Leave it to ZZ Top to take a regional rap hit and turn it into a smoking blues rock celebration of cool.
When working on last year's La Futura album, the bearded boys from Texas found inspiration from an unlikely source, a gangsta rap tune from Houston-based artist DJ DMD. The original, titled "25 Lighters," focused on hustling drugs and smuggling crack inside emptied out disposable lighters, which were easier to transport and pass. Of course, the ZZ version bears little resemblance to the original.
The song opens up with one of those fuzzy, unmistakable Billy Gibbons blues rock riffs. It drops the listener immediately into the kind of groove only the Little Old Band from Texas can deliver. When Gibbons starts singing, the hardcore, tough-guy rap of the original is replaced by a smooth, superbly cool vocal line. If there's a cooler guy on the face of the planet than Gibbons, I can't name him. It just oozes from his pores, and this song is no exception.
Lyrically, there's not a whole lot of rewriting here. I guess, technically, it's still about dealing drugs, but Gibbons' delivery makes it more about living the life and flashing the bling. Naturally, there's far more depth musically than the thin mix of the original, and a whole lot more attitude to my ears. It's the difference between cockiness and confidence. DMD has the first, ZZ Top has the latter, and it works a whole lot better in the context of what they do.
I'll admit that I'm not much of a hip-hop fan, so the original doesn't get much of a chance with me, and those who do have a greater appreciation might have a different opinion. But if I didn't know better, I'd guess this song belonged to ZZ Top from the get-go. They owned it.
Rappers have been lifting some of the best rock riffs for their songs for years. It's about time rock took a little revenge.
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