Why are so many rappers remixing Solange's 'Cranes in the Sky'?

How did Solange's song about proper internalized coping become the year's hottest rap track?
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This year's hot unofficial remix seems to be Solange's "Cranes in the Sky."

She told Instagram last month that the Raphael Saadiq-produced single off A Seat At the Table took eight years to complete. While she mentioned in Vogue that the song's about moving away from material possessions to focus inward, the remakes don't always keep with that theme.

So why is "Cranes in the Sky" quickly becoming this year's "A Milli"/"Exhibit C"/"Yonkers"?


Common was the first to remake the track with an "Unofficial Remix" posted to his Soundcloud. An unorthodox move for an MC of his stature to just rap over the beginning of someone else's song, Common's verses reference and complement Solange's lyrics. Common told The Fader his reasoning was "Every once {sic} and a few years, there are certain songs that come out and have the sound of forever. 'Cranes in the Sky' is that song for me. Every time I listened to it, I keep wanting to hear it again and again. I started mumbling some words to it and then decided I want to write a verse."


The next artist to deliver a take on it was Lox-member Styles P. A very different artist from Common in style/sound/lyrics, he loaded up "Ghost in the Sky." With Solange's being a very personal and universal feeling of coping with vulnerability, Styles follows the same train of thought with how he internalizes the same feelings of disassociation.


Now Rick Ross has jumped on "Cranes in the Sky." While it contains the Ross trademarks of showing off his wealth (here, the titular "Cranes in the Sky" are how his "Crib so big" rather than the looming dread of insecurity) and how well he treats women, which seems to be his biggest thrill.

As for how the same beat attracted such different entities as the conscious Chicago rapper, the New York street rapper, and the Miami millionaire rapper who would seldom be on the same production, there's a lot to cross-examine.

For one thing, the warmth of Raphael Saadiq's airy beat sounds like nothing else right now and its drums lends the track to a lot of different rappers' strengths flow-wise. There's also something to be said for how much the aforementioned artists feel the original, with the lyrics showing an affection and both Common and Ross' versions keeping the entire original song at the end.

But if this rush of "Cranes in the Sky" reinterpretations gives us one thing, it's a window into how these artists internalize their struggles. Whether a fleeting glimpse or a focus, something about that beat has made three of the most extroverted rap artists give us an internal glimpse behind the image.

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