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—by Armon Sadler
Over the last year and a half, there have been significantly more big names in the hip-hop world, both rappers and producers, teaming up to put out albums together. In 2017 alone, there we saw Without Warning (21 Savage, Offset, and Metro Boomin), Super Slimey (Future and Young Thug), Double or Nothing (Big Sean and Metro Boomin), Perfect Timing (NAV and Metro Boomin), The Seven(Talib Kweli and Styles P), Friday On Elm Street (Fabolous and Jadakiss), Plata O Plomo (Fat Joe and Remy Ma), and Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho (Travis Scott and Quavo). Of course, one can't forget the classics: 2015's What A Time To Be Alive (Drake and Future) and 2011's Watch The Throne (JAY-Z and Kanye West).
These collaborative albums served as our form of NBA free agency, where we watched superstars and rising stars connect with one another to see if their combined skills and energy could lead to a platinum record (or championship ring, if we are continuing the simile). Overall perceptions of these projects, aside from Watch The Throne, were that they have created some hits, but have otherwise been lukewarm and felt rushed. Not even the combined star power of Drake and Future in their near flawless 2015 campaigns could be enough to compare to the impact of Watch The Throne.
Something else that's been lacking, however, is that same collaborative energy from the R&B and soul side of things. Sure, there have been a few singers who have ventured into the world of allied albums with hip-hop artists: Jhene Aiko alongside Big Sean for 2016's Twenty88; Jeremih these last two holiday seasons for Merry Christmas, Lil Mama with Chance The Rapper; and Beyoncé and JAY-Z shook the world up this past June when they surprised everyone on an unassuming Saturday with Everything Is Love—though JAY is no stranger to these kind of albums either considering 2002's _The Best of Both Worlds _and 2004's Unfinished Business with R. Kelly.
But artists like Ty Dolla $ign, SZA, Jeremih, Jorja Smith, Miguel and H.E.R., just to name a few, have delivered powerful albums and memorable features on some of the hottest hip-hop tracks in the last few years. And you can look at a song or album tracklist, see any of these names, and know that you're likely going to be blown away. So, why not take it a step further? Why is there such a scarcity of collaborative projects from R&B artists? I say scarcity because there are rumors of some on the way, and there have been some attempts in the past.
The mysterious H.E.R. has been discussed a lot lately as there have been talks of her doing a joint mixtape with OVO's dvsn. Interestingly, for most of their career, dvsn have been pretty cryptically obscure as a duo themselves, though we know the individuals, singer Daniel Daley and producer Nineteen85, very well. One thing that hasn't been a mystery though, is their ability to create woozy, sensual R&B while reminiscing about lost lovers. H.E.R.'s music is all about love while simultaneously empowering herself as a woman, so it'd be interesting to hear the collaborative contrast of men yearning for love from a woman who isn't going to accept any nonsense in the love she receives. No artwork or release dates have been announced yet, so the verdict is still out on if this will actually happen. However, the two are fast-rising names in the industry and the sound they create together could be better than we've imagined—not to mention, would give them even larger platforms and fanbases.
An album that has been properly announced and been given multiple release dates is MihTy, the joint effort from more established artists Jeremih and Ty Dolla $ign. It would likely take a day or two to really sit down and dig into these two's discographies, but a quick search on a streaming service serves as an easy reminder that these two are responsible for some of the catchiest hooks in both recent rap and R&B. The two have also never shied away from talking about sex in their music, evident in the first single released from MihTy, "The Light." If their versatile vocals and flows complement each other very well on the track, one can only wonder what's coming from the project—that is, if it actually drops. We've been here with Jeremih before.
Way back in Summer 2016, it was rumored that Jeremih and PARTYNEXTDOOR would join forces for a collaborative mixtape titled Late Night Party. The announcement drew the intrigue of music lovers and listeners, who had previously only heard the two on "Like Dat" (featuring Lil Wayne) released that same summer, and "With You" from Drake's album Views a few months prior to that. Jeremih only had four lines on the latter track, however, and his vocals went uncredited as a feature, so we had yet to see the full extent of their work and chemistry. PND was gearing up for his album P3 to release and was firing off a diverse range of tracks that summer, so there was a sense of excited curiosity as to what Jeremih would bring out of him. Sadly, due to beef that began between the two while they toured together, the working relationship was tarnished and the project was scrapped.
Understandably, there are a multitude of projects that have been teased by artists and haven't happened for whatever reason: labels may exert too much power, samples may not clear, timing and schedules may not work out—the possibilities are unfortunately endless. The business side of music can certainly stifle creativity, but it should be looked at holistically as there is also a lot to be gained from projects like these. An artist like Miguel collaborating with Jorja Smith can potentially earn them both a lot of money, wider exposure, and untapped elements in terms of sound.
That's the great thing about emotional music with a message, especially R&B. Even as the sound has evolved and the market has become more saturated, the R&B of yesteryear still has a place because of the feelings it evokes. So if Khalid and H.E.R., for example, were to come together and make a classic, heart-grabbing collaborative project, it could transcend generations. The two could very well go down as two of today's most unique artists, but a joint effort between them could further establish that assertion even after they retire.
Watch The Throne is as important today as it was in 2011, even after Hov and Ye's fallout. It's legendary and arguably one of the greatest collab albums of all time. So, can we get an R&B version, or something close?
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