Today marks the release of the hotly-anticipated new album from Nas and Damian “Junior Gong” Marley. The record, called Distant Relatives, is not just a team-up between two musical giants but is also for a good cause, as the proceeds will go towards some form of support for Africa (possibly the construction of a school in the Congo). The album weds hip-hop and reggae influences beautifully, and even though he’s talking about issues in Africa and not tales of the street, Nas’ spitting is especially on point.
In fact, Distant Relatives immediately enters in the conversation regarding the best album-length collaborations of all time. What others are in said conversation? Glad you asked.
Method Man and Redman, Blackout! and Blackout! 2
Meth and Red are the gold standard among musical tag teams. They have made countless guest appearances on each others’ songs and have also gotten together for at least one movie and a short-lived sitcom on Fox. But their crowning achievements are the two full-length albums they made, the classic Blackout! and the underrated sequel Blackout! 2. All you need for proof is “Da Rockwilder.”
Jay-Z and Linkin Park, Collision Course
During the mash-up craze of a few years ago (which yielded stuff like Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album and the P.O.D. remix of that one Nappy Roots song), the biggest rapper in the world hooked up with one of the most massive rock bands on the planet for an EP of mash-ups of some of their biggest hits. While most of the mash-up craze was hit and miss, Collision Course works on a bunch of different levels.
Jay-Z and R. Kelly, Best of Both Worlds
Jay-Z sure pulls off a lot of great collaborations, doesn’t he? Though it’s a little bit spotty, Best of Both Worlds clicks in a huge way most of the time (especially when Kelly channels the more rugged side of his production mentality). “Break Up to Make Up” remains a key song in both of their career arcs.
The Gutter Twins, Adorata
This one is sort of a cheat, because technically the Gutter Twins are a real band who will (theoretically) make more music in the future. But even if they don’t, this collaboration between former Afghan Whigs mastermind Greg Dulli and former Screaming Trees frontman and Queens of the Stone Age collaborator Mark Lanegan is a truly great match-up of styles. Their world-weary lyrics, wise voices and knack for backdoor hooks make their debut album Saturnalia a killer hook-up.
The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan, Dylan & the Dead
Crafted as a document of a collaborative stadium tour the two venerable rock franchises went on at the end of the 1980s, Dylan & the Dead is often lambasted as powerfully dull and unfocused. But though the production does muddy the tracks a bit, there is a lot of fire buried beneath the crowd noise. In truth, Dylan & the Dead works best because the two don’t gel very well. The tension on “Queen Jane Approximately” works especially well. It’s a failure, but a truly compelling one.
What’s your favorite album-length collaboration? Let us know in the comments!