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When Collaborating With Other Artists, Don’t Settle

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Dick Grayson first suited up as Robin, Boy Wonder in Detective Comics # 38. Batman took the 8-year-old child under his wing, adopting him as a legal ward of the state. The Caped Crusader would morph the child into a valuable asset for the former’s everlasting battle for Gotham’s streets; forging a partnership that has withstood the test of time (the original comic came out in 1940). The relationship — up until Robin chose to become Nightwing — consisted of Batman taking the lead and Robin following accordingly. With Batman in charge, the two-man team soundly defeated ghoulish and criminal entities time and time again.

There was a reason for the duo’s continued success; besides the creativity of the comic’s authors penning the storylines. With the stronger hero and personality in charge, being Batman, Robin followed suit; finding ways to emulate Batman’s success and grow as a hero. This made proceedings fairly predictable but effective. Their track record, nearly unblemished, goes to show that someone taking the lead is much more effective than meeting somewhere in the middle ground.

In rap music, this kind of relationship doesn’t exist. In a genre defined by fake relationships, the concept of fraternalism becomes that much more important. The age-old mantra gifted to the public time and time again is that the industry is fake, rappers are bogus, and relationships are strictly for business purposes. It’s why genuine friendships constructed through industry experiences are celebrated by the media; Drake and Future’s unlikely connection — previously on the outs because of the latter’s comments about being better than the Canadian crooner — was the subject of many memes in its heyday. Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, two artists of a similar ilk, are known to be close associates. Just recently, Lil Durk and Tee Grizzley publically declared their brotherly love for each other, becoming best friends in the process.

These types of relationships that form inside and outside of rap usually lead back into it in the form of collaborative projects. Friends, eager to celebrate and capitalize from their peers’ successes, hop in the booth together and give fans what they want from both; a best of both worlds collective effort that’ll surely knock the socks off of fans worldwide. Only, in nearly every case so far, results have been lackluster across the board.

 

Huncho Jack is perhaps the latest example of collaboration albums that stunk. Both artists have collaborated on a number of occasions, most notably on“Pick Up The Phone” from the former’s Birds In The Trap Sing Brian McKnight; Scott also credits Quavo for inspiring the name behind the album. Both have startlingly different recording styles; Scott uses autotune to support his zany rap-singing mix and warbles affectionally over constantly changing production while Quavo is silky smooth, primarily a trap aficionado who can drop a tone or two when necessary. The two’s consummation was heavily anticipated by fans worldwide, finally releasing on Dec. 21. While it does contain some bangers that will carry fans throughout the winter, the general consensus of the tape is that it is a missed opportunity. There’s a little bit of both worlds, but ultimately not enough of either one to be considered memorable.

When multiple star-level forces collide to create music, it often times results in a success — see “biebs in the trap” by Travis Scott and Nav or “Motorsport” by Migos, Cardi B, and Nicki Minaj. On single songs, the primary artist taps the other to meet them at their aesthetic, crafting their vocals to match their song’s intensity and style. The problem arises when artists come together to create a body of work without establishing a lead. A middle meeting ground solves nothing, only complicating the sonic message that both artists are trying to portray.

Drake and Future’s What A Time To Be Alive lacked the staying power to warrant it as anything but a passing fad. Drake’s intimate singing and rapping style contrasted heavily with Future’s more direct, yet spacey, method of warbling. The beat choices used on the project, a jarring mix of both’s preferred styles, only exaggerated this point, leading to some great recordings that followed into questionable ones. “Jumpman” was a rare feat that captured both artists in their best lights, while the following track “Jersey” lacked Drake entirely, presumably because he wouldn’t fit in on the Monster-esque production. On the very next track, “30 for 30 Freestyle,” Drake chimes in for a solemn outing, backed by softly-strung piano keys and muted bass. The contrast between the three tracks highlighted the fact that individually, both artists are amazing, but together, when trying to strike the right mix of both aesthetics, the two suffer considerably.

Perhaps the camaraderie that exists between artists is harder to marriage on wax then they let on to be. This would explain why Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole’s long-rumored project has never come to fruition. Or why artist and producer projects like Gucci Mane’s DropTopWop and Big Sean’s Double or Nothing — both featuring Metro Boomin as the projects’ beatsmith — often fair better critically than two artists collaborative works. Producers cater to the needs of the artist versus finding common ground. The latter would lead to some less than worthy results. Without the proper lead, the arrangements feel empty and barren. By this time next year, neither of these projects will remain remembered.

The enduring success of Batman and Robin as an iconic team, able to defeat nearly any villain in the history of the heroes’ lore, should encourage musicians to rethink their approaches to crafting collaborative projects. Huncho Jack should have been the talk of the town but has already received an alarming dropoff in appreciation so soon after its release because of the two powerhouses being unable to establish whose setting the stage for the other to join. It’s not about showcasing bravado or taking the backseat to the other’s arrangements — it’s about creating something wholesome that will be memorable for fans everywhere.

Editorials

Russ Is Right, Exploiting Drug Addiction For Money Is Wack

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Russ has made it clear for over a year now that he’s not for the glamorization of drugs for money. He recently got into a Twitter scuffle with Fat Nick, a known user of lean and narcotics, with the two debating about his fascination with drugs and how the latter makes money off of it. Nick frequently posts his drugs and merchandise that contains drugs online and sees nothing wrong with it. Russ however disagrees. And, after seeing both viewpoints, I daresay I agree with Russ. Glamorizing drugs is wack, point blank.

Rap music was founded in tough times. The best hip-hop to come out of the genre’s Golden Era focused on the hardships that people faced during daily life. Coping with these hardships came natural. Drug use isn’t new. However, the way that drug users are fetishizing these drugs is. Lean, Xanax, and Mollies have become as popular as the music itself. With rappers posting their drugs on social media and dedicating so much of their creative energies to showcasing their fascination with drugs, many kids try them out because the artists they look up to love it.

Nothing good comes out of this besides addiction and death. Xanax pills look fun until you’re trying your best to kick the habit while the withdrawal symptoms kick your ass. Let Mac Miller’s story inform you about the dangers of overdosing. Lil Tracy had a heart attack because of his drug usage. There’s nothing good to come out of using these drugs. Yet, new age rap stars align their aesthetics with drugs because its in and it sells.

This exploitation is no joke and needs to be talked about. Starting a conversation about it will enable the proper action to happen and, hopefully, the way that drugs are exploited for money can be addressed.

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Why Ella Mai’s “Trip” Is Better Than “Boo’d Up”

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Everyone thought that “Boo’d Up” was the one. Ella Mai’s viral summer single became the talk of the season, a meme due to its widespread popularity across many age, racial, and gender groups. Many thought that Mai lucked up into the DJ Mustard-produced single, attributing much of the song’s success to the producer. But little did they know, “Trip” would come behind it and show that Mai is much more than a one hit wonder.

“Trip” released on August 3 and has been somewhat of a slow burn for the public. It’s a lot darker and moodier than “Boo’d Up”‘s ceiling-less mood. There’s a lingering piano that acts as the song’s lifeblood. When Mai comes in with her surprisingly deep voice, she offsets the equilibrium and swings things in her favor. As it goes on it become a catchy earworm that far outpaces the ceiling of “Boo’d Up”

With all of this said, her debut album, expected to arrive this fall, will be interesting to take in. Has she exhausted all creative avenues in her brilliant two first singles? Or will she continue pushing the culture? “Boo’d Up,” was one thing. “Trip” is another altogether, showcasing that she has a lot still left up her sleeve.

Listen to “Trip” below.

 

 

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Editorials

Bay Area Music That You May Have Missed This Week

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Here’s our weekly collection of music out of the Bay Area that you may have missed this week. This week’s collection is one of our favorites, with a majority of the tunes being bombastic, lively jams to bolster the energy coursing through your veins. Tune in below:

 

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