On Monday (Sept. 4), Tyga flexed his vocal chops by singing a few 90s R&B hits, from Donell Jones’ “Where I Wanna Be” to Usher’s “Nice and Slow” in a series of videos posted to social media. He later revealed plans to drop a singing album “soon” and previewed an upcoming track from the project.
Hip-hop has had a long history of intermingling with other musical genres and over the years, rappers have broadened their horizons to experiment with sounds from pop, rock, R&B, country, etc. Whether they’ve straddled the fence by collaborating with artists from said genres – Nelly went country on Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” and Kendrick Lamar went pop for Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” — or crossed over to create genre-bending efforts a la Lil Wayne’s Rebirth, times have changed and nowadays, rappers are refusing to be pigeonholed into just one sound.
From Lil Wayne‘s rock album to Snoop Dogg going funk, read on to revisit the rappers who have switched genres at some point in their careers.
Kayne West, 808s & Heartbreaks (2008)
West turned the industry on its head with the release of 808s & Heartbreaks, an electro-pop project where West bathed his vocals in auto-tune and rap-sings throughout the 12-track record. Led by hit singles “Love Lockdown” and “Heartless,” a pensive West channels the pain and angst of losing his mother — who died in 2007 from heart complications following plastic surgery — into the experimental album. 808s is regarded as one of the rapper’s best albums to date.
Lil Wayne, Rebirth (2010)
After making waves with his highly acclaimed album Tha Carter III, Wayne looked to reinforce his legacy and strengthen the “Best Rapper Alive” title he’s proclaimed for much of his career. Testing his versatility, the “Lollipop” rapper dipped into the world of Rock and compiled an entire project heavily influenced by the genre, enlisting the likes of Eminem and Nicki Minaj for the album’s standout tracks, “Drop The World” and “Knockout,” respectively.
Shortly before Rebirth was unleashed, Wayne teased fans with a taste of what the rapper would sound like against a rock beat and teamed up with his then Young Money signee Kevin Rudolf for “Let It Rock.” In a 2009 interview with Billboard, the Young Money head honcho said that Rebirth is “freedom album” and he wanted it to be different from his Carter albums.
Snoop Dogg, 7 Days of Funk (2013)
Snoop Dogg’s 2007 song “Sensual Seduction” was a groovy, nostalgic disco funk track where Snoop nods the funk artists that have influenced his work like The Parliament, whose work The Doggfather sampled in his earlier tracks like 1993’s “The Shiznit” or 2002’s “Stoplight.” The Long Beach native parked his signature gangster-funk sound to adopt the funk sound wholly and created 7 Days of Funk with Dam-Funk. Dogg laid his smooth flow over the rhythmic, piano-laden melodies and even gave the album cuts the video treatment, as the “Neva Left” rapper donned afro and jheri curl wigs in the grainy, throwback-style visuals.
Big Boi, Big Grams (2015)
Genre: Experimental Hip-hop
As a member of Outkast, Big Boi’s no stranger to experimenting with different styles and despite the group’s disbandment, the former Outkast rapper continued to fuse a plethora of sounds into his own solo work. In 2015 Boi and teamed up with electro duo Phantogram and released Big Grams in 2015, an atmospheric effort merging Fat Saxx’s boisterous rhymes with Sarah Bartel’s indelible croons.
Childish Gambino, “Awaken My Love!” (2016)
On Gambino’s third studio album “Awaken My Love!” the rapper proved to be more than just a witty lyricist. “Redbone” finds Gambino belting out lyrics like “Daylight/ I wake up feeling like you won’t play right/ I used to know, but now that shit don’t feel right/ It made me put away my pride,” in a falsetto over a slow-burning, soulful melody that Prince would be most proud of.
Future, HNDRXX (2017)
There are two sides to Future, as evidenced by his back-to-back albums FUTURE and HNDRXX. While FUTURE was smeared with the rapper’s typical bravado, HNDRXX revealed the Atlanta rhymer’s softer, more vulnerable side. He recruits Rihanna (“Selfish”) and The Weeknd (“Coming Out Strong”) and Chris Brown (“Pie”) to help round out the melodic effort with his go-to collaborator Metro Boomin handling the production.
Young Thug, Beautiful Thugger Girls (2017)
Genre: Experimental Hip-hop
For Young Thug, rules were meant to be broken. With the release of 2016 Jeffrey, Thugger named the songs after his idols and channeled the sounds of some of them like the bouncy, trap-heavy beat of “Future Swag” or the reggae-influenced “Wyclef Jean.” On Beautiful Thugger Girls, the “Harambe” rapper channels different sounds, this time blending country, R&B and pop together to show the world that he can thrive in any setting.