Music is about bridging the gap. Whether it is age (young and old), region (Down South and The West Coast) or even genre (hip-hop and jazz), the right song or album can be the perfect bridge. That’s exactly what Hidden Beach’s Unwrapped 5.0: The Collipark Café Sessions is.
The brainchild by Atlanta super producer Mr. Collipark (Lil Jon, The Ying Tang Twins, Soulja Boy, Hurricane Chris) and Hidden Beach Recordings, Unwrapped 5.0 is a uniquely Southern take on the latter’s critically acclaimed Unwrapped series. Down bottom hits like Hurricane Chris’ “A Bay Bay,” DJ Unk’s “Walk It Out” and The Ying Yang Twins’ “Salt Shaker” and more are given a first-rate instrumental jazz makeover by a team of veteran musicians including Hidden Beach Recording Artists Mike Phillips, Peter Black, Jeff Bradshaw, Atlanta ’s own Jimmy Brown, Kofi Burbridge and the albums Executive Producer Abdul Ra’oof.
Launched in 2001, The Unwrapped series has become a widely popular collection of jazzy instrumental interpretations of hip-hop classics and recent chart-toppers. Hidden Beach has released four volumes of the series in the last seven years and has included rap staples like 50 Cent’s “In Da Club,” Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and Nelly’s “Hot In Here,” among others. The series has sold over 500,000 albums to date and each volume continues to top the Jazz charts.
So how did the ATL hip-hop heavyweight known for producing “Get Low” and “Wait (The Whisper Song)” and the Los Angeles-based label known for introducing the world to Jill Scott come together to create such a unique project? Let’s just say there was a little “bridge” building.
A few years ago, Mr. Collipark and his attorney/partner Karl Marcellus Washington wanted to find a way to capture the feeling of popular Atlanta DJ Frank Ski’s “Northern Exposure” jam sessions in a unique way. However, it was Ski’s fellow legendary ATL DJ Greg Street who suggested they do a jazz instrumental project that interpreted crunk hits of the day—like Hidden Beach had been doing for years. “Four or five years ago, crunk music was banging and the South was banging,” explains Washington. “It made perfect sense.”
Mr. Collipark and Washington called upon famed SOS Band founding member and front man Abdul Raoof to help assemble a group of noted Atlanta-based musicians and producers and the Crunk Jazz Café was born. Raoof jumped in full throttle with producer Wirlie “Wyl-e” Morris and recorded Lil’ Jon & The East Side Boyz’s “Get Low.” The session went so well that over the next several months they recorded one Southern hip-hop track after track, mining both Mr. Collipark’s catalog as well as other hitmakers like Ludacris and Young Jeezy. “We just couldn’t get the project off the ground,” admits Washington. “Hidden Beach had just released either Unwrapped Vol. 3 or Vol. 4 and they were at the top of the food chain. So, we decided to approach them.”
Unfortunately, Hidden Beach passed on the project. “We really wanted to step away from Unwrapped for a moment,” explains Hidden Beach president Steve McKeever. “The market was becoming flooded with carbon copies.” However, it wasn’t long before the label was ready for Unwrapped to make its return and Mr. Collipark was the first person they turned to and the Crunk Jazz Café, now redubbed the Collipark Jazz Café, was more than ready with well over 20 songs recorded.
“They have been doing this for so long and so well, that we just wanted to bring something new to the table,” says Washington. “The good part is that we have taken what Hidden Beach has done and brought Collipark Music to it. They were dope before, but now they have a legit hip-hop powerhouse behind them. And they legitimize us too.” McKeever agrees, “It’s about brand building. So, we’ve attached ourselves to another successful brand in Collipark.”
In the end, 11 tracks were selected for Unwrapped 5.0, including the Mr. Collipark-produced “Bridging The Great Divide;” the first original track to ever appear on an Unwrapped compilation. “I really wanted to develop a project that promoted musicianship and would hopefully push a kid to pick up an instrument,” says Mr. Collipark. “I felt Hidden Beach and their Unwrapped series was a no-brainer. My label knows what the youth want so we felt it was a great partnership to make a CD that both parent and child will enjoy listening to.”
And that’s what Unwrapped 5.0: The Collipark Café Sessions is really all about—bridging that gap. Parent and child. Atlanta and Los Angeles. Hip-Hop and jazz.