Top 5: The five best hip-hop collaborations of all time
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Top 5: The five best hip-hop collaborations of all time

Hip-hop, like all music, is a melting pot of cultures. With different artists, subgenres and aesthetics developing in a variety of areas continuously, it is now more critical than ever for artists to collaborate. Collaborations and joint projects can often result in exceptional music and usually exhibit the meetings of minds.

Collaboration between acts can be encouraged or restricted depending on the climate of the culture. Although the 1990s saw incredible partnerships due to the east coast versus west coast beef, the results were often too predictable. The most interesting creations are made when music is interregional or, even better, international.

The art of collaboration is making compromises. No party involved in the process should ever feel their creative input is not evident in the final product. Each individual provides a unique idea, and when great minds meet, extraordinary things happen. There are multiple examples of when collaboration has resulted in a sonic-shifting song. ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ by Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams is a fantastic example. Their extended 2000s partnership was phenomenal to behold.

However, collaborations have to feel genuine and all too often, some are tarnished by the fact that listeners know that they are hearing a money-making forced partnership as opposed to an authentic, natural partnership born out of love for music and mutual admiration. A fantastic example of this in hip-hop is ‘Motorsport’, the track that featured both Cardi B and Nicki Minaj despite a public feud between the two occurring and rumours surrounding its inception swirling.

In this moment, fans felt as if they were listening to a forced collaboration. It later came to be revealed that the entire song was assembled over email. Furthermore, fans became aware that Minaj was forced by Cardi B to change her verse several times. Hence even the collaboration process was smothered in resentment. In his 2004 Fade To Black documentary, Jay-Z said he only works with artists who inspire him as “The most important thing is inspiration.” He continued, “as an artist, if you’re not inspired to work, then you start thinking. Once you start thinking, you start forcing music, and that’s never good.”  Natural collaborations that just come together are a beautiful thing to witness so in this article we’re going to list the five best hip-hop collaborations of all time.

The five best hip-hop collaborations of all time:

5. Young Money – ‘Bed Rock’

Released in 2009, this Young Money posse cut is truly legendary because, concerning an international audience, it effectively launched the careers of Drake, Nicki Minaj and Tyga simultaneously. Outside of the US, not many had ever heard of these artists before, and, for most, this was their first introduction to the artists that would go on to dominate hip-hop for the next ten years.

Some of the artists featured on the track, such as Gudda, would not end up finding much success. However, for Minaj and Drake, especially Bed Rock was quite literally the Bed Rock of their entire career. This track is a legendary collaboration with a potent combination of artists.

4. Noreaga ft Nature, Big Pun, Cam’Ron, Jadakiss & Styles P – ‘Banned From TV’

Nowadays, Noreaga is known more for his Drink Champs podcast than he is for his music. However, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he was one of Roc-A-Fella’s most promising artists. Although it didn’t quite play out that way in the end, he is known for a number of things. Noreaga was among the first-ever rappers working with the Neptunes on a major label release. His 1999 track ‘Superthug’ is known as the first hip-hop hit produced by The Neptunes. However, aside from Pharrell, Noreaga is also known for his hit single ‘Banned From TV’.

Produced by Swizz Beatz, ‘Banned From TV’ contains a sample of ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ by Richard Strauss. The track was released as the third single for Noreaga’s debut album N.O.R.E.

3. DJ Premier ft Kanye, Nas, KRS One & Rakim – ‘Classic’

Entitled ‘Classic (Better Than I’ve Ever Been)’, the 2007 song is a DJ Premier remix of the Rick Rubin-produced track, ‘Better Than I’ve Ever Been’, which features Kanye West, Nas and KRS-One without Rakim. However, the DJ Premier remix is far funkier and more aggressive. This collaborative track is legendary as it showcases what some would argue are the best of their respective generations.

KRS-One and Rakim were on top of the game during the 1980s and considered ground-breaking lyricists who shifted the culture. Nas then pushed the boundaries further in the 1990s with his critically acclaimed albums, Illmatic and It Was Written. However, although Kanye isn’t considered a lyricist per se, his ability to curate a cohesive and aesthetically exciting body of work is second to none and with all the generations of the culture featured on one track, it is truly a collaboration of unity and love.

2. Busta Rhymes ft Mary J Blige, Rah Digga, Missy Elliot, Lloyd Banks, Papoose & DMX – ‘Touch It (Remix)’

Produced by Swizz Beatz, this 2005 track from Busta Rhymes was an anthem. Based on a catchy sample from Daft Punk’s ‘Technologic’, the sparsely produced and dark instrumental was extremely popular in clubs. Busta merely added fuel to the fire when he brought out a string of remixes featuring various hip-hop icons.

The beat, which features an impactful and jarring switch every four bars, is undeniably sinister and bass-heavy. ‘Touch It’ was released as the lead single for the Brooklyn rapper’s seventh studio album, The Big Bang, and reached number one on the UK Singles chart. However, this was the version that featured Busta alone. However, the remix was far more successful in getting certified platinum by the RIAA. The track has four different remixes, one that features just the females, another that features Lloyd Banks and Papoose and a final that features DMX. However, the emcee (real name Trevor Smith) released an “ultimate remix” which featured all of the aforementioned artists. Undeniably one of the best collaborations in hip-hop history.

1. Kanye West ft Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver & Nicki Minaj – ‘Monster’

This track was legendary when it was first released in 2010 and has stood the test of time. This killer, combination of artists, was bound to be a hit, and it turned out to become more than a hit ending up as an anthem. Produced by Kanye, the track featured on what, to this day, is considered the act’s best project of all time, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

This 2010 project from Kanye is an exemplary body of work that shows why collaboration is of utmost importance. For what was his fifth studio album, Kanye recruited the best of the best. From Elton John to Bon Iver, the artist’s creativity and desire to create alongside others knew no bounds, so it resulted in his finest body of work. With Maybach Music Group (MMG) and Young Money (YMCMB) ruling the charts, putting an artist from both the former and the latter was a genius move by Ye and broadened the song’s appeal.

Produced by Kanye West and Patrick Reynolds (Plain Pat), ‘Monster’ was initially released as part of the rapper’s ‘GOOD Friday’ series, for which every week, he unleashed a free download in promotion of the album. However, the song was eventually released as an official single due to its popularity. Fervidly tweaking it until it was up to scratch, Kanye has even admitted at one point while editing ‘Monster’ he was considering removing Nicki Minaj’s verse from the single because he didn’t want the males to feel overshadowed. However, Minaj blew critics away, and the track helped solidify her place within hip-hop.

‘Monster’ is inarguably the best hip-hop collaboration of all time. However, the album on which it features boasts some fantastic partnerships and shows what happens when natural and organic musical collaboration is cultivated.