False Dichotomies


Top 30 Guest-Shots


Last week I turned thirty. To mark the occasion, I’ll be doing a number of ‘Top 30′ lists in the coming days and weeks. To kick off: Top 30 Guest-Shots.

30. Jadakiss: Rite Where You Stand

A common theme on this list is guest emcees murdering Guru on his own shit, although at least they have the decency to do it respectfully. Here it’s the barely perceptible shift from chorus to verse, the “they wanna know why I invest all my money in haze and dope…cos right now I’m currently a slave for Interscope,” and then the relentless upper cuts, reflected in the video, all with that incredible pearl voice captured brilliantly down at D&D, culminating in “Jay to the mwah” and Preemo speaking with his hands as we’d expect him to.

29. Tupac: Deadly Combination

I’m not much of a fan of posthumous raps, but here  the verse is enhanced by Ron G’s dramatic steel drums and the knowledge that it’s two dead emcees trading verses. Tupac’s is full of pseudo-politics and street sniping – listen to how he elucidates “Watch me set it/n***** don’t want it/You can get it/Bet it/Make these n***** jealous that I said it” before slowing down to see out the verse. Menacing.

28. Big Pun: Tres Leches (Triboro Trilogy)

Legend has it that Pun always wanted the best emcees on his records so that he could outshine them. Capital Punishment had Black Thought, Busta Rhymes, and – erm – Wyclef and Noreaga. This joint has Prodigy & Inspectah Deck. They both come hard, but Pun floors them: “Prodigy, Deck and me, QB (Shaolin) and Bronx trilogy” sets the tone and he doesn’t let up for a moment, clinching his place on this list with the seminal ”I do it to live n*****/to Pulitzer prize winners.” Incidentally, RZA gave him this beat for free.

27. Roscoe P. Coldchain: Chinese New Year

It’s mostly the voice, as Guru might say. Roscoe P.’s has the violence to reflect his life story. He pops up at the end of this Neptunes-produced Clipse banger with that sinister, lucid flow, stretching out syllables when necessary, sounding like Scarface might have done if he had been born further north. Shame we don’t hear more from this dude.

26. Inspectah Deck: Triumph

Hard to pick one from nine here, but Deck’s opener does it for me. “I bomb atomically/Socrate’s philosophies and hypotheses/Can’t define how I be dropping these mockeries/Lyrically perform armed robbery.” The Wu were back, alright, with RZA’s symphonies setting everything alight, and Deck “swinging swords like shinobe.” Epic.

25. Big Noyd: The Learning (Burn)

Noyd is a hugely under-rated rapper, and not just for the cameos - he has a couple of decent LPs to boot (‘Only The Strong’ is my fave). Here, on one of the better Havoc beats of late-period Mobb Deep, it doesn’t get much more sophisticated than “I keep a gun around the way/cos I’m a fucking drama king like my n*** Kay Slay,” but that’s the fun of it. The black & white video’s dope as well.

24. Big Pun: Dramacyde

Another posthumous verse, this time courtesy of the X-Ecutioners. “Ah shit you done got me started/Momma wanted a good boy/Instead she got a 400 pound retarted Bronx n**** from the Projects.” Tongue-in cheek? Deliberate self-deprecation? Either way it’s daringly disgusting and the second greatest line of his career. If you don’t know what his greatest line is, you don’t know about rap.

23. Busta Rhymes: Ante Up (Remix)

The sense of occasion, the brilliant video, the knowledge that this is perhaps the most successful hard-core hip-hop record in history. Busta couldn’t fail.

22. Clipse: Like I Love You

There has to be a place here for a hip-hop pop cameo, and it was either this or Jay on ‘Crazy in Love’.  Here it’s both halves of Clipse, Pusha T and Malice, trading bars and musing on Brain. Clipse & J Timberlake on the track – now how heavy is that?

21. Jadakiss: Run

The only full-length RZA beat on Ghost’s ‘The Pretty Toney Album’ and it’s fire. A drug-dealer on the run, police sirens for a melody, blaxpoitation for the new millenium. Jada’s Timbs feel like  Nike Airs, “now I’m trying to hold my hammer up and my pants too/if they don’t kill me they gonna give me a number, I can’t do/Rather it be the streets than jail where I die at/And I’m asthmatic so I’m looking for somewhere to hide at.”  Thoroughly deserving of another appearance on this list.

20. Nicki Minaj: Monster

Nicki Minaj murders Kanye (and Jay, and Ross, and Bon Iver) on his own shit, and you sense they don’t really mind. 50k for a verse no album out indeed. Like an under twenty-one scoring on their debut, I bet her price doubled after this.

19. Ludacris: Virgo

Ludacris rivals Busta for the best go-to guest emcee of all time, and it’s hard to pick one joint (Remember ‘One Minute Man‘? ‘Childz Play‘?) Shades of Slick Rick here, but Luda is very much his own man – extraordinary delivery and control. Anyone who says that rapping is easy is invited to try and imitate his 16 bars here.

18. Quan: Just a Moment

Unfortunately, Quan hasn’t fulfilled the potential he showed on this joint, after which people were – perhaps predictably – referring to him as the new AZ. The verse is strong enough that we don’t need the sound effects in the background. More of this, please.

17. Jay-Z: Black Republican

I reckon Jay made up with Nas just so he could do this to him. Sometimes I don’t even bother listening to Nas’s verse. Jay takes in it all: the early days, the beef, the rise, the peace treaty. And he mentions Wood Green. But presumably not the Wood Green in North-East London. As for that L.E.S. mafiosi beat…

16. GZA: On the Eve of War (Meldrick Taylor mix)

I’m cheating here, becaue this verse is significantly enhanced by the beat (the original is mediocre), but it is epic, and GZA is magnificent: an Imax-sized depiction of the meaning of the Wu. “Who performed well regardless to the price of the tickets/off or on stage – whatever – still kick it”

15. Snoop Dogg: In This Life

Example number two of guest emcees murdering Guru on his own shit. My (admitedly unoriginal) theory is that Preemo brings out the best in a rapper. Here he transforms the pimp Snoop Dogg into a reflective flaneur, perfectly poised: “This one’s for my sons and my little daughters/Peace to JMJ and my n**** Headquarterz/A Gangstarr with a Gangster on a mission/World premier, limited edition”

14. RZA: Wu-Tang Clain Ain’t Nuthin’ to Fuck With

“There’s no place to hide once I step inside the room/Dr Doom/Prepare for the boom/Bam/Ah man/I/Slam/Jam/And scream like Tarzan.” And then some. It’s true that RZA is a better producer than emcee (as some of those poor solo efforts show), but this is a classic. Music to fight to.

13. Ghostface Killah: I Can’t Go To Sleep

More Wu, this time as Ghostface quite literally breaks down while reflecting on black-on-black violence. Quite unlike any other verse in hip-hop history, with Isaac Hayes singing along in the background. Exhibit A against anyone who says hip-hop has no emotional core.

12. Blaq Poet: The Victory

BDP makes peace with the Juice Crew with Marley Marl on the board and DJ Premier on the scratch. And not a word out of place: “I know you motherfuckers ain’t gonna believe this/Poet on a track with the n**** that dissed Queensbridge/Let me show you how to bury the hatchet/the blast master with the black bastard - a classic.” Yep.

11. Eminem: Renegade

The verse that inspired the Nas “Eminem murdered you on your own shit” jibe. It’s true, of course, but I don’t think Nas would have fared much better with Eminem on this kind of form. Nor would anyone, dead or alive. Simply astonishing. It’s his beat, too.  

10. Notorious B.I.G: Notorious

I’m cheating here, because this is a Biggie tune, but I think it should be included regardless. Consider: a classically trained east-coast emcee inviting a group of mid-west rappers, with their sing-song raps, and aping the style to near-perfection. It’s as if he was born in Cleveland or wherever it is that Bone, Thugs & Harmony are from.

9. Channel Live: Free Mumia

Controversial subject, but that’s by the by. It’s a filthy verse, in every sense of the word. I’m not sure what the point is, but the little KRS interjections are genius, and it’s hyped to the nth degree.

8. Pharoahe Monch: Oh No

Perhaps the most successful mainstream record Rawkus put out, but it’s still very much in the traditions of Lyricist Lounge. Mos’s verse is aight, Rockwilder’s beat is decent, Nate’s chorus is predictably passable, but Pharoahe kills it. “Very contagious raps should be trapped in cages/through stages of wackness Pharoahe’s raps are blazin.” Then he turns preacher: “Hallelujah Pharoahe Monch will do ya/Maintain the same frame of mind – screw ya!” before “Pharoahe and Mos is verbal osmosis coast to coast we boast to be the most explosive here” and the clincher, “Rap, we got it on lock man, stop that/Put that mic down, boy, drop that/Pharoahe’s flows blow shows like Afros/We hate y’all though, that’s why Nate Dogg goes…”

7. WC: The Militia (II)

Dub C sounds like nobody else. Is he singing? Rapping? Who cares. Grand prix speeds like Twista at the beginning, screwed down in the middle, before reminding us, “It’s Dub C the dankiest, love, I’m runnin’ this here/With the Guru, and New York’s finest, DJ Premier.”

6. Jay-Z: Hell Yeah (Pimp the System) (Remix)

“We together on the same track now. What you gonna call us now?” Jay-Z and DPs explode the great gangsta/backpacker false dichotomy and Jay shows his flexibility yet again. “I never seen a cop when I was out there/They never came out there/And out there, I was slinging crack to live/Now I’m only slinging rap to your kids…Lil Amy told Becky, Becky told Jenny/And now they all know the skinny/Lil Joey got his durag on/Driving down the street blasting Tupac’s song (Thug Life baby!)/But Billy like Snoop, got his blue rag on/Now before you know it, you back in ‘Nam/Now the police, got me in the middle of the street/Trying to beat me blue, black and orange/I’m like hold up who you smacking on/I’m only trying to eat what you snacking on”

5. Krumbsnatcha: Make ‘Em Pay

A worthy winner of ‘The Source’ verse of the month, Krumb hasn’t matched these heights since.  Now we’re down to the top five it’s time to quote whole verses. “I see myself as the black Rap Messiah/Colossal spreadin my gospel through electrical wires/Spit fire through speech, so I can reach each and every/Tom Dick and Jerry slippin like petroleum jelly/Too busy in the limelight, can’t rhyme tight/I got divine right to bring y’all to light/Somethin ain’t right, to be an MC, you gotta thug/Or to thug you gotta be an MC, this shit is bugged/Show love for few; deal with crew and crew only/And think universal like Sony/Phony pounds and fake hugs is usually avoided/Give a fuck like Pizza Hut I got to stay Noyd-ed/Cause that same n**** you trust, could be that same cat
behind that gat that bust, quiet ya, with the silencer/Keep it hush, ashes to dust, then dust to ashes/Nowadays it’s who pull out the fastest, imagine this/rap shit without this gat shit, or the phony cat/in black talkin bout how much his Mac spit/But this year, GangStarr got changes bein made/No wack shit bein played no fake macks gettin paid/No Versace MC’s, with a mouth full of Mo’
Soundin like a hoe spittin that old-fashioned show flow/I bombshell that pastel Chanel rap through a Maxwell/Ever since young Krumb, was taught to rap well/Goin deep, process of thought, when my eyes closes/Awaken with interpretive robe and sandals like Moses/Travellin high sands and Eastern lands for the answers/Ignorance is spreadin through the streets like it was cancer Too many drinkin not thinkin, when behind that trigger/A 38 escalate the murder rate, for us n*****/it’s like, microphone roulette cause nowadays MC’s is gettin wetover someone else’s fake gangsta rep.” Emcees beware. All enemies freeze.

4. Lady of Rage: You Know My Steez (Remix)

This is the tune that turned me on to hip-hop. An ill, ugly, remarkable flow: “You best to back off, we back off ways since the baddest dog/You’re the wack dog cause of your half-assed songs/I bring it you, keep it rough and rugged, Seven Lucky /Motherf**kers act like they hate it, but motherf**kers love it/I’m the raw dame, in this war game, don’t get your jaw chained/I ain’t no joke and I ain’t joking/You know my steez/When I stand and deliv-de-liv-deliver-er-ies/And tag MC’s like ‘freeze’/And burn them like the 3rd-degrees/Now would you agree, that the three of us put together/Make it more better to make more cheddar/Puff and get high in Four Centers/And ask Beretta, Scott King, On the spot, who’s the doc, like that man, ugh, Mart King keep marchin’/cause when it comes to me and The Guru/Like my man Charlie Brown said, the rest of y’all is doo-doo/The butcher, the baker, time to meet your Maker/Tell you to your face, you ain’t nothing but a faker/Your cheasy, fo’ sheezy, next to me your measly/Believe me, I’ll kick that shit so sick, I’ll make ya queasy/Now easy, Premier scratch that sh*t like three/Three men and a lady, and, ugh, you know my steez…” Let ‘em know. Do your thing dog – keep it live…

3. Freddie Foxxx: The Militia

The hardest verse in hip-hop history, bar none. And don’t forget that Big Shug and Guru ride Bumpy Knucks pretty close here. Parental discretion is advised. ”You n**** owe me for my rhymes, I come to collect/For you dope fiend n**** in rap, I’m here to inject, check/My style is water baby, spread it around/But when you n**** don’t flow it right and fuck up my sound/I get down; in ’89 I spit the buck in the face/of every MC that came in the place, a scar you’ll never erase/MC’s are only recognized for their flows/I’m worldwide for the bitches, that I turned into hoes/You heard me spit it on Jew-elz, that’s how it goes/For all them faking ass niggaz and how I bust up they nose/And while your, nose is drippin, and drainin blood/I be standing over you screamin, “N****, WHAT, WHAT?! N**** WHAT?!”/N**** feel my presence, like I’m right in they palm/Cause a stormy day is coming, when you see me so calm, it’s on/No more twin glocks, they jam up my plays/Now its twin .40 calibre Walther PPK’s/I’m in the control of my game, you must respect me like The Ref/Uh-huh, you disrespect *gun clicks* you get the tech/I turn you fake n**** on and off, like I’m the clapper/I rob so/many niggaz, they should call me Jack the Rapper/I’ll the illest n**** doing this, dead or alive/Gloria Gaynor all you motherfuckers, I Will Survive/You can try to come at me, but do you want the kick back?/You snap inside the cage of a pit, and you get bit back, huh/My war is so tight, my drama so ill/Beef with me hangs around like a unpaid bill/I push these lyrics through any MC, and make it burn/So the n**** who be rhyming next, will miss a turn/When you speak of who’s the dopest MC, I don’t come up/But when you speak of who’s the livest MC, I stay what up, what’s up?/I got stripes while you got strikes and bogus mikes Do what bitch n**** do best…bite/You n**** can’t make up a law that I don’t overrule, overthrow/Prim’ brought Bumpy these tracks so I can let you know/Before I slide I’ma leave you this jewel/Even mechanics walk around with they tools/
It’s the Militia”

2. AZ: Life’s a Bitch

Nas’s first album had no famous guest appearances. But it did have this. So good that AZ kept repeating lines like mantras throughout his career. Consensus has this down as the best guest-shot. But not on my list. “Visualizin the realism of life and actuality/Fuck who’s the baddest a person’s status depends on salary/And my mentality is, money orientated/I’m destined to live the dream for all my peeps who never made it/cause yeah, we were beginners in the hood as five percenters/But somethin must of got in us cause all of us turned to sinners/Now some, restin in peace and some are sittin in San Quentin/Others such as myself are tryin to carry on tradition/Keepin the effervescent street ghetto essence inside us/Cause it provides us with the proper insight to guide us/Even though, we know somehow we all gotta go/but as long as we leavin thievin we’ll be leavin with some kind of dough so, and to that day we expire and turn to vapors/me and my capers-ll be somewhere stackin plenty papers/Keepin it real, packin steel, gettin high/Cause life’s a bitch and then you die”

1. J. Cole: Beautiful Bliss

Hiphopsite turned me on to the genius of this joint, so I’ll let them explain: “We love Wale’s Attention Deficit LP – a solid record all around. Wale probably thought to himself, “Hmm, maybe I’ll let my fellow Roc Nation buddy jump on a track with me. Yeah, “Beautiful Bliss” is a mellow beat, he’ll probably kick some laid back shit…..” Uh, no. Cole proceeded to rip the shit out of a track more tailored for a Blackalicious album, as if he was rhyming next to Jay-Z himself. Cole even goes beyond the allotted 16 bar timeline and goes for 24, when suddenly the engineer turns the music down in shock that the kid is giving blisters to the beat. Yes, he’s next.”

Take it away, J.Cole:

I fall whole to the real they wanna know just how it feel
who woulda thought a lil n*** from the Ville could get a deal
and tell dem n**** at the top we want yo spot we are for real
and yeh we heard you got it locked but like dem socks we on your heels
so you best be on your toes n****
especially on your flows n****
cause man they keep on checking for me especially all your hoes nigga
catch me on your doorstep you see me let me in
all I wanna do is eat im like the freaky lesbian
now all I wanna do ball on tv me E S P N
they heard i’m bout to blow so all my enemies say lets be friends
and all these rappers know just know where im bout to go so catch me then
where all the girls we knew that scream fuck you
go let me in im definiately in a class of my own
at dinner with hov hoping that he pass the baton
he just pass the patron
and he aint giving dog is earned if you just livin dog you learn
I let you n***** see the light im like the prison yard I yearn
For that living large but mama I aint done yet
Sit back and watch your son rise
Kick back until yo son set
Forever I aint run yet and never will
Nas told me lifes a bitch
Pac said fuck the world and I aint come yet
You up yet?
My punchlines like gut checks im raw dog
Im rough sex im on deck im up next
Im godbless im success so fuck stress
You can get the fuck from around me
And if you listening know you wondering
Where the fuck they found me
Im from the Ville boy


4 Comments so far

  1. Mel April 20th, 2011 7:04 pm

    Some of my favorites you’ve missed out on:

    Nas on ‘Live at the BBQ’ by Main Source.

    Canibus on ‘Making a Name for Ourselves’ by Common.

    Cappadonna on ‘Winter Warz’ by Ghostface Killah.

  2. Alex April 20th, 2011 8:53 pm

    Live at the BBQ – definitely. Big miss that! Don’t know the Common joint. Winter Warz is a good suggestion too.

  3. DaveK April 27th, 2011 10:50 am

    What about Busta on Scenario?

  4. Alex April 27th, 2011 10:54 am

    Yep – that should probably have been on there!

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