Most of us like both hip-hop and indie music, but for different reasons. In general, most hip-hop will get you up, whereas a lot of indie brings you down. But every so often, you can find a song or even a full album that finds common ground between the two.
Enter Banks & Steelz. A collaboration between Interpol frontman Paul Banks and Wu-Tang Clan mastermind RZA (aka Bobby Steelz), the duo released their debut album Anything But Words last year. The album has plenty to like for fans of both artists, as songs like the single “Giant” have plenty of the moodiness and atmosphere of Interpol, while cuts like “Love + War” are flush with the cinematic sound of classic Wu-Tang.
It’s a fascinating record that sounds much more cohesive than the pairing looks on paper. With Banks & Steelz prepping for Coachella and an April 17 show at the El Rey Theatre as part of Goldenvoice Presents April, it got us thinking about other successful indie/ hip-hop partnerships. Click here to get your tickets to Banks & Steelz intimate El Rey show and read on for five other hip-hop indie collabos.
Back before he linked up with Paul Banks, RZA was one of the many contributors to the curiously overlooked 2009 Black Keys hip-hop project Blakroc. Combining the Black Keys’ swaggering blues and garage rock with MCs like Mos Def, Q-Tip, Pharoahe Monch and many others, Blakroc’s self-titled album is one of the best examples of hip-hop and indie coming together.
When Parquet Courts were booked for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” last summer in support of their tremendous album Human Performance, they brought along a surprising guest: Legendary Houston rapper Bun B. Earlier this year, they finally got around to releasing a studio version of the song, and it’s a fantastic flip of the original. And in honor of Bun B’s Houston roots, they put out a chopped and screwed version of the song as well.
Aesop Rock and Kimya Dawson have been fixtures of NYC’s hip-hop and freak folk scenes, respectively, since around the turn of the millennium. Still, it came as a curious surprise in 2013 when they announced a collaborative album as The Uncluded. Even more amazingly, the album is great, with the gentle, childlike music of Dawson providing an unexpectedly fitting base for Aesop Rock’s twisty rapping. Hit play and just try not to smile at the video above.
Much was made when Wiz Khalifa dropped this 2014 loosie with him rapping over Mac DeMarco’s gorgeous Salad Days standout “Chamber of Reflection.” The song followed something of a fallow period for Wiz and just months later, he was back at the top with “See You Again,” suggesting that if he hits another creative rut, he should once again look to the world of hazy indie music to regain his groove.
Finally, we come to the original collaboration between hip-hop and indie (or college rock, as they called it then), R.E.M.’s Out of Time curio “Radio Song.” Self-effacing irony has always been a hallmark of R.E.M. and this song, as the opening track on their first album following breakout mainstream success, finds the band at their most sarcastic. For a band that once sang, “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” that’s really saying something.
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