To collaborate or not to collaborate?
Jay Z, one of the most successful artistes of this day says something in the lines of “Collaborate. There’s no better way to be better than to do something with someone you ordinarily wouldn’t do anything with.”
Collaborating is defined – by me, anyways – as the coming together or working together of two or more people to achieve a goal bigger than either of them. Nothing opens your mind better than working with someone outside your usual circle.
In the music industry, collaborating is like the order of the day. A fresh artist works with an established act so that he/she can get quick and easy recognition. An established artist reaches out to another established artist of a different genre so as to get access to that crowd – or just because he appreciates the work of that artist. Sometimes, and this is a rarity, an artist might reach out to another one simply because that artist challenges him, pushes him to put out his best work.
There are some collaborations people dream of all the time – like an album between The Notorious B.I.G and Tupac. Can you imagine how groundbreaking that would have been?
But I digress. The point here is that there are many good reasons to collaborate. I am inspired by all sorts of things. One of my “sleeping” hobbies, as I like to refer to them, is photography. I have worked with a couple of photographers on a couple of projects and I would work with a photographer at the drop of a hat. It’s an opportunity that, merely thinking about, gives me the shakes. I can’t wait to see what I will turn out, given the right set of photographs.
And that’s the excitement of collaborating. Because it isn’t something you would do on a regular day, it is expected that whatever you come up with may not be regular. As I mentioned earlier, it is an opportunity to do something new, to see to what lengths you can take whatever it is you do. Imagine two designers coming together to throw a fashion show in which not only do they get to show their individual works, they also get to collaborate on fashion pieces.
What would that look like?
I have also come to find the biggest reason people refuse to collaborate – ego. Sometime in 2002 or thereabouts, two of the biggest megalomaniacs in showbiz at the time, Jay Zand R. Kelly decided to come together after a successful string of singles to record an album. Titled The Best of Both Worlds, the album was slated to be the biggest record of the year.
And then, the night before it was released, the infamous R. Kelly sextape was released. The album’s singles were pulled; Jay Z, ever the businessman, quickly distanced himself from R. Kelly. In spite of all that, the album went on to sell a million copies.
Worried that they were leaving too much money on the table, the two giants decided to go on tour to continue promoting the album. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. R. Kelly sued Jay Z on allegations that Jay was intentionally sabotaging his set, and that Jay was jealous because he was getting paid more. Jay counter-sued, accusing Kelly of being unprofessional and making ridiculous requests.
Both cases were eventually thrown out – and that was the end of the partnership.
I have come to find reason to believe it might be a curse of the black man, this thing called ego. You will see people with an exaggerated sense of self-worth asking for things that are downright absurd. People who are basically big fishes in a small pond start to imagine themselves as prima donnas – and instead of working together to build something that can make a difference, we’re stuck in the why-should-he-be-in-charge-and-not-me pit? What has he achieved?
Excuse me, but is that what it’s about?
Don’t get me wrong. A sense of self-worth is important – more important than most of what we pay attention to – but not when it gets in the way of doing great stuff. I believe sometimes the key to greatness is working with others, people who amplify your strengths and drown your weaknesses. I believe collaborating is one sure way of changing the world.
Isn’t that a goal worth sacrificing ego for?