First off, collaboration albums are a lot to digest. Not only do they bring two artists with different outlooks together but they also combine their respective fan bases. But Hip Hop history has shown us that this “master plan” doesn’t always work. Jay Z and R. Kelly tried (twice) and failed to capitalize on the money-grabbing strategy when they released 2002’s The Best Of Both Worlds, and 2004’s Unfinished Business. Crafted to cater to the club scene, both albums lacked in delivering the kind of production Hov is at home on. Instead, the idea of these two titans coming together was more thrilling than the actual outcome. But back then, they were treading on territory rarely explored. Fast forward to now, when it’s the most popular thing for rappers to do, and I can’t picture any two artists more fit for this creative tactic than Big Sean and Kendrick Lamar.
Already proven to be a MC not many can fuck with, Kendrick Lamar sets the bar high for lyrical slaughtering on his own accord. An album with a rapper that doesn’t align with his subject matter could challenge him to conquer new heights, as it would for Big Sean. The paradoxical balance of them is evident on their two collaborations thus far. Even though “Control” solely focused on Kendrick calling out his peers, Sean’s verse was no slouch. It showcased his multifaceted flows, his charisma, his city pride, and was the perfect lead into Kendrick’s home run. More recently, DJ Khaled’s “Holy Key” reunited them, and as expected, their objectives were different. While Sean still maintained his braggadocios style, he also focused on more serious issues he never has before, such as police brutality.
2011’s Watch The Throne is a prime example of two artists coming together for the sake of navigating something that could propel the art to new heights. It was a lush, exuberant experience, but was highly criticized for just that. The level of luxury depicted in their raps may have isolated some of Jay Z and Kanye West’s core audience, but it set the bar for how rap titans could openly flex. Drake and Future’s What A Time To Be Alive was more so Drake visiting Future’s domain, but its objective was crystal clear; to cross promote their brands and help Drake surge into the trap realm. It was successful, but plenty listeners criticized Drake for “riding a wave.” With a Big Sean and Kendrick Lamar project, both of them would still be able to sustain their quality of material, and be the perfect balance to each other’s strengths.
What was fascinating about The Clipse’s union was how different their messages were. Both Malice and Pusha T peddled coke raps, but on different levels. Pusha T was interested in detailing the finer things he obtained from selling dope, while Malice wasn’t always proud of it. He was the voice of reason that told us why things had to be this way for them. But they’d have their moments when they’d band together and share the same sentiments. And this is where they’d shine, because those moments were far and few between. In this case, Big Sean would be Pusha T; the partner in crime that’s egotistical but boastful with his contagious flow. Kendrick walks the fine line of Malice’s approach, but ups the ante with his outspoken and often unpredictable nature. A dual project could also grant them the freedom of exploration that they may not feel is granted to them at this point in their careers.
There was talk in the past of a rumored project on the horizon with Kendrick and J. Cole, and although I feel it would be great for the culture, I don’t think it would be a fitting duo. They’d lack the amount of excitement Sean and Kendrick could have together. Sean has already shown us he’s fully capable of making a joint album by doing so with Jhene Aiko to form Twenty88. But he hasn’t been able to enter that conversation because he doesn’t have a project that packages all of his abilities. For the later part of Kendrick’s career, he’s been looked at as the voice. His To Pimp A Butterfly LP was unapologetically brash, but exactly what we needed at the time. He hasn’t had to talk down on his competition in some time, and a project with another rapper that loves doing so could put him on that exciting path again. For the love of rap, let’s unite these two as often as possible. The results could be groundbreaking.