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As I’m sure you’ve been told many times before, we live in a culture of instant gratification. Words give way to less words, less words to numbers and pictures. Despite my dislike of this tendency towards the lesser, here is a list of ten very good guest verses in rap music so far this year.While readinthis, you must remember that, like cops and Canadian rappers, not all of them are bad. This may be a wholly subjective exercise, but let’s lay out a few ground rules regardless:
Each guest verse must appear on an LP or mixtape, and not just be a one-off single.
Only one guest verse from a particular artist’s project can be featured.
And actually that goes for that particular artist’s entire repertoire so far this year (i.e. if something from I’m Up is featured, Slime Season 3 is automatically ruled out. Sorry Yak Gotti.).
Only the guest verse, and not the main artist or the rest of the song, can be considered in the selection process. If the guest verse is great but the song itself sucks, no points are docked there.
Artists can only be featured once. EXCEPTION: If a guest verse from one artist’s album is featured, and the artist who made the first song features on another artist’s album, that artist who made the first song but features on the second can be included on the list again.
10. King Chip on Riff Raff’s “Shout Out to the Bay”
This verse gets the number 10 spot for a few reasons, most of which have nothing to do with King Chip’s actual rapping. In fact, his actual rapping is actually pretty bad. It’s generic, and the beat is a blatant hyphy rip-off made by rappers from Cleveland and Houston who’ve never shied away from appropriation. That’s also what makes it amazing. It’s infinitely more self-aware than “The Motto,” and equally as unnecessary. Also, the Cavs beat the Warriors a couple days before it dropped.
9. Gucci Mane on Kodak Black’s “Vibin in this Bih”
This verse is included because it’s the best Gucci Mane verse of the year so far that doesn’t appear on a Gucci Mane project. It’s great to see him collaborating with an artist who was unknown, yet undoubtedly at least somewhat inspired by him, before he went away. It’s a short verse, but he says everything he needs to say. He talks about being released from prison, and the changes that have taken place since he’s been gone. As with all the Gucci music we’ve heard in the past few weeks, it’s surprising how little has changed. Injustice is irreversible, but it’s really really good to have Gucci free. It’s just exasperating that Kodak Black is now in a similar predicament.
8. Open Mike Eagle on 5 Chuckles’ “Diz nee Land”
Escape from Tomorrow was one of the strangest yet most compelling films I watched this year (but it was released in 2013, so don’t expect it to appear on any lists any time soon). It was shot guerilla-style in Disney World, a setting which quickly transforms from Happiest Place on Earth to tormented hellscape as the characters progress through the film.
“Diz nee Land” is a Simpsons reference, but it’s also the closest sonic equivalent to the kind of psychedelic paranoia the film evokes. It wouldn’t be so vivid without Open Mike Eagle’s contribution. He tells surreal tales of theme park hallucinations, which ultimately decay around him as the room he’s been sitting in the whole time re-appears. Like Escape from Tomorrow (which as a theme park aficionado I must acknowledge would be named Escape from Star Wars Land if it were made today), it doesn’t have an airtight plot. But it’s hard to look away from.
7. Rick Ross on Denzel Curry’s “Knotty Head”
This is actually a fairly average Rick Ross verse—it feels a bit phoned in. Perhaps it’s breaking the rules of the criteria list, but this verse is included here mostly because for the level of legitimacy it gave Denzel Curry. Imperial is one of the best albums of the year, and this is its most high-profile feature. Ross’s appearance is a ceremonious co-sign of his city’s most promising young talent. According to an interview with Curry in the Miami New Times, Ross recorded it in a day. He slips in a few memorable lines, like “Educated reading books / I’m talkin Art of War,” smooth and fly as always.
6. Larry June on Cousin Stizz’s “Down Like That”
Especially following last year’s Suffolk County, Cousin Stizz’s MONDA is a disappointment. It’s uninspired, repetitive, at times almost annoying.
Larry June is none of those things. He’s an outrageous character from San Francisco, filling the void of absurdity the Bush Man’s death left by the bay. In the middle of his verse, he says, “I love rapping off beat / fuck hip-hop, goddamn.” He ends by telling himself, “goddamn Larry, good job.” Listen to it all and try to come up with more apt analysis.
5. Lil Wayne on Curren$y’s “Fat Albert”
This is Lil Wayne’s 147th best verse of his career (official list coming soon), but it’s still in the top 5 of the year so far. That’s because Lil Wayne is still a beast, a dog, and a motherfucking problem, even if we’ve heard it all before. Kind of like, coincidentally, Curren$y. Wayne raps nearly twice as long as his fellow New Orleans-er here, relentless with wordplay the way we once were accustomed to hearing. It feels good to appreciate his similes and metaphors again, rather than just grimacing at his autotune or tired rhymes. It feels good to laugh at lines like, “Kush got my eyes looking like choing yoing” and “dick got the bitch walking like Uncle Fester.” It feels good to feel bad about laughing at those lines afterwards.
4. 2Chainz on Chance the Rapper’s “No Problem”
2Chainz starts his verse like this: “Petey Pablo, take your shirt off wave it ’round your head like a helicopter.” He proceeds into a string of non-sequiturs, comparing his Maybach’s interior to an IKEA catalogue and revealing the location of his first tattoo. Nothing he says has much to do with the hook of the song. There’s no reason to what he’s saying, but there is rhyme, and that’s reason enough.
This verse breaks up the at-times preachy do-goodness of the rest of Coloring Book. But, according to rule number four of the criteria list, that doesn’t matter. On its own, it’s just as glorious.
3. Dora and Dolly on Young Thug’s “Family”
Young Thug has siblings in the double digits. On record, his two most vocal sisters go by the names Dora and Dolly. They appear on this song, the final track on I’m Up, alongside their brother.
Dora sounds sweeter and Dolly more succinct, but both give props to the rap star they grew up knowing as “Jeff.” They also both come across equally as hard (and some, but not me, might say equally as feminine) as their kin.
“Family” is far from the best Young Thug song released this year, but it’s amazing to hear the role genetics and proximity to talent have played in these sisters’ level of grind and motivation. It’s a little weird to hear siblings collaborating on a song in which one of them says “Give her this wood like a fuckin’ tree,” but some families are just close like that.
2. Chance the Rapper on Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam.”
In 20 years, when we’re all feeling nostalgic for 2016 (and if they don’t have “Digits” in the booklet), this will be my go-to karaoke jam. An annoying thing at a birthday party in early 2016 was when this song played and no one rapped along because they couldn’t keep up, but then yelled loudly when it got to “This is my part nobody else speak!” as if they didn’t understand what those words meant. I won’t do that in my future hypothetical karaoke situation. I will leave Chance’s part alone. But I will nail the rest, because this verse is so good that it’s been repeated on my car speakers and in my head so many times that I can’t possibly not nail it. Chance’s complex starts and stops, big words, singing and rapping are incredible, but they are no match for me. I am thinking of changing my last name to -iam Hung.
This is the best song on The Life of Pablo. Although it’s credited to Kanye, it’s almost entirely Chance’s. When it was released, it represented a return to form—energetic precision flow as penance for lackadaisical Surf mumblings. It’s better than everything on Coloring Book except for “Summer Friends,” but I’m glad that it’s a Kanye song and not a Chance song because otherwise it wouldn’t be on this list.
1. E-40 on ScHoolboy Q’s “Dope Dealer”
This might seem like an unusual choice for the number one spot, because there’s not much special about it. It is E-40 doing as E-40 does, providing a verse with signature unique style that completely deviates from the tone of the song and yet flows with it perfectly.
The Blank Face LP is heavy on features. Vince Staples, Jadakiss, and even Kanye West (tell me you don’t yell along when he says “ok ok ok ok ok ok OKAY!”) each contribute worthy contenders for guest spot of the year. But they won’t be on this list, because they don’t fit the criteria of #2 on the previous list, because E-40 is better. He doesn’t do or say anything groundbreaking, but isn’t it enough that he flexes his ever-marketable lingo and vernacular over a Metro Boomin’ beat?
Plus, he rhymes dominoes with Domino’s. E-40 on a beat is like The Noid—you want to avoid him, because he will always upend you by comparison. And yet he’s also like pepperoni—you always want him on there, because he always makes it better.