The impetuous excitement brought upon by the idea of new music is often a speeding bullet to disappointment. It’s easy to be disillusioned by hype, especially when the surge of enthusiasm stems from a track listing full of famous features. The mind only considers the best possible scenario―an unrealistic fantasy―that the artists are primary colors destined to mix and blend into beautiful secondary colors.
Color theory taught us that beauty can be a creature of chemistry and hip-hop taught us that chemistry is just a creature you see in your nightmares. Only in rare cases does a merger of talents actually live up to the standards of expectation. I’ve spent a lifetime wallowing in unfortunate dismay because my favorite artists couldn’t pull off a Vegito-level fusion dance.
The age of superfluous mega-remixes and big-name posse cuts has slowly died as more rappers focus only on creating within their squads. When was the last time you saw Drake on a song with more than three artists? When was the last time a Drake song got an official remix? If the year was 2008, Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” would be the trampoline every artist jumped upon for a gigantic remix and not just a forgettable re-release with Kodak.
Still, the internet age has produced some unforgettable collaborations, six of which we wrote about last year and will hold dear until the heavens fall. But what about the painful trainwrecks? What about the luxury cruise ships that are gorgeous from afar but sink moments after pressing play?
Here are 10 massive posse cuts (aka four-plus A-list artists) from the last 10 years that should have been incredible based on the artists involved and the point in their careers at which they were involved. The bigger the disappointment, the higher the ranking. One long, painful trip down memory lane.
10. A$AP Rocky — “F**kin' Problems” ft. Drake, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar (LONG.LIVE.A$AP, 2013)
In 2012, Consequence Of Sound wrote this about A$AP Rocky’s star-studded single: “And in this friendly competition between four of rap’s biggest young names, Lamar scores the lyrical KO with 'Listen to what the crystal ball say/Halle Berry/Hallelujah/Holla back, I’ll do ya.'”
The commentary is a laughable reach, as nothing about “Fuckin' Problems” displays the spirit of competition and Lamar's verse is far from the expected lyrical KO—one of the rare times he didn’t commit an assault on a collaborative work. And that’s where the disappointment exists. Rocky brought together some of rap's youngest, brightest, and most imaginative to make the kind of party song that would be McLovin’s ringtone in 2008. If only Pretty Flacko could’ve created a “1 Train” atmosphere and allowed this caliber of spirited spirits to truly rip the beat a new one. It's a classic club record, but it should've been a classic posse cut.
9. Chris Brown — “Deuces (Remix)” ft. Drake, T.I., Kanye West, Fabolous, Rick Ross & André 3000 (Deuces Remix - EP, 2010)
It’s fascinating to think back to a time when Chris Brown and Tyga had several hit songs dominating radio. “Deuces” was huge, the remix even bigger. Drake was in the early stages of flourishing in the mainstream and André was in the midst of an excellent remix streak, but “Deuces” suffered by bringing too many rowdy rappers to an intimate environment. It was five minutes of some of rap's biggest names being unbearable. Kanye is hilariously irate, Fabolous unforgivably terrible, T.I. should’ve been surgically removed, and Rick Ross' verse on “Monster” is more memorable than his “Deuces” contribution. “Deuces” is in that special space where it both overwhelms and underwhelms, instead of cutting unnecessary fat they added even more trite features to build a massive wave of dissatisfaction. André's verse is still worth hearing, but nothing else.
8. MMG (Gunplay, Stalley, Wale & Meek Mill) — “Power Circle” ft. Rick Ross & Kendrick Lamar (Self Made, Vol. 2, 2012)
Rick Ross has an ear for grandiose production and the foresight to surround himself with artists that have unlimited potential and promise. To see him gather this lineup as the intro for Self Made, Vol. 2 was a jaw-dropping feat. The entire MMG squadron and Kendrick Lamar, an all-star posse that could craft something memorable. Production is exquisite, the sonic personification of Mount Olympus, but the performances fall far short of godly. "Power Circle" is far from a bad song, but there’s an aching need for a riveting collaboration with such an electrifying collection of collaborators.
7. French Montana — “Marble Floors” ft. Rick Ross, Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz (Excuse My French, 2013)
As a song, “Marble Floors” is essentially the “Pop That” posse with 2 Chainz replacing Drake. French has a fairly strong rapport with each artist included, so to have high expectations wouldn’t be the craziest reaction to seeing this lineup on paper, especially following the success of "Pop That." Sadly, the end result is by far the worst offering from the ColleGrove duo. Ross doesn’t have a verse, he supplies a hook he would’ve thrown away if recorded for his album. Wayne is in full washed mode, each punchline is thrown as a haymaker and lands like a paper cut. Someone allowed him to say, “We sell that white, sell that brown, call it rice and gravy.” Chainz has a similarly lackluster performance. The entire song should be deleted from existence.
6. N*E*R*D — "Everyone Nose (All the Girls Standing In the Line for the Bathroom) [Remix]" ft. Kanye West, Pusha T & Lupe Fiasco (Seeing Sounds, 2008)
The CRS squad and Pusha T, how could this go wrong? It’s humorous, at times hilarious, but also one of the rare times Kanye West, Pharrell, and Lupe Fiasco don’t compel enough to be heard again and again. Kanye’s "black inside you" joke and Lupe’s "high" rhyme-scheme (equally annoying as it is genius) may fit the song's carefree temperament but it’s truly a waste of an excellent lineup. Even with posse assassin Pusha T's ridiculous flow, there’s little here to encourage timelessness. If the “Everyone Nose” remix is remembered at all it is as the most forgettable CRS song ever released.
5. Kanye West, Gucci Mane, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Travis Scott, Yo Gotti, Quavo & Desiigner — “Champions” (2016)
What I miss most about the G.O.O.D. Fridays series is how each song felt like there was a synergy between everyone involved. Ye was able to take all these rappers and build a world where they all fit. He’s tried since to recreate the massiveness that made the series so prolific but has come up short. “Champions” was the first post-Pablo release, and Gucci’s first big post-prison feature, along with six more of rap's most prolific names at the height of their fame and success. It should have been a home run. Besides Gucci denouncing his clone and Ye celebrating his escape from crippling debt, though, “Champions” is an extravagant waste of six minutes. The kind of overzealous posse cut that suffers from having a house party with too many invites and not enough house. How I miss the days of “Mercy” and “Clique.”
4. Kanye West — “The Morning” ft. Raekwon, Pusha T, Common, 2 Chainz, Cyhi The Prynce, Kid Cudi & D’Banj (Cruel Summer, 2012)
Kanye is hip-hop’s bat signal. He’s able to send a message in the air and gather a conglomerate of astounding artists. The 2012 compilation Kanye West Presents: Good Music Cruel Summer has some excellent collaborations, but “The Morning” isn’t one of them, and the reason has everything to do with its lack of excellence. Just look at that lineup; a dream team of rappers is present and collectively, they delivered nothing that shakes the soul. There are a few quotables and a handful of highlights, but the song's four-minute run-time feels like an eternity. Better production could’ve added some life to the record, but there’s not even any flair fueling these verses. Even a solid Cudi bridge won’t keep this one from vanishing into the abyss.
3. DJ Khaled — “I'm the One” ft. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance The Rapper & Lil Wayne (Grateful, 2016)
Never forget that DJ Khaled gave us “We Takin' Over,” “Grammy Family,” “Holla At Me Baby,” and “Brown Paper Bag.” Before Snapchat and Beyoncé tours he was second only to DJ Drama for bringing together massive and usually excellent posse records. Being a prisoner of the past, I had hoped that a song featuring Wayne, Quavo, and Chance would lean upon the hip-hop spectrum, but of course, any song with Justin Bieber has to be a high school pop song for school bus riders and their Ford Expedition-driving parents. "I'm The One" is painfully sweet, the kind of candy that rots teeth.
Khaled scored a massive hit with the record—it's 4x Platinum and peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100—and he’ll be lucky to score anything bigger, but it’s far from the classic collabs that built the legacy upon which he stands. When Snapchat dies and we move on to the next wave, the Khaled songs that will be remembered and cherished won’t be the chart-toppers.
2. Drake — “Forever” ft. Kanye West, Lil Wayne & Eminem [More Than a Game (Music Inspired By the Film), 2009]
Drake was the newcomer positioned to take rap over, Wayne was a giant, Kanye was reaching Yeezus status, and Eminem emerged from his reclusive state. The hype was high, and a clash of lyrical titans is what the world was expecting. What the world received was something far more casual, less of a clash and more like a high-five.
Everyone except Eminem seemed to just coast, treating this momentous event as a scrimmage and not a big game. Part of me wanted to say the song was great, but that was far from the reality. Drake’s verse is a perfect trick, it downloads into your mind, but his lyrics haven't aged well. Ye’s statutory rape line is even more cringe-worthy today. Wayne’s verse isn’t bad, but compared to all his verses from that era it’s an easygoing lay-up. Eminem’s spazzing felt special at the moment, he went to break necks with his technical machine-gun approach, but it doesn’t stick to your ribs. He just showed off, and no one likes a showoff. The clash never comes. The biggest aftermath that followed was the industry borrowing the 'Supa Dupa' flow Big Sean had resurrected.
Oh, and this beat is unbearably TERRIBLE.
1. T.I. & JAY-Z — “Swagga Like Us” ft. Kanye West & Lil Wayne (Paper Trail, 2008)
When “Swagga Like Us” was finally released, I didn’t foresee the best memory being M.I.A. rubbing her pregnant belly at the GRAMMYs. It was a beautiful moment.
The song, which should have been a monster of a record, is painfully average. This is one of the biggest posse cuts of the last decade, one where all four artists had reached the apexes of hip-hop celebrity and rap respect. A rare occurrence of immense talents all appearing together on a single song. This was supposed to be beat annihilation, lyrical destruction, top-tier sparring.
Instead, it was "Swagga Like Us."
I cringe every time Kanye hits the struggle Auto-Tune high note to close out his verse. JAY-Z is the disgruntled elder who proudly told us why he doesn’t wear skinny jeans. Wayne does perform a fairly acceptable verse, but for someone who was known for slam-dunking features, it felt massively underwhelming. It wouldn't even be mentioned in Wayne’s top 50 features. T.I. came to play in a championship but all of his teammates never got off the bus.
“Swagga Like Us” is one of the greatest collections of talent on wax in rap history and it pretty much sucks.
By Yoh, aka Yohever, aka @Yoh31