Despite the hip-hop landscape seemingly morphing into a much friendlier space in recent years, with rappers much more likely to collaborate than go to war, the spirit of competition is still deeply ingrained into the history of the genre. Rapping is a skill, and everyone wants to be the best. Put a few rappers on the same record, and each will do their best to outshine the others.
Sometimes, one voice rises so far above the rest that it's nearly impossible to think of that song without immediately reciting that artist's verse in your head. Call them hip-hop hijackers, guests that commandeer entire songs the way Drake seizes swagger. Maybe it’s a star-making turn on a barbed, yet friendly posse cut. Maybe it’s a bold rap proclamation buried in an otherwise forgettable track. The unifying factor of all hijackers is that they don’t beat around anyone’s bush; they strike hard and fast and dare you to clap back. If you’re not already jotting down punchlines to work into your next album by the time it’s over, then your guest didn’t hit the right artery.
Barging into someone else’s song and taking the crown is by no stretch an easy task, and that’s what makes guest verses like these extraordinary. Here are 10 times that a rapper's guest feature completely hijacked the record.
A Tribe Called Quest - “Scenario” ft. Leaders of the New School
Jacked by: Busta Rhymes
Busta Rhymes spent his youth sharpening his dragon fangs with the Leaders of the New School, but the world got its first real taste of fire at the tail end of A Tribe Called Quest’s sophomore album. This legendary posse cut was a Tribe x New School showdown for the ages, but Busta earned his Dungeon Dragon status with a wall-busting verse and otherworldly energy. His bars can be ridiculous (“Chickity Choco, the chocolate chicken / The rear cock diesel, buttcheeks, they were kicking”), but that unmatchable energy endeared Busta to the world.
The knockout punch: “Roar, raow, like a dungeon dragon / Change your little drawers 'cause your pants were saggin' / Try to step to this, I will twist you in a turban / And have you smelling ripe like some old, stale urine”
Craig Mack - “Flava in Ya Ear” (Remix) ft. The Notorious BIG, LL Cool J, Rampage & Busta Rhymes
Jacked by: The Notorious B.I.G.
Giving a rapper as charismatic as Biggie the chance to open the remix to your song is the signature on your death certificate. “Flava in Ya Ear” was already a big hit for Craig Mack when Bad Boy label head Diddy scooped the beat from Easy Mo Bee back in ‘94, but Biggie’s opening verse on the remix was enough to convince new listeners that it was his song. Even the combined might of LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes and Rampage couldn’t stand up to B.I.G.’s 16. I can imagine UPS had to swat away new job applications at the door.
The knockout punch: “You're mad cause my style you're admiring / Don't be mad, UPS is hiring / You shoulda been a cop, fuck hip-hop / With that freestyle you're bound to get shot”
Kanye West - “Monster” ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver & Nicki Minaj
Jacked by: Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj had already grinded on the mixtape circuit, signed a record deal with Young Money, and set the ball rolling on her debut album Pink Friday before she tore this Kanye West single to shreds. Debuting as a G.O.O.D. Friday single just under a month before the release of Pink Friday, Minaj’s verse on “Monster” proved to the rest of the world in graphic detail why she was pulling $50K a verse with no album out. The vibrato she hits on several bars gives her voice a demonic quality that matches the tone of the song and puts Kanye, Rick Ross and Jay Z to shame. Those gold fangs are sharp.
The knockout punch: “And I'll say bride of Chucky is child's play / Just killed another career, it's a mild day / Besides 'Ye, they can't stand besides me / I think me, you and Am should ménage Friday”
Danny Brown - “Really Doe” ft. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul & Earl Sweatshirt
Jacked by: Earl Sweatshirt
Rap fans lost their minds in a way I haven’t seen in years when Danny Brown announced that he’d be joined on a track by Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt. While TDE continues to breed greatness (for the most part), the prospect of a new verse from reluctant spitter Earl—his first on a single since 2015’s I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside—was the scent that attracted the wolves.
And boy, he did not disappoint.
Earl’s verse is both precise and punchy, recalling the simple brilliance of Ka more than the lyrical gymnastics of MF DOOM. On a song that doesn’t necessarily have an ongoing theme between its four verses, there’s deadly grace in a line like “You a mouse that the falcon picked up” coming before talks of Earl finally getting over his agoraphobia. Amidst a deadly line-up that also features three of the most acclaimed lyricists of rap's new generation, Earl stakes his claim as one of the best emcees in the game by completely overshadowing his fellow wordsmiths.
The knockout punch: “Well it's the left-handed shooter, Kyle Lowry the pump / I'm at your house like, "Why you got your couch on my Chucks?"
Big Sean - “Control” ft. Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica
Jacked by: Kendrick Lamar
I’d never gone into a Big Sean song expecting the entire rap world to start crumbling around me, but Kendrick Lamar made me rethink my steadiness once his verse on “Control” started. This isn’t a verse—it’s a proclamation. West Coast Kendrick staked his claim as the greatest rapper on any coast and directly called out every big name spitter worth their salt at that time, including Big Sean and the enigma that is Jay Electronica, whom everyone seems to forget also had a verse on the track.
The verse was so bold that it inspired replies not only from some rappers who were called out but also MCs who felt left out of Kendrick’s verbal lashing.
Sean still feels that he held his own next to Kendrick, but that’s probably just the coma talking after all these years.
The knockout punch: “I'm usually homeboys with the same niggas I'm rhyming with / But this is hip-hop / And them niggas should know what time it is / And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Wale / Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake / Big Sean, Jay Electron', Tyler, Mac Miller / I got love for you all, but I'm tryna murder you niggas / Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you niggas / They don't wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you niggas”
Dr. Dre - “Nuthin’ but a 'G' Thang” ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg
Jacked by: Snoop Doggy Dogg
Counting to four has never been smoother than Snoop Dogg's opening to “Nuthin’ but a 'G' Thang.” You can almost smell the weed smoke billowing from the busted doorway. The lead single to Dr. Dre’s solo debut The Chronic was the very first flex for Dre and Snoop’s undeniable chemistry, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was just an extremely early preview of Doggystyle.
Snoop’s voice is the bounce in a low rider, the meniscus of a 40 oz. on a hot day, the stickiest of the icky—introduced to the world at large at the top of a Dr. Dre song. "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang" is one of the best hip-hop songs of all-time, and Snoop's opening is the show-stealing entrance that signaled the beginning of one of hip-hop's most legendary careers.
The knockout punch: “One, two, three and to the four / Snoop Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre is at the door / Ready to make an entrance, so back on up / ‘Cause you know we're about to rip shit up”
Jay-Z - “Renegade” ft. Eminem
Jacked by: Eminem
There's a reason that "renegaded" has its own Urban Dictionary entry.
Jay Z and Eminem each had their respective bones to pick on this cut from The Blueprint. Jay had to remind heads that he didn’t forget the streets that raised him and Eminem was still fighting the censorship brigade led by politicians like Tipper Gore.
With two tightly wound middle fingers in the form of his "Renegade" verses, Em proved to be more than worthy of the only guest spot on Jay's opus, going to war with the throngs of critics objecting to his every word with a mastery of multi-syllabic rhymes.
The knockout punch: “Since I'm in a position to talk to these kids and they listen/I ain't no politician, but I'll kick it with 'em a minute/‘Cause, see, they call me a menace; and if the shoe fits I'll wear it/But if it don't, then y'all will swallow the truth, grin and bear it”
UGK - "Int'l Player’s Anthem (I Choose You)" ft. OutKast
Jacked by: André 3000
"Play your part."
On a song that approaches women from various different angles, André 3000 did more with less—a lot more. A song called “International Players Anthem” starting with a story about accepting the bliss of marriage is a curveball that André uses to his advantage, setting the stage for the booming anthem that was to come.
Pimp C was initially furious that Three Stacks had stripped the drums from Juicy J and DJ Paul’s original beat, but all it did was help the now-legendary opening verse stand out even more; the wholesome frosting atop a dark, sinful cake underneath.
The knockout punch: “And hate to see y'all frown but I'd rather see her smilin' / Wetness all around me, true, but I'm no island / Peninsula maybe, it makes no sense, I know crazy / Give up all this pussy cat that's in my lap, no looking back / Spaceships don't come equipped with rear view mirrors”
Main Source - "Live at the Barbeque" ft. Nas, Joe Fatal & Akinyele
Jacked by: Nas
Don’t invite your man to the barbecue if his ribs are gonna be better than yours.
A full three years before changing the rap landscape forever with Illmatic, Nas first showcased his rhyme skills on the opening verse to the Main Source’s highly influential debut album. They opened the cage and Nas dropped science like it was going out of style.
This is the first place where Nas’ gift for blending the political with the visceral cool of the time came into play, name-dropping Pretty Tone in one bar before claiming to have snuffed Jesus in the next. It’s a show of force that marked a sea change in rap, the kind that pushes Google searches of “Live At The Barbecue Nas” to the top of Google Trends, you know, had Google existed back in 1991.
The knockout punch: “Verbal assassin, my architect pleases / When I was 12, I went to Hell for snuffing Jesus”
OutKast - "The Whole World" ft. Killer Mike & Joi
Jacked by: Killer Mike
OutKast used one of three new tracks on their greatest hits album Big Boi and Dre Present... OutKast to decry the way the media looks down on African Americans.
Sandwiched right in the middle is a verse from Killer Mike that revels in a Black pride in complete opposition to the downward noses portrayed in the song.
This verse isn’t necessarily a feature killer for its lyrical content, but rather for Mike’s exuberance and raw delivery, a flippant reminder to the establishment that Black success comes in all different flavors.
The knockout punch: “Glitter, glisten, gloss, floss / I catch a beat runnin' like Randy Moss / Ride that bitch off like a brand new horse / I'm rollin' my stone, gather no moss”
By CineMasai. Follow him on Twitter.