I'm taking a short break from album write-ups to post another one of these articles that you two love so fucking much. Today, I'm focusing on rappers who wandered out of their respective comfort zones and collaborated with acts in music genres not really related to hip hop or R&B. As hip hop has slowly become the defining voice of a generation, it makes sense that our favorite artists would try to take over the world by venturing out: this is probably the reason why the radio hits of today sound like you're tripping balls in a German nightclub.
The following list, which is in no particular order, was compiled using the following criteria: (1) No Wu-Tang collaborations (that will probably make a lot of you two very happy); (2) No tracks from the Judgment Night soundtrack (as that could fill an entire list all by itself); and (3) No songs taken from N.A.S.A.'s The Spirit Of Apollo (see number two).
In no way is this meant to be a definitive list: there are lots of collaborations that I didn't include or simply forgot about, so you can mention some of those in the comments below. Of what I did list, some of the following tracks are really good, some of them are of questionable quality, and at least one of them is really fucking terrible. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.
THE PRODIGY FEAT. KOOL KEITH - “DIESEL POWER”
“Kool” Keith Thornton has never been picky when it comes to working with other artists: for a guy who has marketed himself as an insane deviant who loves pornography and mating animals of different species, he sure does have a lot of fucking friends in the music industry. Clearly, his non-sequiturs translate well over any type of instrumental backing. At least British electronica outfit The Prodigy thought so; after sampling Keith's vocals for their hit “Smack My Bitch Up”, they called upon the man himself to drop a few verses over a pounding beat that is among the best Thornton has performed over throughout his solo career (Keith has never had a great ear for beats; his work with The Automator and Kutmasta Kurt should be considered flukes at this point). Actually, The Prodigy's album The Fat Of The Land still holds up pretty well today. How many electronica albums can you say that about?
R.E.M. FEAT. KRS-ONE - “RADIO SONG”
The opening track from R.E.M.'s Out Of Time wasn't even aiming for street credibility, so it's a mystery why anybody thought this pairing was a good idea. (The fact that the group even shot a video for it is even more mystifying.) The Blastmaster embarrasses himself without even really saying all that much: everything he says sounds like a background ad-lib, so it took me a while to realize that he was attempting to string together a verse toward the end. Sometimes hip hop should be admired from afar, guys.
MATT & KIM FEAT. DE LA SOUL - “DAYLIGHT (TROUBLEMAKERS REMIX)”
Matt & Kim's current hit “Cameras” is one of the best Duran Duran songs that they never recorded, but “Daylight” isn't nearly as catchy. Adding De La Soul to the recipe doesn't make it taste any better, but hey, at least the members of De La are steadily receiving paychecks, so good for them. Apparently this remix is featured on the soundtrack of FIFA 10, but I don't care enough to find out why.
DEEE-LITE FEAT. Q-TIP - “GROOVE IS IN THE HEART”
A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip has worked alongside a ton of artists throughout his storied career, including Prince, R.E.M., and Norah Jones; the man has even co-written a song with Elvis Costello, for fuck's sake. All of this is on top of his already numerous hip hop contributions. But the strangest (and catchiest) collaboration in his catalog has always been, and will always be, “Groove Is In The Heart”, the lone hit from the group Deee-Lite (which also features a guest spot from Bootsy Collins) that still gets spun at 1990s flashback parties today. The kaleidoscopic video is still headache-inducing, but the music still holds up. I like this song so much that it visibly upsets me when radio stations play the censored version (read: the radio edit without the rap, as Q-Tip doesn't say anything remotely offensive on here). Because the young ears of America need to be protected from a member of the fucking Native Tongues, you see.
DAVID BOWIE FEAT. ICE CUBE - “I'M AFRAID OF AMERICANS (V3)”
I can honestly say that I'm not really sure what David Bowie was going for on here. If he's trying to scare his audience into thinking that everyone in the United States sounds as aggressive as O'Shea Jackson, then he failed: Cube's distorted vocals sound less like a nightmare and more like bronchitis. Then again, our country is now forced to recognize the existence of the uneducated masses in the Tea Party, so maybe Ziggy Stardust was on to something. One of the other remixes of this track featured Nine Inch Nails; after that one, Bowie should have left well enough alone.
TIME ZONE (AFRIKA BAMBAATAA & JOHN LYDON) – “WORLD DESTRUCTION”
Probably my favorite song on this list. Afrika Bambaataa takes a day off from the Soulsonic Force to coerce some hyper-political commentary from John Lydon (of Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd. fame), and the result is a depressing-as-fuck song that you can dance to (thanks in part to producer Bill Laswell's work). This rap/punk hybrid still gets spun whenever I'm able to make it out to my favorite new wave club, so I guess it could be argued that I can never really escape from hip hop, even when I actively try.
CHRISTINA AGUILERA FEAT. REDMAN - “DIRRRTY”
To be fair, Reggie Noble isn't really outside of his wheelhouse on here. The track was produced by his homeboy (and part-time gardener) Rockwilder, and the song itself was heavily influenced by his own “Let's Get Dirty”, also produced by Rockwilder; Christina says so herself in the fucking song. So it's more like Redman forced his host to adapt to his needs. The first time I heard this shit on the radio, it felt like my ears were vomiting onto my brain, it was that bad. Today, it still doesn't sound great, but that doesn't matter: the main reason this song made the list is because of Christina's now-infamous assless chaps. Just put the video on mute and watch.
TIN TIN OUT FEAT. EMMA BUNTON - “WHAT I AM (GANG STARR REMIX)”
UK duo Tin Tin Out had already recorded Emma Bunton, formerly known as Baby Spice from the Spice Girls, covering Edie Brickell & New Bohemians' “What I Am”, but for shits and giggles (I'm assuming), they thought it would be funny to get DJ Premier to remix their hard work. Surprisingly, he accepted their offer, and he brought the late Guru (R.I.P.) with him for insurance, resulting in this piece of strange. Primo does what he can with the chopped-up samples, but there isn't a way to save this track. One positive taken away from this: you can now use this information to win bets at your favorite bar. Although, in a perfect world, you wouldn't even know this shit exists. You're welcome.
COLDPLAY FEAT. JAY-Z - “LOST+”
The original version of “Lost!” (from the album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends) is a really good track that, surprisingly, didn't become as big a hit as it should have. (The piano version, entitled “Lost?”, is even better.) So it wasn't that big of a shock that Chris Martin (Mr. Gwenyth Paltrow, not DJ Premier) and company looked toward our chosen genre for a remix. Since he had Jay-Z, Swizz Beatz, and Kanye West on speed-dial, he opted for the one who would generate the most interest, and what he received was a Hova performance that recycles his vocals from “Most Kingz” but still fits with the track (which appears on the Prospekt's March EP) seamlessly. Then again, I'm a fan of Shawn Carter, so you were probably expecting me to say that. It is what it is.
L.F.O. FEAT. M.O.P. - “LIFE IS GOOD”
Holy fuck, this song is bad. The Lyte Funky Ones, a pop band who started out life as a hip hop outfit, as if that excuses the mere existence of this track, were apparently paired up with Brownsville's Mash Out Posse as an inside joke (I'm assuming); there had to have been a point when the producers of "Life Is Good" thought it would be hi-larious to pair up one acronymed band with another. (I'm surprised that they showed restraint and didn't choose to name the fucking song “L.M.F.O.O.P.” or some shit.) Lil' Fame and Billy Danze must have had a light bill due that week or something, as I can't come up with any other excuse for them to have popped up on here. “Life Is Good” is the Troll 2 of music.