Tame Impala’s influence on modern hip hop
Very few indie rock artists have impacted modern hip hop the way that Kevin Parker has. Virtually none.
It’s a testament to the direction songwriting has been heading. When you comb through Parker’s songwriting and production credits, a lot of which are on stratospheric hip hop records, it proves that the era of musicians writing in a single genre is gone. That’s a good thing.
If you’re not familiar, Kevin Parker and Tame Impala are the same thing. Aside from touring, where Parker plays with a full band, Tame Impala’s songwriting, recording, and art direction are done by him alone.
During the mid-2010s, after the release of the critically acclaimed debut Innerspeaker, Tame Impala started to peak hip hop icons’ interest. Tyler, the Creator took to Twitter to praise the band after the release of their sophomore record Lonerism, and it just kept cascading from there.
The first to take the plunge was A$AP Rocky. Rocky and Parker collaborated on A$AP’s first single post Testing. Together, the two of them sampled ‘Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?’ from Innerspeaker and came out with the silky, jazz-infused ‘Sundress’. It received a mix of shock and elation from Rocky fans. The pair performed it at Coachella 2019. Safe to say, this was a good start for Kevin Parker’s try and dipping his toes in the rap pool.
Experimental artists pair well together. Unphased by the genre boundaries set by the industry or fans alike, they’ll often turn the studio into an oozing innovation pool and break into new terrain.
Parker brought this mindset with him when he was invited to a writing camp for Kanye West’s ye sessions. It was a representation of the influence Parker was starting to have on the global landscape of music. While the sessions didn’t quite bear the fruit that Parker would’ve hoped, they still came out with ‘Violent Crimes’, the closing track on ye.
Not straying far from a Kardashian-affiliated rapper, Parker’s next hip hop collaboration came from the most anticipated hip hop record of 2018 – finding his way onto a track from Travis Scott’s Astroworld. Parker collaborated not only with Travis, but enlisted further vocal help from The Weeknd and Pharell Williams. This track was a departure from what Travis fans were familiar with, boasting evident influence on drum and synth production from Tame Impala records. It demonstrated Parkers ability to get something out of his collaborators that they hadn’t found within themselves yet. The epitome of a good producer – pushing the artist to be more than they were before that session.
More recently, Parker joined forces with Kid Cudi last year. The two created ‘Dive’, the ethereal synth track from Cudi’s closing chapter of the Man on the Moon trilogy: Man on the Moon III: The Chosen.
Throughout the previous tracks, we’ve spoken about Parker’s ability to push akrtists outside their comfort zone. With this track, it feels familiar for Cudi. But you’d never think that Tame Impala would have had a part to play. The feisty trap drums and fast bounce are foreign to Parker’s relaxed, lo-fi beat production, which shows that a songwriting relationship works both ways. The artists Parker has worked with have pushed him in new directions, forcing him to flex creative muscles that he didn’t know he had yet.
It’s a beautiful thing. I guess we can only imagine what could come in 2021.