Best Collabs of 2012

5. Captain Murphy (a.k.a. Flying Lotus) feat. Earl Sweatshirt – “Between Friends”

Earl has always been one to court mystery. Upon arriving home back in February, though he released “Home” and appeared on the tail-end of Odd Future’s OF Tape Vol 2, for the most part, the young emcee kept interviews, performances and features to a minimum. When he did do features, they were always in the midst of other Odd Future members (or affiliates, like Casey Veggies). So for the most part, it seemed that Earl was keeping it all in the family.

This all changed when Adult Swim released “Between Friends,” a Flying Lotus produced track featuring Earl and the mysterious Captain Murphy. This was Earl’s first [released] song outside of the OF camp since he returned.  The track features some intriguing voice modulations that make Earl and Captain Murphy sound eerily similar; the only thing that really distinguishes them is their distinct rapping styles. Over the hauntingly melodic instrumental, they sound like spirits having a conversation. The fact that few people can blend in with Earl so intimately led many people to believe that Captain Murphy was Tyler, but this turned out not to be true (Captain Murphy is Flying Lotus). Earl went on to be featured on multiple tracks from Domo Genesis’ mixtape, No Idols, but “Between Friends” still stands out.

–Stephen Kearse

4. Kendrick Lamar & Gunplay – “Cartoon & Cereal”

Does Robert F. Winch ring a bell? He’s the sociologist that came up with the idea, piggybacking off Plato’s first law, of opposites attracting. A prime example of Winch’s hypothesis is Kendrick Lamar and Gunplay’s “Cartoon & Cereal.”

The year arguably belongs to Kendrick, so Gunplay really couldn’t lose on this record. In the world we live filled with Wayne and Trey Songz features, this is a breathe of polar opposite fresh shit. With Kendrick’s witty linguistics, ability to flip to his subconscious voice mid verse, and Gunplay’s Carol City cries that reads like poetry, this collaboration goes.

Not meant for the radio, this THC produced track brings all the subcultures in. The hipsters loved it just as much as the West Coast hip-hop heads. Not to mention, this track shut down TDE’s website. That was probably because of lines like this. “Tell a story that I’ll never glory 25 / Not to worry, every warrior will come and see euphoria/And that’s a covenant I put on every tribe.”

–Nick Williams

3. Ab-Soul, Danny Brown & Jhene Aiko – “Terrorist Threats”

Ab-Soul released his debut album Control System back in May, its first single being “Terrorist Threats” which featured Danny Brown and Jhene Aiko. With much friendly competition from his TDE brethren, Ab-Soul knew that he had much hype surrounding him. “Terrorist Threats” was that distinct banger that Ab needed to set him apart from his crew.

With talks of war, politics, historical figures and of course, Soulo’s trademark references to our “third eye,” Soul found his fans rhyming along with him passionately. Danny Brown raps in his signature fashion speeding and braking with his highly-enunciated voice an impressive last verse:

Feel my pain
Going insane
I’m ashamed
‘Cause I ain’t got shit but an EBT card from a fiend that owes me
and it’s in his daughter’s name

This track is full of fighting words. Fortunately the apocalypse did not unleash on us, but perhaps if a worldwide revolution were to begin, expect this song to be played on boom-boxes of hip-hop heads and Selassie worshippers.

RESPECT. was in attendance at Soul’s show at New York’s SOBs where Ab-Soul headlined for the first time. This was the last song performed and as Soul descended from the stage, all you could hear was a collective chant of “You have three eyes.” Don’t forget it.

–Ragel Thys

2. Meek Mill & Big Sean – “Burn”

We first heard “Burn,” Meek Mill’s collaboration with Big Sean, on Dreamchasers 2. But the Jahlil Beats-produced joint was so hot (pun intended) that the label decided to soup it up for release on Millie’s debut album, Dreams & Nightmares. Perhaps it’s because “Burn” is one of the best examples of what the 25-year-old rapper can do on a microphone. His delivery is always barky and abrasive, as if he’s fighting to stay alive over the all-consuming beats he tends to ride, and on “Burn,” he’s at the top of his game.

Meek Mill is loud and exciting — which is exactly what Big Sean is not. Sean is known for his creep voice and playful, “try-sexual” flow, and it’s that counterbalance that makes “Burn” work so well. We like when Sean goes hard, and he pulls it off here. The two spitters play off each other well, making Sean’s part feel less of a feature and more of a true collaboration. Both of them are flexing their second lives in the rap game, and based on their success on “Burn,” we can expect even better from them in the new year.

–Nick Harwood

1. Pusha T, Kanye West & Ghostface – “New God Flow”

While G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer received lukewarm reviews from critics across the board, a few standout tracks from the project proved to be instant successes. Simply put, the single releases for this album (“Clique,” “Cold,” “Mercy,” and “New God Flow”) set a trajectory for the rest of the project that was quite difficult to maintain. Nevertheless, these four joints did more than their fair share in making up for a project that proved to be lacking in more ways than one.

“New God Flow” takes the hip-hop world back to Ghostface Killah’s second studio album, Supreme Clientele, but for this cut Kanyeflips the concept from the hook on Ghostface’s record “Mighty Healthy.” In doing so he creates a track that simultaneously shows deference to the Wu Tang member’s storied past, while also showcasing the lyrical talents of G.O.O.D. Music signee Pusha T.

The extended verses from Kanye and Pusha T really make this track stand out, but that is not meant to take anything away from Ghostface Killah’s bars. The addition of the Wu Tang member lends some contrast to Pusha and Kanye’s delivery style on this cut, but what’s nice about this record is the end result does not feel forced. With so many collaborations of this caliber, the problem inevitably proves to be the coexistence of big names on a single song. These guys make it work so well on “New God Flow” that one might be inclined to wonder what went wrong with the rest of the album. Don’t let the mistakes belie the careful choices that went into making this album, but unfortunately several records from this project missed their mark. The process worked for “New God Flow,” so you won’t catch anyone complaining about this joint.

–Jack Freifelder