it’s been on party playlists ever since.
“Still Not A Player” – Big Pun Feat. Joe 
“Pass The Courvoisier” – Busta Rhymes Feat. P. Diddy 
The remix of “Pass The Courvoisier” wins over the original for three reasons: 1) Busta demanding the party wake the hell up with his intense first line: “Don’t this s$*t make a n*$&* wanna JUMP! JUMP!” 2) Pharrell’s chorus 3) The Neptunes’ acoustic guitar and bass groove that makes the remix so danceable. *Mic drop*
“Pass The Courvoisier – Part 2” – Busta Rhymes Feat. P. Diddy & Pharrell 
“Fiesta” – R. Kelly Feat. Boo & Gotti 
“After the show it’s the after party then / After the party it’s the hotel lobby then / After the Belve then it’s probably Cris / And after the original it’s probably this.” Jay Z’s opening verse in the remix wins this battle on its own, but R. Kelly solidifies this hit with that smooth chorus of his. The remix was named the best-selling R&B/hip-hop single of 2001 by Billboard and spent five weeks at #1.
“Fiesta (Remix)” – R. Kelly Feat. Jay Z and Boo & Gotti 
“Ain’t It Funny” – Jennifer Lopez 
The original “Ain’t It Funny” tanked in North America and for those who only know the remix, it’s virtually unrecognizable. The only thing the two songs have in common is the title “Ain’t It Funny” that shows up in both choruses. Once again Ja Rule immediately owns the track with his exclamation, “IT MUST be the ASS that got me like damn!” that you can’t help but sing along to. The Latin flavour and all of the lyrics of the original version are completely scrapped from the remix and instead we get the addictive sassy single that overshadowed the original so much we didn’t even know it existed.
“Ain’t It Funny (Murder Inc. Remix)” – Jennifer Lopez Feat. Ja Rule & Cadillac Tah 
“No, No, No – Part 1” – Destiny’s Child 
Thank you Wyclef Jean for taking the snooze fest that was “No, No, No – Part 1” and saving it with your remixing skills. After knowing Wyclef’s remixed version, I dare you to make it through Beyoncé’s first verse. The song is begging to be revived from its coma and “No, No, No – Part 2” is its saviour. Even Bey hates the original arrangement when she cuts off their rehearsal in the video for the remix. Everything is better in “Part 2” – the dancing, the clothes, the hair, the beat, the vocals, Wyclef’s verse when he calls them the “young Supremes”… Not even a challenge here.
“No, No, No – Part 2” – Destiny’s Child Feat. Wyclef Jean 
“Stutter” – Joe 
The remix of “Stutter” has such a solid beat that you can’t help wanting to dance even though the chorus is one repetitive stutter after another. There’s no question that the higher tempo, stronger percussion and Mystikal’s rowdy verse brought the success that the slow R&B original never stood a chance to get. The remix featuring Mystikal held the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for four weeks.
“Stutter (Remix)” – Joe Feat. Mystikal 
“Let’s Get Married” – Jagged Edge 
Jermaine Dupri summed it up with the first line of the remix: “This here is a remarkable So So Def remix.” Remarkable indeed. The remix of Jagged Edge’s “Let’s Get Married” elevated the single from R&B boy band sap to dance floor anthem of 2000. Rev. Run of Run-D.M.C. owns this song when he raps over a sample of Run-D.M.C.’s hit “It’s Like That”: “Now I done already gave you the keys to the Range / And your last name ’bout to change / Now you Mrs. Simmons / Got a better livin’ / What a difference the reverend made.” This remix made a song about getting married one of the best hip hop tracks of 2000 and kept it at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 R&B/Hip-Hop chart for three weeks.
“Let’s Get Married (Remix)” – Jagged Edge Feat. Jermaine Dupri & Rev. Run 
“Ignition” – R. Kelly 
Even if you don’t like R. Kelly, you can’t deny the groove of the “Ignition” remix. R. Kelly did it right the second time around by dropping the car metaphors (well, most of them), upping the sing-along factor (“Sippin’ on coke and rum / I’m like so what, I’m drunk / It’s the freaking weekend baby / I’m about to have me some fun”), referencing his “Fiesta” remix with Jay Z (“And after the show it’s the after party / And after the party it’s the hotel lobby”) and making one of the greatest remixes out there. R. Kelly upped his game without any guest vocalists on his remix. Respect.
“Ignition (Remix)” – R. Kelly