Guest features and remixes are as common in hip-hop as record scratches and aggressive braggadocio. Since the genre started, collaboration has been a way of life for artists and embodies the spirit of competition that defines the art form. Be it a remix, group track, or mixtape song using a famous beat, rappers are constantly on a mission to prove that they’re the most gifted in the game.
Sometimes, a featured artist can lay waste to a track and eclipse the original artist completely. Hip hop artists are always out to prove their lyrical talents, and that can produce some absolutely amazing results that would not have otherwise happened. Here are our top 23 examples. If you disagree, talk some shit in the comments and also realize that you are wrong. This list is also in no particular order because arguing over which was better is futile, they are all straight fire.
Kendrick Lamar on Big Sean’s “Control”
The most infamous verse of 2013, Kendrick jumped on Big Seans song and laid down a gauntlet seemingly out of nowhere. Calling out J. Cole, Big KRIT, Wale, Pusha, Meek Mill, ASAP, Drank, Jay Electronica, Tyler the Creator, Mac Miller, and even Big Sean on his own song. The song exploded not only because the verse is a fiery nuclear bomb hurled at the entire industry, but because this type of outburst was not like Kendrick up to that point. Publicity stunt? Maybe. But that competitive thirst drove one of the greatest verses in the past few years.
Pretty much every rapper involved including Big Sean got the point, but they sure as hell weren’t gonna respond to it. King Kendrick showed what he was capable of and nobody wanted any part of that.
Eminem on Jay-Z’s “Renegade”
For me, this is THE example that started the idea to make this list. On arguably Jay-Z’s greatest album (I’m still partial to Reasonable Doubt) Eminem hits the ground running and proved that in 2001 he was just as good if not a better rapper than the Jigga man. To be fair, this was originally a collaboration between Eminem and Royce Da 5’9 for their Bad Meets Evil mixtape series, so he had some time to work on it before Jay even saw it. And Jay-Z’s verse, lyrically, might be one of the strongest, most personal that he’s put out. But the delivery from Eminem makes you furrow your brow and involuntarily bump your head. He sounds like a man out to prove himself, and he does so in spades. I mean seriously “Whos the king of these rude, ludicrous, lucrative lyrics?/who should inherit the title/put the youth in hysterics”
Eminem on Dr. Dre’s “Forgot about Dre”
When “The Chronic 2001” dropped (in 1999), Eminem was easily the most famous rapper in the game. Like he did on renegade 2 years later, Em wanted to show his astronomical fame was because of his skills and not an Elvis like repurposing of black culture. Em dropped possibly the most quoted and memorized verse by white people of all time. Storytelling, lyrical talent, and hilarious, depraved rhymes all combine in a verse that grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. Also, Chris Pratt did a flawless cover if you’re a fan of his, and you are, because he’s just so god damn charming.
Killer Mike on Outkast’s “Snappin and Trappin”
I recently listened to R.A.P Music again by Killer Mike and it downright sickens me that he’s not the most famous rapper on earth. In true Killer Mike fashion, not a syllable is wasted on yet another lyrical assault that makes Big Boi an afterthought on his own record off one of the greatest southern rap albums of all time. That’s truly an accomplishment. It also might explain why the two later had some beef.
Snoop Dogg on Dr. Dre’s “Aint’ Nothin but a G Thang”
It’s weird now to think that there was a time where Snoop Dogg wasn’t a part of the national pop culture lexicon. He’s transcended the rap game to a point where if he was hired to be an anchor on CNN most people wouldn’t even bat an eye. This was his first appearance on a Dr. Dre track and had everybody who heard it like “Who the fuck is this?” His signature laid-back, stoned out flow was so different and captivating that it made people, uh, forget about Dre.
2 Chainz on G.O.O.D Music’s “Mercy”
I had to include this one because up to this point that only thing I heard from Mr. Chainz was “riding around and gettin it”. While that song was catchy, it didn’t exactly make me believe he was the most lyrically talented or captivating rapper. But following, and outshining, Kanye on the standout track from Cruel Summer certainly got my attention. Being on the song with all this talent made him sound hungry, and his lyrics, while not groundbreaking, are delivered with such conviction that they sound like gospel.
Notorious BIG on Bone Thugs N’ Harmony’s “Notorious Thugs”
Or “The time when BIG out “bone-thugs’d” Bone Thugs”. He didn’t just jack their style, he took it and made it better. It’s amazing how the signature machine gun Cleveland flow that Bone had been perfecting was not only mimicked but mastered in one fell swoop by the Brooklyn rapper. The song also gave us one of the most stolen lines in rap history “Spit yo game/talk yo shit/grab yo gat/ call yo click”
Notorious BIG on Craig Mack’s “Flava in ya Ear (Remix)”
“I get more butt than ash trays”. is all you really need to know from this verse. Frank White delivers line after line that makes you go “WOOOOOOO” even when you’re driving by yourself (well, me at least). He murdered the track so bad that Craig Mack’s career was collateral damage.
Method Man on GZA’s “Shadowboxin'”
Method Man probably heard the rest of “Liquid Swords” before he dropped the verse and knew he had to come correct. Come correct he did, delivering a minute+ long verse that sounds like an amalgamation of his career up to that point. “Swords” is considered one of the best lyrical albums ever made by hip-hop heads and GZA (THA GENIUS) its talented architect. Method Man was the perfect compliment, too perfect, on this track and was able to outshine a master at the top of his game.
Nas on Raekwon’s “Verbal Intercourse”
Rhyming “nonchalantly” with “Raunchy” and “haunt me” over a beat that embodied New York hip-hop at that time, Nas demonstrated why he still reigned supreme when it came to the East Coast rap game. His verse leaves you wanting more as he completely decimates the beat. No idea why Rae and Ghost let Nas open the track, but they probably loved the fact that he set the bar sky high for them to follow. Their verses are commendable but don’t come close to escobar’s genius.
Busta Rhymes on Chris Brown’s “Look at me Now”
This is an otherwise mediocre song made exciting and fresh by bust-a-bus’ rapid fire delivery. Halfway through his second verse Bust takes a deep breath and absolutely assaults the beat until both he and it are unable to breathe. This song was a reminder of just how good, and how much experience, this aging MC has.
J. Cole on Wale’s “Beautiful Bliss”
Good god. J.Cole switches up rhyme schemes, flows, and cadence like a mad fucking scientist. Just when you’re disappointed he’s done, he vocally refutes your expectation and delivers another, even more vicious 16 bars. Hungry J.Cole is the best J.Cole, and this verse is him at his most famished.
Jay-Z on Kanye West’s “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)”
I don’t want to say that Jay felt “threatened” by Kanye at this point, but he saw his young artist at the start of a meteoric rise and this remix was his chance to show ‘Ye that he was still, and will always be, the best rapper from Roc-A-Fella records. Kanye does a great job getting semi-deep, diving into the greed that drives the flashy diamonds rappers wear. But Jay just MURDERS it after that. “I’m not a businessman/I’m a business maaaan/let me handle my business, damn” Layers on layers along with Jay at his best probably made Kanye happy but also put him in his place (if that’s even possible)
Drake on Migos’ “Versace (remix)”
Drake has impeccable timing when it comes to picking his guest verses. He got on Meek Mill’s mixtape right before he blew up (look how Meek thanked him), he rode the 2 Chainz wave at it’s height, he guest starred on some of Nick Minaj’s best songs, he’s a savvy businessman along with being a formidable rapper. Not that this was even a contest, and Migos knew that no matter what Drake did to this song “Young Rich Niggas” and “Versace’s” popularity would skyrocket, but his verse makes you turn it off when its done. Migos trying to keep up is like a white guy trying to race Usain Bolt, they’re not even on the same planet when it comes to talent. “This is a gated community please get the fuck off the property”. Damn.
Paul Wall on Mike Jones’ “Still Tippin'”
Remember the “Houston Explosion” around 2004? H-town had been making chopped-n-screwed music for years but this song made the craze national. Mike Jones giving out his phone number (yes I called, it was busy) and Slim Thugga do a great job at showing what traditional underground Houston rap was about. Yet the most entertaining part of the song is a diamond mouthed white boy name Paul Wall. His hilarious metaphors dripping with Houston slang make you want to laugh and party simultaneously. He oozes charisma and had people saying “Who is Paul Wall?” more than “Who is Mike Jones?”
Pusha T on Kanye West’s “Runaway”
I consider this to be Kanye’s best song. There, I said it. Conceptually it’s a beautiful piece of music and the lyrics are some of the most personal and honest he’s written. Yet coke-rap aficionado, and history’s most criminally underrated rapper (behind Killer Mike) steals the show. Pusha-T not only adds to the concept of the song, he makes it his own with his trademark arrogant sneer. Instead of admitting his assholeness he embraces it with gusto. Similar to “Nightmares” off of “Hell Hath No Fury“, when things get personal, Pusha doubles down on the bravado.
50 Cent on The Game’s “This is How We Do”
The Game was supposed to bring west coast music back. He made quite a show of it, throwing in so many references and name dropping that his actual lyrics barely had any room to breathe. 50 Cent was supposed to be in “G-Unit name dropper, hot hook maker” mode but he used this single to get downright dirty with his rhymes. The poppy, bouncy beat was made for 50 anyway, allowing him to melodically rap and steal the show effortlessly. Say what you want about 50 Cent, that man knows how to make catchy fucking music. Oh and The Game raps at some point on this song too about the 3 things he usually talks about. I think.
Raekwon on Outkast’s “Skew it on the Bar-B”
In the first high profile Outkast collaboration with an east coast artist, Raekwon jumps on this track and commits verbal homicide. I remember first listening to this album in middle school and wondering how this collabo would play out. Outkast had been the answer to critics who deemed the southern rap movement as simple, non-lyrical bullshit. Collaborating with Rae turned out to be a great idea, and the rapper embraced the beat and the concept, making the track his own and shining brighter than the hottest rap duo at the time and in my opinion, ever.
Andre 3000 on UGK’s “International Player’s Anthem”
Andre treats this verse like a spoken word poem, skillfully rapping about marriage and commitment in relation to fame and the sea of vaginas you have to give up in return. He’s able to deconstruct the concept of marriage from multiple perspectives and demonstrate the thought process from all sides. While staying on beat oh so smoothly. This is probably my favorite guest verse out of that period of guest verses he was doing around 2006-2008. Bun-B is known as the guest rapper most likely to body you on your own song, Andre straight flipped the script.
Eminem on 50 Cent’s “Patiently Waiting”
Eminems second appearance on this list, and honestly there could be countless more but we have to cut it off somewhere, you readers have shit to do. Em brought the big guns on 50s debut album. Probably a combination of wanting his first signee to Aftermath to be a big success and also because nobody outshines Eminem on a track unless he lets them. “Don’t let me lose you I’m not tryna confuse you when I let loose with this uzi and just shoot throught your isuzu/you get the message am I getting through to you/you know its coming/you motherfuckas dont even know do you?” How is he so good at this?
Schoolboy Q on A$AP Rocky’s “Brand New Guy”
The A$AP crew brings the best out of Groovy Q. This verse along with the “Work (Remix)” are some of my favorites. This also allows Schoolboy to show his more sinister side, as his verse sounds like MURDER if you said it really slowly. I know that sounds negative but I mean that in the most complimentary way. Q sounded like somebody pissed him off that day, and the verse is much, much better for it.
Drake on Rick Ross’ “Stay Schemin'”
Yet another example of Drake guest starring on a song with rappers who can’t be expected to keep up. I’m not even a Drake stan, but Rick Ross and French Montana aren’t exactly high energy lyrical geniuses. Drake easily glides on top of them and showcases his skills through a solid verse. I’m starting to realize he’s like the attractive chick that hangs out with ugly bitches to make himself look better. Except with rap.
Big Sean on Meek Mill’s “Burn”
This was one of my favorite songs off Meek Mill’s “Dreamchasers 2” mixtape. Sean Don takes Meek’s flow and makes it better. After his verse Meek tries to take back his rapid fire, high powered flow but the damage is already done. Sean pulled a Biggie on “Notorious Thugs” and did Meek better than Meek.