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In 2002, Sean Combs as the erstwhile "P. Diddy" released a compilation album through his Bad Boy Records imprint titled We Invented The Remix. While the release was a chart-topper, featuring re-workings of antecedent hits from his stable of pop-rap artists, the album title itself was largely received with confusion and even derision. 

"WHAT?! Who does this guy think he is? Who is 'WE?' Bad Boy did NOT invent the remix!" 

Which is, of course, true; Bad Boy did not. But that is not what he meant.   

What Is A Remix?

The essential idea of remixing – taking an existing recording and changing its fundamental parts to create a new interpretation of it – first began in Jamaica in the 1960s at the hands of men of African descent. Trailblazing producers like King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry were trying to create alternate versions of the popular reggae tunes in Kingston's booming dancehall scene. Their approach was to completely re-record a track, thus "doubling" or "dubbing" it, using primitive equalization and sound processing gear to remove vocals and isolate the underlying rhythm, usually just the drums and bass. 

Next they would add special effects like echo and reverb to highlight certain parts of the track and warp it into a sexy, tripped-out instrumental. These spare "dub" mixes provided ideal music beds for the dancehall MCs – called "DJs" – to perform over, in an early form of rap called "toasting." In the footnotes of music history, the dub remix stands as one of the most astonishingly groundbreaking and avant-garde techniques ever developed. It's worth repeating that this was the 1960s.

Moving into the '70s, the Jamaican diaspora throughout the world brought musical innovators to seminal locations for the advancement of DJ culture, in particular New York City and London. There they applied the same basic principle from dub – strip a record down to its component parts, extend it, change it, add to it, enhance it for a dancefloor – to what became hip-hop and disco, and, later, house, techno, drum & bass, and dubstep. 

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What Is A Remix Artist?

In the modern era, the remixer has evolved from an exclusive club of elite producers hand-picked by major record labels, working in multimillion-dollar studios and paid hefty fees, to a massive swarm of anonymous kids working in dank bedrooms, using cracked software, and paid nothing. Today, "remix" is everywhere. It's part of the pop vernacular, propelled by the EDM phenomenon. Soda, candy, clothing, cosmetics, consumer goods of all kinds ... new product iterations touting "remix" on the package. As a culture, it is now about as corporate and lily-white as it gets. 

But its origins descend directly from Jamaica and black men. THEY invented the remix.    

What Makes A Great Remix?

So what makes a great one? What is their purpose? What are the musical and production values that make them work? And, considering these factors, what are some of the Greatest Remixes of All Time? 

For insight into this, we asked veteran DJ/Producer Strobe who has over 20 #1 Billboard Club Chart remixes to his credit. His latest, for Adele's "When We Were Young," is currently Top 10 and climbing. Strobe – also an avid dance music historian and vinyl junkie – dug through his collection to come up with this list of 15 gems, a few handfuls of the best ever, and a cross section of genres, styles, and eras.     

   

Everything But The Girl - “Missing” (Todd Terry Remix) | 1994
Robin S. - “Show Me Love” (Stonebridge Remix) | 1993
Nightcrawlers - “Push The Feeling On” (MK Dub Of Doom Mix) | 1992
Sneaker Pimps - “Spin Spin Sugar” (Armand’s Dark Garage Mix) | 1996
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Ram Jam - “Black Betty” (Ben Liebrand Rough 'N Ready Mix) | 1989
Happy Mondays - “Hallelujah” (Paul Oakenfold & Andrew Weatherall Mix) | 1990
Cornershop - “Brimful of Asha” (Norman Cook Remix) | 1997
Michael Jackson - “Rock With You” (Frankie Knuckle’s Favorite Club Mix) | 1995
Duke Dumont | “The Giver (Reprise)” (Mark Ronson Remix) | 2015
Eric B & Rakim - “Paid In Full” (Seven Minutes Of Madness – The Coldcut Remix) | 1987
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - “Heads Will Roll” (A-Trak Remix) | 2009
Radiohead - “Everything In Its Right Place” (Hybrid Remix) | 2000/2004]
Eurythmics - “Sweet Dreams” (Dave Angel Nightmare Mix) | 1990
Azzido Da Bass - “Dooms Night” (Timo Maas Remix) | 1999

 

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