Mick Jagger has a varied and complicated history with rap music. With some questionable collaborations that could be tried in the court of law for crimes against hip-hop, Jagger has tentatively dipped his toe into a genre that continues to evolve to the masses. Still, they’ve all come from a place of love.
Perhaps, his lowest moment arrived when Jagger teamed up with Will.i.am and Jennifer Lopez for ‘T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)’ in 2011, a track that remains an almost unbearable listen. Reflecting on the thought process behind that creation, it is difficult to grasp how the concept was dreamt up by the same Mick Jagger that masterminded classic hits like ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’.
Elsewhere, in 2017, The Rolling Stones frontman worked with Skepta on ‘England Lost’ to equally strange results. It wouldn’t be unfair to categorise that collaboration as one of the weirdest crossovers of Jagger’s illustrious yet varied career. Commenting on the song, Jagger said: “Right from the off when I started writing ‘England Lost’, I imagined having a British rapper on the track. Skepta stepped in at a moment’s notice and I just loved what he did.” The singer’s allure means that very few artists are strong enough to resist the opportunity of a collaboration with Jagger printed on their CV, even if the song may compromise their overall artistic integrity.
Hip-hop is a movement that Jagger has long had a penchant for. Although it’s a part of the musical spectrum that he is yet to master, the genre is a creative space that he admires. However, it’s safe to say that the singer doesn’t entirely geek out on the material in the same way as he does with the blues.
In a Twitter Q&A in 2015, Jagger was asked about his favourite rappers, and in a video message, he told fans: “Vybz Collins (Vybz Kartel) and I guess Jay-Z,” Jagger said. “One is really different from the other, Jay-Z has this whole body of work. He’s put himself together with great tunes as well, and Vybz Collins (Vybz Kartel) is just completely mad dancehall.
Totally different, and it’s very difficult to understand a word he says until you’ve heard it about a hundred times.”
Despite the fact that Jagger mistakenly got the name wrong of Vybz Kartel, it does show that his obsession with everything related to Jamaican culture is still burning bright. Jay-Z is a more straightforward choice, a figure Jagger has spoken publically of his admiration for on multiple occasions. In fact, he even once compared Jaz-Z to James Brown in 2014: “I mean, you look at Jay Z, for instance, and Puff Daddy,” Jagger said to Billboard.
“James Brown was definitely a progenitor of that kind of businessman/performer. Before James there was a dearth of people from the African-American community who were entrepreneurs. You weren’t expected to be an entrepreneur,” he added. “If you were an entertainer, you were just paid and were told what to do and where to go. And you just did it. He was one of the first people that said, ‘No. I want to take control.'”
In truth, every time Jagger has made a foray into the world of hip-hop, it’s left a lot to be desired. That said, he remains a genuine fan of the genre and the niches within the broad sphere of rap. Hopefully, he maintains his interest from afar and uses The Rolling Stones as his musical vessel of choice rather than seeking more madcap collaborations that the world doesn’t need.