Crossing the Line: 5 Mash-Ups Where Hip-Hop Slept Around and Birthed a Hit


Word of cross-genre collaborations involving Hip-Hop are usually met with equal parts satisfaction and suspicion. Are artists from two different worlds getting together to make music to help everyone get along? Or, is it just for the money?

Then there’s the music itself. Sometimes the collaboration is amazing. Other times, it’s like pizza and a banana split – two great things that don’t go well together. And, there are instances where both parts are less than stellar.

With the original demo version of rapper Kendrick Lamar’s “B#### Don’t Kill My Vibe” featuring pop star Lady Gaga recently posted on the Internet (which is a very good song), got nostalgic and thought of a few more dope records that broke down barriers over the years:

5. Wyclef Jean and The Neville Brothers, “Mona Lisa” (1997): Before Wyclef was posing on motorcycles almost naked, he made great music. This hidden gem from The Carnival puts Clef alongside the Grammy-winning R&B group from Louisiana. The thing that makes this song special is that, unlike lots of Hip-Hop and R&B collaborations, it isn’t just people singing over rap beats. It’s a love song on a Hip-Hop album that couples can slow dance to. And because of that unique quality, it still plays strong 15 years later.

4. Kanye West and Justin Vernon [of Bon Iver], “Lost in the World” (2010): There is a lot going on in this four minutes and 16 seconds: Justin singing parts of his own “Woods” record, Kanye’s single verse, the heavy bass, the tribal drums, and chants. The record proves that Hip-Hop is limitless. If Mr. West can flip a gloomy folk thing like “Woods” and put it over a house beat, anything is possible. “Lost in the World” is an outstanding song and perfect middle ground in the ongoing tug-of-war between art and commerce.

3. Lil Wayne and Robin Thicke, “Tie My Hands” (2008): This isn’t the first collaboration between these two, but it is the best. Thicke’s falsetto complements some of Weezy’s most serious lyrics to date, as he addresses the devastating effect of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. With lines like, “No governor, no help from the mayor/Just a steady beating heart and a wish and a prayer,” one can’t help but be stopped in their tracks. Lil Wayne wasn’t just speaking for the people of New Orleans, but as one as well, and that made for powerful stuff.

2. Eminem and Elton John, “Stan” (2001): The rendition of “Stan” that these two artists put on at the Grammys that year was fantastic. It was a brilliant response to the controversy surrounding Eminem over his homophobic lyrics – and the participation of the openly gay singer Elton John was a great way to celebrate artistic expression and stick up for free speech. The track was thankfully included on Eminem’s Curtain Call compilation. The only thing it lacks that the live show doesn’t is Eminem throwing up his middle fingers at the end of the performance.

1. Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith, “Walk This Way” (1986): The leaps and bounds that this piece of work did for Hip-Hop remains unmatched. It introduced rap to a whole audience and won it new fans by demonstrating that elements of Rock music were Hip-Hop, too.

D.M.C. once told me, ““Walk This Way” originally was just going to be me and Joe [Run] in 1986 bragging again over that music.”

Rick Rubin then suggested that they do the record over; just like Aerosmith, Jam Master Jay co-signed the idea, and the rest is history. Pop culture hasn’t been the same since.

We know that there are many more! So, what are cross-genre collaborations you feel are significant? Sound off in the comments section, and let us know what you think!