What do you think is bound to happen if you took Musicology professor and the R in RnB, locked them in the same studio for two whole months with loads of chicken wings, drinks, enough green, Newports and PCP to complement the How To Wank for 60 Days manual?
Of course we don’t know but are certain that the magic that will come out of the studio will be enough to make David Copperfield green with envy, ‘cause it’s gonna last forever. That’s gonna be some classic body of music to treasure. The 10 CD set will cost seven hundred greenbacks, that’s more than R5000 for us.
Can you now at hindsight foresee the same having been the thought when the ghost of Bob Marley was set up with then daughter-in-law Lauryn Hill? Turn Your Lights Down Low was damn good if not excellent but couldn’t really be called an all time classic as Marley alone made it. It’s funny that even Hill’s Miseducation alone is referred to as a classic. So, what happened to the two cracking it for legacy’ sake?
Two well-positioned people to ask will be Eminem and Dido. The two flipped theirs without one dying first to qualify for a date with the other in Dr Dre’s Crib. Eminem and Dido’s heartfelt exploration of the perils of a music fanatic’s obsession with a man who bleeds like him sounds straight from a confessional when you hear him rap in his another song, "I’m the equivalent of what would happen if Bush rapped". Stan goes down as one of the few collabos between rap and pop that left both with their heads up high, no compromise.
Maybe that’s the point, Hill messed Marley’s song by rapping while she was on the right tune with her crooning 40 seconds earlier. Hill was trying to outsing the legend but ended up messing his classic.
Marley (sorry Bob) and Hill could have learnt from what Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle did or failed to do some time ago. Artists need to connect spiritually to really bring out a united composition, does not matter if it’s a remake or a cover. Point to note is Kenny Lattimore and Chante Moore, everything they make ends with a climax. Bryson and Belle were a perfect example of an anti-climax, a faked orgasm. Bryson’s emotional blackmail is either some prophetic lines for Belle or midlife adolescence whining about Belle. From the first note A whole New World sounded hollow, very much a correction than an assignment.
That is exactly what happened between Bra Hugh Masekela and Thandiswa (Red). Their collabo was a mistake in progress from the minute Uncle Hugh opened his mouth. The problem being, two prima donnas can’t physically occupy one studio and still have space for their egos. Why collaborate if you can’t stand each other? Or did they try and we are the ones who are blind? Why say stuff that record company PRs think makes sense now but might not mean the same thing later? This is no insinuation (sorry SONY).
Love and genuine respect for each other are the cornerstones for the success of every collabo. Remember Steve Kekana and Nana Coyote’s Take your Love and Keep It? For some time I thought Coyote was blind too. Take your Love had soul because the two men put theirs in it, just as God did to man at creation.
Blowing breath in the creation’s lungs was the last thing Papa Wemba and Brenda Fassie thought of doing when they entered the same studio together. MaBrr was later quoted as saying that she was so high during the whole recording she didn’t remember what was it they were singing about. No wonder the album died due to what doctors call SIDS (Sudden Infants Death Syndrome), almost like DOA, but not a miscarriage.
A real miscarriage happened when Michael and Janet committed artistic incest and started something that was supposed to end with an oomph. Their only moment of incest yielded a deformed baby. Whoever said that "great minds think alike" must also have told the Jackson kids that Star Trek needed a 3 minute remake cut. What is the best thing music fanatics remember about Scream. Huh, let me guess, they were both dressed like space characters. And the video apparently cost a whopping $6million to make. I’ve never met one person who remembers one line from the Jackson baby, not even some token melody.
Of course, the same can’t be said about Janet’s later collabo with Busta Rythmes. Leotard, cleavage, mercury, What’s It Gonna Be? It really made some bodies feel wet.
The same wetness was what characterized Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes. Why is it that you need two really opposite genres to make a success? Simon and Black Mambazo were very much what was logically bound to happen if you mixed oil with water. Surprisingly when they mixed, they produced some kosher concoction that easily passed off as cappuccino. Only cappuccinos win Grammys, remember that.
Grammy Award winning Sting’s collabo with young Craig David produced a classic, Rise and Fall. Forget that it was a remake, nobody ever heard David say, "this dream is the life I’ve been searching for" and remained unmoved. This should be a point of departure next time Uncle Hugh and Thandiswa go in the same studio, may they take a leaf from Revolution and Phillip Tabane, youth and experience resulting in cappuccino, not some remedial-forced-down-your-throat green tea.
Something remedial was what Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesius tried to prescribe when they dedicated their old age crisis song To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before to the wives, the baby-mamas and the grannies at old age homes across America.
Long after AIDS stricken Freddy Mercury recorded Mother Love, which had this line, "I long for peace before I die…" his heartfelt collabo with Monseratt Caballe for the opening of the ‘92 Barcelona Olympics remains a masterpiece. This is because even today you can still mix it on some pop, house, grundge, hip hop, RnB and even kwaito beat without robbing it of its goriness. Sadly, can’t say the same thing about Freddie’s anthem of the defeated, Mother Love.
Some hits sound kosher on their original version while they lose their integrity once they are covered or performed live. Some need extra spice and a different scenery to work out. However the same can’t be said about the last United States-French coalition. Or rather a US-Franco-Africa coalition of Yossour N’dour and Neneh Cherry. You play the original version from N’dour or Cherry’s respective albums or the version recorded live in Cape Town at the Nelson Mandela 46664 Concert, you just have to love 7 Seconds. N’dour and Cherry complement each other on the original which makes 7 Seconds a baby that will live a full life, even if it suddenly became orphaned.
The list of what was and what could have been goes a long way, including Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick and Gladys Knight’s That’s what Friends are For. Remember Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston’s collabos, sometimes using a lackluster watered down formula that can only be described as either lukewarm wine or cold coffee, but always winning with hardcore fans.
Also remember Kabelo, Brown Dash and Mzekezeke. A dead track, only saved by the video and that it was on the Yizo Yizo III soundtrack. It was similar to what Puff Daddy, Pharrel Williams of the Neptunes and Lenny Kravitz tried to do. What a flop, it sounded like a mistake in progress, which it was.
Also, do you remember Ja Rule and Jeniffer Lopez with their MTV Awards’ abuse of I’m Real. It was later spoiled when Ja later claimed that they did more than just get down with the beat in the studio. Trust a nigga to mess things up.
This will be incomplete if Tupac and Biggie’s Running was not interrogated. The jury is still out on its merits since it has been so mixed and remixed it risks stealing the title of having invented the remix from P-Diddy and Bad Boy. But wasn’t it great hearing arguably two of the most talented contributors to rap strangle a beat?
Sometimes misery loves company, as Method Man once said. However he never heeded his own advise when he got together with fellow weedhead Redman to record. Quite slamming, but was the button pushers at Def Jam listening as well? I guess not, they were probably on some Rockwilder shit.
Another recent collabo was the Black Eyed Peas and Justin Timberlake. It became a hit not much due to controversy as envisaged but because there was no bra-straps to undo while held up in the studio with virile men
Finally, there are those who believe that pride can be cooked and eaten and will never grace the same recording booth or be caught dead in one room. Nasir Jones said, "some beef is everlasting", when Mobb Deep later said, "beef, what, I overcooked that meat".
Quite certain, imagine what would happen if Arthur, Oskido and Mdu decided to bury their hatchet and record together? Well, that’s freedom of imagination, same as 50cent doing a joint with Ja, Kurt Cobain with Norah Jones, Mzekezeke with S'bu (Malawyer). One reckons they can bring out magic last heard with Mdu and Mandoza's 50/50.
Before all can happen, Wycleff Jean and Lauryn Hill need to set the example. And maybe R.Kelly and Prince might do it after all, and provide the world with a collaboration to end all collaborations. Some evergreen album for all seasons.

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