Before we get to the hip-hop, listen to this song:
Most of you will already know it; its Layla — one of the most iconic rock and roll songs of all time.
The song is billed as a Derek and the Dominos record, which was Eric Claptons band during the early 1970s. Clapton wrote — and performed — the song, although not without some help.
While many of you probably already know the song Layla, whats much less known is that it also featured Duane Allman — who played guitar alongside Clapton on the song. When I first found this out, it dawned on me that it was probably the greatest guest feature of all time.
Today, features arent much of a big deal. I mean, whenever a hot new hip-hop song leaks to the Internet, it usually contains about two or three big names on it. In a way, I feel as though, over time, weve lost the sentimentality of what a feature is.
Back in the day, it was more than just doing a song together. A feature provided a means of leaving your own unique imprint on another persons work — like Allman did Clapton (despite the fact that most dont realize it).
So I did some digging and compiled some of what I thought were the most noteworthy features in hip-hop history.
1. Nas on Raekwon’s “Verbal Intercourse”
Nas verse on “Verbal Intercourse,” in my mind, is one of the most iconic verses in all of hip-hop. Aside from it being one of Nas greatest all-time verses — including his solo work — it also marks the first non-Wu-Tang affiliated feature on a Wu-Tang-related album.
On one of the most cinematic albums of all time — Only Built 4 Cuban Linx — Nas steps in seamlessly and laces this RZA track with a verse that harmonizes perfectly with the ambience that Raekwon and Ghostface Killah create throughout the entire piece of work.
2. Drake on Rick Ross’ “Stay Schemin”
On this track, Drake shines the brightest — penning a number of quotable bars that kept listeners coming back, simply to scream BITCH, YOU WASNT WITH ME SHOOTING IN THE GYM.
Rick Ross released the single in 2012 and included it on his mixtape “Rich Forever,” despite Rozay only spitting like four bars, himself. Nevertheless, this record became one of the hottest songs of 2012, and I think we all know why.
3. Kendrick Lamar on Big Sean’s “Control”
When it comes to outshining another artist on his own song, Kendrick Lamar took this idea to new heights when “Control” dropped the summer of 2013. To put his killing into perspective, this video of just Kendrick’s verse alone has more YouTube views than the entiresong.
Not only did Kendrick rap more impressively on this song than did his fellow rappers Big Sean and Jay Electronica — but he also shook up the game in the process.
I remember reading that when Kendrick Lamar sent Big Sean his verse (prior to the songs release), Sean actually stopped and thought about redoing his verse after listening. I guess thats the type of response he was looking to provoke by name-dropping a bunch of the games biggest stars, including Big Sean, himself.
4. 2Pac on Scarface’s “Smile”
I got into 2Pac at a very young age — sometime in middle school after discovering the Wu — and for many years, I considered Smile to be among my favorite Pac songs.
I didnt realize untilyears after that the song — and verse — that what I was so fond of was actually released on Scarfaces fourth album,The Untouchable.
In one of the last sessions 2Pac recorded before his death, Shakur spills his guts into rhymes, as he does so poetically, across two introspective verses. Its just a beautiful song, really.
5. Andre 3000 on Frank Ocean’s “Pink Matter”
I love channel ORANGE, Frank Oceans debut album. Its an entrancing album from start to finish, from both a lyrical and musical standpoint — entirely produced by Frank Ocean, himself.
After playing the album through,the first time, I thought to myself —man, I really want to listen to that track with Three Stacks one more time— alluding to “Pink Matter,” featuring Andre 3000.
And while the sound of the song is still so.”Frank Ocean sounding”…I think that 3000s verse is one of the albums many hidden gems.
6. Method Man on GZA’s “Shadowboxin’”
Another feature on a Wu-Tang members solo album here, but this time, its fellow killer bee Method Man on GZAs legendary LP Liquid Swords.
While its hard to say that GZA is ever truly outshined on a RZA beat — especially one off his debut solo album — I dont know, theres something about the way Method Man hits the beat on “Shadowboxin” that makes it addicting to listen to.
7. AZ on Nas’ “Life’s a B*tch”
Most true hip-hop heads regard AZs verse on Nas classic Lifes a Bitch as the Michael Jordan of guest hip-hop features. In other words, the greatest ever.
Its important to note that, outside of AZs verse on Lifes a Bitch, Nas didnt include any other features on his debut album,Illmatic.
When you consider the fact that most true hip-hop heads will also regard NasIllmatic as one of the Golden Eras masterpieces, youll really begin to appreciate the significance of such an exclusive guest feature.
8. Pimp C on Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin’”
UGK, in general, outshined Hov on Big Pimpin, but Pimp Cs verse is undoubtedly the gold-star winner.
Although short, the verse is certainly sweet — showing off the late greats H-Town style in a way only Pimp C could. Kendrick Lamar actually slowed down the verse and integrated it into the hook of his song Blow My High, found on his debut album Section 80.
9. Common on Mos Def and Talib Kweli’s “Respiration”
How can you outshine both Mos Def and Talib Kweli on the same track? Well, you cant, in short — but Common does about as good a job as you could on Respiration.
Off the collaborative album, Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, “Respiration” features a Hi-Tek beat and three stanzas of hip-hop poetry, all leading up to Commons final verse — in whichthere is anything but a drop off in lyrical quality.
10. Action Bronson on Meyhem Lauren’s “Typhoon Rap”
I mean, the way I see it, on any record that Action Bronson decides to rap on — he shines the brightest. I dont think theres ever been a rapper who stimulates my mind as much as the Human Highlight Reel.
From obscure pop-culture references, to cooking tips, to sports folklore — Action Bronson never lacks in creativity. And his verse on fellow Queens native Meyhem Laurens Typhoon rap certainly has a little bit of everything.
11. Busta Rhymes on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario”
Although Nicki Minaj may have made the whole rah rah, like a dungeon dragon thing famous to most Millennials, it was first a part of Busta Rhymes verse on Scenario off Low End Theory.
While the Tribe usually needs no features, “Scenario” — a classic posse cut — is one of the exceptions to this rule, opening it up to many other members of their collective Leaders of the New School, but Busta shines with ease.
12. Eminem on Drake’s “Forever”
Written for the soundtrack of LeBron James’ “More Than a Game” documentary, this four-way collaboration featured the besthip-hop artists of the time (many of whom are still on top of the game today). And like LeBron James on the court, Eminem was on another level.
I mean, there’s a reason Emgoes last; try reworking theorder of the verses and listening to anyone’s partafter Eminem’s lightning fast word play. Itwould just pale in comparison.
Eminem reminded us firsthand why he’s the top-selling rapperof all time on “Forever,” because his verses make us all go nuts. Macadamia.