During NBA ALL-Star Weekend in Dallas, Jay-Z called the original version of “We Are the World” “untouchable.” Although Hov called the remake, “We Are the World: 25 for Haiti,” a “valiant effort,” he said he felt that re-creating the magic from the original is impossible, and MTV News readers seem to be split on the song’s musical merits.
We talked with some luminaries from the hip-hop and R&B world about the song at All-Star weekend.
“I’m glad they did that,” [artist id="961097"]Ludacris[/artist] said. “That was a staple in history. It may be a lot of people saying it’s hard to duplicate what happened before, but it was so long ago. I’m glad they attempted to do it. I feel it’s extremely strong. The same thing the past [version] did for me, I’m hoping this new one will do for the new generation.”
[artist id="450135"]Jermaine Dupri[/artist] agreed with Jay-Z that remaking such a classic tune is a daunting task.
“It’s a hard record to touch,” Dupri said from his seat at the All-Star game shortly before tip-off. “I think the idea and the thought process of putting the new young talent in the mix of ‘We Are the World’ and helping the situation in Haiti, I thought it was a brilliant idea on Quincy’s part. Ironically, it happened to be 25 years later. It just happened to be enough time in between so it felt like it was something that needed to happen.”
Dupri said he’s been communicating frequently with “We Are the World” helmer Quincy Jones, because JD is remaking another of the Q’s classics, “Secret Garden” (from Jones’ hip-hop-leaning 1989 LP, Back on the Block). He said the two had a long conversation about “We Are the World” on Saturday.
“I was talking to him about how he put the pieces together,” Dupri explained. “I thought he moved everybody around in a cool way and he let everybody get a piece of the song. In the original version, Michael [Jackson], Lionel [Richie] and the main people controlled it. Everybody else was just singing background. They switched it up in a cool way to make it new and fresh.”
Super-producer Jimmy Jam (Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige) said, “I’ve only seen just parts of it. I haven’t seen the whole thing. I think it is wonderful. It shows the relevance of the music community. In [times] of crisis, [they] always come together, raise the spirits, raise the hopes of people. The fact they are using the words of a song that was written 25 years ago shows the greatness of Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie and the people that were involved in making that. I think it’s great; it pertains obviously to a new generation. [It is] just as relevant today if not more so to when it was originally done.”
One of the ways that the new version is different from the timeless original is many rappers were involved . Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Wyclef Jean, Will.I.Am, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J and Nipsey Hussle are just a few of the MCs who were present at the session.
“I thought that was hot,” Dupri said about incorporating hip-hop. “I love the fact that Lil Wayne was singing — I know rappers always wanna sing. You could feel his happiness of just being a part of it, to hear him sing. I thought that was cool to see that. I like the rappers coming together doing one part — it was cool to see the younger and older crews together.”
“Hip-hop has been around a long time,” Jimmy Jam said. “It’s made its mark and it’s gonna continue to be here. Great! Add it to the pot. The gumbo is nice.”
One of the points Jay-Z made when talking about the remake of “We Are the World” is that he would have loved it if Jones and Richie would have pooled together their endless array of talent to make a new song. One of the game’s premier songwriters, Sean Garrett, said he’s willing to step to the plate.
“I think that’s a great idea,” he said. “Me and Ne-Yo been talking about doing something real big. Jay-Z is a leader — so thank you, Hov, for bringing that to us. I think we need to take him up on that offer! The 25th anniversary was a great opportunity for us all to remember a great cause and come together and sort of reignite that type of unity we need around the world. With so much going on these days, it’s time for us to come together and use music more than for just making money and dancing in the clubs. I’mma challenge my man Ne-Yo to get together with his boy Sean Garrett and Hov and get together and do something great like come up with a brand-new song to help the world.”
What do you think of “We Are the World: 25 for Haiti”? Do you like the remake, or do you think a new song should have been written? Let us know in the comments below!