After Kendrick Lamar yesterday arguably completely upstaged Big Sean with his astonishing verse on track ‘Control’, we’re looking at other instances of guests overshadowing the main artist and ruling the song.
This is not the first time Kendrick has triumphed as a featured artist. His guest verse on SchoolBoy Q’s ‘Collard Green’ makes it the brilliant track it is. K-Dot changes the dynamic of the song completely, giving it a quickfire shot in the arm.
Two of the biggest rappers in the world teaming up on a track can be amazing, yet big personalities such as Jay Z and Kanye West can easily clash, with one being pushed into the background. Unfortunately for Jay, this happened on Kanye’s guest verse on 2009 track ‘Run This Town’, which also featured Rihanna. Kanye’s surprise appearance on the song during Jay Z’s headline performance at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2010 stole the show too.
When Rihanna sung on TI’s 2008 track ‘Live Your Life’, she had just released her third album, ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’. It was the biggest of her career thus far, and is home to ‘Umbrella’, ‘Shut Up And Drive’ and ‘Don’t Stop The Music’. She was well on the way, then, to the megastar status she now holds, and if you ask most people whose song ‘Live Your Life’ is, they’d answer Rihanna, not TI, such is the extent to which she ruled the song and made it her own.
Nicki Minaj’s lightning fast raps have given her quite a reputation, and she also owns Drake on his track ‘Up All Night’. The track was released 6 months before Minaj’s debut ‘Pink Friday’ and guesting with a star as big as Drake did her career wonders. Up until then, Minaj had only released two mixtapes, in 2007 and 2009, with limited success compared to ‘Pink Friday’.
It seems like Jay Z’s a bit unlucky in this talking point, with multiple examples of artists who have overshadowed him in his own songs. Eminem’s appearance in ‘Renegade’, a track from 2001 album ‘The Blueprint’, and released at the arguable peak of Eminem’s career, deals with the public’s perception of his music, and is captivating and enthralling to a level that Jay Z’s input to the song just doesn’t quite match. It was the same outcome when Jay got Biggie Smalls to guest on ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’ from his debut album ‘Reasonable Doubt’. Getting such a legend to guest on your debut album is undoubtedly a great feat, but it’ll more often than not result in them owning the song rather than you. Sorry, Jay.
In 2000, Cee-Lo Green was pretty much an unknown. Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ wouldn’t be released for another six years, and it’d be over a decade before his solo career, and ‘Fuck You’, landed. Cee-Lo still managed to rule Black Rob’s track ‘Lookin’ At Us’, with his guest verse showing a much more straight-up rap style, compared to the more soulful tones that brought him and Gnarls Barkley to our attention. The track appeared on Rob’s debut album ‘Life Story’, which peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200 chart.
James Blake took quite a huge risk on his recent second album ‘Overgrown’. He got RZA, the Wu-Tang Clan legend, to guest on album track ‘Take A Fall For Me’. The mix of Blake’s delicate intimacy and RZA’s legendary, frontline hip-hop background had the potential to be a complete disaster, but it actually works out really well. Well, for RZA; the song becomes his own, and you end up even forgetting that this song even sits on a James Blake album, which is the mark of a great guest appearance, and nothing less is expected of RZA.
Performing a duet with someone with as distinctive and iconic a voice as Morrissey is always a risk, and although the equally well thought of Siouxsie Sioux tries to compete here, Morrissey’s tones prove the main attraction in their track ‘Interlude’. The track was released under the banner of ‘Morrissey & Siouxsie’, and was released in 1994, coming right in the middle of Morrissey’s initial solo recording career, before his ‘hiatus’ in 1997. The song was named in a list of The Top 10 One-Off Team Ups Of All Time by Spin Magazine.
It was a shock as well as a massive feat when Crystal Castles got Robert Smith to guest on a song from their second album ‘II’, released in 2010. ‘Not In Love’ is, predictably, ruled by Smith and his wonderfully recognisable vocals. No disrespect to Alice Glass, though, who pulls off Smith’s part herself remarkably well when the duo play the song live. The Canadian pair often close their live shows with the track.
Kanye West’s track ‘Monster’ is a massive collaboration party, with no less than four huge stars joining Kanye on the track, which features on ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’. Rick Ross, Jay Z, and, almost unbelievably, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon all feature on the track, but it’s Nicki Minaj’s section that shines above all others. Her rap adds something fresh and completely different. “First things first, I’ll eat your brains.” Yeah, memorable.