Collaboration lies at the heart of hip-hop. From early ‘90s posse cuts like A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” featuring Leaders of the New School to modern hits like Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” featuring Lil Uzi Vert, artists have created unforgettable works by sharing the mic and playing off each other’s strengths. More often than not, the union is a win-win-win situation. Rap fans love the cameo appearances; artists build relationships and community; songs climb the charts due to increased star power.
As another decade comes to a close, let’s look at which guest feature artists made the most significant impact on the charts.
First, we must share some ground rules. For this list, we gathered data from Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart, which offers a complete picture of the genre’s top performers. When tallying results, we only counted performances if an artist officially featured on a track (no uncredited vocals, i.e., Drake on “SICKO MODE,” nor co-bills, i.e., Kanye West and JAY-Z on “Ni**as in Paris”).
Additionally, we gathered supplemental data from the Billboard Hot 100 to include non-hip-hop songs with hip-hop elements (you know, the ones where Lil Wayne, for example, hops on an aging pop act’s verse to relate to the youth but is edited out of the adult contemporary radio version). The final results were calculated using a combination of top 10 hits, the number of weeks represented in the top 10, and the number of weeks at the number one spot.
Without further ado, here are the artists whose features made them the Most Valuable Collaborators of the decade.
Bruno Mars was a dominant voice in early-decade pop-rap, offering his raspy balladeer vocals (and production skills) to B.o.B.’s number one hit “Nothin’ On You,” Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire,” Wiz and Snoop’s “Young, Wild & Free,” and Bad Meets Evil’s “Lighters.” Kanye West featured on six top 10 rap records, but his most successful feature came on Katy Perry’s number one hit “E.T.” Ne-Yo (Pitbull’s “Time of Our Lives”), Young Thug (Camila Cabello’s “Havana”), and Travis Scott (Kodak Black’s “ZEZE”) all barely missed the cut, too, yet remain a vital part of the decade’s evolution.
10. Cardi B
4 Top 10 hits, 36 weeks in the Top 10, 0 weeks at #1
With only three years of service time, Cardi slips into the top 10 thanks to her collaborations with pop artists Bruno Mars (“Finesse (Remix)”) and Maroon 5 (“Girls Like You”). Despite not reaching number one, G-Eazy’s “No Limit” and Migos’ “MotorSport” spent 17 weeks each on the charts with the help of Cardi’s no-nonsense Bronx energy. In 2019, Cardi B added two more minor hits, featuring alongside 21 Savage on DJ Khaled’s “Wish Wish,” as well as Lil Nas X’s third single, “Rodeo.”
Best Guest Spot: While she projects her “Bodak Yellow” persona on most of her features, Cardi sounds lighter than ever on the opening verse of “Finesse.” Over a throwback beat from the late ‘80s, she glides across the track, flexing her diamonds and Porsches. It’s a little goofy, a lot nostalgic, and well, just a good time.
4 Top 10 hits, 57 weeks in the Top 10, 13 weeks at #1
Much like Cardi, Migos member Quavo slides into the top 10 thanks, in large part, to DJ Khaled’s star-studded 2017 pop hit “I’m the One.” Propelled by the late-decade success of “Bad and Boujee,” Quavo quickly became a reliable ally for trap house raps filled with airy, Auto-Tuned flexes and “skrrting” ad-libs. While Huncho has collaborated with fellow Atlantans in recent years (Young Thug & Travis Scott’s “pick up the phone”), his biggest guest verses have come in link-ups with Post Malone (“Congratulations”) and Drake (“Portland”).
Best Guest Spot: Quavo joined Travis Scott in bolstering Drake’s 2017 More Life single “Portland,” contributing both the hook and a verse. The record features everything we love about Quavo—echoing vocals, weightless flows, and condescending bravado. Though Quavo has been surprisingly quiet in 2019, we expect him to be a valuable collaborator in the next decade.
10 Top 10 hits, 80 weeks in the Top 10, 0 weeks at #1
From beginning to end, Future has been one of hip-hop’s biggest voices of the decade, and yet he has never reached number (as a featured or lead artist). His instantly recognizable, guttural vocal quality became an unlikely go-to for repetitive hooks including YC’s “Racks,” Drake’s “Grammys,” and a pair of DJ Khaled tracks (“Do You Mind,” “I Got the Keys”). Though Future often finds himself in a supporting, textural role, some performances, like Post Malone’s “Die For Me,” have allowed him room to express his emotional side as he experiments with his improving falsetto.
Best Guest Spot: Future didn’t have a full verse on the record, but he completely stole the show on Ace Hood’s “Bugatti,” turning the energy level up to 11. We feel the pure exhilaration every time he screams, “I woke up in a new Bugatti!” It’s easy to forget the 2013 banger even has any other lyrics.
7. 2 Chainz
9 Top 10 hits, 87 weeks in the Top 10, 0 weeks at #1
2 Chainz always sounds like he’s having fun in the studio, which is likely why he keeps getting invited to work with his friends. His humor and bouncy delivery appear on a handful of minor hits, such as Juicy J’s “Bandz A Make Her Dance,” YG’s “BIG BANK,” and K CAMP’s “Cut Her Off,” while his work on Nicki Minaj’s “Beez in the Trap,” Drake’s “All Me” and A$AP Rocky’s posse cut “Fuckin’ Problems” are among the College Park native’s standout selections.
Best Guest Spot: The Brasstracks’ energetic gospel on Chance the Rapper’s “No Problem” was the perfect setting for Chainz’s choppy, head-bobbing flow. His humor is on point, embodying the “Weird flex, but OK” meme with the lines, “Inside of the Maybach / Look like it came out of Ikea / Run shit like diarrhea.”
6. Chris Brown
11 Top 10 hits, 147 weeks in the Top 10, 3 weeks at #1
Before Ty Dolla $ign, The Weeknd, and even Justin Bieber became go-to options for lush male R&B hooks, Chris Brown was hip-hop’s guy. Just 20 years old when the decade began, Brown sounded young and pure on Twista’s 2010 hit “Make A Movie,” making it hard to take his advances on a stripper seriously. As his voice matured, however, Brown continued to deliver smooth hooks. His resume includes Meek Mill’s “All Eyes on You” (with Nicki Minaj), Ace Hood’s “Body 2 Body,” and a pair of Khaled tracks (“Do You Mind,” “Take It To The Head”).
Best Guest Spot: On Nicki Minaj’s steamy 2014 The Pinkprint track “Only,” Brown plays the role of a Greek chorus, setting the song’s dark, sweaty club scene. His verse-bridging narrations over an unnerving tick-tock beat keep listeners tuned in as we anticipate the next episode in the song’s Nicki-Drake-Wayne love triangle.
5. Rick Ross
12 Top 10 hits, 135 weeks in the Top 10, 13 weeks at #1
Rick Ross has a presence about him when he raps that demands you listen, no matter how many times he drops bars about Bugatti, Givenchy, and whatever other luxury brands he fancies at the time. Of course, Ross’ ethos gels perfectly with DJ Khaled, who featured him on five top 10 hits, including “I’m On One” and “All I Do Is Win.” Although Ross features did continually win this decade, he caught (deserved) flak for his verse on Rocko’s “U.O.E.N.O.” where he delightedly recounts a date rape.
Best Guest Spot: Ross was also problematic on Meek Mill’s “What’s Free,” ending his most solid guest performance of the decade with homophobic jabs at 6ix9ine. Elsewhere, the MMG head honcho delivers quintessential luxury rap over a Curtis Mayfield sample on Wale’s “That Way,” reminding us exactly why we love him.
8 Top 10 hits, 153 weeks in the Top 10, 20 weeks at #1
Rihanna never missed a shot in the ‘10s. All eight of her top guest performances are pop gold and serve as some of the decade’s most memorable hooks. At the beginning of the decade, Rihanna reached a saturation point, releasing three albums in three years and appearing on mega-hits like Drake’s “Take Care,” Nicki Minaj’s “Fly,” Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie,” and Kanye West’s “All of the Lights.” Nowadays, Rihanna’s features are more rare, a treat, though they haven’t lost any of their sweetness.
Best Guest Spot: More recently, Rihanna began experimenting with mixing straight bars into her angelic performances, as we heard on Kendrick Lamar’s “LOYALTY.” Though Lamar is undoubtedly the more skilled rapper, RiRi is his equal on the former’s 2017 DAMN. single, swapping bars and harmonizing about real relationships.
3. Nicki Minaj
15 Top 10 hits, 162 weeks in the Top 10, 1 week at #1
“Young Money is the roster and the monster crew,” Nicki boasted on Kanye’s 2010 track “Monster,” forecasting a decade in which she and her two closest collaborators would go on to dominant. Though Nicki only spent one week as a guest artist at number one, with Drake’s “Make Me Proud,” she delivered a perfect blend of humor and bravado for everyone from Ludacris (“My Chick Bad”) and Megan Thee Stallion (“Hot Girl Summer”) to pop artists Ariana Grande (“Side to Side”) and Justin Bieber (“Beauty and a Beat”).
Best Guest Spot: Nicki delivered her best feature—her best verse, period—on Kanye’s “Monster.” Despite its Platinum status, though, the single only reached No. 15 on the chart. She also brought her A-game on Drake’s Take Care standout “Make Me Proud,” which offers a perfect microcosm of the dynamic, voice-changing performances we came to love.
2. Lil Wayne
18 Top 10 hits, 240 weeks in the Top 10, 50 weeks at #1
Coming in second from the Young Money crew is the founder himself, aka the ‘00s star arguably most responsible for the mainstream sound of the ‘10s. With a whopping 18 top 10 guest spots, Weezy left his mumbly, warbly voiceprints on a handful of Young Money tracks (“Only,” “Truffle Butter,” “The Motto”), but also the gospel rap of Chance the Rapper’s “No Problem” and French Montana’s club banger “Pop That.” Lil Wayne was the Jedi master of the decade, but it didn’t take long for his padawan to overtake him (keep reading).
Best Guest Spot: Weezy’s closing verse on Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now” will always be marred by an unfortunate homophobic slur. That said, his verse is a blazing inferno of quick wordplay, which follows Busta Rhymes’ speeding bullet delivery with both precision and swagger.
30 Top 10 hits, 476 weeks in the Top 10, 49 weeks at #1
Did you expect anything different? Drake sat in the top 10 for 476 weeks this decade. Y’all. There are 520 weeks in a decade. These numbers don’t even include Travis Scott’s smash hit “SICKO MODE,” which doesn’t officially feature the Toronto megastar. He may not be cool enough for the hipsters at Camp Flog Gnaw. Still, he is easily the decade’s most valuable collaborator, elevating tracks from BlocBoy JB (“Look Alive”), Kendrick Lamar (“Poetic Justice”), A$AP Rocky (“Fuckin’ Problems”), and countless others. His high-demand run this decade is an impressive feat, one which no artist is likely to top in the 2020s.
Best Guest Spot: As DJBooth’s Brad Callas recently broke down, Drake’s third-best guest verse ever (and his best top 10 feature) arrived on French Montana’s “Pop That.” Fresh off the success of 2011’s Take Care, Drake was quick to let everyone know he was “pickin’ up the keys” to the game and wasn’t afraid to be petty with his luxurious boasts and degrading putdowns.