Elton John has loved Young Thug ever since he heard one of his songs on Beats 1, and it’s a story of serendipity how the two came to be on the same track: Upon reading about John’s affinity for Thug, producer Stelios Phili started workshopping ideas on how to get the artists together. He approached Thug’s 300 A&R, Geoff Ogunlesi, with the idea; a mock-up was made on which Thug dueted with vintage Elton John vocals; then Thug and his team journeyed to John’s nearby Atlanta apartment to ask for his blessing. Not surprisingly, he embraced them. The song has been anticipated for years, even leaking about a month ago, and now, it’s here: “High,” among the most unlikely of pairings of recent memory, is glorious to take in.

The song is fashioned out of a sample from Elton’s classic 1972 hit “Rocket Man,” stripping away the original keys and slide guitar but leaving intact its weightless feeling and dramatic vocals. As John ascends into the held note at the end of “And I’m going to be high,” Thug’s Auto-Tuned falsetto shoots off to beat him to the summit. Both voices are so pure, almost translucent, like watching the sun’s reflection ripple along a body of water. “I love it when you sing,” Ogunlesi recalled John telling Thug when they met. “He said, ‘Your singing is special.’” The word “special” describes Thug in general, but it’s something else entirely to take such a singular song and make it your own, to make it remarkable all over again in a new way. Phili’s piano chords open up into trickling drums that bottom out mid-verse, leaving only single-drip synths, and Thug raps in bursts of out-there bars like, “I look like a cat with eleven lives/I really kick shit, you can ask a fly.” In Thug’s hands, an epic about the loneliness of space travel becomes a rousing voyage deeper into a head high; John’s wistful song about leaving what you’ve cherished behind to explore the unknown suddenly becomes something nearly rapturous and transporting. “High” is really only nominally a collaboration, but the synergy its artists share is real and rare.