One of the great things about hip-hop is the way you can combine many different perspectives into a collaborative effort. In many cases, these collaborations evolve into full-on albums between the joined parties. Here’s the breakdown of how these usually happen: two or more artists will do a song together that both the public and the performers love. They then decide to see if lighting will strike twice, and join force and release an album together, that will either fulfill expectations, or leave egg on the face of everyone involved. Here’s a rundown of some of the best and worst collaboration albums, along with those that just never seemed to get that momentum.
Nas and Damien Marley, Distant Relatives
Nas and Marley pair up to create a musical tribute to Africa, with each track being dedicated to a topic relating to the central theme, set over music that incorporates everything from Hip-hop to African tribal music. What’s so great about this album is the way both MC’s manage to play off each other perfectly without stepping on the other’s toes, and yet still give their all on every track, producing what is one of the better albums of both artists’ career.
The Black Keys and Various MC’s, Blakroc
The best way to describe this album is to take the bluesy alt-rock feel of The Black Keys, and mix it with a variable who’s who of MC’s including Mos Def, RZA, Jim Jones, and even a verse from the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Overseen by Dame Dash, who brought all the parties together after becoming a fan of The Black Keys, the album is a hypnotic melding of multiple genres making it easily the best rap-rock album in a long time. I thoroughly believe that anyone who bought Lil Wayne’s rap-rock disaster Rebirth should be allowed to return the album and exchange it for this CD.
MF DOOM & Danger Mouse (DANGERDOOM), The Mouse and The Mask
Underground legend MF DOOM and producer-extraordinaire Danger Mouse deliver an ode to their favorite block of programming, Adult Swim. Mixing DOOM’s cunning wordplay, Danger Mouse’s exceptional diverse production skills, and the occasional Aqua Teen Hunger Force or Family Guy soundbite, the album is both a hilarious and enjoyable experience.
Freeway and Jake-One, The Stimulus Package
This collaboration helped provide that classic album we always knew was hiding behind Freeway’s raspy delivery. Set to Jake-One’s soulful and funky production, Philly Freeza gives us his all over tracks rapped from the perspective of snitched-on hustlas, men looking for the perfect woman, and even from the point of view of narcotics. An easy nominee for album of the year.
The Firm, The Album
Proof that not every collaborative effort by Nas comes out smelling like roses. Bogged down by in-group fighting (which led to the premature removal of member Cormega), over the top Mafioso-themed rap, and the kiss of death of not being able to live up to the hype, this album became a black stain on the careers of all involved.
Bow Wow & Omarion, Face Off
Hey, I got a great idea: let’s take two performers who have individually produced nothing above the ranking of mediocre, and let’s stick them together on the same album to create one giant pile of mediocrity! I’m pretty sure being made to listen to this album has been outlawed under the guise of being cruel and unusual punishment.
Jay-Z & R.Kelly: Best of Both Worlds, Unfinished Business
Man, who doesn’t remember THIS debacle? I decided to include both albums here, since choosing which album was worse was as difficult as deciding if I would rather be set on fire or bludgeoned to death with a shovel. Full of generic performances on all ends, this team up does nothing but make you shake your head in disapproval at seeing two prolific artists stoop this low. Toss in an actual physical confrontation between the two which led to R.Kelly being kicked out in the middle of a performance at Madison Square Garden, and you have a career disaster for the ages.
Bonus: The Unknown
MF DOOM & Ghostface Killah, Swift & Changeable
Two outstanding MC’s who have created nothing but magic on every track they do together, this album was announced way back in 2006 with a release date as early as the same year. Unfortunately, fate had other plans, and the album just never saw the development needed to keep the hype going. By 2009, Ghost was dismissing any chance of the album being released sometime soon. Damn.
Kanye West, Pharrell, Lupe Fiasco as Child Rebel Soldier, God Unwilling
This one still hurts a little. Three of the best producers/MC’s who were at the top of their game, working together as a collective unit to deliver something stellar. First they released their (only) single “Us Placers”, a song that I still regularly play on my iPod, which whipped the internet into a frenzy and the sheer awesomeness of this collaboration. Then after some silence, they appeared together under the CRS billing for the “Everybody Nose” remix, just to keep our hopes up. Unfortunately, delays in their individual solo projects (Lupe), outside distractions in over mediums (Pharrell), and an almost unhealthy addiction to autotune (Kanye) left the CRS album on the backburner. Lupe put the final nail in the coffin last May when asked about if the album would ever see the light of day, and he bluntly responded: “No”.
Lil Wayne & Juelz Santana/Lil Wayne & T-Pain/Lil Wayne & Drake… You get the idea:
When it comes to half-baked collaboration albums that will never see the light of day, no one can take the crown away from Lil Wayne. Oh sure, he gave us one album with Baby that they did together- but what about the countless records that we hear about that never see the light of day? I Can’t Feel My Face should have come out years ago, and yet here we are in 2010 with nothing to show for it. It was recently announced by Drake that he and Wayne were planning on releasing an album together as well, adding his name to the empty-promise list. Please excuse me if I don’t bother holding my breath.