Collaboration can be a brilliant thing in any genre of music – but it’s especially true in rap and hip-hop.
Over the years, claims have been staked, careers have been launched (and in some cases, ended) and lines have been drawn thanks to the beauty of the guest feature. Indeed, some of the biggest and best team-ups in music over the past 30 years have entered into music legend through the presence of a stand-out guest feature: from Dr. Dre bringing California Love to the world with 2Pac, to Chance The Rapper arguably levelling up with Kanye West as he helped kick off proceedings on ‘The Life of Pablo’ with a powerful guest verse.
And, much like ‘Ultralight Beam’, there have been countless instances of heavenly guest rap features over the years – but which have been the most Godlike? Here’s a selection of some of the finest rap or hip-hop guest features to have ever been recorded for your viewing and listening pleasure.
Snoop Dogg on Dr. Dre’s ‘Nuthin’ But A G Thang’
A relatively baby-faced Snoop delivered like a seasoned pro on one of the finest cuts from Dre’s classic 1992 LP ‘The Chronic’, rapping: “Compton and Long Beach together, now you know you’re in trouble.”
A prescient Snoop hit the nail on the head with this line, as he and Dre subsequently proceeded to take over the rap game in the early ’90s and beyond.
Ma$e on The Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems’
“Now, who’s hot, who not? / Tell me who rock, who sell out in the stores? / You tell me who flopped, who copped the blue drop? / Whose jewels got rocks? / Who’s mostly Dolce down to the tube sock?’
So begins the first verse of Biggie’s iconic ‘Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems’, with Ma$e – whose aforementioned line sets the bar very high – flowing better than water on one of the hottest tracks from hip hop’s golden age.
Nicki Minaj on Kanye West’s ‘Monster’
Nicki stood head and shoulders above Kanye, Jay-Z, Rick Ross AND Bon Iver with her scene-stealing verse on ‘Monster’. It still slays upon listening today, and has even been publicly covered by Adele.
Busta Rhymes on A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Scenario’
One of hip-hop’s finest posse cuts, Busta dropped an A1 verse on the ‘Low End Theory’ track as he sent a powerful impact (Boom! from the cannon) across the genre and beyond with his guest feature on ‘Scenario’. All together, now: “Rawr! Rawr! Like a dungeon dragon!”
Eminem on Dr. Dre’s ‘Forgot About Dre’
Shortly after he signed to Interscope and released ‘The Slim Shady LP’, Eminem came through for his mentor Dre to deliver one of the pair’s many golden collaborations.
It’s a perfect example of Em’s lyrical storytelling and humour, as well as Dre’s unrivalled skills in production and talent-spotting. Admit it: we’ve all tried (and failed) to do a rendition of Eminem’s tongue-twisting chorus at some point in our lives.
Rihanna on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘LOYALTY’
“Tell me who you’re loyal to / Do it start with your woman or your man? / Do it end with your family and friends? How you loyal to yourself in advance?” We pledged our loyalty to Bad Girl RiRi after this sumptuous vocal performance on the ‘DAMN.’ track – and going bar-for-bar with Kung Fu Kenny on one of his own songs is no mean feat, either.
Dr. Dre on 2Pac’s ‘California Love’
Dre welcomed us all to “the wild wild west” in a Mad Max-inspired video that came at the height of Death Row Records’ success. Dre’s production – which brilliantly sampled Joe Cocker’s ‘Woman to Woman’ – and his tone-setting verse celebrating California are an example of pure, unadulterated G-Funk – and it’s still an absolute banger today.
Kanye West on Estelle’s ‘American Boy’
Kanye’s performance on Estelle’s biggest-ever single may be something a surprise inclusion (and, we know, ‘American Boy’ isn’t technically a rap song…) – but how can you dismiss such formidable lines as “He crazy, I know what you’re thinking / Ribena, I know what you’re drinking” and the iconic “Dressed smart like a London bloke / Before he speak his suit bespoke“? You can’t, that’s how.
André 3000 on Frank Ocean’s ‘Pink Matter’
Frank’s ‘Channel Orange’ is a masterpiece – and who’d have thought that he’d be able to top it with ‘Blonde’? – but he nearly had the show stolen on his 2012 debut studio solo album by André 3000 on ‘Pink Matter’. The flow on the lines “And I remember my memory’s no sharp / Butter knife, what a life, anyway / I’m building y’all a clock, stop, what am I, Hemingway?” is just simply sumptuous.
AZ on Nas’ ‘Life’s A Bitch’
You can’t compile a hip-hop-themed best-of list without including something off of Nas’ iconic ‘Illmatic’ album, so it’s handy that the Queensbridge rapper’s still-sensational ode to his home city featured a sublime guest feature from Brooklyn MC AZ.
Arguably his finest moment on the mic, the opening to AZ’s verse is so wonderfully verbose that it may take a few listens to properly bed in: “Visualisin’ the realism of life in actuality / Fuck who’s the baddest, a person’s status depends on salary / And my mentality is money-orientated / I’m destined to live the dream for all my peeps who never made it“. Damn right he did.
The Notorious B.I.G. on Craig Mack’s ‘Flava in Ya Ear (Remix)’
Mack’s recent passing came as shocking and saddening news to the hip-hop community, but his 1994 song ‘Flava In Your Ear’ will live on – particularly in the form of its Biggie-featuring remix, where he dismissed those who dared threaten his position at the top in fine style: “Take them rhymes back to the factory / I see, the gimmicks, the wack lyrics / The shit is depressing, pathetic, please forget it / You’re mad ’cause my style you’re admiring / Don’t be mad, UPS is hiring.” How many rapping delivery men are there out there today, we wonder?
Capital STEEZ on Joey Bada$$’s ‘Survival Tactics’
Tragically taken from us in December 2012 at the age of just 19, Capital STEEZ’s gift for lyricism had marked him out – along with his Pro Era friend and collaborator, Joey Bada$$ – as one of hip-hop’s brightest prospects.
That gift is demonstrated on his stunning verse on Joey’s ‘Survival Tactics’, with the stand-out moment coming as he references both Back To The Future and King Arthur: “I’m in Marty McFly mode, so tell em’ that the future’s back / Riding on hoverboards, wiping out motherboards / Stopped spitting fire cause my motherfuckin lung is scorched / King Arthur when he swung his sword /A king author I ain’t even use a pen in like a month or four“.
Pusha T on Kanye West’s ‘Runaway’
The second ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ track to make the cut here, Pusha T’s contribution to Ye’s epic 9-minute creation is yet another wonderful moment on arguably West’s greatest-ever album.
“You can’t blame ’em, they ain’t never seen Versace sofas,” Pusha raps, before adding: “Every bag, every blouse, every bracelet / Comes with a price tag, baby, face it“. Face it: this is a knock-out verse.
Eminem on Jay-Z’s ‘Renegade’
Jay-Z and Eminem went on the offensive in ‘Renegade’ in an effort to silence their critics, but the track later became embroiled in the Jay-Z/Nas beef due to Em’s clear lyrical prowess. As Nas reminded Jay on the lethal ‘Ether’: “Eminem murdered you on your own shit“.
Kendrick Lamar on Big Sean’s ‘Control’
“Jermaine Cole, B.I.G Krit, Wale, Pusha T, Meek Mill, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Big Sean, Jay Electron’, Tyler, Mac Miller / I got love for you all, but I’m trying to murder you n****s“. After bodying the beat, Kendrick went for almost all of his peers as he told them “what time it is” in the most damning way possible.
Oh, and the Compton-born rapper also proclaimed himself “the King of New York” on the verse, just for good measure. Iconic.
Outlawz on 2pac’s ‘Hit ‘Em Up’
The 2Pac / Biggie beef is a well-told tale in hip-hop folklore, with ‘Hit ‘Em Up’ one of the dispute’s key moments. In it, 2Pac and his Outlawz crew went in on Biggie, Puff Daddy, Lil Cease, Mobb Deep and Lil’ Kim in a searing takedown of the East Coast rap scene of the early-to-mid ’90s.
“Outlaw MAFIA clique movin’ up another notch,” Kadafi spat at one point. “And your pop stars popped and get mopped and dropped / All your fake-ass East Coast props brainstormed and locked“. Ouch.
Chance The Rapper on Kanye West’s ‘Ultralight Beam’
From beef to love, take this opportunity to cleanse your soul with Kanye’s gospel-infused rap symphony – but it’s Chance who arguably shone brightest here as he emulated ‘Ye’s ‘Jesus Walks’ on this 2016 track.
“I made ‘Sunday Candy’, I’m never going to hell / I met Kanye West, I’m never going to fail / He said: ‘Let’s do a good-ass job with Chance 3’ / ‘I hear you gotta sell it to snatch the Grammy’“. Funnily enough, Chance snatched a Grammy (or three) pretty soon after the song hit the airwaves – working with Yeezy on this gem just turned out to be the icing on the cake.
Additional words: Alex Halcoussis