The featured verse is a staple of hip-hop, as old as the genre itself. We take a look at 4 of the best.
1. A Tribe Called Quest – Scenario feat. Busta Rhymes
Sample lyrics: Watch as I combine all the juice from the mind/Heel up, wheel up, bring it back, come, rewind/Powerful impact (Boom!) from the cannon!/Not braggin’, try to read my mind, just imagine!
Busta Rhymes’ first collaboration with A Tribe Called Quest has a special place in history as marking the start of one of the most successful artist team-ups of all time. Busta went on to guest on many of Tribe’s best songs, including a significant portion of the tracks on the group’s final album We got it from Here… Thank You for Your service, released this winter to critical acclaim and huge sales.
His verse on ‘Scenario’ remains the most iconic of the Bus-Tribe relationship, with some of Busta’s most dynamic lyricism and bombastic delivery. The track actually features Busta’s fellow members of the Leaders of the New School group, but it was Mr Rhymes who made the biggest impact on the listener an on A Tribe Called Quest.
Watch A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip discuss his first time working with Busta Rhymes below:
2. Rick Ross – Sixteen feat. Andre 3000
Sample lyrics: I miss the days of old when one could hold his gal on his arm/And not set off these alarms/When camera’s snap snap snap snap/Return fire, pap pap pap pap pap pap/They’ll learn why
They say less is more but sometimes that’s just a lie. The premise of Rick Ross’ ‘Sixteen’ is that the average length of time a rapper is given, sixteen bars, is not enough to say what they want to say. The rappers buck that trend here by turning in extended verses packed full of lyrical gems.
Andre 3000’s featured verse on this track is a whopping 48 bars long. Rick Ross’ is only 32. Factor in Andre’s outro guitar solo and the fact that he sings the hook and ‘Sixteen’ is looking more and more like a 3 Stacks solo track with Rick Ross on the intro.
Andre’s lyrics on ‘Sixteen’ are some of his best ever, with double and even triple entendres, off-the-wall rhyme scheme and autobiographical insights. Maybe sixteen really ain’t enough.
3. Mos Def – Auditorium featuring Slick Rick
Sample lyrics: And increasing the sentiment, gentlemen/Getting down on their middle eastern instruments/Realised trapped in this crowd/Walk over kicked one of my fabulous raps (la dee da dee)
Mos Def’s third solo album The Ecstatic was billed as a return to the more straightforward hip hop of his debut after a poorly received sophomore effort. In reality, it was anything but straightforward. ‘Auditorium’ is based around a beat from savant producer Madlib, made up of samples from middle-eastern music.
Slick Rick, known as one of rap’s greatest storytellers, takes the opportunity to spin a tale about a soldier in Iraq, hated by the locals, turns his fortune around by showing them the glories of rap. Smooth, stylish, controlled and captivating, Slick Rick’s guest verse here shows why he is held in such high regard with hip hop fans and artists alike.
4. Nas – Life’s A Bitch featuring AZ
Sample lyrics: Visualising the realism of life in actuality/Fuck who’s the baddest, a person’s status depends on salary
Nas’ 1994 debut album Illmatic isn’t just one of hip hop’s greatest albums; it’s one of music’s best albums. Picking up the baton from Rakim, Nas redefined what it meant to be a rapper: his multi-syllabic, internal rhyme scheme and structure is taken for granted today, but was groundbreaking at the time. Most rappers still can’t touch him. That’s what makes AZ’s featured verse on ‘Life’s A Bitch’ so outstanding.
AZ, even lesser known than the then fresh-faced Nas, jumped on the mic to open the track and segued seamlessly into a rapped hook (a Nas speciality) that might be more memorable than any on the album. AZ’s verse is catchy, but it is also complexly constructed and as dense as Nas at his best.