There is a very precise balance necessary to strike to ensure a successful collaboration between electronic producers and hip-hop lyricists. In fact, there does not exist a more unsuccessful type of cross-genre partnership. Time after time, bubbly, energetic producers couple with low-fi, more traditional rappers, and time after time again, the results are crippled by their lack of balance, sense, or appeal for either true fan base. More often than not, these collaborations are the brainchild of unartistic executives who see a goldmine of mainstream audiences existing between two of their clients, and without any sort of creative integrity, spark a joint project for economic reasons and expect it not only to thrive artistically, but to be created quickly.
From a conference room in an office tower, someone who has never listened to any of the artists whom he manages says, “Who wouldn't listen to ASAP Rocky and Skrillex, to Chief Keef and Alison Wonderland, to Tiesto and Gucci Mane (no, that's not a joke), to Logic and Marshmellow, to Trippie Redd and Diplo, to Diplo and every desperate rapper ever? They’re all popular.”
Everyone is raising their hand, Mr. Executive. Take their advice and think the next one through, because this kind of collaboration is possible, and can even be great.
Contrary to popular belief, there are many more artists available than the dozen or so listed above, and most of them have what it takes to make music together. You just have to find the right combinations.
When searching for the right kind of electronic artist with which to utilize in a hip-hop collaboration, or really, a collaboration of any sort, it's just common sense to look for one with a wide-range of downtempo, mellow production skills, whose ego and fondness for womp won't dilute a vocalist's presence. So, if balance really is the key, and trust us that it is, then the avoidance of particularly dubby artists is probably a wise choice. There tends to be quite a lot of ego and personality in the world of hip-hop, so blending with a producer whose reputation is built upon their ability to blow the roof off a venue is going to be difficult if not impossible. Both will vie and die for attention before giving into the other's creative decision-making, and the result will simply be overpowering, clunky, and unfitting.
An electronic artist with a keen understanding of less being more will certainly have a better chance at balancing the approach each artist brings to the table. And when it comes to producers of the type, there are none more intriguing than Swedish multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and electronic producer, Summer Heart. His sound is undertone and organic, and though it boasts of vibrant colors and occasional dynamic explosions, there is something blendaline – a certain opacity – which exists in his style.
A plethora of keystrokes, muted guitar chords, masked vocals, and poetically simplistic lyricism drive a sort of calmness and warmth into his music. The end result is a consistent stream of electronic innovation home to his unique ability to draw up memories of Springtime as a child and Summer love as an adult. His music is undeniably energetic and bubbly, as is the music of most in the electronic circuit, but the way with which he achieves the description is more relatable and applicable to everyday life than other artists.
Summer Heart’s music is equally fitting to a day at the beach as it is to a house party; as fitting to a picnic with friends as it is on the dancefloor of a club. It is this balance, this relatability, and this unavoidable drawing of parallels between his music and warm weather that makes Summer Heart such a uniquely interesting (and appropriately named) force.
If there exists a hip-hop equivalent to the styling and following of Summer Heart, his name is Skizzy Mars. A youthful veteran of the hip-hop scene and a founding father of the bubble rap movement, he has been soundtracking rooftop get-togethers and beach bonfires since Profound and Douchebag first made a splash back in 2011. From the onset of his career, there has been something different about Skizzy Mars. Long had approachable hip-hop artists who thrived on their relatability to an ever-widening audience of the genre existed before Skizzy came around, but he built upon that relatability a new sub-styling that blended electronic elements and a certain nonchalantness into the fold.
His vocal approach is straight-forward and unedited, his production edits are clean-cut and electronically complex, and his lyrics discuss stories of partying, struggles with depression, and the tragedy and triumph of young love. It is this lens from which he attracts most of his youthful audience who are simply in search of an artist to connect with. And it is in the combination of all his elements that his particularly candid take on music – a bold and refreshing attempt at hip-hop especially – has become the foundation of a movement.
His knack for fan connection and the ever-present Summery vibes that underline his style is what makes him the perfect candidate for a collaboration with a producer like Summer Heart. Together, with a shared fondness for electronica, an understanding and relatability to their fan bases, and the lack of overarching egos so often found in the failed collaborations of their peers, Skizzy Mars and Summer Heart would likely have little trouble finding the middle ground.
And with a shared ability to transcend the multiple sides of the creative process, that middle ground wouldn’t sound like the collaborative product of others. While Skizzy is a rapper, and Summer Heart an instrumentalist, both have talent ranges that extend into the realms of vocals and production, meaning that a collaboration would seem especially, for lack of a better word, collaborative.
And that sense of collaboration – that logical pairing – is for reasons strictly rooted in the economics of the music industry, the trait most often missing in collaborations between electronic and hip-hop artists.