Remix//Revision

This semester, as a final project I am teaching revision in some of my courses. To get started thinking about the concept, we looked at Talib Kweli’s take on two Nina Simone tunes: “Sinnerman” and “Four Women.”


The Kanye West-produced “Get By” uses a sample built around the piano bridge following the hand-clap breakdown from Simone’s source text. The intro samples her forceful vocal improvisation on the word “power” during the cesura, just before the song’s culmination. One student cast Kweli’s revision as an answer to Simone.

The second example is oriented around content. Kweli’s elaboration on Simone’s four character sketches pays profound tribute to the original. Even though it is a hidden track, Kweli is explicit about his reference.

During the verses, lyrics that correlate strongly to Simone’s are doubled—or split. A female voice raps in unison with Kweli. Fragmenting the perspective, Kweli strengthens the allusion with this multi-layered delivery.