Monday, December 13, 2010

All In Together Now: Collabo Albums Thriving

2010 will be remembered for many things. But a lack of collaborative albums between solo rappers and a single producer is definitely not one of them.

Who knew that the phenomenon that was arguably perfected in 2003 and 2004 would continued to thrive six years later with an unusually high number of rappers and producers putting their egos aside to partner for the greater good of Hiphop music?

Aside from resulting in quality music from rappers and producers responsible for molding Hiphop into the pure artform that it is today, these collaborations also give the artists in question a chance to showcase their talents alongside their equally talented peers (something that does not happen as often as it could and should).

For this critic, when it comes to this type of Hiphop album in 2010, it just didn’t get any better than Skyzoo teaming up with !llmind for Live From the Tapedeck, which was released on Duck Down – the pioneering independent label responsible for a plethora of collaboration albums released over the past few years.

Boston area trailblazers Statik Selektah and Termanology took a break from being solo artists to come together to release their 1982 album -- one of the most slept-on underground rap albums of the year -- proving that Statik is one of today's best and most consistent producers in the business.

But late last month west coast mainstays The Alchemist and his rapping counterpart Oh No (and the brother of the legendary Madlib) quietly released Gutter Water, a monster of an album recorded under the name Gangrene that features beats and rhymes credited to both artists, similar in nature to the above referenced Jaylib project.

Released in that same vein, Philadelphia drug rapper Freeway and Jake One -- a prolific producer from Seattle who is responsible for tons of recent underground and mainstream hits – showcased their unlikely partnership in the form of Stimulus Package, 16 banging tracks that featured Free along with Raekwon, Bun B alongside his State Property bretheren.

9th Wonder and Murs concluded their celebrated series of collaborative albums with ForNever, their fourth album together that didn’t quite measure up to their first three offerings in this format but was still much appreciated from fans of both.

The improbable alliance of KRS-One and Wu-Tang Clan producer True Master provided fans with a bird’s eye view of The T'Cha rhyming over that Shaolin sound, but unfortunately when the two immovable forces collided the result was not as breathtaking as fans might have hoped.

Looking forward to 2011, the popular trend of Hiphop collaboration albums promises to continue in a major way beginning with a joint album from Pete Rock and DJ Premier, who have gone on the record to discuss their upcoming project that will feature 10 tracks – five for each producer with the rapper(s) of the producers’ choice on each song.

Not to be outdone, Def Jam label mates Sheek Louch and Ghostface Killah (who both have albums scheduled to be released later this month) announced a few weeks ago the Wu/Block album, a collaboration of Wu-Tang Clan members and D-Block members uniting to create one album. With the considerable talents of the core members of each collective, the Wu/Block album has the potential to be a masterpiece, but many fear the album will only feature each group’s affiliates instead of highlighting the lyrical talents of Jadakiss alongside the GZA, or any other conceivable combination between the two groups.

Also scheduled to be released in the next year is Monumental, the collaboration between Smif N' Wessun and Pete Rock that has already spawned the underground hit Prevail, featuring Tek and Steele in rare form trading rhymes with Raekwon over a classic horn-driven beat.

And after more than a decade, talks still have not died down of a possible album with NaS on the mic and Premier on the boards, which is arguably more anticipated than Detox.

But until either or both of those albums come out, it is obvious there will not be a shortage of good music to come in the next 12 months. I'm looking forward to it.

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