When A$AP Rocky dropped the third single off his debut album Long.Live.A$AP in January 2013, most people saw the name Skrillex on the duo’s song “Wild For The Night” and responded skeptically. The dubstep DJ was coming off a year where he had been nominated for Best New Artist at the Grammys, and was about to win his fourth, fifth and sixth Grammys at the award show that next month, weeks after Rocky’s album dropped, making the collaboration have the feel of one of those strike-while-the-iron’s-hot moments of a rapper jumping on a trend because it’s hot. But when the song dropped, the collaboration all of a sudden made sense, with Rocky hopping all over Skrillex’s electro-infused mania and making it work.
The track wound up being the most high-profile of a string of new collaborations between the hip-hop and electronic spheres, though by no means the only one. The relationship between the hip-hop and electronic worlds is a close one—they both are, at their core, dance and party music—and the space between the two is evaporating quickly. Longtime Shady Records producer Green Lantern has been stepping into the electronic space more and more in the past few years, with Just Blaze following close behind, collaborating with Baauer and headlining this year’s Holy Ship! festival.
On the other side, Skrillex had been in the studio with Kanye working on Yeezus in the summer of 2012, Diplo has worked with Snoop Dogg and Kid Cudi, British duo Disclosure just dropped a track with Bishop Nehru and A-Trak is releasing an EP with Cam’ron in the next few months. And then in the middle is Pretty Lights, the producer and DJ who has been making hip-hop-tinged electronic music since the mid-2000s, recently including Talib Kweli and Eligh on his latest album. Even Waka Flocka has gotten into the game, announcing an EDM album titled Flockaveli Psychotics and touring with Steve Aoki and Borgore.
“It’s not really that different, other than you’re working with vocalists,” Skrillex says about the combination of the two styles. “As far as the medium in which we produce, it’s the same exact thing. We’re all using samples, we’re all using computers, we’re all using beats.”
With that in mind, XXL spoke to Skrillex, Disclosure’s Guy Lawrence, and Pretty Lights in separate interviews to get their takes on the merging of electronic and hip-hop music, rappers embracing new types of beats, and the dwindling middle ground between the two. Fast forward. —Dan Rys (@danrys)