We count down the top 30 best posse cuts.
If there’s one format that never fails to elicit excitement, it’s the posse cut. With roots deriving from hip-hop’s inherently competitive elements, a trial-by-fire tradition associated with regionalist pride among other factors, the posse cut often finds emcees in an unspoken quest to emerge with the standout verse -- much to the benefit of the song as a cohesive whole.
Alliances are built and strengthened; the old adage of strength in numbers holds true in the booth. Unfortunately, the posse cut has come to feel like a dwindling art. Where it once seemed to be one of the game’s preferred structures, an all-but-guaranteed album highlight, newer artists have tended to steer away from the beloved tradition. That’s not to say they have disappeared entirely, but it’s become a far cry from the glory days in which hip-hop’s best lyricists would unite on sprawling, multiple-verse, sometimes even six-minute-long epics.
In honor of the posse cut, we have compiled a list of the thirty best hip-hop hs to offer. As to what technically qualifies a posse cut, it should be noted that crews have been by and large excluded from the mix -- lest the list turn into a rundown of Wu-Tang Clan’s greatest hits. Should a crew be present on a track having opened the door for a fellow emcee or two, however, that’s another story. Should you call yourself a hip-hop-head, it’s likely you’ve heard a few of these already. Maybe even all of them.
Should that be the case, be sure to hit the comments with your thoughts on the ranking - including any snubs you might feel were overlooked. Obviously, placing thirty classics in numerical order is not exactly a cut-and-dry process, and many of the selections below are, to be perfectly honest, interchangeable from their allotted spots. How far can one timeless anthem really differ from another? Perhaps it’s best to not overthink this one, and simply bask in a celebration of some of the greatest collaborative hip-hop songs of all time.
- Mitch Findlay
30. Dreamville, J.I.D, Mez, Buddy, Jace, Reese LAFLARE, Ski Mask the Slump God, Smokepurpp & Guapdad 4000 - Costa Rica
While healthy competition can drive a posse cut to heightened levels of excellence, so too can the simple purity of camaraderie. Especially when substances are involved. The Revenge Of The Dreamers 3 sessions were legendary in that regard, bringing emcees of all walks of life into the studio for a two-weeks-long creative haven, culminating in no shortage of new music and friendships forged along the way. In many says, the bombastic “Costa Rica” feels like the heart of the Dreamers sessions, a gathering of like-minded emcees feeding off one another’s energy during an extensive night of recording.
Hearing the stories of “Costa Rica’s” creation is akin to hearing a longtime journeyman reflect on a particularly epic night. Those electric feelings bleed into the song itself, with each emcee simply happy to be there -- nobody is vying for top billing, with the brief verses all possessing an endearing sort of spontaneity. There’s something undoubtedly pure about hearing the entire room echo Ski Mask The Slump God’s raucous cries of “going on a date with an AK!” A relatively new addition to the list, but one that captured a distinct moment in time, one that will likely follow each participant for the rest of their lives.
29. Trae Tha Truth, T.I., Dave East, Tee Grizzley, Royce Da 5'9", Curren$y, Snoop Dogg, Fabolous, Rick Ross, Chamillionaire, G Eazy, Styles P, E-40, DRAM, Gary Clark, Jr. & Mark Morrison - I’m On 3.0
There are posse cuts, and then there are songs that boast more featured artists than most albums. It’s difficult to get more than 10 MCs to deliver dope verses that feel both fresh and different enough from one another, while ensuring that the track as a whole doesn’t drag on for so long that listeners start to check their watch. This balance is key, and that’s exactly what Trae Tha Truth and his assembly of artists successfully achieve on “I’m On 3.0.” Serving as the third installment of Trae’s “I’m On” series, this most recent incarnation takes what Trae and his previous collaborators did on both prior renditions and builds on it. While Mark Morrison’s vocals remained on the chorus, now accompanied by Gary Clark Jr. and D.R.A.M., Trae traded in the eight rappers from “2.0,” and recruited a whopping 12 replacements. Although a bold move, it ultimately paid off.
While some posse cuts require the song itself to somehow work around all the different contributing rappers’ individual styles in order to create a cohesive sound, in this case, the burden seems to lie on the artists themselves to ensure that their particular flow and lyrical flair fits the overall vibe of the track. Although there are certainly some undeniable standouts amongst this group, Chamillionaire’s verse has been widely regarded as the major highlight, the track serving as a platform on which the underappreciated MC was finally able to really show off his chops. In the case of this cut, the expression “third time’s the charm” certainly rings true.
28. Sway & King Tech, Eminem, RZA, Xzibit, KRS-One, Tech N9ne, Chino XL, Pharoahe Monch, Kool G Rap, Jayo Felony, DJ Revolution - 1999 Wake Up Show Freestyle
As the new millennium was dawning on a generation of hip-hop fans, Sway and King Tech were using their position to assemble an absolutely insane collective. Capturing the raw energy of a cipher and channeling it onto a golden-era instrumental, the “1999” edition of the “Wake Up Show” freestyle kicked off with Bobby Digital on a mission, representing for the Wu-Tang movement and bringing a legendary pedigree from the jump. On that note, there’s plenty of notable wordsmiths on deck; Eminem landed his first collaboration with Xzibit and Tech N9ne, Chino XL proved why he stands among the underground’s most respected lyricists, and KRS-One imbued the track with the presence of a true “master of ceremonies.”
27. Chris Brown, Kanye West, T.I., Fabolous, Rick Ross & Andre 3000 - Deuces (Remix)
Chris Brown has had his fair share of ups and downs. 2010 was essentially a peak "down" time in Brown’s long career, as a year prior, he left Rihanna with bruises on her face following an argument with her that escalated to physical blows. Thus, by the time 2010 rolled around, Chris Brown was essentially working his way back into our good graces, one song at a time.
It was around this same time that the singer ended up collaborating with Tyga for their joint mixtape, Fan of a Fan. “Deuces” served as a single off it, also featuring R&B singer Kevin McCall. It’s the sort of catchy, easy beat that you can still bop your head to right now, which is exactly the type of record we needed from Breezy back then-- something we didn’t have to analyze too closely but would be easily enjoyed by masses.
As the song grew legs on the internet, Chris Brown recruited a ton of star power for the massive remix-- which just goes to show the span of his reach and his clout, even amid domestic violence allegations. It doesn’t hurt to have Kanye West, T.I., Drake, Andre 300, Fabolous and Rick Ross in your corner when you’re in the process of a career comeback. Each artist drops off their personalized dose of female relationship fodder and what spurs them to leave a particular relationship, for a total of eight verses on this epic remix. Andre 3000 blesses us with the final farewell, in philosophical manner: “And here I am, all heavy with the words where / Somebody that's a nerd, likely fast forward / But, shit, they asked for it / It’s hard to throw up them deuces / ‘Cause when you know it’s juicy / You start to sound like / Confucius when makin' up excuses / Chase the Cabooses until the track gone / I gotta find me a new locomotive, stop makin' sad songs.”
26. Lil Kim, Left Eye, Da Brat, Angie Martinez, Missy Elliott - Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)
With so many classic posse cuts being testosterone-heavy affairs, you know the ladies had to come through and represent. “Not Tonight’s” official remix arrived in 1997 as part of the Nothing To Lose soundtrack, earning its “Ladies Night” moniker with appearances from Left Eye (RIP), Da Brat, Angie Martinez, and Missy Elliott. A pivotal moment for females in hip-hop, the accompanying clip was lined with legendary artists like Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, T-Boz, Xscape, and many more.
Oozing with a charismatic swagger, each rapper attacks the groove with their own distinctive flow: Angie with the newcomer’s wide-eyed energy, Brat with the aggression, Kim with the Junior M.A.F.I.A sauce, Left Eye with the playful sensuality, and Missy coming through as the exclamation point -- “you ain’t gon’ use me to just be singin’ hooks.”
25. DJ Khaled, Akon, T.I., Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Birdman, Fat Joe - We Takin Over
“We Takin Over” had the ultimate formula for a certified hit. The track, led by posse-cut-conductor-extraordinaire, DJ Khaled, boasts verses from five major hip-hop heavyweights—Lil Wayne, T.I., Rick Ross, Birdman, and Fat Joe—some in their prime, others proving with ease that they’ve still got it. Their verses were also punctuated by Akon’s signature high-pitched vocals delivering a criminally catchy hook on the chorus. Combine all of these elements with some stellar production from Danja, and you’re guaranteed to come out with a banger.
While practically every MC on this world-domination anthem manages to hold their own, there’s one clear star. As was often the case on a Weezy-featured posse cut in those days, Wayne blows everyone else out of the water, sliding in at the very end to close out the show only to upstage his preceding partners. His unhinged, bloodthirsty delivery paired with Danja’s looming production has the track ending on a high, followed only by one final declaration of the title from Akon. Based on the sheer number of remixes alone that this cut birthed, it’s clear that “We Takin Over” left an impression not just on fans, but on other artists, as well. Though certainly a product and reflection of it’s time sonically, it still manages to hold up all these years later.
24. The Game, Jim Jones, Snoop Dogg, Nas, T.I., Fat Joe, Lil' Wayne, N.O.R.E., Jadakiss, Styles P, Fabolous, Juelz Santana, Rick Ross, Twista, Kurupt, Daz Dillinger, WC, E-40, Bun B, Chamillionaire, Slim Thug, Young Dro, The Clipse, Ja Rule - One Blood Remix
Junior Reid’s 1989 single “One Blood” has been flipped on countless occasions but perhaps, the most popular use of the sample is in The Game’s single, “One Blood.” Reid’s original single represents unifying the human race, regardless of race, class, or religion, in the face of division. The Game carried the theme in the megamix that brought together rappers from every coast in an attempt to unify gang bangers. Twenty-five rappers were included on the track such as Jim Jones, NORE, Nas, T.I., Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Jadakiss, Clipse, Styles P, and more, though some of the verse may have been reused from the regional remixes The Game also released.
Running for nearly twelve minutes in length, the star power alone would be worth its placement on this list but its impact on the streets is forever as the game unified Crips and Bloods from the East and the West on one track.
23. Tech N9ne, Busta Rhymes, Yelawolf, Twista, Twisted Insane, D-Loc, U$O, JL B.Hood & Ceza - Worldwide Choppers
Fast rap isn’t for everyone. In fact, it has recently become synonymous with “corny,” a go-to move for rappers hoping to mask a lack of sauce with sheer technical prowess. Yet countless artists have proven that double-time delivery can be undisputably badass, including some of Tech N9ne’s handpicked “Worldwide Choppers.” Not only does this posse-cut feature nine contributing rappers from across the globe, it does so while operating under a strict conceit: all parties must gun for that god-forsaken Guinness World Record.
Arguably the quickest of the bunch, Tech sets the tone for fellow hyperspeed rappers Twista and Busta Rhymes to absolutely wreak havoc, with both parties sliding several interesting flow-schemes into their verses. Between Twista’s “stig-a-ma-tism” scheme and Bus-a-Bus’ “Get 'em, hit 'em and finish 'em” scheme, we’re looking at a masterclass in verbal dexterity.
22. Jay-Z, Twista, Killer Mike, Big Boi - Poppin Tags
When hip-hop fans think of posse cuts, they think of all-time great rappers, multiple dope verses, and production that will keep your head nodding along throughout the entire song. Jay-Z’s “Poppin Tags” off of The Blueprint 2 is absolutely one of those posse cuts that ticks off every single box and then some.
First off, let’s start with the soulful production by none other than Kanye West. By 2002, Kanye was an established producer and “Poppin Tags” was yet another highlight on his growing resume. As for the verses, those are what make this song truly stand out. Jay-Z begins the track with a fast yet steady flow that features bars about, as the title suggests, spending a lot of money. From there, Twista comes into the picture with blisteringly fast bars that create a nice contrast between him and Jay-Z’s skill sets.
The entire track is six minutes long and in the latter half, we get some southern influence with verses from Georgia natives, Killer Mike and Big Boi. Both of these MCs bring their signature flows and sounds to the track which helps spice things up a bit. Depending on where you live, one could argue Big Boi and Killer Mike actually outshine Twista and Jay-Z although that’s a debate we’re sure the commenters would love to engage in.
- Alex Cole
21. Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz - Mercy
Kanye West’s GOOD Fridays series recalls a simpler time in rap, when the market was less crowded and free download links were still the norm. Ye really shook things up with the series, drawing in more and more eyes every Friday when he came through with some sort of fire, GOOD Music cut, often featuring a crew of artists. “Mercy” was among them, and would go on to make the final tracklist of the underwhelming Cruel Summer compilation album. Nonetheless don’t let that take away from the strength of the collaboration which features a pre-controversial (well, pre-Trump) Kanye West, Sean Don, Pusha T and GOOD Music-affiliated 2 Chainz.
The beat is one of the most iconic aspects of this record, with its dancehall sample and alternating keys kicking off the record. There’s really nothing else to say except that it was, and remains, a banger that will still get a party lit in a matter of seconds.
20. T.I, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, M.I.A - Swagga Like Us
Where posse cuts of the nineties seemed to thrive off the spirit of lyrical competition, those creeping closer to modern times appeared more concerned with sheer spectacle. Despite enlisting three heavy-hitting lyricists for the occasion, T.I’s “Swagga Like Us” was hardly concerned with administering death-by-a-thousand-bars. The musical equivalent to a Basquiat hanging in one’s foyer, the Grammy-Award winning Paper Trail single was so confident in its mere existence that all it needed to do was show up.
That’s not to say the four emcees didn’t come correct, with the Troubleman asserting himself as the defining verse, but it’s clear they approached this one with the energy of a pickup game. A championship pickup game, to be sure. Impossible to ignore on the basis of sheer talent, “Swagga Like Us” remains a defining cultural moment, the ultimate flex on wax.
19. Noreaga, Big Pun, Nature, Cam’Ron, Jadakiss, Styles P - Banned From T.V.
What is it about Jadakiss that seems to gravitate toward the posse cut format? Once again, Mr. Raspy slides onto this list as a key contributor to Noreaga’s absolutely stacked “Banned From TV.” On that note, fellow Ruff Ryder Swizz Beatz made New York history the day he wrapped this particular beat up -- little did he know he’d be providing the soundtrack for a gathering of the the titans, including an appearance from the late Big Pun, the quitely scene-stealing Nature, and a classic back and forth from Kiss and Pinero.
Though many have come to know NORE as a lovable and perpetually inebriated storyteller on Drink Champs, long before that he was an integral member of the New York hip-hop landscape; one who commanded enough respect to bring such a ridiculous lineup to the table in the first place. And the results speak for itself, with “Banned From TV” encapsulating everything a classic posse cut is all about. Leave the best verse debates for the philosophers.
18. Dr. Dre, Kurupt, RBX, Lady Of Rage, Snoop Dogg - Stranded On Death Row
Dr. Dre has been at the center of many epic collaborations, and narrowing down one in particular was no easy feat. For the longest time, 2001’s extensive west coast anthem “Some L.A. N***az” had all but secured the position -- that is until “Stranded On Death Row” started to spread back into the picture, a relic of one of hip-hop’s darkest and dopest eras. Featuring contributions from Kurupt, RBX, The Lady of Rage, and a young Snoop Dogg, the Dr. Dre-produced banger features hard-hitting verses from all involved.
Kurupt spazzes out the gate, his tongue-twisted style and references to Jean Claude Van Damme instant reminders of simpler times. Yet it may very well be the Lady of Rage who leaves the deepest impression, he sneering cadence and violent vows solidifying her as the most feared inmate on the doomed cellblock. “I plead guilty on all counts, let the ball bounce where it may, it's just another clip into my AK,” she raps. “Buck 'em down with my underground tactics. Facts and stacks of clips on my mattress.”
17. Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Eminem - Forever
You can’t talk about modern-day rap posse cuts without mentioning “Forever,” the 2009 single from Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Eminem. When it was originally released as part of the More Than A Game soundtrack, the song was tremendously impactful. You’ve got to believe that if these four rappers linked up another time one decade later, the critical reception would be even wilder. And that’s saying a lot, considering “Forever” has gone 6x platinum since its release.
Each artist featured on the track is given ample time to shine through on “Forever.” Drake starts things off before Kanye West slides over the second verse. Lil Wayne takes over for the third verse before things close out with a remarkable appearance from Eminem. Drake, Kanye, Weezy, and Em are all iconic in their own right and they will each sit high on rap’s totem pole when this is all said and done. Drake sang that he wanted this to last his entire life and, eleven years later, he’s arrived at that stage. We may never see another star-studded posse cut like this.
- Alex Zidel
16. Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Pusha T, John Legend, Lloyd Banks, Ryan - Christian Dior Denim Flow
“Christian Dior Denim Flow” counts another entry in the GOOD Fridays series helmed by Kanye West. It’s another example of the type of insane artist-gathered collaborations Ye was putting out at this time, alongside beats that were often “big” for lack of a better words-- beats that were luxurious, over-the-top, lofty-- perhaps recalling My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in the sense that they were highly arranged and layered, but a bit less refined.
“Christian Dior Denim Flow,” similar to “Mercy” also contains production that at one point breaks down, leading the way for Lloyd Banks’ raspy verse. Kid Cudi delivered the melodic hook with assistance from John Legend, but he also closes out the song with a verse-- that was another hallmark of these GOOD Fridays collaborations, they were often songs spanning over 5 to 6 minutes in length-- especially long if you consider these days’ 1-2 minute records. Yet this just ensured that every single artist featured on these posse cuts would have their own time to shine, ultimately making each one so exciting.
15. Bone Crusher, Cam’Ron, Jadakiss, Busta Rhymes - Never Scared Takeover Remix
For those who came of age during the early millennium, Bone Crusher’s “Never Scared” likely holds a special place in your heart. Though the original lineup of Killer Mike and T.I. made for a strong baseline, Bone Crusher’s New York ambitions secured three of the East Coast’s most capable lyricists in the midst of their primes. With the hard-knocking and uniquely Southern instrumental from Avery Johnson and Jermaine Dupri intact, Cam, Jada, and Busta made themselves at home, seemingly moving to one-up each other with each new verse.
Narrowing down a clear standout might come down to personal preference, but there’s something about Jadakiss’ steely demeanor that makes his presence on the “Takeover Remix” uniquely formidable. “I ain't neva scared, I got big hammers everywhere,” his flow methodical. “In places where you need yo passport at, I’m heavy there.”
14. Fat Joe, Big Pun, Nas, Jadakiss, Raekwon - John Blaze
On the basis of reputation alone, “John Blaze” promises to be an onslaught of bars from a handful of dominant East Coast emcees. Many of whom would feel right at home in a top-ten lyricist conversation. As such, there’s an unspoken sense of healthy competition permeating the padded track -- though Big Pun would swiftly go on to live up to his well-earned moniker of dream-shatterer.
While recognized by purists as elite, the effortless nature with which Pun would absolutely run laps around legendary emcees often goes unappreciated by the game at large. “The same n***a who known to blow out your brain mineral, I reign subliminal inside your visual,” he spits, his dexterity insane. “Try to supply your physical with my spiritual side of this lyrical / I'll appear in your dreams, like Freddy do, no kidding you / Even if I stuttered, I would still sh-sh-shit on you.” Listen, there is no universe that would position me to speak ill of Nas, Jadakiss, Raekwon, and Fat Joe -- but “John Blaze” really does feel like Big Pun’s showcase.
13. Obie Trice, Lloyd Banks, Eminem, 50 Cent - We All Die One Day
Obie Trice was looking to make a big first impression with his debut project, Cheers, all the way back in 2003. When you’re backed by an artist like Eminem, there is always going to be pressure to deliver and that’s exactly what he did. Perhaps the biggest highlight on his debut effort is the posse cut “We All Die One Day” which features the likes of Eminem, 50 Cent, and Lloyd Banks.
This extremely gritty banger stands out thanks to some gritty production by Em - among other reasons - who also provides the longest and most technical verse of the song. The track starts with a smooth chorus from Lloyd Banks that eventually transitions to a visceral and violent verse from Obie Trice who is very open about shooting and killing those who get in his way. In the ensuing verse, Lloyd Banks flexes his money and accomplishments while letting people know that he still has an edge to him despite making it out of the hood. Following Em’s verse, 50 Cent helps wrap the song into a neatly tied bow as he provides some violent bars that run parallel to Obie Trice’s first verse.
As far as blood pumping posse cuts go, “We All Die One Day” is certainly up there.
- Alex Cole
12. B.G ft Big Tymers & The Hot Boys - Bling Bling
Say what you will about the mastermind behind it, but Birdman’s Cash Money dynasty has endured as one of hip-hop’s most legendary movements of all time. Featuring the talents of B.G, Juvenile, Turk, Lil Wayne, Mannie Fresh, and Baby himself, the New Orleans-based label helped forge a sound that continues to influence hip-hop as we know it today.
“Bling Bling,” originally released as the lead single on B.G.’s 1999 album Chopper City In The Ghetto, brought the entirety of Cash Money into the fold for a stacked celebration of lavish living. Driven by an iconic beat from Fresh, who also holds it down with a swaggy verse, “Bling Bling” encapsulates the collective’s sound at its most effective -- playful, confident, and formidable if pressed. “N***s wear shades just to stand on side of me,” raps B.G., closing things out with a highlight verse. “Hoes say take that chain off boy ya blindin' me.”
11. Ruff Ryders, Jadakiss, Snoop Dogg, Scarface, Yung Wun & Jadakiss - WW III
Regionalism is one of the most important tenets in hip-hop stylistic analysis. Throughout the years, different cities and states have developed distinctive sonic qualities, many of which are held dear by the artists who claim a given locale. On Ruff Ryder’s introductory banger “WW III,” location played an integral role. Bringing together the likes of Jadakiss, Snoop Dogg, Scarface, and Yung Wun, each rapper opened their verse by representing for the cause.
The conceit imbued “WW III” with a sense of gravitas, only enhanced by the bombastic -- and instantly iconic-- Swizz Beatz production. In one corner stands Snoop Dogg, representing the “west coast.” In another stands Yung Wun, triumphantly screaming “ATL Shawty!” Across is the imposing figure of Scarface, holding it down on behalf of the entire “muthafucking South.” And for the East Coast is none other than Jadakiss, who closes the anthem out with a nail in the coffin.
10. Danny Brown, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Earl Sweatshirt - Really Doe
On paper, “Really Doe” stands among the most stacked gatherings of lyricists on this list. In reality, it was never meant to appear as such. When Danny Brown originally conceived the song, it was meant to be a duet between himself and Ab-Soul. Upon hearing the instrumental, Kendrick Lamar deviated from the intended plan to contribute elsewhere on Atrocity Exhibition and made himself at home.
Last but not least came Earl Sweatshirt, whom Danny bestowed the coveted position of the final verse, an honor reserved for the most valuable player. Few can dispute that the former Odd Future poet absolutely bodied the track, lines like “I'm the type of ni**a it ain't never been an honor to judge” deftly showcasing his clever mind at work. Throw in a creepy instrumental from Detroit legend Black Milk and you’re looking at the perfect posse cut for witching hour reflections.
09. Puff Daddy, The Lox, Notorious B.I.G, & Lil Kim - All About The Benjamins Remix
With all this talk about a Verzuz battle between P. Diddy and Dr. Dre, many have been fondly reminiscing about the Bad Boy era. After all, such was the time when the Notorious B.I.G. was alive and well, bodying tracks at every opportunity. The classic remix to Diddy and The Lox’s “All About The Benjamins” is no exception, with Biggie and Lil Kim sliding through to represent for the Junior M.A.F.I.A. movement.
From the moment Diddy sets it off with a laid-back yet assertive opening verse, his flow seeped in the signature style of his label, “”All About The Benjamins” never lets up. Aside from boasting hard hitting salvos from a youthful Jadakiss and Sheek Louch, it’s the new additions that leave the deepest imprint. “German Ruger for yo' ass, bitch, deep throat it,” raps Lil Kim. “Know you wanna feel the womb 'cause it's platinum-coated / take your pick, got a firearm you shoulda toted.” You’d be hard-pressed to find a hip-hop head incapable of vibing to this timeless cut.
08. LL Cool J, Method Man, Redman, Canibus, DMX, & Master P - 4, 3, 2, 1
Many hip-hop historians have come to remember “4,3,2,1” as the song on which LL Cool J and Canibus dissed each other in their respective verses. A darkly comedic turn of events to be sure, as the whole beef essentially kicked off after LL misinterpreted one of Canibus’ lines and decided to clap back accordingly. It’s hard to resist the scandalous allure of such a narrative (especially since it led to some great diss tracks from both parties), but we mustn’t forget one key factor.
This song assembled some of the best lyricists of the late nineties and engaged them in competitive sparring over Erick Sermon’s production. Given the pedigree of talent involved, it’s hard to deem a clear winner. Yet there’s something unmatchable about DMX’s menacing cautionary tale, which reveals the consequences of crossing his path at sundown. If you’re unfamiliar with the fact that LL Cool J was a murderous rhymer in his prime, look no further than “4,3,2,1."
07. DMX, Jay-Z, Jadakiss, Styles P, Sheek Louch - Blackout
It doesn’t get more New York than DMX’s epic Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood gathering “Blackout.” Another instance of healthy yet borderline competitive sportsmanship, the Swizz Beatz produced classic finds DMX, Jadakiss, Styles P, Sheek Louch, and the Jigga Man sliding through to lay down verse after verse. In true posse-cut fashion, the chorus is forsaken in favor of straight bars and listeners are all the better for it.
Especially when it comes time for Jay-Z’s supremely confident verse. “The beeper done changed, you dead bitch, the Reaper done came,” he raps, his mafioso roots coming through strong. “I suggest ni***s stop speakin my name, cause trust me, y'all can still feel the heat in the rain.” A welcome collision of worlds between the Ruff Ryders and the R.O.C, “Blackout” is the perfect encapsulation of a structure we simply don’t see anymore. And yet, at the time of its release, music like this was still doing numbers.
06. A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, Big K.R.I.T - “1Train”
At the time of its release in 2013, all six rappers present on “1Train” were stars in their own right. Speaking with Complex, Rocky explained that he wanted to create a posse cut evocative of early nineties hip-hop, employing an array of his contemporaries boasting a variety of distinctive styles. Tethering the disparate time periods is Hit-Boy, who laces a symphony at once rugged and distinguished. There are honed flows and outlandish quotables, be it Danny Brown’s “worst enemy’s penis” bar or the imaginative Action Bronson implementing a “Chilean Horse” into his imagery.
It’s almost impossible to discern the standout performer, as each rapper comes together like some deadly coalition, but Big K.R.I.T’s murderous bars certainly conclude matters on an emphatic note. Despite its relative youth, it’s fair to deem “1Train” one of the most impactful tracks of the past ten years.
05. Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, & Nate Dogg - Bitch Please 2
The Up In Smoke Tour remains one of hip-hop’s defining tours, with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, Ice Cube, Nate Dogg, Eminem, and countless Aftermath affiliates embarking on a weed-fueled odyssey. In some ways, Marshall Mathers LP’s fifteenth track “Bitch Please II” encapsulates the spirit of Up In Smoke. Marking a milestone for Slim Shady, who secured his first collaboration with Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg, the eerie sequel emerged as a highlight on its unexpected home album.
Between Dre’s braggadocio, Snoop’s laid-back swagger, Xzibit’s imposing aggression, and Em’s scathing wit, there’s somehow enough common ground to make for a cohesive vibe. With stellar verses from each performer -- including one hell of a chorus from Nate Dogg-- it’s Eminem’s climactic “fuck you” that resonates the deepest. Although, X to the Z does make a compelling case, especially when he whips into his “ashes to ashes” rhyme scheme.
04. Bone Thugs & The Notorious B.I.G. - Notorious Thugs
The East Coast met the smokey Midwest on Biggie Smalls’ second studio album Life After Death when the Brooklyn legend linked up with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony for “Notorious Thugs.”
Gangsta rap was at its height while hip-hop suffered the loss of both Biggie and Tupac in a matter of months of each other. The hypnotizing piano keys, twangy guitar, and the choral harmonies of Bone Thugs turned into a haunting gospel of romanticized inner-city turmoil with violence and paranoia riddling each rapper’s verse. What might be most notable about the track, though, is that it became a further testament that Biggie had mastered the art of flow. Before even signing a deal, Biggie Smalls was highly revered for his technical prowess and viscous flow but “Notorious Thugs” took it to a new level. Without compromising his skillset, he leaned deeper into the double-time, melodic flow that Bone Thugs introduced to the game with a defining verse in his catalog.
03. Three 6 Mafia ft UGK & Project Pat - Sippin' On Some Syrup
To say Three 6 Mafia were ahead of their time is an understatement. To this day, many of their lyrical and sonic trends -- from celebrations of hedonism to the dark southern banger -- have become embedded within the very fabric of the contemporary soundscape. Nowhere is that more effectively encapsulated than on “Sippin On Some Syrup,” a posse cut extraordinaire that brought the Underground Kings and Project Pat into the fold for a rollicking good time.
The track, which arrived on the 2000 album When The Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1, featured a dangerously smooth instrumental produced by the two-headed monster Juicy J and DJ Paul. The perfect backdrop for an influx of excellent verses, with the late Pimp C, DJ Paul, Juicy J, and Bun B holding it down. With each mind married to the singular concept of giving into inebriation, it’s difficult to single out a standout verse -- though it’s hard not to credit Pimp C for bringing the legendary term “simp” into the mainstream vernacular.
02. International Player’s Anthem (I Choose You)
UGK’s biggest commercial record is also considered one of hip-hop’s finest collaborations, and a certified classic. Pimp C and Bun B teamed up with fellow hip-hop duo OutKast in 2007 for this ode to marriage, from the perspective of a player who may or may not have changed his ways. It’s equally important in UGK’s catalog, as the last single the duo put out before Pimp C’s passing.
The music video for the collaboration made the record even more exciting: it’s a full-out hip-hop wedding with Andre 3k playing the role of the lucky man, and other artists acting as invited guests to partake in the big day.
It’s hard not to simply drop in Andre’s full verse here and call it a day. Apparently, Pimp C didn’t even like Andre’s verse when he first heard it (!!), taking issue with the fact that Andre had opted to remove the drums for his opening verse. Still, the song comes together in epic fashion. As soon as Andre’s verse ends, the drums pick up alongside Pimp C’s nasally verse. Willie Hutch’s “I Choose You” fills the record with soul and funk, thanks to the horn arrangement and vocal sample. It’s a record that marries soul with hip-hop with funk. In spite of this, it’s the type of record that doesn’t sound dated, the type of record someone could ostensibly drop today and we would consider it to be just as fire as it was over 10 years ago.
01. Bone Thugs & 2Pac - Thug Luv
There aren’t any other groups in hip-hop that have the bragging rights that Bone Thugs-N-Harmony have. A Midwest group signed to Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records, they remain the only hip-hop group to ever work with Biggie and Tupac while the legendary rappers were still alive. Even for a group with five members, collaborations with artists like Big, Pac, Eazy-E, and more had Bone Thugs bringing their influential sound across the coasts.
“We doin’ this shit from Cleveland to L.A,” 2Pac screams at the top of his collab with BTNH on “Thug Luv.” Riddled with sound effects of gunshots, Pac and Bone Thugs bring the world into a warzone. Between Pleads to the Lord for forgiveness, Pac and Bone Thugs’ united Thug across America for an anthem specifically geared for the streets. Though the only collaboration between the two entities, they hoisted Thug Life for the world to see.