Guest verses have always been a part of hip-hop, but they’ve grown in popularity over the years for a number of reasons: they put new talent in people’s ears, they keep established rappers sharp, and they keep the slightly gladiatorial element of competition between performers alive in an era when freestyle battle raps are seen as slightly antiquated. The right featured guest can turn a single into a smash—but it can also backfire if that rapper outshines the song’s main artist. But when that does happen, the results can be pretty magical. Here are 10 notable examples of guest rappers appearing on other rappers’ songs—and completely blowing them away.
“Control” (Big Sean, feat. Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica)
It’s easy to forget that “Control” is, at least nominally, a Big Sean track. Within minutes of hitting the Internet, the song had sent rap Twitter into overdrive—thanks to Kenrick Lamar’s lengthy and incendiary verse, in which he lists by name all the currently hot rappers that he’s superior to. The catalog including Big Sean himself and poor old Jay Electronica, whose own droopy verse on the song had the misfortune of ending up after K-Dot’s. “Control” didn’t make the final track listing of Sean’s Hall of Fame album, supposedly because of sample clearance issues—but the fact that he was so brutally upstaged may have been a factor.
“Live at the Barbeque” (Main Source, feat. Nasty Nas)
When this Queens/Toronto coalition put 17-year-old Nasir Jones on their single, they probably thought they were just doing a local kid a favor. But he ended up stealing “Live at the Barbeque” out from under them with a relentless verse that made the whole thing feel like an armed robbery.
“One Minute Man” (Missy Elliott, feat. Ludacris & Trina)
It didn’t take long for Ludacris to develop a reputation for outperforming people on their own tracks. On Missy Elliott’s ode to men with stamina, he delivers one of his career-best verses—a gymnastic flow that morphs with nearly every outlandishly braggadocious line.
“One Minute Man remix” (Missy Elliott, feat. Ludacris & Jay-Z)
Another rapper who excels at delivering lethal features: Jay-Z, who turns around and tops Luda’s own song-stealing performance by subverting his cocksure verse (and the whole theme of the song) with a rap about the joys of being a selfish lover. The verse contains some of the funniest lines of Jay’s entire oeuvre.
“Renegade” (Jay-Z, feat. Eminem)
Like they say, turnabout’s fair play. Eminem’s turn on this Blueprint slow-burner was so much better than Jay’s that Nas included it in the litany of embarrassments contained in his anti-Jigga anthem “Ether.”
“Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” (Dr. Dre, feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg)
Dr. Dre’s name is at the top of the biggest rap song of 1992, but then-unknown 20-year-old Snoop Doggy Dogg was ultimately responsible for its success. An artist with a more fragile ego than Dre’s might have been mad at someone for stealing the spotlight so thoroughly, but Dre didn’t let it get in the way of one of the music biz’s most profitable partnerships.
“Flava in Ya Ear remix” (Craig Mack, feat. Notorious B.I.G., Busta Rhymes, Rampage, & LL Cool J)
When Craig Mack invited Biggie to drop a verse on his big single, Big still didn’t have his own record out. But he already had the talent that would land him a permanent spot among the best MC’s of all time, as well as an itching desire to show off those talents. Mack’s place in the history books—for helping to put Biggie on—probably helps mitigate how thoroughly he got smoked.
“Scenario” (A Tribe Called Quest, feat. Leaders of the New School)
Tribe’s breakthrough posse cut exemplifies the communalism and group bonhomie that defined hip-hop’s golden age. But the best performance on the track is clearly by then-unknown Leaders of the New School member Busta Rhymes, whose contribution hints at the frenetic style that would eventually turn him into a superstar.
“Monster” (Kanye West, feat. Rick Ross, Jay-Z, & Nicki Minaj)
When Kanye invited Nicki to guest on this My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy standout, she still hadn’t released an album and was enough of a newcomer to have to address that fact in her lyrics. But the verbal backflips she pulls off on the single would soon make her huge—and make her “Monster” verse a fan favorite.
“Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)” (UGK, feat. Andre 3000)
Three Stacks steps to the legendary Houston duo’s biggest hit so casually that he’s halfway through his verse before you realize that it’s not just an intro—it’s pretty much just an Andre 3000 solo song, with UGK jumping on at the end to bat cleanup.