K-pop music has steadily grown into a cultural phenomenon that has spread from Korea and attracted a massive, diverse audience across the globe, with a few of Korea’s hottest exports like EXO, Pentagon, NCT-127, Blackpink, and Monsta X gaining momentum in the United States. However, South Korea’s own BTS are global musical juggernauts that stand far above everyone else.
BTS, also known as Beyond The Scene or Bangtan (Bulletproof) Boys, have made the biggest splash of all groups from Korea since their debut EP, 2 Cool 4 Skool (2013). The seven-man union, formed by Big Hit Entertainment in 2010, are three rappers and four vocalists: RM (the leader), Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, Jungkook, and Jin, respectively. With their homegrown, in-house writing and production, they developed a familiar but unique style that combines hip hop roots with the best of Korean and American pop music, and a splash of R&B. It’s presented with pastel colors and an alluring brand of soft, non-conforming masculinity, precise choreography, and deep layers of musical talent. They’ve also earned a staggering amount of accolades, including being named one of the “25 Most Influential People On The Internet” and “Next Generation Leaders” by TIME, the first Korean group to hold an RIAA certification and the first to have been nominated for a GRAMMY, along with four Billboard Music Awards and more honors.
Their hip-hop roots run deep as they started as a teenage rap group, with RM, Suga and J-Hope initially being battle rappers. A trip to Los Angeles, however, as documented on the reality series American Hustle Life, proved they had a very long way to go with understanding of the culture among other skills. Thankfully, after a boot camp style schooling from west coast legends Coolio and Warren G with choreographer Jenny Kita, they’ve grown tremendously as evident on their debut LP Dark And Wild (2014).
Since then, BTS has collaborated with hip-hop stars like Wale, Desigiiner, Krizz Kaliko, Nicki Minaj, and recently, JuiceWRLD on “All Night,” an exclusive from the soundtrack to their new mobile game, BTS World. The boys are riding high after their Gold-selling album Map Of The Soul: Persona, their new film Bring The Soul, and news of a collaboration with R&B/pop singer Khaled on the way. The BTS A.R.M.Y. (Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth) is excited for the possibilities of fresh new collaborations with other hip-hop and R&B artists. Read below for VIBE’s list of the 12 hip-hop and R&B collaborations with BTS we need ASAP!
Toronto’s own megastar may be a controversial, polarizing pick because of the criticism of him (allegedly) riding on newer artists’ popularity to bolster his own career and “wave riding” international genres and artists without giving the proper credit. Regardless, based on Drizzy’s Billboard chart-topping history, a BTS and Drake collaboration would be nearly guaranteed to be a home run.
Musically, Drake is versatile enough to match elegant harmonies with Jin, V, Jungkook, and Jimin (imagine a remix to the steamy “Singularity”) and go bar for bar with ease next to RM, J-Hope, and Suga over production from 40. His tracks with artists like Bad Bunny, popcaan, Wizkid, Romeo Santos, Black Coffee, and Giggs have all been solid, but BTS pairs the best with October’s Very Own because they both excel at creating bubbly, up-tempo and mainstream-friendly pop records, late night, vibey and confessional R&B songs, and explosive rap jams for the crowd who craves pure lyricism. And after the two had a warm meeting at the VMAs, fans shouldn’t be surprised if we see something on the horizon very soon.
Lil Uzi Vert
The tone and direction of BTS and Lil Uzi Vert’s most electrifying hits are the difference between night and day. On the flipside, they share much more common ground than you’d think with their high energy songs and performances, and an eye-catching penchant for their colorful, eccentric fashion looks and charismatic, light-androgynous swagger with the dance moves to match.
BTS’s recent effort with Juice WRLD, “All Night,” has already shown how well the group can pair with the hip-hop superstars from America’s Soundcloud generation, especially with the right producer in tow (Pro Era’s Powers Pleasant). With Lil Uzi Vert, we can expect a hit that carries the same pop and crossover appeal with that glittery sheen Uzi displays on “That’s A Rack.” However, if they really want to blow our collective minds, it would be a fresher look for BTS to see how the Bangtan spitters RM, Suga, and J-Hope would fare on the aggressive, high-octane end of Uzi’s versatile playground. They obviously can be as explosive on wax as evident on their first full length album, Dark and Wild, and in a more recent context, “IDOL” and “Mic Drop.”
BTS could fit with a respectable number of Uzi’s contemporaries as their cadences, flows, and gender fluid style are the products of its time. The Philly rapper stands above the pack however because of his smooth versatility to rock out, no matter the genre or direction of the song. If these two forces of nature got together, this could be an unprecedented crossover song for both of them.
Kendrick Lamar and BTS have been tied together through a combination of minor controversies, and frequent collaborator, producer Teddy Walton attended a show and declared on Twitter that he wanted to work with the group. Obviously a Kendrick Lamar and BTS collaboration would turn heads, but who said he’s got to be the only one who gets to have all the fun?
If we live long enough to get a whole collaboration between BTS and Kendrick, Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q, and Ab-Soul, it would be the greatest gift that a hip-hop fan never knew they needed. RM, Suga, and J-Hope all are very nimble and clever lyricists who can go bar for bar with Black Hippy while the other four vocalists are no stranger to blending in on a pure hip-hop song. Also, their collective versatility ensures we wouldn’t get the same song twice.
When it comes to content, the catalogs of both groups contain plenty of songs that go into a wide range of topics, be it personal or social commentary, braggadocios raps, and just strictly for the turn up. Musically, BTS’s flows and vocals are versatile enough to ride over either a beat by Terrace Martin, Sounwave, or DJ Dahi.
For over 20 years, Missy Elliot has been a maestro of the clubs, the streets, the bedrooms and the Billboard charts for herself and a long list of some the greatest solo acts and groups who have ever done it. Her and BTS would be a very strong tandem because of her own experience in working with R&B and pop groups like Playa, 702, Destiny’s Child, and The Pussycat Dolls.
Missy’s no stranger to working with top artists from across the globe as she has created with Little Mix, Lady Sovereign, and MC Solaar. A BTS collaboration would not be so far out of her comfort zone because they both share a connection with their colorful, vibrant, eclectic music and imagery with their versatility with rapping, singing, and dancing.
Their effort could create a unique moment because both are great creating danceable hits using a wide variety of sounds from different genres (“Get Ya Freak On”/”hip-hop Phile”). We could also get some very sultry standouts as both are known for having sensually sweet voices and have great chemistry with partners. (“The Truth Untold”/”Crazy Feelings”). And if that doesn’t entice you, imagine the insane possibilities for their video treatments and their choreography at their live shows.
On the group leader RM’s solo mixtape Rap Monster, he tapped Strange Music’s resident crooner Krizz Kaliko for the soulful tune “Rush” back in 2015. Considering how far BTS as come along since then, it’s about time that fans got to hear one of rap’s most wicked lyricists, Tech N9ne, create a monster masterpiece with the group.
Albums such as Dark And Wild (2014) offer the group at their most aggressive while recent tunes like 2018’s “MIC Drop” and the Steve Aoki remix with Desiigner feature their most explosive lyrical performances, proving doubters why they’d make such a strong pairing. With Tech N9ne being one of the greatest rapid-fire spitters of all time and BTS, collectively, being able to switch flows and spit just as fast, we’d be likely to get a raging, lyrical barnburner. Possibly with Tech N9ne’s frequent collaborator Krizz Kaliko back on board as well.
On the flipside, Tech N9ne has shown tremendous versatility in his content and beat selection over the past 20+ years with thought-provoking deep cuts like “Show Me A God” and fun, loose bangers like “Caribou Lou.” And the soundscape on BTS songs like “Boy Meets Evil” and “Am I Wrong” from their 2016 album Wings are the kind that demonstrates not-too-bubblegum, yet not-too-hardcore sound where Tech can shine. If we can get a “BTS Cypher 5” on their next full-length album with Tech N9ne, we should all lose our collective minds.
Beyond Korea, K-pop has extended its reach into Latin America, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and brown folk in the United States. Coincidently (or not), we’re also witnessing the ongoing reign of Urbano and Latin Trap music, including one of the brightest, most eclectic stars of them all, Bad Bunny. That said, a Bad Bunny and BTS collaboration would be the international answer to the 1980s classic Run-DMC and Aerosmith tune “Walk This Way”, that music needs right now.
Despite the language barrier, it wouldn’t be impossible for them to create an international smash as BTS are known to enjoy various genres of Latin music. Working with Bad Bunny would be a fun match because they are both known for their flamboyant, colorful styles that defy gender norms, and electrifying flows. Bad Bunny’s talents would add a unique flavor that would bring more attitude, flair, and exciting, bouncier flows if paired with BTS. And while K-pop and Latin music collaborations aren’t anything new (Super Junior and Leslie Grace already beat them to the punch with “Lo Siento”), the impact could possibly be greater if done for a worldwide audience in the Western music world.
It doesn’t take a music industry genius to know that if some wise guys or gals came up with a world tour with Beyoncé and BTS together, there would be no stadium big enough to hold both the Beyhive and the A.R.M.Y.
Beyonce’s voice is powerful enough to add an extra compelling layer of emotion to a song like “Listen,” and dynamic enough to get the party rocking like she’s done with “Get Me Bodied.” BTS already has the range, depth, versatility, and work ethic as a group to meet Beyoncé’s high level of singing and performing and it would be interesting to see what the band would look like with choreographer JaQuel Knight or how Beyonce’s moves would look under the guidance of J-Hope and Jimin. Hearing and seeing these two together for the first time would be a matchup of the century.
Boyz II Men
One of BTS’s biggest co-signs they’ve unexpectedly earned this year was from Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman, when he covered Jimin’s solo cut “Serendipity” while playing his guitar on a video he posted on Instagram. And that’s a high honor considering how BTS are the same fruit off The Jackson 5’s R&B/pop tree as the Philly trio.
Out of the many iconic groups that precede them, Boyz II Men is the best choice for a collaboration because the four vocalists and the trio’s voices can work cohesively together as they have a balanced range of pitches. And if need be, Boyz II Men are no stranger to singing in different languages as they covered k-pop songs on 2005’s Winter/Reflections and 2011’s COVERED -Winter. The only disappointing part is knowing that Michael McCray’s deep, sultry bass won’t be present after he revealed his battle with multiple sclerosis in 2016. Still, both groups have the musical range to appeal to both Asian and black audiences at the same time, so seeing them work together would be an amazing passing-of-the-torch moment.
Love Yourself, ‘Tear’ (2018) from their Love Yourself trilogy is a prime example of how the group’s collective vocal ability isn’t limited to pop music. They’ve proven with songs like “Singularity,” “The Truth Untold,” and “Magic Shop” that they’re just a proficient in contemporary R&B and neo-soul as they are at everything else. And while many contemporary American acts could sound great with BTS, perhaps the one that would be the most refreshing is H.E.R., whose deep, sensual, and gripping style will grab you by the ears and hold you by the heart. Both have the vocal range and deeply layered content to create an emotionally rich affair that could wind up either in the form of duets with either one of the singers or full group collaboration. We might not get a strong pop song from them, but considering how strong their emotional appeal and relatability is with their music if brought together, we don’t need them to make one at all.
BTS’s lead dancer and singer Jimin has mentioned on a few occasions that he is a Chris Brown fan and he’d like for him to work with the group one day. In fact, three members once danced on stage to Breezy’s “Take You Down” and the crowd couldn’t get enough. Imagine how insane that same crowd would be if he were with the group on stage.
Aesthetically and musically, BTS has the most similarities to Chris Brown when it comes to their intense work ethic, creativity, natural dancing skills, and their knack for seamlessly weaving through hip-hop, pop and R&B on their albums. The obvious difference is that Brown is highly skilled at all those things, where some of the individual members are weaker in at least one of those aspects. It can be argued that J-Hope, Jimin, and RM are literally Chris Brown if you were to separate him into three people because those members, individually, carry all the things fans love about Brown’s music and performances.
Based on all of this, a BTS and Chris Brown collaboration would be insane because their styles would perfectly gel, which could create real chemistry that we could see and feel on stage.
It’s been documented that BTS, especially the leader RM, are fans of J. Cole as they once sampled his James Fauntleroy-assisted “Born Sinner” for their song “Born Singer.” If you were to listen to some of RM, J-Hope, and BTS’s earlier work, you can even see how they were inspired by Cole through their content and flows. Since the group is far more of a polished act nowadays and has cultivated their own style, a J. Cole and BTS collaboration would be something special.
Just as J. Cole garnered a cult-like following through his music and the way he addresses social and mental health issues, BTS has done the same thing for the past several years on wax, interviews, and more famously, in their speech in front of UNICEF in 2018. A joint record between the two could be a powerful track that cuts through like a hot knife on butter. Or we could even get a chance to hear Cole, Suga, RM, and J-Hope perform lyrical surgery on a “BTS Cypher” or on a J. Cole album where really gets in his bag like “MIDDLE CHILD” or on the Dreamville posse cut “Down Bad”. BTS has the language and versatility to match with J.Cole, so this would be an exciting effort from both acts.
This may look unorthodox on paper as BTS and Janelle Monae’s respective approaches to music and performing come from different, but related musical influences from black music. A closer look at the two however shows that they still share a parallel space. They often defy gender norms with their outfits and soft color schemes, giving some of the most vibrant, creative visuals you’ll see in this generation with videos like “Boy With Love” and “Pynk.” Also, both are vocal allies of the LGBTQ community and people of color.
Musically, Monae is an multi-faceted artist who can sing, dance, and even trade bars with the best of them as heard on “Django Jane.” And the way she uses her vocals and bars to create \ soul-stirring moments on socio-political songs like “Cold World” and “Americans” as BTS has done on “21st Century Girl” and “Am I Wrong.” Together, Monae and BTS could be a freedom fighting force on wax and create a groundbreaking moment that will cross racial and gender barriers across the world.