In retrospect I went into the Six Degrees of Rapper Separation game a little arrogant. Music is my passion and my job, I'm sure I could easily win. Nope. Not even particularly close. And I'm willing to bet you can't either.
First, the ground rules. We're using WhoSampled's six degrees engine to check for connections, and instead of coming up with how artists are linked, the challenge is to find two artists who aren't connected. It turns out that twist is far more difficult, maybe even impossible. And finally, the connections have to be purely musical. Dating doesn't count, social media beef doesn't count, we're strictly talking about artists that can be connected through collaborations, samples, labels, etc.
How hard could it be? Right? I thought so too, I'm just going to have to show you.
First, I'll pick two huge names off the top of my head to start with, Drake and the Beatles; nope, not even close. There's only two degrees separating them:
- Drake and Lil Wayne are both signed to Young Money.
- Lil Wayne sampled the Beatles on "Help!"
Ok then, Views and 25 are the biggest albums of the century (so far), but I can't think of a way Drake and Adele are directly connected. Again, only two steps:
- Drake and Tyga are both signed to Young Money.
- Tyga sampled Adele's "Someone Like You" on "Reminded."
Son of a biscuit. Clearly I was going to have to go to some farther extremes to find a place without connections. So I thought of Young Thug, and then I thought of what felt like the exact opposite of Young Thug; '60s folk duo Simon and Garfunkel. Again, nope.
- Young Thug was on Travis Scott's "Mamacita."
- "Mamacita" sampled "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right," produced by Steve Barri.
- Steve Barri also produced a cover of...wait for it...Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
Goddamnit. That was better, but still nowhere close to six degrees. Um...maybe thinking of extremes was a red herring, maybe there was some easy example sitting right under my nose. I'd been listening to a lot of ScHoolboy lately so he's on my mind, I always wanted to hear Q over a RZA beat, but I know that's never happened. Could they randomly be completely unconnected?
1. ScHoolboy Q was on Alchemist's "Flight Confirmation."
2. "Flight Confirmation" samples ODB's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya," which was produced by, wait for it, RZA.
It was simultanesouly addictively and incredibly frustrating. No matter what I did, I couldn't get past two or three degrees of separation. Gucci Mane and Dolly Parton? Two degrees. OJ Da Juiceman and Led Zeppelin? Two degrees. '90s boy band 98 degrees and Pimp C? Two degrees. Juicy J and metal band Slayer? TWO FUCKING DEGREES!
There's something beautiful to be learned here about the way that music is actually deeply interconnected despite what genre, race and time barriers seem to exist, but right now, honestly, I'm way too frustrated to see that beauty. There has to be two artists who aren't connected at all - hell, at this point I'd be impressed with even four degrees of separation. So here's the deal. If you can find two artists four degrees or more apart, tweet me and I'll bow down to your musical mastery.
Good luck, you're gonna need it.
By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.