These rappers earned a reputation for murdering other MCs on their own shit, with scene-stealing guest verses
The rap game is a competitive sport ruled by alpha-dogs and Kings. Bragging rights aren’t measured by chart success, award show accolades, and platinum plaques, but by head-to-head competition. When two rappers square-up, or a few MCs are brought together for a posse cut, the stakes are set: whichever rapper spits the best verse wins the song, and in turn, gains the upper-hand.
Ever since Nas called out Jay-Z for getting murdered by Eminem on “Renegade,” the narrative surrounding collaborations flipped: if it’s your song, you damn well better come with — as Lil Wayne put it during a recorded studio session — “Clips. Clips. Ammo.”
Meanwhile, a scene-stealing guest spot can help rappers earn ‘Best Rapper in a Supporting Role’ status. Now, don’t let the title fool you, there’s no reputation more revered than that of a rapper who’s amassed career-making cameos; in doing so, they possess a killer instinct similar to Michael Jordan going into an opposing gym and ripping the fan’s hearts out.
In order to determine which rappers have mastered the art of the feature, rankings were weighed by the following factors:
The number of songs they bodied in the role of guest star.
The strength of their competition on said tracks.
The efficiency in which they dominate, i.e: laying down the best verse on 10 out of 50 songs isn’t as good as going 5-for-10.
Without further ado, the 10 greatest rappers in a supporting role.
10. Kanye West
Career-making cameos: Slum Village’s “Selfish,” DJ Khaled’s “Grammy Family,” Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop (Remix),” Jay-Z’s “Run This Town,” & Young Jeezy’s “Put On.”
By 2009, Kanye and Jay-Z were in Year 9 of their collaborative relationship. While Kanye’s production had been prominently featured in Jay’s catalog as far back as 2001’s The Blueprint, Big Brother hadn’ let him shine on the mic; it was a different story on Kanye’s projects, though, as Jay contributed one of the best verses of his career to “Diamonds From Sierra Leone.” In the summer of 2009, Kanye was finally given a chance to trade barbs with his mentor, on “Run This Town,” the first single off Jay’s forthcoming album The Blueprint 3. He stole the show, submitting the best feature of his career, and the torch was passed, the throne usurped.
Career-making cameos: DMX’s “Blackout,” Memphis Bleek’s “Is That Your Chick,” Scarface’s “Guess Who’s Back,” Kanye West’s “Diamonds From Sierra Leone,” Young Jeezy’s “Go Crazy,” & Pusha T’s “Drug Dealers Anonymous.”
“Blackout,” the posse cut off DMX’s 1998 album Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, paired Jay-Z with the hottest rapper alive (X), and the best group in hip-hop (The Lox). Following exceptional verses from Jadakiss, Sheek Louch, and Styles P, Jay won the song as soon as he opened his verse with, “I sleep whole winters, wake up and spit summers.” Surprisingly, it’s the only great feature that took place during his peak; but he would cement his status as one of the best guest stars while in retirement when, in 2005, he bodied Jeezy on “Go Crazy,” and Kanye on “Diamonds From Sierra Leone.” Eleven years later, he proved he still had it with a two-minute cameo on Pusha T’s “DDA.”
8. The Notorious B.I.G
Career-making cameos: Craig Mack’s “Flava In Ya Ear,” Jay-Z’s “Brooklyn’s Finest,” Puff Daddy’s “Young G’s” & “Victory.”
Biggie’s short list of features proves why quality is greater than quantity. Between 1995 and 1997, his best-four guest appearances rank as some of the greatest in rap history. He opened “Flava In Ya Ear,” arguably the best posse cut of hip-hop’s golden age, with the legendary line (N***** is mad I get more butt than ash trays); defended his King of New York crown from Jay-Z on “Brooklyn’s Finest” and “Young Gs;” then submitted the best feature of his career, alongside Puff Daddy and Busta Rhymes, on “Victory.”
“Fuckin Problems” assembled the four-hottest rappers alive — ASAP, Drake, Kendrick, and 2 Chainz — on the cusp of their primes. Even with all the buzz surrounding Kendrick at the time, it was fair to assume that he might produce the song’s worst verse, given that ASAP was headlining, Drake was the King of the feature, and 2 Chainz was coming off a career-making cameo on Good Music’s “Mercy.” Kendrick didn’t waste the opportunity. Following exceptional appearances by ASAP and Drake, the future King of the West Coast stole the song, kick-starting a six-year run of stellar performances on other’s hit singles.
In the past ten years, two guest spots have been certified classic: Nicki Minaj on “Monster,” and 2 Chainz on “Mercy.” While Nicki’s verse is superior, and one of the best features ever, Chainz’ was more memorable, largely because it wasn’t expected. When “Mercy” hit the internet on April 3, 2012, as the first single from Good Music’s highly anticipated collaborative project, the lineup was everything we hoped for: there was Big Sean, the label’s youngest and most popular act besides ‘Ye, Pusha T, who’d recently resurrected his career with his verse on “Runaway,” Kanye, of course, and…2 Chainz?
Even more puzzling was the realization (once the mic passed from Big Sean to Pusha to Kanye) that Chainz would close out the song. As soon as he finished his verse, though, the question that follows every posse cut — “Who won the song,” — wasn’t necessary; Chainz did, unanimously. From there, he became the most in-demand feature in hip-hop and, in the six years that followed, continued to submit some of the best verses in the game.
Career-making cameos: Main Source’s “Live at the BBQ,” Mobb Deep’s “Eye for a Eye,” Raekwon’s “Verbal Intercourse,” Fat Joe’s “John Blaze,” & Rick Ross’ “Triple Beam Dreams.”
Nas isn’t nearly the most exciting guest but, in terms of strength of competition, has an unrivaled resume of featured verses. After a hard-hitting debut on “Live at the BBQ,” Nas won songs by simply rapping better than his peers. Alongside Raekwon and Ghostface Killah — two lyricists in their own right — on “Verbal Intercourse,” Nas forced them to play catchup after opening with an inspiring vocal performance; then, on one of the most underrated posse cuts of all-time, “John Blaze,” Nas out-dueled Fat Joe, Big Pun, Raekwon, and Jadakiss.
4. Nicki Minaj
Career-making cameos: Young Money’s “Roger That,” Lil Wayne’s “Sweet Dreams,” Ludacris’ “My Chick Bad,” Drake’s “Up All Night,” Kanye West’s “Monster,” Big Sean’s “Dance Ass,” 2 Chainz’ “I Luv Dem Strippers,” & Migos’ “Motorsport.”
Here’s the list of rappers Nicki out-performed on songs over a twelve-month stretch during 2009 and 2010: Lil Wayne (twice), Jay-Z, Kanye, Drake, Ludacris, Rick Ross and Big Sean. By the fall of 2010, she was already the hottest MC alive, but it was then that she decided to cement her legacy with one of the greatest hip-hop verses of all-time. What can you say about her verse on “Monster” at this point? It’s been almost eight years since its release and, with each listen, I’m left speechless.
Career-making cameos: DJ Khaled’s “I’m On One,” The Game’s “Good Girls Gone Bad,” Rick Ross’ “Made Men,” 2 Chainz’ “No Lie,” Rick Ross’ “Stay Schemin,” French Montana’s “Pop That,” Meek Mill’s “Amen,” Migos’ “Versace,” Nicki Minaj’ “Only,” & Big Sean’s “Blessings.”
Drake’s batting average as a featured guest is higher than any rapper in hip-hop history. The only reason he isn’t rated №1 on this list is because only a few of his guest spots double as the best verses of his career. Even so, he rarely doesn’t own every song he appears on; he may not always have the best verse, bar-for-bar, but he’s guaranteed to have the catchiest. Since he’s dominated so many artist’s songs without breaking a sweat, we’ve overlooked the times he’s absolutely bodied a track. The most famous example: “Stay Schemin.”
2. Lil Wayne
Career-making cameos: Outkast’s “Hollywood Divorce,” DJ Khaled’s “We Takin’ Over,” T.I.’s “Swagga Like Us,” Rick Ross’ “Luxury Tax” & “Maybach Music 2,” Drake’s “I’m Goin’ In” & “Miss Me,” Chance the Rapper’s “No Problem.”
During the mid-to-late’00s, putting Lil Wayne on your song was a recipe for disaster; before he even laid his verse on wax, you were forced to wave the white flag. Yes, if you don’t remember, he was that good. Listen to his verse on “We Takin’ Over.” It’s like watching LeBron play against college players. Around that time, Wayne was peerless, and he proved it consistently.
Career-making cameos: Biggie’s “Dead Wrong,” Dr. Dre’s “Forget About Dre” & “What’s the Difference,” Jay-Z’s “Renegade,” Obie Trice’s “We All Die One Day,” 50 Cent’s “Patiently Waiting,” Drake’s “Forever,” & Nicki Minaj’ “Roman’s Revenge.”
When you’re responsible for creating the verse that inspired this list, you’re a shoe-in for the top-spot. How great was Eminem’s verse on “Renegade?” Consider: He didn’t just out-rap the greatest rapper of all-time (Jay-Z), but did so on his magnum opus, right when the GOAT was at the absolute apex of his powers. It was a verse so good that Nas, locked with Jay-Z in the biggest rap beef since Biggie and ‘Pac, addressed it on “Ether” — only one of the most viscous diss songs of all-time — rapping, “Eminem murdered you on your own shit.” The moment Eminem’s greatness was used by the best lyricist ever, to undermine the best rapper ever, is when Marshall cemented his place atop hip-hop’s Mount Rushmore of ‘Best Guest Stars.’ If that wasn’t enough, he single-handedly revived Dr. Dre’s career with scene-stealing verses on “Forgot About Dre” and “What’s the Difference,” out-dueled Biggie on “Dead Wrong,” and laid waste to 50 Cent, Drake, and Nicki Minaj, at the exact moment each was the hottest performer in pop music. So, if you have another №1, good luck trying to convince me.