It’s been another incredibly good, incredibly varied year for rap.
While there was perhaps no real contender for Pusha T’s jaw-dropping line, “you are hiding a child, let that boy come home”, the artistry across the board has been phenomenal, not least when acts have appeared on their peers’ work. From soulful outros to silky bars or lyrics on sliding into the DMs, we’ve rounded up our favourite album features.
Here are 20 essential guest verses from 2018, in no particular order.
Suspecton Octavian's Break That
With a Midas Touch when it comes to bars, Suspect has killed everything he’s appeared on this year. But if you had to pick one moment, his feature on Break That cuts through the otherwise astral sounds of Octavian’s Spaceman tape. There’s a thrilling fury when he barges in on the glimmering beat, complementing the soft, matter-of-fact threats Octavian’s making. It’s brief, but arguably one of the most memorable moments on the whole tape.
CupcakKeon Kelela's LMK_WHAT'S REALLY GOOD remix
Kelela’s remix album of last year’s Take Me Apart has so much excellence on it, but if we had to pick one track – and one feature on that track – it might have to be CupcakKe on the sleek, metallic re-work of LMK. CupcakKe released one of the best albums of the year, and here she shows off her brash delivery and genuinely funny bars, backing up Kelela’s assertion that a hook-up “ain’t that deep either way” with lines like, “You could be Charlie Sheen, and I’mma tell you again/ A bitch like me keep two and a half men.”
03 Greedoon Freddie Gibbs' Death Row
Channelling Eazy-E’s infamous Boyz-n-the-Hood opening verse and switching it up for 2018 is the kind of feat that could have gone very wrong for a lesser rapper, but 03 Greedo comfortably brings the heat on Freddie Gibbs’ fantastic homage to Death Row Records and the first golden age of LA hip-hop. Greedo had a huge year, but his presence on this track in particular felt like he was rightfully asserting himself into that LA rap lineage.
070 Shakeon Kanye's Ghost Town
Ye was a mess of an album, but a saving grace was Ghost Town – especially 070 Shake’s moment in the outro. By this point people were already intrigued by the New Jersey artist (not least from her feature on the best Wyoming album, DAYTONA) but what she does here feels especially noteworthy. Over the psych-y, soulful sound she sings about childhood, self-harm and feeling free – and by the way she delivers it, you can’t help but believe her.
Drakeon Travis Scott's Sicko Mode
It’s easy to dismiss Drake’s relevance as a rapper in 2018 – a popstar, sure, but his clout for bars have felt like as much of a talking point for some time. But his appearance on the sprawling adventure ASTROWORLD proved his credentials didn’t come from nowhere. Someone made a joke about the track being this generation’s Bohemian Rhapsody which kind of works – strange, theatrical and constantly changing – and Aubrey is right there with Travis, talking Degrassi, Toronto and sleeping on long-haul flights. Silly, but undeniably great.
BlocBoy JBon Rico Nasty's In the Air
This was a breakthrough year for the Tennessee rapper with his track Rover rightfully gaining him a lot of attention (and, of course, the Drake co-sign). He’s a highlight on Rico Nasty’s album too – his voice serves as a beautiful contrast to Rico’s snarl and the roaring guitar riff that runs through the track, coming in with his distinctive Tennessee drawl (“in the errrr”).
Nicki Minajon Playboi Carti's Poke it Out
This track really made you wish Nicki had got Pi’erre Bourne involved in Queen; she’s positively buoyant over his distinctive, shiny sonic universe. Yes, she’s standardly rolling her eyes about her influence among women MCs, dusting off the notion that any of them could come for her crown, but the best bits are when she’s spitting in that repetitive Carti-style (“In New York I really rock”, she quips at one point).
Octavianon A2's Flair
While on first listen it’s Suspect’s visceral “SECURE THE BAG” that takes this, on further reflection Octavian’s verse stands out time and time again. The reason the French-born, London-based artist has turned so many heads in the past couple of years is that he doesn’t really sound like anyone else – something apparent here with his subtle inflection of melody into his bars bigging up the Essie gang.
Fredoon Dave's Funky Friday
First of all, Funky Friday debuting to become the UK No.1 was hands-down one of the music moments of the year. Independent artists knocking Calvin Harris and Sam Smith off the charts was a sublime indicator of where UK rap is and where it’s going. The song is billowing and huge, but Fredo’s caustic delivery plays perfectly with Dave’s smoothness, and referencing his much-memed love of Harrods is wry and hilarious.
Futureon Kendrick Lamar’s King’s Dead
The Black Panther soundtrack was in of itself a highlight of the year, but if you had to pick one standout moment it’s surely Future’s verse here. Kendrick and Jay Rock are great, rapping straight, but then suddenly Future cuts in with his scratchy, melodic delivery. The way he squeals out “La di da di da, slob on me knob/ pass me some syrup, fuck me in the car” is hilarious and impossible to forget.
Ty Dolla $ignon Teyana Taylor's 3Way
How can you pick just one Ty Dolla $ign feature when he is pretty much the best featured artist you can hope to have? Even though it’s very much an R&B track, this underrated spot on Teyana Taylor’s album is worth a mention just because it’s so slyly sexy. As the title suggests, they’re talking threesomes, with Teyana and her significant other taking a second woman into their bedroom. Ty sounds so silky and beautiful you almost don’t notice there’s nothing all that gentle about what he’s saying,
Diddyon Blood Orange's Hope
On paper, Diddy doesn’t add all that much to this song. Lyrically, it’s a few lines refrained and then a spoken word ad lib at the end. But the reality is, he fully made this track. Literal Puff Daddy, the Bad Boy himself, considering in those distinctly luxurious whispery but commanding vocals, before going into this devastatingly vulnerable monologue that Dev Hynes has said Puff sent of his own volition, and which was so long he had to cut it down, talking about being afraid to accept love.
J Balvinon Cardi B's I Like it
In the past couple years, the rise of Latin trap has been indisputable. And while there are many songs and guest verses that are indicative of that in 2018, the biggest still has to be Cardi B luxuriating in her Latinx side on this sparkly, boogaloo-sampling wonder. Bad Bunny is excellent too of course, but the way J Balvin packs in so many references while sounding so gorgeously languid is muy fuego.
Kendrick Lamaron Lil Wayne's Mona Lisa
It perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise when Kendrick kills a feature anymore, but this is still one of those that makes you have to pause and just take it in. There is just no arguing with his mad proclivity for telling a story. Here, it’s especially in the way he changes his voice ‘til he’s practically screaming in character, emotion breaking his voice (“he on your fuckin’ ringtone?!”).
Rico Nastyon GainesFM's Forever
A relatively recent release, but New York’s excellent Rico Nasty put out one hell of an album this year, and needs a shout out in her own right – this feature for Minneapolis rapper GainesFM shows why. Over the echoey pianos she growls out those fierce, yet casually confident bars (“I just went to Minnesota/ walked through the club/ all the bad bitches know us”).
Denzel Curryon IDK's No Wave
Firstly, you have to give credit for any rapper who manages to make reference to Eoin Colfer’s children’s book series Artemis Fowl in a hard rap song and make it seem very legit. South Florida rapper Denzel has proved consistently (not least on his album TA1300) that he’s masterful when it comes to spitting with aggressive conviction, and it’s no different here – it’s a great collaboration, but Denzel’s bars take aim to shoot and kill.
Sabaon Noname's Ace
There is something very wholesome about these three Chicago friends appearing on the same track; it’s only happened with all three of them once before, and they’ve all grown since being relative unknowns together on Noname’s Shadow Man back in 2015. Saba’s verse particularly stands out – they’re all struck by their rise to fame, but Saba tackles his doubts with such tongue-twisting speed that, he jokes, even impresses him (“I just raise the bar, ay look what I did with the measure/ With little to no effort, I thought it gonna be messed up, bless up”).
Jay-Zon Meek Mill's What's Free
Possibly a premature inclusion given its very recent release, but Hov gave so much to unpack here in the finale section of this track that you have to give respect where it’s due. He gets deep into blackness in the States, interpolating The Star Spangled Banner, before referencing the media obsession with pitting black artists against one another. He references the MAGA hat and Kanye, but the beef here is with white supremacy in the States, and how time and time again (slavery, Native Americans, black people subjected to police brutality) the marginalised are mistreated.
Gunnaon Young Thug's Chanel
Signed to YSL, Atlanta rapper Gunna’s been having quite a year – he’s popped up on everything from Aminé’s album to the latest Mariah Carey, not to mention putting out his own material (his Drip Season tape series got a third part). His feature on Thugger’s track gets the mention though, because beyond all the braggadocio his deft style stands out. And also because he’s got some great lines like, “Slidin’ in the DM like a cha cha.”
Asian Dollon Bhad Bhabie's Affiliated
The Bhad Bhabie tape actually had a lot of great features, but the pairing of these two works particularly well; perhaps not least because they’ve both got a claim to “queen of the teens”. It feels like a 2018 rap version of “you can’t sit with us” – they’re not interested if you’re not affiliated – and Asian Doll steals the show, delivering with striking assurance, “This how Savage raised me, so I had to run my bands up/ He like how I’m popping shit, I might just hit his mans up,” low-key reminding you of the A-list affiliations she’s got.