Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's What You Expected, Ain't It?

This post is dedicated to any and every song out there that made you pray on your pillow that night a collabo album would be in the works and be released at least in the next ten years by the artists that just got together. These are in no particularly symbolic order of any kind. These are automatic download links!

Nas - Black Republicans (feat. Jay-Z)
Why it worked: This was the result of one of those beefs that made you question the get-over-ability of any given hip hop beef. But it was so timely. I was one who got goosebumps the morning I checked all my rap blogs and they each had headlines involving Jay's concert where he brought out Nas announcing to the world that NY's golden children were putting aside their differences. After the obligatory Def Jam joint album rumors that neither exactly shot down, this track finally made its way to the world. The epic-ness of any supposed-to-be epic track can quickly be achieved by an epic sounding beat, and the kings of NY milked it for everything it's worth back and forth for an entire 58 seconds before the actual lyrics come up. And this is one of those that actually felt like it was jointly birthed between the artists as each rapper chimes in with adlibs and doubled-up chorus vocals. Success. As was the pun-intended follow-up.

Jay-Z - Renegade (feat. Eminem)
Why it kinda worked: Back in '01 you'd be hard pressed to find any two more commercially viable rap artists with as dedicated a following and critical love. And on the unfortunate release date of 9/11, Blueprint was pushed further into a realm of cultural lore. The main detraction is ... um ... why did Em so insist on being behind the boards for a long stretch and why did Jay chose to take that beat that he didn't exactly outstandingly shine on? It became the prodigal "killed on your own ish" punchline example. And the original had Royce in Jay's place, so why exactly didn't he come harder? Truth be told, neither was too impressive lyrically on those awkward snares and depressing back orchestration. But epic is what epic does. Whatever that means.

50 Cent - I Get Money (Forbes 1-2-3 Remix feat. Diddy & Jay-Z)
Why it didn't work: Did anybody really like the original? It just happened to be the least worst of the fourteen pre-album singles that Fiddy dropped around the same time and it had a semi-respectable Audio Two sample. And plus, no one exactly praises 50 or Diddy for either they or their ghost writers' lyrical prowess. Even Jay-Z seemed bored when it got around to his verse, only quipping "in case y'all forgot, New York is still mine" to spark a bit of controversy amongst an all NY cast. But ... it's just not enough for anyone else to really care about. I kinda actually did want it to turn out alright. Kinda. I shoulda known better.

CRS - Us Placers
Why it worked: Because it came almost literally out of nowhere! And off a pre-Graduation Kanye mixtape that would have been a virtual throwaway without it. And while I'm not always the biggest fan, Pharrell went in on the closing verse. This brings up dreams of the old Jay, Ja, and DMX super group talks (that I kinda don't wanna hear thinking back on it). And the Thom Yorke sample just fits. I'm not asking any hip hop heads to convert to indie rockdom, but it just feels good and every "uh" and all of Lupe's "and they love it" achieve a real atmosphere. If the album ever makes itself for real, who knows what could happen? I don't.

Bun B - Swang On 'Em (feat. Lupe Fiasco)
Why it didn't work: With all the talk of the glasses-toting Chicago emcee about how he came up more on UGK and NWA than A Tribe Called Quest, this was the chance for Lupe to let his performance speak for him. He was getting a track on a huge album by a Houston legend to exercise his gangsta, South-tinged material. But what came out of it was a chopped and screwed pile of uninteresting. It just wasn't any fun. It wasn't any kind of intelligent. It wasn't any kind of hood either. It dwelled in the middle land of Lupe not knowing how to write balancing either extreme of rap, equalling an unappealing verse to either side. Bun was Bun, but not enough to rescue it.

Kanye West - Barry Bonds (feat. Lil' Wayne)
Why it didn't work: Why does Kanye let anybody else in the world get a beat on his own tape? Especially a plodding, yawn-inducing one from Nottz? Unfortunately we've found that Wayne often brings the worst out of Yeezy (though I don't exactly hold that judgement on the "Lollipop Remix"). He becomes trapped into a monotonous cycle of swagger braggadocio that's redundantly redundant. It happened on "Swagga Like Us", too, enough that it has the world praying that the Nas & 3K variation exists just to save the mess. Was anyone that excited to hear Kanye out-do Wayne on his own braggy punchline lane that he's made popular?

Jay-Z - Hello Brooklyn 2.0 (feat. Lil' Wayne)
Why it didn't work: Why this track about this subject? Wayne on an ode to Brooklyn? Why couldn't they wait the tiniest bit longer to allow "Mr. Carter" to be the one and only Jay-Wayne collabo? I like the bass it rattles off in my car, but the song isn't convincing in any other way whatsoever. Honestly, it's a humungous blemish on American Gangster as a whole. And the Beastie Boys yelling at me randomly? Sigh.

OutKast - Mighty "O"
Why it worked: While this may seem out of place, let's not forget the always persistent break-up rumors by Georgia's resident rap legends. Especially those that were coming out in the way-too-long gap between Speakerboxxx/The Love Below and Idlewild. This song was the first leaked single from the latter album and featured crazy intricate 32's by each rhyming partner. Both were up on their lyrical hardness and differential cohesiveness. Both unapologetically insulted those in the media and the fans for keeping up rumors that both parties denied. Whether or not you liked the Prohibition era'd movie (if you ever went and saw it) and it's accompanying soundtrack, this track yelled from the mountain tops that Andre was not to be done with the art of rhyming and he would stay bar for bar with Big Boi on his own terms.

Obviously I can't hit on every major joint venture between timeless artists, but what are your favorite hits and misses with big time collaborators?

... and so concludes another masterpiece

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