Grading 2012's Rap/EDM Collaborations
Image via Complex Original
2012 has been an important year in the development of EDM exiting the raves and entering the mainstream conversation. While some diehards might see this as a bad thing, the most important part is that we get good music. Sure, cry all you want about Skrillex getting producer credits on your favorite rapper's album; if the track works, that's all DAD's worried about. Now as we enter a new year, with a new flock of artists trying to catch that glowstick wave, let's look back at how some of your favorite rappers faired with their leanings into the dance music zone.
Skrillex & Kanye West / Wale / A$AP Rocky
After taking home multiple Grammys last year (and possibly on track to take one home in 2013), Skrillex's name is obviously in high demand. And while we have more news than definitive audio of these collaborations, the implications are that the hip-hop has taken notice (or smelled the greenbacks) and want some of what Skrillex is offering up.
Skrillex actually spoke on his work with 'Ye back in August of 2012, saying that the material they did together should be "the first song on his new album." We've heard Kanye sample Daft Punk, as well as flip a Flux Pavilion sample into a monster, but Skrillex is an entirely different monster. It's hard to grade that without hearing it, so we'll just wait with baited breath.
Skrillex and Wale is an entirely different story that seems to have been downplayed for unknown reasons. As it looks to us, there's a cut entitled "Let's Get Down" that Skrillex worked on with a producer named Kaba, and somehow Wale got his hands on the track and did the damn thing to it. Wale mentioned it in March, and the cut got some radio play in the Summer of 2012:
Again, we've got another situation where the MC doesn't try to ABC his bars; it feels like Wale really went in aggressive on this uptempo track, attacking it like he would anything else he's handed. We're only upset that there's nothing new in terms of info on when this could be released or anything of the sort. Fix up!
Finally, A$AP Rocky took to rapping over Skrillex's 'Goin' Down' remix of Birdy Nam Nam's "Goin' In." Oddly enough? It worked. The "fuck being polite" ethos in the beat fits perfectly with how Rocky spit on the track, and he didn't flinch at the track; there's always a LOT going on in Skrillex production, and Rocky just got in where he fit in.
And that's a pretty liberal grade, considering we don't have solid info on two of these tracks. Hopefully we can hear more original material that Skrillex does with rappers, especially with his first full length album rumored to drop in 2013.
Diplo & Travis Porter / Wale / Iggy Azalea
Diplo's one of the hardest working individuals within the EDM scene. And while some may question all of his moves, he without a doubt is making a difference, and at the very least is helping introduce dance music to people in very different areas.
Early into 2012, Diplo (along with DJA) cooked up a trap'd out, low-end lovely number for the trio known as Travis Porter. Is it a thing of beauty? Not at all. It's super catchy, and probably works more in the rap clubs than at a rave, but with the influx of trap into the EDM scene, it could get some burn in certain sets. Nothing groundbreaking, though, aside from that infectious hook.
DIplo also had a number of tracks, "produced with" the likes of FKi, Bro Safari, and other talented cats, for Iggy Azalea's Trap Gold mixtape. Again, we've got a number of solid cuts, but there's nothing pushing wigs back on these at all. Essentially, it helps build Diplo's resume for steady rap production creds more than anything.
For Wale's "The One Eyed Kitten Song," which features Travis Porter, this might be the most best of the lot we checked out. It actually feels reminiscent to Iggy's "Murder Business," with gaggle of deep bass and a light beat accenting the fuzzy, electro-ish synth that runs throughout. This wouldn't be heavy enough for a full-on rave, but it retains more elements that the rest of the cuts on Diplo's plate for 2012.
While it might sound like we're down on Diplo, it's just this batch of tracks. He's done a grip of music, from Major Lazer releases to credits on albums from Bruno Mars, Usher's huge "Climax," and plenty of others. It's almost as if his non-rap product suffers from him just playing the role, while he really spreads more of his wings when it comes to r&b and other styles. Although the mighty "Look at Me Now" instrumental from 2011? Flames. For 2012, though?
David Guetta & Ludacris
When word of Ludacris working with David Guetta hit the 'Net, two things were obvious: Luda had been paying attention to EDM's rise, and this couldn't end well. Both ended up being true.
The oddest part is what's wrong with this has nothing to do with Guetta - he's just being him. He constructs the "EDM" that people who know fuck all about dance music associate with EDM. No escaping it. And while we can get behind a rapper growing up and thinking about his future, someone as talented as Ludacris shouldn't have to resort to dumbing his lines and flow down so much to fit this. Plus, he feels like a non-factor. This could've easily been David Guetta & Usher featuring Ludacris. As if he just bought the opportunity to possibly have a big hit to rejuvenate his career. No dice.
Cypress Hill & Rusko
Cypress Hill and Rusko linking up for an EP full of blunted hip-hop and dubstep was definitely different. Rusko's no stranger to working with MCs, and his weighty tunes were paired perfectly with Cypress' flow. Definitely not breaking the mold, but it made a serious statement: dubstep, and dance music in general, isn't just for the club.
Boys Noize & Snoop Dogg
When Snoop wasn't getting his Snoop Lion on, he was apparently repping for Boys Noize off this track from Out of the Black. Collaborations like these are pretty interesting; it's more dance than it is hip-hop, but Snoop had more than enough room to spread his wings and drop some serious bars.
Darq E Freaker & Danny Brown
Danny Brown's love for grime is evident. He'll speak about the genre at length, but you hear it in the beats he chooses. It got to the point where he NEEDED to do this record with grime don Darq E Freaker. It sounds like he turned the beat on, the flow appeared and he slid right into that pocket. Pure bruiser aggression on the verses, with an equally intense (intoxicated?) hook to bring things home with. There's no way to stay still when this one comes on, nor can you imagine anyone else over this riddim. And to think, Darq E Freaker has beats on Danny's forthcoming album.
Joker & Freddie Gibbs
Joker's "Purple WOW" sound is as grounded in dubstep as it is in hip-hop, so it's always great to hear him grab an American MC and have them let loose on his shit. Freddie Gibbs, working with a diverse group of producers (including the mighty Madlib), seems like a truly random choice, but with the story being weaved in "The Vision," Gibbs pens a perfect 16 fitting into the story. He kills the double-time flow, and we truly want to hear him work with more dubstep/bass music producers. Fire.
Flux Pavilion & Childish Gambino
Flux's been a force within the dubstep scene for a bit, but it was The Throne sampling "I Can't Stop" for their "Who Gon Stop Me" track that really brought his name to the masses. Work with Childish Gambino started as a conversation on twitter, with a number of fanboys having their dreams fulfilled when this started getting dropped at festivals worldwide. The approach on this one is key: most of the time you're concerned with nimble MCs dumbing down their lines or trying to perform vocal gymnastics, but Gambino's able enough to do his thing without getting in the way of the track. Flux's work on the beats, allowing the cut to remain calm during the verse before it gets all bright and main room heavy, is what sets this one apart from others. Feels like a proper event that you can rock out to.
Bassnectar & Lupe Fiasco
"Vava Voom" might be one of the weirder cuts of this kind from the year, just in the sense that Lupe's kicking rhymes that fit well over a beat that flows like a good stew, with the drums switching up every now and again. Hell, that melody thrown on top of everything is kind of annoying, and you wouldn't expect an MC to come off correctly over it, but it's handled nicely. There is a wasted opportunity of having Fiasco coast over the bassline Bassnectar concocts towards the end of the track, but overall this one is pretty intriguing.
Hudson Mohawke & G.O.O.D. Music
While Hudson Mohawke's 2012 was highlighted by the noise TNGHT made, his contributions to Cruel Summer can't be overlooked. While we don't know how much he contributed to, say, "Mercy," but he ended up with four credits on the G.O.O.D. Music compilation, including fully producing "The One." Maybe it's a testament to how traveled Kanye West is that he heard HudMo's music, or just how big of a year HudMo/TNGHT had, but it's a great look for hip-hop as well as for dance music. We can only hope that more opportunities for producers like this open up in 2013 and beyond, if we're really trying to make this shit pop.