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12 Odd, Inspired Rap Collaborations

Rappers like 50 Cent and T.I. have made a lot of noise about recording songs with the Susan Boyles and Lady Gagas of the world (“Susan Boyle is hot right now. I got to get her on a track, for real,” says 50). Interesting pairings, to be sure. But a host of other hip-hoppers have recently decided to go another way, recruiting indie rockers for collaborations that have produced some great music, if not any major hits. (The Roots’ indie-rock-sampling How I Got Over, out this week, includes ingenious collaborations with Joanna Newsom and Monsters of Folk. And there’s Vampire Weekend fan Kid Cudi, Grizzly Bear–championing Jay-Z, and up-and-coming hip-hop group Chiddy Bang, whose entire career is built around rapping over indie rock.) Either way, there’s a spirit of genre-bending collaboration in the air. Here’s a look back at the past year or so of cutting-edge teamings-up, plus a few dream collaborations. Let us know what we left out.

Jay talks about Grizzly Bear constantly. For instance, last August: “[Grizzly Bear is] an incredible band … I hope that they have a run where they push hip-hop back a little bit, so it will force hip-hop to fight to make better music.” Jay has also been spotted sway-dancing at Grizzly Bear concerts (YouTube never lies.) Plus, a potentially awesome Jay-Z–Jack White collaboration has already been recorded. Says White, in April: “I just did a record with Jay-Z … It was incredible. I played him something that I’ve been kicking around for a while and he immediately came out with words for it. It’s unbelievable-sounding.” Word.
Says rapper Plies: “I always bring this up to people and they think I’m just teasin’‚ but Susan Boyle is probably at the top of my list [to work with]. A lot of people look at that as a far-fetched feature or collaboration. From a business standpoint, I watched what she was able to do and create through her own story and it always interested me.” “Business standpoint” says it all. Points for hilarity, though. If anyone works with Boyle, hopefully it’ll be you, Plies.
In June, Kid Rock confirmed a bizarre country-rap-rock collaboration: “We’ve just finished [the album … and]; there’s a song with Martina McBride and T.I.” Huh. In May, Tip discussed teaming up with Gaga: “Phenomenal talent. Extremely proud [to work with her]. She’s definitely that good. She knows what she’s doing. She knows exactly what she wants people to think and say. She does everything that she needs to be done to ensure it happens. I think she’s an entertainer, in all aspects of the word … I just tuned in to another side of T.I.”
50 Cent on Gaga this June: “Yeah, I would like to work with her. It’d be cool. I think she’s fresh.” And businessman 50 last December on his other dream collaboration: “Susan Boyle is hot right now. I got to get her on a track, for real. We’d make a hit. Everyone is talking about her, the lady from Britain’s Got Talent. She’s got an amazing voice, and together we’d get everyone dancing. … I’d love to take her clubbing, show her around my world. She’d have a great time.”
12 Odd, Inspired Rap Collaborations