On Wednesday, Taylor Swift posted a photo of the tracklist to her hotly-anticipated album, Reputation, confirming the longstanding rumor that Atlanta trap rapper Future would be featured on the album. Not only is the lean-sipping rapper included on the second track, titled “End Game,” but he also appears alongside chart-topping ginger wunderkind, Ed Sheeran.
The revelation made plenty of fans sit up and take note, but not all of the responses were positive. Mainly, it seems fans are incensed, disgusted, or outright befuddled at Future’s presence on the album, thanks to a perceived disparity between the two artists’ fan bases. However, the pair may secretly be perfectly suited to each other’s styles, with both having a propensity for addressing exes and drama in their lyrics and a shared — ahem — reputation for pettiness directed at their songs’ subjects. Behold Future’s “My Collection” video, widely believed to be a not-so-subtle shot at ex-wife Ciara. Or, take into account the ongoing feud between Swift and fellow pop star Katy Perry, with whom she’s carried on a four-year cold war over a dispute stemming from the double-booking of some tour backup dancers and at least one shared ex — guitarist John Mayer.
However their music styles may clash — or mesh, for what it’s worth — Future and Swift’s collaboration may come as a surprise to some. But, this isn’t the first time music industry manipulations tried to cross-pollinate fan bases between stars of opposing genres. In fact, rapper-pop singer collaborations have often times been one of the record business’ trusty tactics in trying to introduce new artists of either genre. The strength of the effect looks to stem from the juxtaposition of the stereotypically rugged, streetwise black rapper with the innocent, highly-curated blonde “pop princess” archetype — although it can be spun from the male perspective, too, as we’ll see in the list. There’s a lot of tangled racial politics at play in the practice, but that’s a whole different essay.
Intriguingly, the genres were kept as separate as possible throughout the ’90s, the era of the biggest explosion of growth for hip-hop, but by the early 2000s, the nascent genre had become undeniable and record execs began experimenting to try to find ways to export rap’s swagger to pop’s hermetically-controlled environment. Sometimes it works, and sometimes you get Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” which won’t be included in this list on principle. While this sort of collaboration has become more commonplace and even expected in the modern, ultra-saturated pop landscape, every once in a while, a rap-pop collaboration will still mashup such divergent styles that the result seems more haphazard than carefully calculated, even if the gambit is more of the latter than the former.
Below are six more times, from the earliest faux pas to the most recent headscratchers, rappers and pop stars created collaborations that made fans go: “Huh?”