Every once in awhile, a group of artists will come together and force the world to slap its collective forehead and shout “why didn’t I think of that?”
I was 12 when Madvillainy came out, 14 when I first listened to it, and about 18 when the gravity of two esoteric weirdos like MF Doom and Madlib coming together truly hit me. Legends like Snoop Dogg and Pharrell finally coming together to serenade girls on the beach in the “Beautiful” video made all the sense in the world, too.
The hip-hop gods move in mysterious ways, and while we’re often force-fed collaborations that would have been better off existing, we’re always left with a few gems when two (or more) titans join forces on wax for the first time. Gotta make up for Banks & Steelz somehow, right?
As a music fan, the element of surprise can only ever be topped by predicting a fire collaboration before it even comes to fruition, and since 2017 is barely a month old, I’d like to speak some collabs into the universe.
All five artist pairings that made this list haven’t worked together in the past (that I’m aware of), and if any of these wind up coming true, the gods’ benevolence will make 2017 that much brighter for all of us.
Danny Brown x James Blake
Few rappers are as willing to jump into uncharted production water like Danny Brown. He switches from manic to despondent at the drop of a hat, a hard-earned skill he’s put to the test over some of the most experimental production this side of the genre. While listening to the masterful Atrocity Exhibition, I knew there was one producer whose sound would have been the icing on the cake: James Blake.
The British singer and producer has created three albums worth of insular electronic soul that could soundtrack a trip into space or a lonely midnight run to 7/11, and though rooted in pop, Blake’s sonics have been touched by RZA, Vince Staples (Vince’s remix of “Timeless” is incredible), and Chance The Rapper in the past.
Brown and Blake are both capable of digging deep into their respective pain and suffering the way few in this genre can, so a down-tempo Danny over Blake’s keys and synths would undoubtedly send shivers through souls.
Lil B x Knxwledge
Whether you like him or not, The BasedGod’s stream-of-consciousness meme rap is iconic. It’s outlandish with its chest out, but also warm and inviting in the way it subverts expectations.
Knxwledge meanwhile brings his own warmth and often surreal flair to his bottom-of-the-crate flips, and as I’m typing this I can’t believe an official Lil B and Knxwledge collab hasn’t happened yet.
Can you imagine “I’m God” getting the muddy soul treatment? Because I can.
Lil B recently checked Metro Boomin off of his untapped producers list, so with some luck, maybe it’s time for these two California staples to bring their brands of weirdness and absurdity together.
Anderson .Paak x Kamasi Washington x Terrace Martin
.Paak’s bold versatility was the focal point of his blazing hot 2016. Rap, R&B, dance, rock, disco and gospel bend and twist their way around his orbit, but he’s surprisingly kept his feet out of the jazz side of the pool for the most part.
Who better to help him than two of contemporary jazz’s most acclaimed voices?
Besides being two of the masterminds behind Kendrick Lamar’s Harvard-certified opus To Pimp A Butterfly, there’s years worth of touring and arrangement experience between them. Let Kamasi and Terrace arrange a band, heavy on saxophone and trumpet, and let .Paak drum over his own vocals. Dynamite, right?
Freddie Gibbs x Metro Boomin
Alright, hear me out here.
In recent years, Gibbs has been hellbent on filtering his hard-nosed gangster through any kind of beat he can get his hands on. He’s crooned with Kaytranada, played hopscotch on Madlib’s obscure sample-digging, bumped steady with DJ Mustard, and spat double-time over 808 Mafia. What better way to keep us on our toes than to grab Young Metro’s hellacious, ear-rattling boom for the back to his raw, unfiltered intensity?
Metro’s been everywhere the last couple years, stretching his 808s even further with production credits for Kanye West, Usher and Kevin Hart (really). After his topsy-turvy 2016, I’d imagine Gangsta Gibbs is ready to keep pushing at the boundaries of gangsta rap, and he could use production to match his stories—cavernous and layered.
Besides, I could hear Gibbs spitting hot fire over “Blow A Bag.” Can't you?
Kendrick Lamar x The Alchemist
Alchemist’s grimy loops have soundtracked unforgettable stories from Prodigy and Eminem to Action Bronson and Westside Gunn. Fellow Black Hippies ScHoolboy Q and Ab-Soul have each taken a crack at Alc’s audio dope, but somehow we have yet to hear what Kendrick would bring to the producer’s table.
Though always lush and cinematic, Alchemist’s production is as varied as Kendrick’s flows, vocal elasticity and subject matter, so trying to figure out exactly what this might sound like is like attempting to out-smoke Alchemist. Whether storytelling or dishing out an all-out lyrical assault, Cornrow Kenny would surely make the most of whatever vivid, spiraling backdrop he’s provided.
The duo met up in the studio three years ago, and if any music came out of that meeting, we can only pray to the rap gods that we hear it someday.
By CineMasai. Follow him on Twitter.