Everyone’s got a favorite artist…or 3
In today’s world of music, there is constantly new talent pushing at the heels of established artists, trying to find their footing in the industry. This is a great thing, because it encourages hard work from the artists we’ve grown to love, as they continue to work on growing creatively and pushing the bar. As an artist, one of my favorite times to create is in the presence of other artists. Whether it be a studio session with a producer, or just some live instruments in the park on a nice day, the creative spirit is jolted to higher levels when surrounded by other talent. Because of this, some of Hip-Hop’s most potent verses find themselves in the “Featuring” category.
We’re hip to the examples of artists who jumped on someone else’s record and bodied it, like Eminem did on Jay-Z‘s Renegade (I say this with such confidence, because when you search for the song on YouTube it actually list’s it as an Eminem song first.. That speaks for itself). Knowing the possibilities of this happening, rappers still reach out to fellow heavy-hitters for assistance in completing a song’s overall potency.
So.. Let’s take a look at 5 guest verses that take me somewhere special, when the conversation is on Hip-Hop..
Wale Ft. J. Cole – Beautiful Bliss
Wow. Honestly, every time I think about this verse (let alone hear it), I get the chills. Anybody who follows me on social media knows that I am a HUGE J. Cole fan. When Wale signed to Interscope Records in 2008, he began gearing up for stardom and his first album, Attention Deficit, which finally released in 2009. Around that same time, Jay-Z began his newest endeavor, Roc Nation, signing J.Cole as the label’s first artist. As one of the game’s top names (that really isn’t debatable), Jay-Z recognized Cole’s potential, and provided him a chance to shine on his Blueprint 3 album with track #9, “A Star Is Born”. No coincidence there, I’m sure, as Cole began to grow a fan base compromised of consumers who understood the real aspect that Cole brought to his verses.
In an interview with HardKnockTV, J.Cole reminisces on those early Roc Nation days, giving insight to what actually went down leading to his first collaboration with Wale (begins at 5:38).
And from that, came Beautiful Bliss.
“..Tell them N****s at the top, we want your spot we are for real.. and yeah we heard you’ve got it locked, but like them socks, we on your heels..”
If that isn’t enough to call it one of the hungriest verses J.Cole has ever spit, I don’t know what is. Cole is now one of the top emcees in the game, though he wasn’t expected to be in 2009. I mean, as a Cole fan I knew how serious he was when he said..
“..all I want to do is eat I’m like a freaky lesbian. All I want to do is ball on TV, meet ESPN. They heard I’m bout to blow, so all my enemies say ‘let’s be friends’..”
Peep the song below.
Beyonce Ft. Kanye West – Ego (Remix)
It really goes without saying how loyal Beyonce‘s fan base is. Queen Bey isn’t just a pretty face and nice voice that can sell records, she’s a tremendously respected musician and a role model for females around the world. One of my personal favorite traits of her’s is the ability to remain humble and generous for the love, support, and compassion with which her fans embrace her art. Now, me personally, I have the tendency to embrace people of the opposite nature for their boldness, so when Beyonce released her song Ego, I was super excited to see a more cocky approach to her art. The album “I Am… Sasha Fierce” was all about Beyonce embracing the ability to push herself to a further level of creativity, which requires a bit more pizzaz. She did so successfully by either co-writing or co-producing each song on the two-disc album, which also included hit songs like “Single Ladies”, “Halo” and “If I Were A Boy”. And then, just when we felt the album was at the peak of its excitement, a remix dropped that shook the world. What better way to get your point across about the importance of the ego, than to have Kanye West open up the track?
“My Ego is my imaginary friend.. He was with me when I was only imagining. I had dreams of the league, one day, I’ll play Kobe.. Or walk up to Puff and.. He’ll really know me! Could’ve let the dream killers kill my self-esteem.. Or use the arrogance as the steam that powered my dreams..”
Right around this time, the infamous controversy at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards found many music enthusiasts talking down on West, following his crashing of Taylor Swift‘s acceptance speech for Best Female Video.
It was rumored that West was upset that night, not only because he felt Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” was the best video of all time, but because he felt disrespected by the culture of award shows for not receiving the Grammy Nominations that he felt his most recent album at the time, “808’s And Heartbreak,” deserved. Many would say that West’s ego had caused him to go overboard this time, and it didn’t seem like he disagreed with that idea. In an interview on The Ellen Show after being M.I.A. for weeks while hiding from the media, Kanye West surfaced with a set of diamond teeth. He stated that he felt it was simply his role to speak up for the culture, and not a trip of his ego.
Fine by me, considering how FIRE that verse came out! Check it.
DJ Khaled Ft. T.I., Akon, Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman & Lil Wayne – We Takin’ Over
Everybody remembers the DJ Khaled era; not saying he isn’t still responsible for some good music coming to life, but around 2007, the Miami representer took the radio waves and ringtone game by storm. With records boasting features by Hip-Hop’s top names including everyone from Akon to T.I., Khaled collabs were known as a platform for artists to shine with a strong verse. As much as I wanted to make this article about sleeper verses, I felt it almost necessary to speak about what Lil’ Wayne did to this Danja production.
The song, which featured 5 other artists, was FULL of high-energy thanks to Akon’s hook. At the very end of the track, when the beat switches up and Birdman began to rap, I remember hearing it and thinking, “Oh lord..” Next thing you know, the words “..now my son on the throne..” come through my headphones, and the immediate need to pay attention hit when I realized Lil’ Wayne was about to bless the beat! I don’t think anyone was prepared for what came next, as Wayne showcased a unique flow and fresh (at the time) content that set him apart from everyone on the record. I mean, come on, how many memorable lean references had we heard before this verse? “I like my Sprite Easter pink” was definitely a trend-setting bar in my eyes! Following this came tons of great music from Wayne, including “The Carter 3″ which had some amazing guest features on it, as well. Check out the music video for “We Takin’ Over” below as you try to remember when Cash Money and Young Money were the best tandem in the game, and not fighting in court!
Drake Ft. 2Chainz & Big Sean – All Me
“H*E. SHUT THE. F**K. UP!” may have been the most yelled aloud lyric of 2013. When Kanye West discovered Big Sean at a radio station in Detroit during a press run, I don’t think he knew how BIG Sean would really become.. no pun intended. Though Big Sean has recently shown tremendous growth and stability with the continued support of his previous album “Dark Sky Paradise”, and his latest, “I Decided,” the G.O.O.D. Music superstar found a lot of his memorable quotes on the hooks of rappers like Drake. “All Me”, which was featured on Drake’s “Nothing Was The Same” album, demanded the attention of radio due to the powerful lineup of which also included 2Chainz. The production by KeY Wayne alone was hit-worthy, even though the song’s verses were recorded before the hook, as explained by Key Wayne in a breakdown video with ILLROOTS.
I chose this verse because in my opinion, it was a pivotal moment in 2013. A lot of big name albums released late 2013, however, a lot of the rap sounded the same to me. I remember hearing Big Sean’s verse for the first time, and having to pause and rewind the track before even getting through the rant-like lyrics,
“I paint pics, see the s**t, good sex, need to hit, keep a bra, on the floor, year round like season tix, I plead the Fifth, drink a fifth, load the 9, leave you split, into half, smoke a half, need a zip.. My new girl is on Glee and s**t, probably making more money than me and s**t!”
That flow stood out tremendously amongst the birth of an era we’ve come to known as the “trap” or “migos” flow. Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed like when Big Sean finished his verse, Drake recognized that he couldn’t go down on his own track like that and added a little something extra to the end with his in-house producer Noah, also known as 40. Take a listen.
J. Cole Ft. Nas – Made Nas Proud (Let Nas Down Remix)
Last one on the list, and you knew I was going to find a way to sneak Carolina’s finest back in here. Seriously though, lets look at the bigger picture here: J. Cole releases his first album “Cole World: A Sideline Story” with the singles “Who Dat” and “Work Out”. The album did well, selling 218,000 copies in it’s first week. In an interview with Fuse, Cole explains that the record “Work Out” marked a triumphant moment in his career, because he felt it was his first time finally creating a record that the labels and radio could accept.
We all know the formula for a hit record (well, my fellow artists do, anyway..) and that would be to grab a popular sample + recognizable melody. It seems that Cole knew this as well, and as he describes how he was excited to finally receive a release date for the album. While on tour, a phone call with legendary producer NO I.D. found Cole hearing that Nas was upset with his decision to release the record. Admitting that he was hurt by the remarks and harnessing that energy, Cole released his second album “Born Sinner”, in which the opening words were, “It’s way darker this time..” The song “Let Nas Down” was about the interaction and how he felt that he allowed himself to get wrapped up in trying to beat the game, as opposed to being what rap so desperately needed. In Nas’ words, Cole was “the one” and he knew it, which showed on Born Sinner. The song’s title alone generated a buzz before the record even released, so when it finally hit radio waves featuring a beat by NO I.D. and a Nas sample at the beginning, how could it not be a hit? The song was so humbling to Nas that he blessed the remix with a verse of his own, in response to the message Cole set out to send on the original. This level of respect is not very common in the game, and for that reason, the Nas verse is one of my favorites of all time. Check it out.
Before you get there, I’m already knowing about the lingering question.. What about Jay-Z? What about Eminem? Biggie Smalls? The GREATS? As I begin to write more articles of this nature, I’d like it to be known what my intentions are. My love for Hip-Hop has grown so much further than I ever imagined it would as a kid. I always knew it had a hold on me, but I’d call you a liar if you told me at the age of 16 in English class that I’d be writing about it. Hip-Hop is so much more than just music for me, its a culture and a rich history that anyone can fall in love with, easily. Music is a symbol of personal style, taste, and thought. It is very rare that two people share the exact same list of favorites. I encourage you all to list your 5 favorite feature verses in the comments section, or on our social media! Be sure to follow @JayThursday, @Everyday_DOPE and the infamous @Niyah_Nel On Twitter and Instagram to become a part of the discussion!
One love. Peace.
-Word by Jay Thursday