Collaborative projects have always been a thing in hip-hop, but the trend has reached a whole new level. More so than ever, we see rapper pair with rapper for an entire project, rappers who often don’t have any official affiliation with one another. We expect these albums. We speculate as to why they would or wouldn’t work. When one actually comes out, we’re quick to declare one rapper the “winner”. Most recently, we saw Drake & Future link up for What a Time to Be Alive and 2 Chainz & Wayne get together for the VERY good ColleGrove. Hip-hop is naturally a competitive and collaborative genre, so our current obsession makes sense.
People can’t stop talking about a Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole album that may or may not exist. While I personally wouldn’t be too excited about that, I have other suggestions. Some more obvious than others.
ScHoolboy Q & A$AP Rocky
The most obvious one. Given the popularity of their prior collabs –specifically “Brand New Guy”, “Hands on the Wheel”, and “Electric Body”- it’s surprising that this hasn’t materialized yet. Q & A$AP often make very dark music but when they link up it’s usually for a more playful cut. They’re also both versatile as rappers, showing the ability to ride bass-heavy syrupy tracks (“Brand New Guy”) as well as speeding up their respective cadences for something like “Hands on the Wheel”.
Producer options: Clams Casino, A$AP Rocky, THC, ASAP Ty Beats, SpaceGhostPurrp
Big Boi & Big K.R.I.T.
This would theoretically serve as a passing of the torch type moment, as K.R.I.T. has stuck to the trunk-rattling Southern sound OutKast are often cited as pioneers of in an era where “Southern rap” has essentially become trap and annoying ad-libs. K.R.I.T’s production is more nuanced than it gets credit for. It’s not just bass and hi-hats. He’s clearly a student of Organized Noize, the three-man production team responsible for many of ‘Kast’s best tracks. Since officially going solo (which really happened in ’03 with Speakerboxxx), Big Boi’s ear for production has been more experimental than it was even with Andre. K.R.I.T. a little less so, but again, don’t tell me he’s just bass. Besides, wouldn’t a ten-song album of these two trading smooth flows over beats like “Money on the Floor” and “ATLiens” be awesome?
K.R.I.T. was featured on “Gossip”, a bonus track off of Big Boi’s second official solo album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors.
Producer options: Organized Noize, Big K.R.I.T., Earthtone III (Big Boi, Andre, Mr. DJ), DJ Muggs, T-Mix
Mac Miller & Chief Keef
You can’t tell me that “I Just Wanna” off of Bang 3 isn’t superb. Mac Miller has evolved from his snapback roots into a purveyor of psychedelic sounds that still kick, and Chief Keef has expanded on aggressive drill sound he helped pioneer. If these two were to work together on a project, Keef would likely be auto-tuned for most of it, which is fine, because Keef’s voice lends itself to auto-tune better than most rappers who use it. This would be a drugged out album that would appeal to very different rap fanbases, and would help the folks who refuse to acknowledge Chief Keef as an important artist see the light. I think. Or maybe it’d be horrible.
Producer options: Mac Miller, Chief Keef, DP Beats, Zaytoven
Royce da 5′ 9″ & Joey Bada$$
Royce and DJ Premier’s collab album PRhyme made “real” hip-hop twitter lose its collective mind, and for good reason. For the first time in a decade, Royce was rapping over beats up to snuff (I still believe him re-teaming with Eminem was very bad, on a purely musical level). Joey Bada$$ is also a pretty big deal with folks who prefer a more throwback sound. Royce and Joey could trades bar about whatever and it’d be interesting. Both are very good with wordplay, and both seem to prefer beats based around traditional sampling and scratching. Just don’t let Joe Budden have a verse.
The two rapped over a Premier beat on “Golden Era”.
Producer options: DJ Premier, Statik Selektah, The Alchemist, Kirk Knight, Madlib
Pusha T & Kendrick Lamar
Saw someone bring this idea up a few weeks ago (sorry, can’t remember who). Imagine an album with Pusha rapping about Pusha things (selling cocaine) and then Kendrick rapping about the adverse community effects of those drugs. While Kendrick isn’t quite the one-note conscious artist some think he is, I still dig the idea. Kendrick is so good at taking the perspective of a street witness without passing judgement. Pusha is very good at rapping about selling drugs. Personally, they’re my two favorite rappers at the moment and I believe they’re the only ones who could keep up with one another in terms of sheer mic presence for a full project. Pusha has always chosen more experimental beats than you’d expect from a “coke rapper”, while Kendrick obviously has eclectic musical tastes. The L. Ron Hubbard of the Cupboard & King Kendrick? Sign me up. Oh, and “Nosetalgia” still goes.
Producer options: The Neptunes, Kanye West, Tae Beast, Digi+Phonics, T-Minus.
Gucci Mane & Yelawolf
I need a whole album of “I Just Wanna Party”. I need two rappers whose sounds are more similar than you’d think rapping about beer. Since signing with Shady Records, Yelawolf has struggled. His songs are either failed reaches for the pop charts or country crossovers that simply don’t work on a sonic level (and sometimes both at once!). But Trunk Muzik still exists, and I every time I play it I can’t help but wish Gucci was on a few songs.
Producer options: Shawty Redd, Zaytoven, Drama Beats.
T.I. & Justin Timberlake
Because “My Love” and “Dead & Gone” still exist somewhere in time. T.I. is a reality TV star first at this point, and a project with him and JT would likely be a bunch of synths and cheesy pop songs. BUT I AM HERE FOR IT. I CAN SMELL THE APPROPRATION.
Producer options: Timbaland, Jim Jonsin, Drumma Boy.