The Top 20 Guest Verses of 2017
In terms of singles, it’s been another vintage year for rap and hip-hop.
Viral sensations, blockbuster loosies and album-standard mixtapes continue to dominate the conversation. As always, some artists have shone brightest on songs which aren’t entirely theirs.
Here, we pick out 20 of the best guest verses of the year.
Visit 2017.crackmagazine.net for more end of year coverage over the coming weeks.
Words: Chris Kelly
on Migos' MotorSport
Bodak Yellow was the song of 2017, but if the charismatic Cardi B wants to be more than a one-hit wonder, she’ll have to deliver more verses like the one she offers on MotorSport. Ostensibly, the song is a Migos single, but in reality, it’s a vehicle (no pun intended) for Cardi and Nicki Minaj. Nicki drops verses like this with ease, but Cardi proves she can hang as “the trap Selena.”
on J Balvin's Mi Gente Remix
The crossover of Latin and Caribbean music was one of the year’s biggest stories, and it doesn’t get much bigger than Mi Gente, which was already a worldwide hit when Beyoncé jumped on the remix. Not only is her singing featured throughout, but it’s her verse that reminds us she can rap, too: “I been giving birth on these haters ’cause I’m fertile / See these double Cs on this bag, murda / Want my double Ds in his bed, Serta / If you really love me make an album about me, word up.”
on A$AP Ferg's East Coast Remix
Originally released as a single featuring Remy Ma, A$AP Ferg reimagined East Coast as a superstar posse cut for Still Striving, replacing Remy with Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross, French Montana, A$AP Rocky and more. But it’s Busta that steals the show with 41 seconds of vintage Rhymes (“Bip-de-badda-de-booda-de-beat it like a bongo”). As he starts his verse, he asks, “Let me give them a friendly reminder real quick.” Consider us reminded.
on DJ Khaled's Good Man
On Good Man, Pusha T asks DJ Khaled not to “pair me or compare me,” but even the biggest Push fan knows that he’s at his best when working with a partner. That’s the case here, as his investigation of his place among the greats is juxtaposed with a closing verse by Jadakiss. “The stories I hear, they tend to mirror me,” Pusha raps, adding – like the seen-it-all O.G. that he is – “At this point now, rap is only therapy.”
on Gucci Mane's I Get The Bag
Somehow, I Get the Bag is Gucci Mane’s highest charting solo single ever, but he isn’t the story here. That honour goes to Takeoff, who after an awkward exchange at the BET Awards this summer, had to prove that he wasn’t the Poor Michelle of Migos. He did so with his percussive triplet flow, rapping about designer brands, Jimmy Kimmel and “cocaine, codeine, etcetera.” Does it look like he was left off I Get The Bag?
on Coca Vango's Shinnit
Coca Vango’s Shinnit is a straight-ahead Atlanta rap single, and while “shinnit” didn’t enter the lexicon, the song did introduce more listeners to Dallas upstart Asian Doll. The self-proclaimed “Queen of Teens” has the style of an Instagram model but can out-spit most of her SoundCloud rap contemporaries with lines like “pussy on his tongue, yeah, it tasting CinnaBon.”
on Chance the Rapper’s Big Bs
Chance released this one-off on SoundCloud as an oblique sign of support when it seemed that A) SoundCloud was going under and B) Chance might save it. The song was lost in the larger story, but Young Thug is brilliant here with stream-of-consciousness verses full of simple Thugger charms: that “sheesh” ad-lib after “Looking at your kid, I might be the papi,” the vowel stretch on “Scooby,” or weirdo boasts like “Imma eat me some soup, Imma let my bitch eat pasta.”
on Amine's Redmercedes
When it was time to remix Redmercedes, Portland rap iconoclast Aminé went old school and new school. For the former, Missy Elliott continued her snail’s pace comeback with a solid offering; for the latter, grime star AJ Tracey showed his flexibility, mixing up his flow to match the Neptunes-inspired groove and dropping the mic with his song-closing punchline “It’s like this girl was Lincoln cuh she tryna take my chains off.”
on Dave's No Words
Last year, the artist formerly known as Santan Dave scored the blessing-and-a-curse Drake co-sign on the remix of Wanna Know, but in 2017, he scored his biggest hit with No Words. On this one, Dave nails the hook, but High Street Kid MoStack carries the tune, using a few verses to tease out his girl problems. He’s about as immature as his 23 years would suggest, but points for bars like “I need a gyal that rubs back and gives massages / Not a gyal that backchats and sends messages.”
on Stefflon Don's Real Ting
Stefflon Don started 2017 strong by enlisting Giggs for the remix of her 2016 breakthrough Real Ting, and the UK rap veteran delivered. Giggs is at home on the barebones banger, dropping punchlines like “man ain’t with the Twitter shit and that’s at” and adding some counterpoint to Steff’s fierce rhymes with a dose of menace.
on AD & Sorry Jaynari Crip Lives Matter
The West Coast renaissance continued in 2017, due in large part to the AD and Sorry Jaynari (the latest Snoop-and-Dre, YG-and-Mustard, rapper-producer duo) and Jheri-curled, South Central upstart G Perico. With their powers combined, the three flipped Black Lives Matter into Crip Lives Matter, a C-walking banger that puts the gangsta in gangsta rap, with Perico’s nasal chirp cutting through the bass and coming for “entertainers” and the LAPD.
on Giggs' Peligro
“Oh, they thought it was just me?”, Giggs ask midway through the loose, theatrical Peligro in his signature undertone. Dave then saunters into view for casually delivered, sprawling verse with lyrical content that covers Lion King, cougars, Swarovski diamonds and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Hearing a seasoned veteran go toe-to-toe with hungry new talent is always thrilling. Dave rises to the occasion here with effortlessly clear delivery, overspilling rhyme patterns and the kind of moody cool which Hollowman originated.
on OMB Peezy's Doin Bad
Up-and-comers OMB Peezy and YoungBoy Never Broke Again are a perfect pairing. With their Gulf Coast roots (the Sacramento-based Peezy was born in Mobile, Alabama, while YoungBoy is from Baton Rouge) both owe a heavy debt to Lil Boosie, which is apparent on the melancholic, Cardo-produced Doin Bad. Both grapple with the true costs of the game, and the 18-year-old YoungBoy is already weary of the world: “I been chasing after money before I was a teen… This shit look good but I promise it ain’t what it seems.”
on Lunice's Distrust
Lunice had been pretty quiet since 2012’s scene-creating TNGHT EP, but tracks like this show that he hasn’t missed a beat. The ominous Distrust leaves enough white space for ex-Raider Klan rapper Denzel Curry and friends J.K. The Reaper and Nell to do their thing, and Curry does the lion’s share, bookending the track with paranoia and reckless, fuck-the-police abandon but being self-assured enough to rap about Jigglypuff and pull it off.
on Trae Tha Truth's Pull Up
If you’re not familiar, Maxo Kream is a criminally slept-on Houston rapper who updates the city’s trunk-rattling, lean-sipping sound for the millennial age (his #Maxo187 and The Persona Tape mixtapes are essential listening). Pull Up is as good an entry point to his work as anything, as Maxo teams with rasp-voiced H-Town O.G. Trae the Truth for some rat-a-tat truth telling, spitting boasts, disses and threats with a sinister sneer.
on N.E.R.D's Lemon
For the last few years, Pharrell has lowered the bar by Getting Lucky and being Happy so much that the return of N.E.R.D was bound to be overrated. Lemon two-steps over that bar, but it is a bit Neptunes-by-numbers. Thankfully, Rihanna saves the day, flexing her underrated rap skills with a verse that is equal parts swagger and playtime.
Killer Mike on Big Boi's Kill Jill
Killer Mike takes a break from spinning his wheels with Run the Jewels to form an ad hoc Atlanta supergroup. While Big Boi questions the Cosby allegations (come on, man), Mike dazzles with internal rhymes (“I’m repping that Zone Four though with a .44 on your bro though / Cause that dodo thought that he could rob a player for some dough though”) and drops not just Ric Flair but Dusty Rhodes references too. Woo!
on Lil Uzi Vert's The Way Life Goes Remix
While XO TOUR Llif3 hit higher heights and has the more iconic couplet (“Push me to the edge / All my friends are dead”), Lil Uzi Vert’s The Way Life Goes is the better showcase of his talents: who else is sampling and interpolating electro-pop melancholy like this? For her part, Nicki spent most of the year in half-hearted feuds (No Frauds) and going back to the well (re-teaming with Yo Gotti on Rake It Up), so appearing on a song that allows her to flex on something subtle was a strong way to close 2017.
on GoldLink's Crew
As he did last year on Rae Sremmurd’s Black Beatles, Mr. Davis adds some veteran heft to a platinum-plaqued summer anthem with his short-but-sweet verse on Crew. The living legend shows D.C.’s new generation how it’s done, shouts out GoldLink and Glizzy, and turns up the wattage without stealing the spotlight. Gucci!
on Thundercat's Walk On By
No contemporary rapper is as unpredictable as Kendrick when it comes to guest features: his spots bound from empty cash grabs (songs with U2, Taylor Swift, the Lonely Island guys) to key parts of his oeuvre (his verse on SchoolBoy Q’s Collard Greens or his game changing one on Big Sean’s Control). Unsurprisingly, his turn on Thundercat’s barely-there break-up ballad Walk On By is of the latter category: a lifetime of hood paranoia in miniature, with a twist ending.