Per Pitchfork, Living Colour have been working the cover into their live sets for several years, but were inspired to record and release the cut in response to continued gun violence and police brutality towards people of color. The track will anchor a new EP, Mixtape, that will include several reworkings of “Who Shot Ya?” with a variety of guests.
Betts’ remix is a fitting first salvo for the project. Prodigal Sunn (from the Wu-Tang affiliated group Sunz of Man) opens the cut with a vicious verse followed by the Roots’ Black Thought, who bluntly spits, “It’s hard to keep count of the deceased / More dead niggas, another half-assed press release / Black man blood start to flood the street.” The song continues with Chuck D and a blistering guitar solo, after which Pharoahe Monch unleashes a politically charged verse and Kyle Mansa brings the cut to a surprising dancehall-inspired close.
While Living Colour’s cover of “Who Shot Ya?” uniquely recontextualizes the track widely considered the start of the Notorious B.I.G./Tupac feud, the presence of Black Thought on Betts’ remix adds an ironic wrinkle to the cut. The video for the Roots’ 1996 song “What They Do” famously poked fun at mid-Nineties hip-hop opulence and unintentionally featured a Biggie lookalike. While a line on Biggie’s verse on the “Flava in Ya Ear” remix was misconstrued by some as dissing the Roots, the Brooklyn MC did tell The Source he was upset with the portrayal in “What They Do” given the support he’d shown the group. Drummer Questlove attempted to patch things up with an op-ed for the magazine, but the rapper was killed before it went to print.
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Living Colour will release Mixtape September 9th. The group is also at work on a new album, Shade, which would be their first since 2009’s The Chair in the Doorway.