Same Wavelength: The Magic in Artist/Producer Collaboration Projects
The recent release of Gucci Mane & Metro Boomin’s collaborative mixtape, DropTopWop, was met with a large amount of praise from listeners; one being Pitchfork who called them sharp and unhinged. I, in particular, thoroughly enjoyed the project more than I expected to. One track in particular that seized my full attention and a few replays was “Met Gala” featuring Offset of Migos. The two fiercely attack the minimalistic beat with an onslaught of very precise triplet-oriented lyrics. I later found myself reflecting on the record. I thought about how Metro gave the artists room to work on the instrumental and how Gucci and Offset took full advantage of it. The track sounded as if Gucci Mane and Metro knew what one another wanted and needed in order to effectively create the best record possible. In fact, most of the mixtape gave this impression. I then considered other collaborative projects of this nature and found that among records with ill-fitting vocals and instrumentals, there was gold laced in records where an artist and a producer came together to craft projects.
Many projects showcase that the chemistry between an artist and a producer over an album or mixtape pays dividends in terms of its quality. The beats and vocals match each other to a tee, and the projects sound so focused and consistent throughout instead of having different styles pulling it in too many directions. One example lies in another collaborative effort that Metro Boomin was a part of - Savage Mode with 21 Savage. Metro laces the 9 tracks with simple trap instrumentals with a dark tone to supplement 21’s raspy, low-pitched lyrics. While the EP may not be heralded for its lyrics, the seamless and consistent blending of production with spoken word for the project’s duration is admirable.
Artists and producers can also push each other to step up and deliver at a higher level, which was the case for the critically acclaimed album, Piñata. The 17-track record from rapper Freddie Gibbs and beatsmith Madlib was released in 2014 and has since been subject to an overwhelming amount of plaudit from hip-hop heads and casual fans alike. The luscious sample-driven production by Madlib goes hand-in-hand with the smooth, deep vocals from Gangsta Gibbs to deliver a near-perfect hip-hop album and one of my favorite albums of all time. Aside from the impeccable sonic compatibility of the two musicians, Gibbs and Madlib’s collaboration forced them to take their crafts to new heights. In an interview with Radio.com, Freddie admits that on “Scarface” in particular, he had to be meticulous in determining how to attack each track and ride each beat. This effort most definitely paid off as it led to what might be a classic album in the future.
From MF DOOM and Madlib’s Madvillainy to Anderson .Paak and NxWorries’ Yes Lawd!, amazing projects can be the result of the chemistry that takes place between an artist and a producer over a whole record. The perfect pairing of sounds and the push for further creativity and experimentation has produced such incredible tracks, and I hope that more artists and producers try to forge relationships with somebody that will challenge and better them.