Maribus Chicago

The Power Of Collaborations

By on September 30, 2014

Written By Al Hot Mix Holmes

wbmx-al-hot-mix-holmesI don’t know if you noticed the latest trend in popular music. There have been a boat load of collaborations. Barbara Streisand’s new duet album, almost every hip hop artist. pop artists with DJ/Producers (Ariana Grande with Zedd comes to mind), artists collaborating with dead artists too! (From Natalie Cole to Tupac)

In all this I have learned that great people like working with other great people. It happens in all walks of life. on the job, sports, media, etc.

I use this platform to set up this conversation that has been going around for years. It has been said by singers that it’s the singer that made the song what it is. Others say it’s the producer that made the song what it is, and from this the argument goes back & fourth.

I’ve been a DJ now for 30 plus years, and I’ve seen and heard lots of music. Let me give you a different perspective on this subject.

I believe the true secret to success is the power of collaboration. I strongly believe an artist can’t solely take credit for the success of any project and neither can a producer. The sum of all the parts are greater. Motown was a shining example of this. Motown relied heavily on the collaboration process. Berry Gordy put some of the best singers and songwriters in the studio with some of the best musicians in Detroit and we have 50 years of history to see how well that worked.

Another example that comes to mind would be Johnny Gill. Early on, he had a great voice, a great singer however, it was’t until he worked with former Mahavishnu drummer/disco artist Narada Michael Walden that he had a hit with his ‘not my girlfirend’ Stacy Lattisaw.

Narada Michael Walden as you know went on to huge success as a super producer in the 80’s producing his own hits as well as albums for Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Jermaine Stewart and others.

When Johnny teamed up with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (Rub You The Right Way) and then L.A. Reid & Babyface (My, My, My) his career was in the stratosphere. Then he went out and did things on his own and never achieved that success again by himself.

What was it that caused that? Was it that those producers were the hottest in the industry? Dynamics like that play a role for sure. His voice didn’t change. He didn’t sing any different then than he did before. So what was different? The producers. This demonstrates the power collaboration. It’s for that reason nobody can take full bragging rights on the success of a project when others were involved the the creative process.

Let’s fast forward to today’s dance music. Are most people releasing music today (that isn’t totally sample based) collaborating with someone else to fill a void in their musical skills?

Not everyone is blessed with the ability to do it all, myself included. So let’s look at ‘House Music’. I’ll use the two biggest, successful collaborations to date in my opinion. Darryl Pandy & Farley Jackmaster Funk then Keith Nunnally & Steve Silk Hurley. Both of these dynamic duos blazed the charts in the early days of House Music. While they were successful as artists and producers, none of their work reached the heights it did when they came together with other talents.

What was created by these collaborations can’t be duplicated or recreated because both sides brought something to the table the other didn’t possess.

Could Nunnally or Pandy have achieved the very same success with another producer at that time? Could Farley or Hurley achieved the exact same success with another artist? My answer, absolutely not. Everybody is unique, and for this reason, nothing can be exactly duplicated by another person or duo. As a matter of fact, sometimes, the effect can be opposite and goes nowhere.

A collaboration between a different group of people sometimes yield even better projects. And earlier attempt may have yielded nominal success. Then someone else does it, and the project is a huge success. Is it to say the earlier project wasn’t good? Were the two talents not talented enough? No, it’s just the uniqueness of what they brought together just happened to work better.

So, before anyone decides to toot their horn [so loud as to drown out the others horn], remember this; It doesn’t matter if the collaboration was 50/50, 20/80, or even 1/99.

Even that 1 percent is enough to make that project special and different from anything else out there. And that 1% is just as responsible for the success of that project as your 99% that you put in.

What do you think? Leave your comments on the WBMX facebook page at

Al “Hot Mix” Holmes

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