The Art of Genre-Jumping

Graphic by Noemi Gonzalez. Graphic by Noemi Gonzalez.

I’ve only recently gravitated toward artist collaborations. I think a pivotal point was when I first heard the song “The Baddest Man Alive” by The Black Keys featuring rapper, actor and producer RZA. It was made for the movie “Man With the Iron Fists,” and I admit, the idea of one of my favorite rock bands teaming up with a rap artist didn’t initially sit well. But that’s one thing I’ve grown to appreciate most about collaborations—the unexpected yet perfect synthesis of genre-jumping. It’s an art.

Although a great collaboration doesn’t necessarily have to entail an unanticipated duo, I think that does incorporate an element of musical genius when done right. Here’s a look at some of my favorite and recent artist collaborations:

1.)Chet Faker and Flume released an EP called “Lockjaw” last year, and it really focuses on Faker’s bluesy vocals and Flume’s catchy electronics. This series includes three songs, my favorite being “Drop the Game.” The sound could be described as haunting and eerie in its simplicity with only a few repeated lines and understated garage (Dare I say chillstep?) ambient of a background.



2.)Another RZA collaboration that’s totally on point is James Blake’s “Take A Fall For Me.” It’s off his most recent 2013 album, “Retrograde.” I honestly struggle writing about this song, because I consider it one of the most brilliant pieces of musical art that’s ever graced the atmosphere. What is it exactly? The intro sounds much like a beating heart. It’s ethereal, again, simplistic and haunting, perhaps melancholy, and has the most profoundly beautiful and relevant lyrics about relationships I’ve ever heard.

3.)Obviously, James Blake knows what he’s doing when he teams up with great rappers. His angelic, heavily British-accented voice pairs perfectly with Chance The Rapper’s raw hip-hop vocals in “Life Round Here.” Not to mention, the song poetically captures the idea of toughening up and saving “yourself first” in a corrupt world of “part-time love.”

4.) Smoke & Jackal is a Southern rock-band extraordinaire comprised of King Of Leon’s Jared Followill and Mona’s Nick Brown. It’s sad that this band, who released their EP in 2012, was unknown to me until recently. The collaboration’s biggest hit “No Tell” is a fantastically catchy, dramatic, sexually-explicit rock song. If the lyrics make you uncomfortable, the rest of the EP is tamer.

Reach the blogger at or on Twitter @IsabelleNovak.

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