While many consider Jay-Z the GOAT when it comes to hip-hop, that doesn’t normally bring his leanings outside of the rap realm into play. In a genre where “crossing over” almost requires some kind of non-hip hop movements, Hov is an example of taking some risks and incorporating different sounds into the chamber. These moves have helped accentuate the term “artist” as opposed to plain old rapper. Taking his recent live performances with Pearl Jam and Coldplay as inspiration, we figured we should take a look at some of Jay’s most surprising moments outside of the rap scene. And we promise, it’s not just a bunch of mash-ups of “99 Problems.”
Hit “next” or click the pictures to read on…
Jay-Z vs. Lenny Kravitz
While many have (not so) fond memories of Hova’s Blueprint 2, the Heavy D-produced “Guns & Roses” featured Lenny Kravitz on vocals. The track definitely had a rock edge, but that was more from the sample source (although Lenny did do his job on the hook). They would link back up in 2004, with Jay lending a verse to the R&B-leaning “Storm” from Lenny’s Baptism album, and again in 2011 with “Boongie Drop” from Lenny’s Black and White America LP. The two of these guys were both established in their respective scenes, and linking up on tracks that (at the time) were more outside of their zones showed that although they were vets, they were still willing to take risks.
Jay-Z vs. Panjabi MC
The word is that this bhangra/Knight Rider theme track (which was a Panjabi MC remix of “Mundian To Bach Ke” by Punjabi artist Labh Janjua from 1998) caught the ears of Jay-Z, leading him to reach out to add his own verses to this explosive track, which was the first to gain mainstream appeal on both sides of the Atlantic. With mash-up culture so alive at the time, it wasn’t uncommon to hear cross-collaborations from different countries, but when a name like Jay-Z hops on a bhangra track? That’s major.
Jay-Z vs. Phish
During their 2004 retirement tour, Phish‘s Brooklyn stop featured a surprise appearance from Brooklyn’s own, with Hova running through “99 Problems” and “Big Pimpin'” with the infamous jam band. And based off of the footage, not only was the band loving it, but the crowd was super into it as well. It’s just great to see two cultures that seem so different coming together and getting into it. Like Jay told Rolling Stone, it should really just be about “good music and bad music,” right?
Jay-Z vs. Linkin Park
Collision Course was recorded during the same timeframe that Jay performed with Phish, so it might be fair to say that he was in a rap/rock hybrid zone at the time. This EP dropped in November, and was coupled with an MTV special, showcasing the creation and live performance of the Hov/Linkin Park mash-ups. And these were pure mash-ups, with tracks like “Numb/Encore” seamlessly blending aspects of each track into something bigger. Projects like this are exactly why we feel we can defend the entire mash-up culture, while also showing that Jay knows how to really go in when a project is just that intriguing to him.
Jay-Z vs. Coldplay
The most recent example of Jay and Coldplay’s collaborative efforts was their performance during the closing of this year’s Paralympics, where Young Hov added a new verse to Coldplay‘s “Paradise.” The friendship between Jay and Coldplay’s Chris Martin had actually started back in 2006, though, when they first met and ultimately collaborated on Kingdom Come‘s “Beach Chair,” which Chris produced (and Dr. Dre mixed). Coldplay also featured Jay on “Lost+” from their 2008 Prospekt’s March EP. Their relationship was one of the things Kanye brought up in his heartfelt “Big Brother,” but it seems as though Jay and Chris kept that friendship in tact, as Chris and wife Gwenyth Paltrow attended Jay and Beyonce’s wedding in 2008 (Beyonce and Gwenyth are also good friends).
Jay-Z vs. Amy Winehouse
While “Rehab” is possibly one of the most ironic tunes in Amy‘s career, her rise in 2007 was anything but. Strong vocals, vintage soul and infectious songs drove the success of Back to Black in 2007 during Hov’s post-Kingdom Come, pre-American Gangster run, which also included the massive Rihanna hit “Umbrella.” It felt like Jay was broadening his horizons even further, and jumping on “Rehab” felt like a no-brainer, but Jay knew how to flip the drug references into his own narrative. Given his background, the marriage made a lot of sense.
Jay-Z vs. M.I.A.
Yes, that picture dates back to 2009, when a then-pregnant M.I.A. performed T.I.‘s “Swagga Like Us” (which samples a line from her hit “Paper Planes”) alongside Jay, Tip, Kanye, and Lil Wayne at the Grammys. The actual collaborative efforts between M.I.A. and Hova started in 2007, when he dropped a verse on her massive hit “Boyz,” spitting bars about Obama and the plight of guys in the hood. He interspersed her chants well into his verse, and really showed he could hold his own on a banging dance track. They’d meet up again in 2010, when Hov again did remix duty for “XXXO”, from M.I.A.’s Maya. Jay must have seen something in M.I.A., as he officially made her a part of Roc Nation in May of 2012, further opening up the worldwide takeover he seems to be planning with his stable.
Jay-Z vs. Oasis
Now of course we’re not trying to say that Hova has ever worked with Oasis, but the controversy surrounding the announcement of Jay headlining the 2008 Glastonbury Festival was massive. Glastonbury had historically been headlined by the top pop and rock acts of the day, with everyone from David Bowie, The Cure, R.E.M., Radiohead, Oasis, Coldplay, The White Stripes and many more headlining the festival one year or another.
2008 was the first time Glastonbury had a hip-hop act headline, and it caused quite a stir, with Noel Gallagher of Oasis in particular saying that Jay-Z was “wrong” for Glastonbury. What did Hova do? He opened his set with a rendition of the Oasis hit “Wonderwall,” guitar in hand, a smile on his face and tongue firmly placed in cheek. Hov even threw a dart at Noel in “Jockin’ Jay-Z” (“that bloke from Oasis said I couldn’t play guitar/Somebody should have told him I’m a fuckin’ rock star“), but really, his Glastonbury 2008 intro was all that was needed to hush Noel up about the situation.
Jay-Z vs. U2
While there’s footage from 2009 of Hov and U2 performing in Berlin, the first song from this tandem came in the form of “Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour),” which dropped in January 2010 as a benefit track to help the 2010 Haitian Earthquake relief effort. It’s interesting to note that as they progressed in their careers, both Bono and Hov have become more philanthropic, fighting for more worldwide causes and helping out where their celebrity might not take “regular” people. Jay also performed live with U2 during their 2010 tour of New Zealand and Australia, with renditions of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Scarlet” making the rounds. Jay even blamed himself for the delays in the completion of U2’s Songs of Ascent album, but did use “Elevation” for the soundtrack to the forthcoming NBA 2K13 video game – so there’s that.
Jay-Z vs. Jack White
While the rumored “Ray-Bans” track has not been heard (yet), photos hit the web in 2010, confirming that Jay-Z and Jack White had been working on music in the studio. At the time, Hov mentioned that his next album would “not be a #1 album,” and shared that he’d be experimenting with sounds. This was post-Blueprint 3, so we’re not sure if he was speaking on Watch The Throne or if his next solo work, but one has to wonder if this mysterious track (and possibly others) are going to appear at some point, in some form.
Jay-Z vs. Flux Pavilion
While this is more of a sample than an actual collaboration, it’s inclusion shows how far out Jay-Z’s inspiration can take him. Word came from MistaJam a few weeks before its release that Flux Pavilion’s massive dubstep track “I Can’t Stop” was being used on Watch The Throne. Mind you, this is before we had heard “Niggas In Paris” and knowing how far Kanye and Jay would be taking things. Just the fact that a sampled (and slightly reworked) dubstep tune was being feature on THE hip-hop album of that summer? Crazy. With so many instances of rap and dubstep crossing paths (be it the grime scene or through various refixes), this is arguably the biggest collaboration of these sounds on record.
Jay-Z vs. Pearl Jam
And as you already know, Jay and Pearl Jam were co-headliners for the Made In America festival that Hova curated in Philly earlier this month. Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament let the world know that the idea of Jay performing a song during PJ’s set was brought up about a month before the show, but the “99 Problems / WMA” performance wasn’t really practiced with Jay until 30 minutes before the show. It came off great, although with the original “99 Problems” song already being built with a rock edge, we’d figure it would be that hard to screw this one up.