Rap's Five Least Likely Pop Collaborations

A$AP Rocky at Warehouse Live in 2012
A$AP Rocky at Warehouse Live in 2012
Photo by Marco Torres

Hip-hop is a genre that doesn't look back often. Stars rise and fall every day, and the cycle continues. It's a constantly forward-looking scene, abandoning its former golden children like so much fodder after only a few years when a new trend comes along. Respect for your elders? Please.

Rap music may not love its own history, but it does love the history of music in general. In fact, it has a great deal more respect for aging pop stars than the general public does. Looking back on Motown has been a feature of the genre for almost 30 years, but even the most unexpected pop and rock stars seem to garner mad respect from hip-hop's young progenitors. Here are a few of the least likely ones to spring up in recent years.

A$AP Rocky x Rod Stewart
The Miguel and Mark Ronson features on this new track from the Billboard-topping indie rapper A$AP Rocky come as little surprise, but the shocker is its resurrection of rocker Rod Stewart. These days known more for lewd rumors and your mom's collection of his standards CDs, Stewart sounds stellar on this bluesy rap cut, taken from a song called “In a Broken Dream” (originally by Python Lee Jackson), and shows he continues to have a relevance among the youth. It's on At.Long.Last.A$AP, which is out today.

Eminem x Elton John
Especially shocking at the time due to controversies over Eminem's liberal use of a certain f-word, among other homophobic insults, this performance at the Grammy Awards of Em's Dido-sampling creepy fan letter “Stan” was not only surprising, but brilliant. From the amazing stage setup to Elton's killer feature, it remains one of the greatest Grammy moments of all time. Note the Phil Collins shout out Em throws into the song too. It wasn't Phil's only claim to street cred thanks to a completely different, equally as brilliant collaboration a few years later.

Bone Thugs N Harmony x Phil Collins
Bone Thugs transformed a track by Phil Collins that most of their fanbase would have regarded as cheesy tripe into a touching hood tribute. That in itself was weird enough, but sampling cheesy tracks and making them hot is a hip-hop staple. The really crazy part, though, was when pop music's No. 1 Alamo buff showed up to perform in the video with the group — showing he was not only aware of the sample, but liked it enough to perform it with them. Then again, Bone Thugs have always been insanely diverse in their interests, especially Bizzy Bone, who put out a whole album of such collaborations.

Bizzy Bone x Jonny Craig
Originally known as the singer for post-hardcore group Dance Gavin Dance, Jonny Craig has since focused on an R&B and hip-hop inspired solo career. However, it was still incredibly strange when Bizzy Bone signed with Sumerian Records for his 2010 album Crossroads. The collaborations featured within were odd choices, especially this Craig-sampling track that nonetheless manages to be pretty solid.

Snoop Dogg (Snoop Lion) x Miley Cyrus
No stranger to garnering hits by any means possible (including converting to Rastafarianism in what was pretty much a short-term publicity stunt around the same time as this single), Snoop Dogg has preserved his lengthy career beyond most other rappers by continually being in tune with everything happening around him in youth culture. That's why this collaboration with Miley Cyrus, while maybe not welcome news to most fans, was a huge hit and made total sense. Still, did anyone ever really expect, or want, to see Snoop and Miley band together?


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