If you’ve grown up in the internet age it might be hard to imagine how segregated genres in pop music once were. Pop, rock and rap were all relegated to their own corners and when any overlap did manage to happen it was instantly exceptional, and often exceptionally awful as well. Sure, Blondie brought much mainstream attention to what many people still thought was just a fad at the time, and Aerosmith and Run DMC made music history with their collaboration, but the fact you can probably rattle of those examples right away proves to show how far and few between those instances actually were.
With the heyday of the mashup already behind us, waiting in the wings for inevitable revival, and artists from all over the globe working with each other and blurring the lines between their respective genres, people like Liam Gallagher, who complained hip-hop didn’t belong on Glastonbury when Jay-Z headlined the prestigious festival, are left behind looking like the surly dinosaurs they are. All bets are off in teh 21st century, and any act sensing a connection and wanting to collaborate finds little resistance to do so. It leads to interesting new concoctions from creative people willing to experiment and growing up on a smorgasbord of various sounds, and hideous mutations, probably orchestrated by A&R Dr. Frankensteins combining focus-group results into something they hope will strike ultimate crossover-paydirt.
Still, rap can pop up in unexpected places. Take these 7 tracks (actual releases, no mashups) for instance. Combinations you wouldn’t think of in the first place, but that manage to surprise us going together like Peanut Butter & Jelly. …And that’s exactly how we’ve decided to rate them!
Lana Del Rey – Blue Jeans ft. Azealia Banks (Smims&Belle Extended Remix)
Smims&Belle consists of Mark Foster and Isom Innis, two members of Foster The People. Under these DJ aliases they present a far more electronic sound that meshes very well with Miss Azealia’s flow. Lana Del Rey’s ‘gangsta’ is isolated from the original both sonically and thematically to result in a hardhitting version of the track that is sure to sound right at home on the dancefloor. Come to think of it, two Foster The People members remixing Lana Del Rey and dropping in an Azealia Banks feature actually makes this three unexpected collaborations to boot.
Texas Ft. Wu-Tang Clan – Say What You Want
With the randomness of this collabo and how out of the blue it came, all signs point to this being a labratory-experimant from the label machine rather than Bobby Digital. Method Man’s (the only clan member actually appearing here, despite the track’s billing) lackluster rhyming of the completely disconnected verse (which is the exact same verse as on the lead-single to his oftenly dismayed Judgement Day album) doesn’t do much to dissuade those impressions. ‘Say What You Want’ was already a pretty succesful song from Scottish band Texas, but the rap added nothing to it until Meth started freestyling for a bit during the outro. What saves the song from becoming a fiasco, and probably made it a hit instead, was the video. Meth sounds invigorated, he and Texas’ frontwoman Sharleen Spiteri seem to be enjoying themselves and the performance is brimming with the chemistry between them. Basically, it’s everything the studio version wasn’t.
BUSY P feat. Murs – To Protect and Entertain (DJ Mehdi 99Rap mix)
French electro/house label Ed Banger has always maintained an eclectic approach to music and when label owner Busy P wanted a remix for an EP of his, he asked DJ Mehdi, who started as a hip-hop produer in Marseille, to return to his roots. The result is a fairly straightforward but not any less bangin’ track Murs delivered the vocals for. Despite his success in the electronic world, Mehdi never lost his touch for boombap.
Amy Winehouse Ft. Nas – Like Smoke
This might not come that unexpected to some, but there were probably a lot of casual listeners outside of hip-hop’s sphere who wondered where the sudden rapping on an Amy Winehouse album came from. Nas and Amy Winehouse had a connection in producer Salaam Remi, a frequent collaborator of the both of them, and with Amy alreay doing a song to the ‘Made You Look’ beat and prominently feature Nas in her ‘Me & Mr. Jones‘ lyrics, a collaboration seemed bound to happen. They were even planning to celebrate their birthday together in 2011, but Amy’s untimely demise stopped it from happening. As far as tastefully done posthumous collaborations go, this is pretty much diametrically opposed to digital Pac. Nas raps his ass off with Amy providing a sultry hook, and it seems hard to believe these two weren’t together in the studio for it.
Coldplay Ft. Jay-Z – Lost+
‘Lost’ was already a well-received track on Coldplay’s Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends and for their
blatant holiday season cash grab follow-up EP Prospekt’s March Chris Martin gave his buddy Jay a call for a guest verse, resulting in ‘Lost+.’ Many Coldplay fans viewed it with trepidation at first, but Jay’s dramatic verse fit so snugly into the stringladen crowdpleaser you’d almost forget it hadn’t always been there. Hip-hop fans knew though, they’d already heard it as part of the ‘Corporate Takeover’ freestyle Jay dropped at Hot97. Which was actually a lot doper.
Lykke Li – I Follow Rivers (Tyler, the Creator remix)
Lykke Li, the songstress deftly straddling the line between powerful and fragile, enlisted OFWGKTA frontman Tyler for an official remix. It seems pretty safe to say there weren’t many people who saw this one coming, and does that did probably didn’t expect Tyler slowing the tempo down to a crawl. Then again, Tyler threatening to drown the female protagonist of the song as revenge for his heartbreak is just how we know the guy. His dark voice drops in as a complete shock, as does the sudden tempo of his flow, which makes for a jarring listening experience. That sensation does fit well with his verse thematically though.
Daft Punk – Aerodynamic (Slum Village remix)
How the original members of Slum Village (T3, Baatin and J Dilla) came to bless the French electro-pioneers with a remix is a story that warms the heart and makes you wish every sampling case could be handled this respectful and friendly, with a dope track as a cherry on top. On the critically acclaimed SV album Fantastic, Vol.2 Dilla sampled Thomas Bangalter’s (one half of Daft Punk) fairly obscure track ‘Extra Dry‘ to rework it’s synth line into that of Slum Village’s ‘Raise it Up.’ The sample was grabbed from a bootleg vinyl though, and never actually cleared, with the trio apparently suspecting the French techno artist never finding out. Daft Punk however, turned out to be fans of them, and instead of sueing for the proceeds of the ‘Raise It Up’ single and the album it was on, Bangalter asked the trio to pay him back for the sample by providing him with a remix of the Daft Punk track ‘Aerodynamic.’ As you can hear, they did not dissapoint.