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Hip-Hop News: Pop Artists Look To Hip Hop For Beats
The popularity of hip hop beats across the world has pop artists looking for rap producers.
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Posted by Dave
Rap News Network
3/19/2006 9:32:27 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Various Artists. Hip Hop, Rap and Production.

DJ Premier was surprised when he got the phone call last spring. It was RCA Records, saying that Christina Aguilera wanted the producer, best known for his gritty work with rap heavyweights Gang Starr, the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Nas and KRS-One, to work on the pop singer‘s forthcoming album.

"It was kind of a shock because I was like, ‘How the hell does she know about me?"‘ DJ Premier says. "I‘m one of those guys that really doesn‘t expect pop artists to really be up on me."

It turns out Aguilera wanted her forthcoming album to re-create and pay tribute to the music that inspired her: soul, jazz and blues from the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s. She was familiar with some of Premier‘s jazz-influenced work with Gang Starr in the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially the song "Jazz Thing."

"It had elements of Miles Davis and Billie Holiday and little horn pieces," Aguilera says of the tune. "The way he combined that, I was like, ‘Hmm. I bet he would get where I‘m trying to go with this record.‘ It was taking a chance. God knows if he would even do it because it was kind of his first time, I think, even venturing into the ‘pop‘ world. I knew that it would be a different and new thing for him."

DJ Premier ended up producing five songs slated to appear on "Back to Basics," Aguilera‘s new album, which is scheduled for a June release. The seemingly unusual pairing between DJ Premier and Aguilera is the latest combination of rap producers and pop artists working together, a trend that is becoming increasingly commonplace.

The Neptunes‘ Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani have recorded several songs together, most notably "Hollaback Girl," after Williams became famous for his production work with hardcore rappers Noreaga and Ol‘ Dirty Bastard; Jermaine Dupri logged several hits with Usher and Mariah Carey after establishing himself through the pop-minded rap of Kris Kross and Da Brat. Scott Storch parlayed working with the Roots, Dr. Dre and others into collaborations with Justin Timberlake and Beyonce.

But rap producers making the leap to pop can be a dicey proposition in a world where credibility is paramount. "The moment you stop being the underdog, when you get ‘on‘ in people‘s eyes and you‘re that dude because of the record you did with Britney, that‘s when the sellout aspect of it comes, when they‘ll say, ‘Oh, he forgot where he came from,"‘ says Mr. ColliPark, who scored hits for the Ying Yang Twins, David Banner and others before testing the pop waters with Jamie Foxx last year. "I‘m a living testimony that people are genuinely happy for you at first -- until you get out of their reach, until you actually make it. Then all that hating and s**t comes in."

Dancing the fine line between making street-certified songs and crossover smashes is what makes the work of the Neptunes, Dupri and Storch so impressive. But they could be seen as being on the brink of going too pop.

In Williams‘ case, for instance, his work as a producer with Stefani has been much more successful and acclaimed than, say, his beats for Houston rapper Slim Thug, or even his rap song "Can I Have It Like That," which featured Stefani on the hook. The single was not a big hit on radio or as a video entry, and Williams‘ solo album was pushed back from its fourth-quarter 2005 release date to a spring 2006 bow.

"What rap and hip-hop fans are really not accepting is when you start to gear all your music toward pop radio and singers as opposed to breaking new rappers and focusing on hip-hop," says Kevin Faist, director of A&R for Capitol Records. Faist has promoted Mack 10, Westside Connection and others during his 13 years in the music industry. "Hip-hop fans get offended by that and eventually you‘ll lose your hip-hop pass,

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