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In Hip-Hop, Collaboration Can Lead To Greater Success


Hip-hop derives a lot of its power from a robust bass but more and more rappers are seeking power in numbers. Some big artists like Kendrick Lamar and Tyler The Creator are rising with the help of hip-hop collectives. Melissa Pandika recently wrote about the rise of these groups in the online magazine Ozy. Melissa, welcome to the show.

MELISSA PANDIKA: Thanks for having me.

RATH: So hip-hop wasn't always dominated by individual artists. I mean, I remember there used to be a lot more groups like NWA, Public Enemy, 2 Live Crew. Are these collectives that you're writing about a return to a more collaborative time? Or is this something totally different?

PANDIKA: Today's collectives sort of represents a shift in the music industry. Nowadays a lot of record labels don't have the budget for what's called artist development which is basically helping up-and-coming artists build their careers, grow their fan base. And so these collectives allow these young emcees to do just that.

RATH: So what are the business benefits then of being in a collective?

PANDIKA: You'll be able to divvy up management responsibilities. So Odd Future which is a collective out of Los Angeles includes Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler The Creator and R&B singer Frank Ocean.


PANDIKA: So Tyler The Creator who's often considered the ringleader of the group he uses Twitter addictively, he has 2 million followers and he helped promote the group shows. So in a way it allows the other group members to focus more on their music.

RATH: You know, this idea of being in a collective seems to be at odds with the idea of being a star. So, you know, how do individuals break out in this kind of model?

PANDIKA: Most successful collectives have a pretty diverse mix of talent. So you'll have a superstar or two. And that can be helpful for up-and-coming artists to basically piggyback on their success. So for example, a collective out of Los Angeles called Black Hippy, they helped launch Kendrick Lamar to fame. After he blew up, Schoolboy Q who's another member of that collective, he actually capitalized on that and featured Kendrick Lamar on one of his singles "Collard Greens."


SCHOOLBOY Q: (Singing) Oh, luxury. Chiddy ching ching could buy anything, cop that. Oh, oh, collard greens.

PANDIKA: And it seems that Kendrick's added hype paid off.

RATH: I'm wondering about how this might affect the, you know, the culture of feuds in hip-hop because on the one hand you might think collaboration would mean fewer feuds. On the other hand, I mean, the guys in NWA didn't exactly part on good terms.

PANDIKA: I mean, it boils down to choosing the right people. A few years ago there was the White Girl Mob. Their star member was rapper Kreayshawn.


PANDIKA: Her group member, V-Nasty, used the N-word and so a lot of people blamed that for taking her career.

RATH: So if you were advising a young hip-hop artist would you say go collective or go solo?

PANDIKA: I would say differently now the best option would be to join a collective. Anyone can upload a music video or track and the way it'll really make yourself stand out right now is through the branding of a collective.

RATH: So if you want to be a brand it helps to have a team.

PANDIKA: Exactly.

RATH: Melissa Pandika is an editor and writer for ozy.com. Thanks for joining us.

PANDIKA: Thanks so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

All Things Considered