Jay-Z has been rap royalty for a quarter of a century, and throughout that explosive time, he’s amassed an almost unrivalled back catalogue that is arguably unmatched.
As well as releasing 13-studio albums, Hov has always enjoyed experimenting with collaboration and has worked strenuously with others during his career. He’s teamed up with the likes of Kanye West, and Beyonce for full albums, but, on top of that, Jay has also made himself the king of the feature.
If you asked any rapper for five names they’d love to collaborate with, chances are, the response would almost certainly include Jay-Z. He’s the creme de la creme and a pioneer who everyone admires.
Below we take a look at five of his best guest features, and in truth, this list could have been acres longer. There’s a reason why a co-sign from Jay-Z is worth its weight in gold, and in the early ’00s, getting Hov to appear on your track was a surefire way to make sure you had a hit on your hands as this list shows.
Jay-Z’s five best features
‘I Love The Dough’ – Biggie Smalls
Biggie Smalls looked out for his fellow Brooklyn native during the formative years of Carter’s career. They even attended the same school, and understandably, there was somewhat of a competitive nature to their relationship.
After Biggie gave Jay a rub by appearing on ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’ on his debut album, which helped him immeasurably during the early days of his career. Following the cameo, Hov repaid the favour by jumping on ‘I Love The Dough’ on Life After Death alongside Angela Winbush, and he took full advantage of his opportunity on the grand stage.
‘Crazy In Love’ – Beyonce
Jay-Z and Beyonce married in 2008, and it’s hard to think of one without mentioning the other. The first time that their paths crossed was when they jumped on ’03 Bonnie & Clyde’ together, which was the start of an iconic creative relationship that soon turned romantic.
In 2003, they rekindled their partnership on ‘Crazy In Love’, and it became one of the defining tracks of the decade which also confirmed their relationship. The track debuted at number one in the States, and in the UK, as well as winning several accolades at the MTV Video Awards in 2004.
‘Frontin’ – Pharrell
A Pharrell Williams beat combined with a verse from Jay-Z is a match made in heaven. During the early ’00s, both men were at the top of their respective game, and whenever they linked up, it always delivered.
They innately knew what the other one wanted, and ‘Frontin’ provided Pharrell with the biggest solo hit of the first stage of his career. It was a track that he first wrote back when he was one half of The Neptunes, and interestingly, it was never intended to be released under his name.
He once revealed: “Collaboration has always been part of my DNA. And, to be clear and to be honest, songs that I ended up putting out by myself were always songs that I wrote for other people. I made ‘Frontin’’ for Prince, and even ‘Happy’, I wrote that for CeeLo [Green].”
‘Black Republican’ – Nas
Hearing Nas and Jay-Z on the same track will never not be a dream. Arguably, they are the two most talented wordsmiths of their generation, and although for years, they were entangled in a beef which they thankfully ended maturely.
In 2006, Nas had a chip on his shoulder, and he vented his frustration on his controversial album, Hip Hop Is Dead. On ‘Black Republican’ both he and Jay powerfully reflect upon their humble upbringings as well as how far their life has changed since those days.
‘Monster’ – Kanye West
Kanye West and Jay-Z’s share a brotherhood, although, they didn’t speak for a decade, it’s undeniable that they share a rich chemistry that fuelled their Watch The Throne project. Before they combined for a full album, Jay appeared on ‘Monster’ on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and his guest verse was electric.
The track also featured Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver who all brought a different flavour to the effort which West cultivated expertly. While the song wasn’t a hit by the standards of Jay or Kanye, it helped the pair realise they had the potential to make an album together which soon followed.