Kevin Saunderson: “I changed the game” with 1988 Heat It Up remix

“Nobody did what I did… There’s a reason why they call me The Elevator”

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Kevin Saunderson

Image: Rose Catherine Hohl for MusicTech

Detroit house and techno pioneer Kevin Saunderson has discussed creating an early acid house remix in the late ’80s, boldly claiming that the way he created it “changed the game”.

The remix is his version of UK duo Wee Papa Girl Rappers’ 1988 hit Heat It Up. It’s an acid house take on the hip-house track that ups the tempo, chops and loops the vocal and introduces, of course, a Roland TB-303 bassline. According to Saunderson, “nobody” at the time “did what he did” regarding this innovative remixing process on the track.

While up until this point, edits and remixes were a thing, according to Saunderson, this was the first example of a remix where all of the components were completely removed, leaving just the vocals on top of a similar, but entirely new instrumental. At the time, this was a completely new way of remixing a song as opposed to just extending the music or making it more DJ-friendly. Compare the two below:

Saunderson, a pioneer of techno as part of the Belleville Three and member of Inner City, recalls making this style of remix in a recent interview with MusicTech, going on to highlight its impact on genres outside of electronic music, too.

“Remixes were done back in the day [by] Shep Pettibone, Jellybean Benitez, Larry [Levan]. Re-edits to make it more DJ-friendly,” he says. “Nobody did what I did when I did the first remix for Wee Papa Girl Rappers [Heat It Up]. I completely changed the game. There’s a reason why they call me The Elevator. That fits right in there.”

“People should always know: that remix didn’t just change the game for electronic music – hip-hop DJs started doing it. Everyone started doing it. It’s just part of my legacy,” he adds.

A 2018 interview by Red Bull Academy sees Saunderson delve a little deeper into how he remixed the track in this new way. According to Saunderson, his approach was to “lose everything and to make a track, and make sure it was in the same key, and take a bit of the vocals, and use it over my track”.

Also in MusicTech‘s recent interview, Saunderson talks about the lasting impact the city of Detroit has on music, and how it’s important to provide a platform for budding electronic music producers from the city.

“A lot of music has come out of Detroit that’s been impactful in the world,” he says. “There’s something that could come out of this place again. But it takes someone to give somebody an opportunity. We made our own path. As you get older, you try and open up doors for other generations.”

Read the full interview on MusicTech.


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