Best of 2015 Hip-Hop: Top Ten Collaborative Projects

Posted by Billyjam, December 20, 2015 03:44pm | Post a Comment

The ease with which hip-hop artists dotted around the globe can instantly connect with one another, along with the current music industry model, are two key contributing factors to the wealth of collaborative projects between artists these days. Compared to the old music model, the average artist today is no longer  beholden to any one record label, hence giving them freedom to act more like free agents. For the recent collaborative project between Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandmanthe promo of the free release was shared by Rhymesayers who handled the video side and Stones Throw who handled audio promo via their Soundcloud of the recording given to fans for free. The project is the five-song EP Lice with various contributing producers including Optiks and Blockhead.

In 2016, Stones Throw will do a limited run vinyl pressing. Stones Throw is the home to another excellent collaboration, Anderson Paak with Knxwledge as NxWorries . Their six-song EP Link Up & Suede is an amazing musical melding of the two talents. Fresh from collaborating on six tracks off Dr. Dre's 2015 hit album Compton, Anderson Paak joined forces with NJ to LA super-gifted prolific producer Knxwledge who got wide attention from his contribution to Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, and whose May 2015 Stones Throw release Hud Dreems (also avail in 2LP format) ranks as the best instrumental hip-hop album of the year.

Under the great project name Semi Hendrix and the equally brilliant album title Breakfast At Banksy's, the underrated Jack Splash joined forces with West Coast lyrical legend Ras Kass. The result was pure fire with Ras Kass, whose direct influences includes Kendrick Lamar, showing that two decades on in his career he still has the skills. The same is true of Inspectah Deck & 7L & Esoteric under the project name Czarface. A follow up to the self titled 2013 release, the Wu warrior again strikes a pitch-perfect balance in his collaboration with 7L and Esoteric. Another match made in hip-hop production heaven is North Carolina producer L'Orange teaming up with Kool Keith for Time? Astonishing! on Mello Music Group, which deserves the complimentary comparisons to Dan The Automator produced Kool Keith collaboration of two decades ago Dr. Octagonecologyst. This current wave of inspired collaborations offers producers like L'Orange (profiled last year on the Amoeblog) an opportunity to get to work with a hip-hop icon whose career they've closely studied like the famed Ultramagnetic MCs. PRhyme is the duo of post Gang Starr super producer DJ Premier with skilled Detroit rapper Royce da 5'9" whose eponymous, self-released debut studio featured an impressive list of guests including Killer Mike, Jay Electronica, Common, Ab-Soul, and Slaughterhouse. Technically a 2014 release, since it dropped in December and didn't get out there until 2015, it is included in the top ten below via the video for the album track "Courtesy."

Most collaborations are full-lengths but others can be just the one song. DOOMSTARKS' Adult Swim-curated free download track "Lively Hood" was the 2015 single track tease from the anticipated, overdue full-project from the hip-hop power duo MF DOOM and Ghostface Killah whose collab series includes a couple of Nature Sounds 12" singles. Collaborations can be one-offs or recurring projects like Gangrene that dates back several years as the teaming up of emcees/producers The Alchemist and Oh No along with those they invite onto their albums. Action Bronson guested on their track "Driving Gloves" (video below) off the Mass Appeal released album You Disgust Me.  That album was one of two they released in 2015. Their other project was The Alchemist and Oh No Present Welcome to Los Santos that was included with the Microsoft Windows version of Grand Theft Auto V and was also released via Mass Appeal Records.

Another trend is European producers teaming up with American rappers in collaborations that would have been unheard of in the pre-Internet hip-hop era. The South Sac Mack on Below System Records is Sacramento rapper Chuuwee joining forces with German production duo JR & PH7 for a 17-track album that brings out the best in the SacTown mic spitter. The few well-chosen album guests include Blu, St3wart KooL, and Bueno & Sean LaMarr who cameo on the album track "Meadowview Morning" (see video below). NJ-born Brooklyn-based hip-hop artist Azeem has been collaborating for past few years with German producers Ancient Astronauts under the project name Broken Puppets. They recently completed a self-titled album that will be getting a vinyl release in 2016 on a TBA label. "You know why so many American emcees are working with European producers? They are so great to work with. They will get a track from you and by the next day will have three remixes done," said Azeem, adding that usually European producers take a different more organic and expressive approach to producing. 


Hip-Hop 2015: Top Ten Collaborative Projects

#01: Time? Astonishing! (Mello Music Group) - the 2015 collaboration between producer L'Orange and veteran emcee Kool Keith featured "The Green Ray"

#02: Aesop Rock & Homeboy Sandman "So Strange Here" is one of five songs from their EP project Lice that was a free giveaways jointly promoted by Rhymesayers and Stones Throw, the latter of which will press up a limited run on vinyl of the EP in 2016

#03: Semi Hendrix was the 2015 collaboration when Jack Splash joined forces with West Coast lyrical legend Ras Kass. Above is the album title track "Breakfast At Banksy's (feat. Coast Contra & 4rax)" from the 2015 Mellow Music Group album Breakfast At Banksy's that is also avail on LP

#04: NxWorries (Anderson Paak with Knxwledge ) "Suede" from the their six song Stones Throw  Records release Link Up & Suede EP

#05: Gangrene is the teaming up of emcees/producers The Alchemist and Oh No in a series that goes back several years. They released two projects in 2015 including the album You Disgust Me
 featuring such tracks as the above song "Driving Gloves (feat. Action Bronson)."

#06: CZARFACE (Inspectah Deck & 7L & Esoteric) "The Great" (Czar Guitar) off of Every Hero Needs a Villain on Brick Records.

#07: PRhyme by Royce da 5'9" & DJ Premier as Phryme, released their excellent collaboration album so late last year (December 2014) that it qualifies as a 2015 release with songs like the above track "Courtesy"

#08:   DOOMSTARKS (MF DOOM and Ghostface Killah) track "Lively Hood" was the sole track from the on-again, off-again collab duo. This track came via Adult Swim who curated the free download track.

#09: Broken Puppets (Azeem + Ancient Astronauts) "When Bruce Willis Had Hair" from the 2015 album Broken Puppets that will be being released via vinyl in 2016 on a label TBA.

#10: JR & PH7 X Chuuwee "Meadowview Morning (feat. Bueno & Sean LaMarr)" from the album
 The South Sac Mack on the Below System Records label.

Relevant Tags

Best Of 2015 Rap (3), Best Of 2015 Hip-hop (3), Best Hip-hop Collaborations 2015 (1), Best Of 2015 (14), Dr. Dre Compton (1), Lice Aesop Rock Homeboy Sandman (1), Kool Keith L'orange (1), Semi Hendrix (1)