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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.

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Johnny Quest The Rebel Drops “Blue Diamonds” ft. Cruch Calhoun

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Trenton-born rising artist Johnny Quest joins forces with New Jersey hip-hop stars for a “Clash of the Titans.” Blue Diamonds, a collaboration between The Rebel and acclaimed rapper Cruch Calhoun (Roselle, NJ), is one of the state’s most intriguing recent collabs.

With the year drawing to a close, Quest has decided to bring in the new year on FIRE, guaranteeing that anybody who observes it realizes that New Jersey is totally immersed in the hip-hop culture. He promptly returned to the studio after releasing his latest EP, Money Dreamz, in May (getting a BET Jams placement and features in publications such as Flaunt Magazine and All Hip Hop). “Blue Diamonds,” his follow-up, is a verbal checklist for determining if you have the “glow,” even before others see it in you.

“Blue Diamonds” is a self-reflection, a reminder to everyone who listen that pressure and experience are what shape us into diamonds. Quest immerses listeners in his film with to rising star producer Fatir’s cinematic style production. They’re putting themselves in the shoes of a celebrity just before his meteoric ascent to stardom. While Blue Diamonds is a narrative, it’s also a warning shot, foreshadowing a long-awaited merger of North and South Jersey. Cruch Calhoun, a well-known artist and regular Dave East collaborator, contributes an OG viewpoint in a scary verse, giving the song a new flavor.

Quest has began to establish himself as one of New Jersey’s rising stars with his recent albums. He continues to shine brightly as a rising star with “Blue Diamonds.”

Check it out below.

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Adam Ness Impresses With Silky New Single “Houzkatz” Featuring Durand Bernarr

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When it comes to the silky-smooth sounds of Neo Soul, there are no finer artists than Adam Ness. Raised in Detroit but now based in Chicago, he is the epitome of a fully-formed talent who is intricate, refined and simply sublime. He’s back with new music, and this time he delivered “Houzkatz” with talented R&B artist Durand Bernarr. The song is a masterpiece and puts Ness’ talents on full display.

Benefitting from an education in Gospel, the lush sounds that tug at the emotional heart strings gave him the building blocks to pursue a career that is delivering music of the highest quality. Touching people on both a spiritual and musical level, he has uniquely developed a style that sits comfortably alongside artists like Frank Ocean, D’Angelo, Maxwell and the eternally brilliant Erykah Badu.

Lush harmonies, deep grooves, inspirational lyrics and fresh perspectives await the audience as Adam delivers on every single promise he has ever made. Destroying stereotypical storylines with his sumptuous songs, he is building on his first critically acclaimed album released in 2019 titled ‘Sagittarius Volume 1’.

Completing the emotional circle, ‘Sagittarius Volume 2’ is about Adam’s journey through young adulthood and a testament to an artist led by the flames of desire. Meticulously crafted with exquisite touches, the album is a clear example of why he sells out venues in Chicago and beyond.

With nearly a million plays on Spotify alone, audiences are beginning to take serious note of Adam Ness as his music is undeniably spreading the positive message the world needs right now. His humility and burning desire to share a message of love, peace and hope transcends the every day challenges that people endure. There is so much beauty in his work that it is hard to imagine a future without it.

“It’s ok to be yourself and get the things you’re deserving of. Being soft doesn’t diminish your power. It elevates and inspires.”

Be sure to check out “Houzkatz” below.

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Atlanta Artist DavidTheTragic Unleashes New Visual Titled “ALLERGY”

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DavidTheTragic has proven himself to be one of the most diligent and original stylists in Atlanta ever since he broke through the underground in early 2019. Since then, he has released three tapes, “Fit In,” “Bender,” and “How It Feel,” which all act as evidence for his improving and expanding abilities as an emcee. David manages to stand out in the hip-hop mecca by being a keen expressionist who uses articulate lyricism and gruff flows to paint lofty portraits of his psyche. He resides in a similar introspective lane as Kenny Mason, Ovrcast, Jelani Imani, and Mavi. His newest single + video, “ALLERGY,” is yet another testament to DavidTheTragic’s originality and masterful rapping ability. It’s clear that no one else sounds like him or flows like him right now. The video, directed by Brendan Mcgregor, matches the aesthetic of David’s recent videos for singles “Money First” and “Lori.” It shifts from scenes of intense color correction to David on a roof or in an alley shaking his dreads and talking his shit. The track is a two and a half minute frenzy of clever bars: “I was on a year long bender / These n***as my son like Simba / She like when I hit from the fender…Underground like Master Splinter…Egotistical I suppose / I just move with the highs and lows…I ain’t hatin’ on a n***a that look like me / Please hit me with zeros I ain’t doin’ no shit for clout or IG.” It sounds as if David hopped in the booth then splatter painted the beat with everything that was on his mind at the time. 

DavidTheTragic – Instagram & Twitter

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