Sydney musician and producer Sonny Grin (a.k.a Alec Brinsmead) has a knack for combining jazz, disco, hip hop and house in a way that just fits for every occasion. His latest collaboration The Rush‘ with RISSA is a luscious and vibrant track that has us impatiently awaiting his next release. Away from Sonny Grin, Brinsmead lends his drumming talents to Oly Sherman & KP Hydes, and is one half of producer-duo Nightset. At LIKE VELVET Music, we’re very excited to share Sonny Grin’s guest write-up on his Top 10 Collaborations.

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Sonny Grin’s Top 10 Favourite Collaborations

Gotta Have It by JAY-Z and Kanye West

First cab off the rank is from the iconic joint album “Watch the Throne”, by JAY-Z and Kanye West. When this album came out, it dominated any car ride, house party or lunch time listening session I was a part of. The whole concept of the record, incredible production, guest artists and the way JAY-Z and Kanye flowed seamlessly together, really had me hooked. “Gotta Have It” will always be a standout for me on this album and samples the late great, James Brown, another one of my favourite artists.

Got It Good by Kaytranada and Craig David

This track caught me completely off guard. Kaytranada, the hottest and most inspiring young producer in the game, collaborating with Craig bloody David? Obviously I knew of the British singer who peaked in the late nineties and early 2000s, but didn’t expect him to pop up on Kaytra’s ground breaking debut album “99.9%”. “Got It Good” shows off a different side to Kaytra’s production skills, and Craig David proves he’s a seasoned pro as he effortlessly glides over the instrumental. Kaytranada would be the biggest influence on the Sonny Grin sound, and this is definitely a highlight off of an incredibly inspirational album.

Nakamarra by Hiatus Kaiyote and Q-Tip

An absolute ALL TIME collaboration between the leaders of new school neo-soul and a pioneer of rap, hip hop and music production. I strongly believe that Hiatus Kaiyote are one of Australia’s most impressive and innovative acts of the last decade. The first time I heard “Nakamarra” on the radio, I pulled over with the biggest smile on my face, waiting to find out who the hell had just made my whole week. The groove was so alive and interesting, the chord changes appealed to the jazz lover in me, and the legendary Q-Tip delivered a perfectly crafted verse. In my opinion, Hiatus Kaiyote stand alongside Flume, Tame Impala and Sia as modern Aussie acts that have really made an impact on the global music scene.

Mile High by James Blake, Travis Scott and Metro Boomin

I’ve always been a big fan of James Blake, and when I first heard this track I thought “this could not have been done any better“. The three vocalists all bring a different lyrical flow and sonic texture, complimenting each other’s approach to this atmospheric and brooding trap beat. James Blake’s instrumental writing and production has this cinematic quality to it, and the verses from Travis Scott and Metro Boomin show off a real consideration for the light and shade created throughout the track.

Sunflower by Vampire Weekend and Steve Lacy

This is an undeniably, infectious collaboration between two acts who are real creative forces within the industry. Ezra and the rest of Vampire Weekend, have no qualms about perusing whatever new ideas they might have. While the band do possess a distinctive sound, they have also managed to take it to many different places across their albums. I love Steve Lacy‘s work in The Internet, and his appearance on this track really got me excited.

Poetic Justice by Kendrick Lamar and Drake

Good god! I remember when I looked through the track listing for “good kid, m.A.A.d city”, and just the sight of these two names together had me buzzing. While there are certainly bigger moments on this ground-breaking album, “Poetic Justice” sees two of this generation’s biggest names in music combine over an insanely smooth, Scoop Deville produced beat.  A Long-time Drake fan since the Limewire era, hearing him on a track next to the lyrical genius of Kendrick Lamar will always be a match made in heaven for me.

I’m Coming Out by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards for Diana Ross

This 1980s gem has got to be one of the most feel good songs of all time. Aside from being just an incredibly funky and memorable track, I really like the interesting story behind this one as well. Diana Ross took her daughters to see Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers‘ band Chic, and she was so impressed by the show, that she commissioned them to write some new material for her. In the podcast Broken Record, Nile Rodgers said that he initially came up with the concept for the track after seeing some drag queens impersonating Diana Ross at a nightclub. At first, Ross loved the lyrics of “I’m Coming Out”, but didn’t quite understand their true meaning. When the lyrics were explained to her by a radio DJ and how they might be interpreted, she became very upset and asked Rodgers why he was trying to ruin her career. From his interview with The New York Post – “I said, ‘Diana, this song is gonna be your coming-out song. We think of you as our black queen,‘” Rodgers said. “And I even wrote a [horn] fanfare. I explained to her that it’s just like when the president comes out and they play ‘Hail to the Chief.’” Diana Ross then went on to embrace the tune and the song became an anthemic celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender identity.

They Can’t Take That Away From Me – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (George Gershwin)

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, two of the most prolific figures in jazz and 20th century popular music, you can’t really beat them can you? Releasing three collaborative albums together, their timeless duets are so beautiful and emotive, there’s no escaping the temptation to smile or dance. “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” is a one of my favourites, and although it was written by George Gershwin, Ella and Louis truly make the tune their own with their distinctive musical personalities. 

TrippyAnderson Paak, J. Cole and Chris Dave

When it comes to artists that have inspired me and influenced my music, Anderson Paak has to be right near the top. Not only is he an incredible singer and song writer, but his drumming is also exceptional and live show is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Put Paak next to J. Cole, one biggest rappers in the game and Chris Dave, another one of my drumming idols – and the result is like my musical Christmas. “Trippy” comes off Paak’s third album “Oxnard“, and really showcases each collaborator and their individual strengths. These being Anderson Paak’s soulful and rhythmic vocal style, J. Cole’s insane lyricism and storytelling ability, and of course Chris Dave’s signature drum feel.   

Holding OnGregory Porter and Disclosure

Disclosure‘s 2013 album “Settle” is almost solely responsible for awakening my passion for house music and UK garage. At its time of release, I’d recently started DJing in clubs and whether I was behind the decks or on the dance floor, Disclosure’s tracks got me going every time. “Holding On” is a single off their sophomore album “Caracal” and features Grammy award winning jazz artist Gregory Porter. I really love Disclosure’s respect for different musical styles and willingness to work with artists outside of their immediate genre. It is a serious strength that’s on display here with “Holding On”. I feel like you see a lot of modern electronic acts just ripping a piece of an old vocal sample or melody, and just chucking a huge, “trendy” beat behind it. “Holding On” is the exact opposite, it’s a considered blending of two different musical styles and the result is something both joyful and unique.  

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Posted by Rebecca Costanzo, Top 10 by Sonny Grin