Crossing The Boundary
Co-signs from The Game and Yelawolf are making English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran hip-hop’s new go-to collaborator.
Words Dan Rys

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the October/November 2014 issue of XXL Magazine.

Multi-platinum British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran has been more famously aligned with Elton John and Taylor Swift than Yelawolf and The Game in his short, wildly-successful career so far. But world tours and two top five albums on the Billboard 200 haven’t kept the acoustic guitar slinger from dabbling in his other love, hip-hop, as often as he can. After dropping a four-song EP with Yelawolf in 2012, the 23-year-old from Suffolk, England collaborated with Lupe Fiasco and Rick Ross before linking with The Game last year. Their studio chemistry led to a new joint LP, in the cards for early 2015, and XXL spoke with Sheeran about the album, his rap influences and learning from the hip-hop world.

XXL: How did you first become a hip-hop fan?
Ed Sheeran: Probably it would have been The Marshall Mathers LP in 2000. My dad got me the CD and said, “This is the modern day Bob Dylan, have a listen.”

What’s it like working in the studio with The Game?
Very, very efficient. I just think hip-hop’s a different beast, man. I think when rappers go into the studio they want to do as many songs as they can in one night. In my genre, you get half a song finished in a day, you’re happy. The thing that I love about him as a rapper is that everything is personal. Even if it’s like a pop tune and you want him to make a tune for people to just vibe out to, it comes from a personal place.

How was working with Yelawolf different from The Game?
Technically speaking, he’s a different type of rapper than Game, but it all still comes from the heart. He’s very similar to Game in the sense that you feel what he says. You know he’s telling the truth.

Who would you like to work with?
I know that everyone wants to work with Chance The Rapper at the moment, but I’ve liked Chance for a while. Just because he’s different, and he raps about different things. I like the fact that he hasn’t signed a deal and he’s just kind of doing it his own way.

Who are some of your favorite rappers out right now?
I really liked A$AP’s record when that came out, and A$AP Ferg’s doing very, very well in England at the moment. Anything that Mustard has done I kind of dig, so that goes for YG and Ty Dolla $ign. I like the landscape of things at the moment.

Is there a particular type of hip-hop that you gravitate to?
I guess it would be a mixture. My favorite song on the Kendrick album [good kid, m.A.A.d city] would be “The Art Of Peer Pressure,” just because of the flow and the story and the fact that it’s three verses telling three different things. I like storytelling songs like that, like “Stan” or even like “Regulate.” Immortal Technique is very good at that as well, having a song that really draws you in and the next time you listen to it you’re not bored, even though it’s the same story.

How has hip-hop influenced your own music?
I think just the way people put lyrics together in hip-hop, I do take influence from that in acoustic music. It doesn’t have to be a standard one line and rhyme the next line with that line. That’s more common in hip-hop than in acoustic music.

Do you see yourself continuing to put out projects in the hip-hop world?
Yeah, I don’t see an end to it. I’ve always loved to experiment, and I think it’s healthy, too. But the Game [project] is something that I’m definitely very passionate about, and I think it will be one of the best things that I release.

Related: Ed Sheeran’s Five Favorite Hip-Hop Songs Of All Time
The Game And Ed Sheeran’s Joint Album Is Almost Done
Ed Sheeran Featuring Rick Ross “Don’t (Remix)”
Lupe Fiasco Recruits Ed Sheeran For “Old School Love”