I’m sure there’s many different interpretations of the term “posse cut” but for the purpose of this article, I’m going to go with good ol’ Wikipedia.
“A posse cut is a popular form of song in hip hop music that involves successive verses by four or more rappers.“
So with that in mind, here’s a chronological list of the 50 greatest posse cuts in rap history. Before we go ahead, there’s going to be a lot of Wu joints on here, y’all been warned.
Marley Marl – “The Symphony”
Album: In Control, Volume 1
Released: September 20, 1988
Rappers: Master Ace, Craig G., Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane
Who had the best verse: When Marley Marl rounded up his Juice Crew rappers for “The Symphony,” it’s hard to imagine he would have known how influential the record would turn out to be. This track is the definition of a posse cut and still stands as one of the best, bar for bar. The best verse goes to either G Rap or Kane. G Rap sounds ferocious, hungry and like he’s got rhymes for days, but you have to go with Big Daddy Kane for this, especially with his line “So, put a quarter in your ass ’cause ya played yourself.”
Hi-Tek: When I was younger, I remember buying the Juice Crew’s “The Symphony” record, and I immediately fell in love with that song. I memorized every line, and must’ve played it so many times that the record sleeve ripped. I even remember sitting down at the piano and self-teaching myself that piano loop. I had never been to New York at that point in my life, and I knew that Queens was far from the ‘Natti, but listening to this record—I felt like I could’ve been right there in the QB projects.Hi-Tek Presents…Marley And Me | XXL
The D.O.C. – “The Grand Finalé”
Album: No One Can Do It Better
Released: August 1, 1989
Rappers: The D.O.C., Ice Cube, MC Ren, Eazy-E
Who had the best verse: The two best West Coast rappers at the time were Ice Cube and The D.O.C., who were both largely responsible for penning a majority of N.W.A.’s lyrics. On “The Grand Finale”, Cube sets off the track and D.O.C. closes it out; he makes just the act of spelling out his name funky fresh. The D.O.C. takes this one.
The Stop the Violence Movement – “Self Destruction”
Released: January 15, 1989
Rappers: KRS-One, MC Delite, Kool Moe Dee, MC Lyte, Daddy-O, Wise, D-Nice, Ms. Melodie, Doug E. Fresh, Just-Ice, Heavy D, Fruitkwan, Chuck D, Flavor Flav
Who had the best verse: Despite the heavy-hitters on this track – Kool Moe Dee, Just-Ice, Chuck D – “Self Destruction” is a KRS-One song through and through. Everyone else is just along for the ride.
Main Source – “Live at the Barbeque”
Album: Breaking Atoms
Released: July 23, 1991
Rappers: Large Professor, Nas, Joe Fatal, Akinyele
Who had the best verse: The verse that set off a legendary career that would span from ’91 to present day, seven platinum albums, a handful of classics and a catalogue that can only be rivalled by Jay-Z. Nasty Nas stole the show, no question about it.
Nas: I specifically meant for that verse to spark my whole existence in rap music, so I approached it that way and I felt like, “This is it. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so I went for it.” I had the feeling in my head, so I wrote it right there on the spot. I think it was in [Queens recording studio] Power Play. It was pretty quick.Nas: My Life in 20 Songs | Rolling Stone
A Tribe Called Quest – “Scenario”
Album: The Low End Theory
Released: September 24, 1991
Rappers: Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Charlie Brown, Dinco D, Busta Rhymes
Who had the best verse: Another verse that was the start of a new career, this time, from a group member to a solo act. The energy on Busta Rhymes’ was so infectious that over 20 years later, he had Nicki Minaj using it on her own song.
Busta Rhymes: It definitely was an immediate change. That record was the record that pioneered features. I’ve done features prior to that, but that record made me the number one go-to guy for features after that for a long time. I was doing so well off features, that when Leaders broke up shortly after the “Scenario” record, I wasn’t even thinking about doing a solo record for the next three years.Busta Rhymes Remember A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” 20 Years Later | XXL
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo – “Two to the Head”
Album: Live and Let Die
Released: November 24, 1992
Rappers: Kool G Rap, Ice Cube, Scarface and Bushwick Bill
Who had the best verse: An absolutely legendary line-up, it doesn’t get any closer to rap royalty than this song. But the thing is, posse cuts are Kool G Rap’s forte; having other rappers on the track with him just turns him into a murderous spitter. Very few have been able to out-rap G Rap, save for Kane, and even those times have been close.
Heavy D & the Boyz – “Don’t Curse”
Album: Peaceful Journey
Released: July 2, 1991
Rappers: Heavy D, Kool G Rap, Grand Puba, C.L. Smooth, Big Daddy Kane, Pete Rock, Q-Tip
Who had the best verse: It’s funny putting a lyrical monster like Kool G Rap on a song and asking him not to curse. Even without using profanities, G Rap makes it sound like he’s about to burst through the speakers and punch you in your mouth.
Pete Rock: It was Hev’s idea to make that type of song. He used to make those type of fun songs. We used to always play around in the house and rap. But we had perfected our craft to a point where Hev was getting signed to major labels and putting records out. Hev came up with the concept, and it was his idea to get the people on it. He went out and got Kane, Q-Tip, all the people that were basically hot and on top at that time. He thought it was a great idea to engage them on the beat.Pete Rock Tells All: The Stories Behind His Classic Records | Complex
EPMD – “Head Banger”
Album: Business Never Personal
Released: July 28, 1992
Rappers: Parrish Smith, Erick Sermon, K-Solo, Redman
Who had the best verse: From the early to late ’90s, there wasn’t a rapper alive better than Redman. No one could combine lyrical ability with a funky flow and humour-laden wordplay like the Funk Doctor himself. Good luck trying to out-rap Redman on a song.
Erick Sermon: We were in the studio one day, and we needed a crew record. So I threw the beat on. And we started yelling. The session just went that way. The beat made you amped. I was just so aggressive. I was thinking about The Bomb Squad when I made that record. We had it set up like a Tempations thing, with the four mics set up. Just screaming. It was hard to EQ that record because you had the leakage [from one microphone to the others] like back in the day. But we did it that way, and it came out fine.Erick Sermon Tells All: The Stories Behind His Classic Records (Part 1) | Complex
Dr. Dre – “Stranded On Death Row”
Album: The Chronic
Released: December 15, 1992
Rappers: Kurupt, RBX, The Lady of Rage, Snoop Dogg
Who had the best verse: The greatest West Coast posse cut on the greatest West Coast album ever, no doubt about it. Kurupt, RBX and Lady of Rage all spit the hardest verses, but it’s Snoop Dogg with his understated but menacing flow who steals the show. And the way he breaks out singing in the middle of his verse? Perfection.
Kurupt: That was my first record. It got me in the game. It’s called opportunity. Dr. Dre gave me the opportunity. We were all around there. It’s like a healthy competition for all of us. RBX, Rage, Daz. Snoop was the one already. For us, we had to make it. Once they put you in front of that mic, that was your opportunity. You either make it or break it.Kurupt Opens Up About Foxy Brown Relationship & Reconciling with DMX | HipHopDX
Heavy D & the Boyz – “A Buncha Ni**as”
Album: Blue Funk
Released: January 12, 1993
Rappers: Heavy D, Third Eye, Guru, The Notorious B.I.G., Rob-O, Busta Rhymes
Who had the best verse: This is raw, uncut Notorious B.I.G. fresh off the Bed-Stuy streets, eager to make a name of himself. The hunger from the late, great rapper on this track is palpable. This was before Puffy was able to mould him into the smooth Bad Boy operator we would all come to meet later on.
Wu-Tang Clan – “Protect Ya Neck”
Album: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Released: May 3, 1993
Rappers: Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, Method Man, U-God, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ghostface Killah, RZA, GZA
Who had the best verse: If we’re being honest, this is probably the greatest posse cut of all time. Nine hungry, unsigned rappers from Shaolin just spitting non-stop flamers, ready to take the industry. Every singe Wu member comes correct on this record, but at the end of the day, it’s a toss-up between Deck’s set-it-off verse and GZA’s A&R-dissing closer. I’ll go with GZA.
Masta Killa: I’d never heard anything like that. When GZA brought “Protect Ya Neck” to me, and I heard that for the first time, I said, ‘Man, I’m gonna go home and sit down and construct everything that I’d already admired about hip-hop and try to put it in a verse that I could bring to these brothers so they could respect me.’Interview: Masta Killa of Wu-Tang Clan talks 25 years of “36 Chambers” | The AU Review
Snoop Doggy Dogg – “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)”
Released: November 23, 1993
Rappers: Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Warren G, Kurupt
Who had the best verse: Does Nate Dogg’s part count as a rap verse? Fuck it, yes it does. The smoothest hook singer in rap history lends his voice to this legendary West Coast posse cut and takes it to the next level.
Craig Mack – “Flava In Ya Ear (Remix)”
Released: July 26, 1994
Rappers: Craig Mack, The Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, Rampage, Busta Rhymes
Who had the best verse: “Don’t be mad / UPS is hiring.” This is the Biggie after Puffy had put in a lot of work on him. Gone are the days of screaming on the mic and throwing out over-the-top threats. Now it was a laid-back flow and dismissal verses with a wave of his hand.
Rampage: We was all in the studio, same time. Actually Biggie laid his verse first and I was in the studio with me, Puff, Mo Bee, Busta and LL. We were all in the same studio so the vibe in the studio was good. But I wasn’t supposed to be on the record. I just came up there to support Bus and then Puff was like ‘What? You ain’t gonna be on it?” and I’m like, ‘Man? Give me a minute!’ So I just went into my files real fast, heard the beat, went in there and two weeks later, I was on the video! That’s how that happened.Rampage Talks Diddy Convincing Him To Record On “Flava In Ya Ear (Remix)” | HipHopDX
Big Daddy Kane – “Show & Prove”
Album: Daddy’s Home
Released: September 13, 1994
Rappers: Big Daddy Kane, Scoob Lover, Sauce Money, Shyheim, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Jay-Z
Who had the best verse: Using his name to put on up-and-coming rappers like Jay-Z, Ol’ Dirty and teen rapper, Shyheim, Big Daddy Kane was all about getting these freshmen to “show and prove.” Jay-Z with his quick-witted flow and wordplay steals the show here; it was just a taste of what was coming.
Big Daddy Kane: “Show & Prove” was really just getting that work in. Proving some Brooklyn cats worthwhile, except for Shyheim. He’s from Staten Island. Me, JAY-Z, Sauce Money, Ol’ Dirty all got some work in. [DJ Premier] gave us a bangin’ beat and we just did it posse cut style. We were all in the studio together.Big Daddy Kane on His Legendary Career: “It Was Never About the Money, It Was Really to Showcase My Skills” [Interview] | Okayplayer
DJ Ron G – “Stop The Breaks”
Album: It’s On! Part 2
Rappers: Raekwon, KRS-One, O.C., Killa Sin, The Notorious B.I.G.
Who had the best verse: This is a super slept-on, obscure cut off a Ron G mixtape, but goddamn does it bang. Over a banging beat and Wu-Tang chants, Raekwon, KRS, O.C., Killa Sin and Biggie all deliver on this track. But at the end of the day, how can you top Biggie’s line: “A shotty by the shower if ya wanna shoot me while I’m shittin'”.
Big L – “Da Graveyard”
Album: Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous
Released: March 28, 1995
Rappers: Big L, Lord Finesse, Microphone Nut, Jay-Z, Party Arty, Grand Daddy I.U.
Who had the best verse: Featuring another great verse from the up-and-coming Jay-Z before Reasonable Doubt dropped, “Da Graveyard” is really a battle between Big L and Hov (which had already happened in real-life in Harlem). It’s a toss up between the two rappers, who both dazzle with crazy flows and wordplay, but I’m going to go with Big L this time.
Lord Finesse: [Big L] wanted to go first [on these posse songs]. [And] man, you had to step your game up. And I think he was responsible for making Diggin’ step [our] game up, because if we doing a song together, pshew, you better be ready, dog. I heard all L’s rhymes before [I recorded mine]. I was arrogant [though], I ain’t give a fuck about [going right after Big L]. I was like, “I’m just on it. You want me on it, I’m here.” It’s like, I can’t stop this dude from writing what he gonna write. He was phenomenal with the penmanship, man.Lord Finesse Breaks Down Big L’s “Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous” | HipHopDX
LL Cool J – “I Shot Ya (Remix)”
Album: Mr. Smith
Released: November 21, 1995
Rappers: LL Cool J, Keith Murray, Prodigy, Fat Joe, Foxy Brown
Who had the best verse: Goddamn every rapper on this track killed it! LL put a stamp on his (near) decade-long legacy and dissed Kool Moe Dee, MC Hammer and Ice-T in the process; Fat Joe proved that he belonged with the elite with an incredible verse, Keith Murray sets off the song with his scientific wordplay, Prodigy is peak-Mobb Deep right here and Foxy holds her own on a track with superstars. If pressed, I’ll have to go with Prodigy here, who delivers a classic verse that would later be sampled on Jay-Z’s “D’Evils”.
Prodigy: LL put a lot of the new, hot rappers on that song at that time. Shit was a banger man. LL was one of the reasons I started rapping. It was only right that I’d get on that and make that shit hot. When we recorded that shit everybody did their shit separately. They just put the whole shit together, but that shit was ill. They used to play that shit in the club back in the day, in The Tunnel and all that. That was like, The Tunnel record. And The Tunnel was like our clubhouse. Every weekend we’d be in there like a family gathering. You could find us every Sunday in that motherfucker. That was our little hangout to promote Mobb Deep and let the people see us having fun.Prodigy Breaks Down His 25 Most Essential Songs | Complex
Raekwon – “Guillotine (Swordz)”
Album: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…
Released: August 1, 1995
Rappers: Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah, GZA
Who had the best verse: When we’re talking about greatest rap posse cuts in history, damn near every second Wu-Tang cut would qualify. In my opinion, Inspectah Deck on “Guillotine (Swordz)” is right up there with “Triumph” as his best verse. “Poisonous paragraphs smash your phonograph in half / It be the Inspectah Deck on the warpath” – how could you possibly top that opening line?
Raekwon: To me, that was a “Symphony” track. Meth had a piece of that beat on his album that was used as a skit. ’Cause that’s how RZA is. Sometimes he’d mix other shit in and give you a piece of something but not really act like it’s gonna be assigned to that. He’ll see if somebody like it and use it for fillers or whatever. I had told RZA awhile ago after he did that, “Yo, I want that beat.”Raekwon, The Making of “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…” | XXL
Raekwon – “Wu-Gambinos”
Album: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…
Released: August 1, 1995
Rappers: Raekwon, Method Man, RZA, Masta Killa, Ghostface Killah
Who had the best verse: Method Man delivers one of his best hooks ever on “Wu-Gambinos,” but it’s Ghostface Killah who steals the show here. Mixing up off-the-wall raps with pop culture references and fashion talk, Ghost gave us a glimpse of what would become his signature rhyme palette for Supreme Clientele.
RZA: Actually, that was the first one where everyone took on another name to go along with the concept of the album. That was done intentionally. We was probably 11 songs into the album. Everyone come with your Gambino name. My name was Bobby Steele when I was 12, 13, so I brought that back out. It was me and Ghost the last to lay our verses. Ghost goes last; everybody was up in the cut. Tru Master had to be the engineer to record me. I let ni**as know I’m part of the sting. I’m coming for that money, too. For me it was a chance to show ni**as, because I hadn’t been heard for a minute.Raekwon, The Making of “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…” | XXL
GZA – “4th Chamber”
Album: Liquid Swords
Released: November 7, 1995
Rappers: GZA, Ghostface Killah, Killah Priest, RZA
Who had the best verse: It’s rare for RZA to have the best verse on a Wu song. The Abbott’s lyrics are usually packed full of nonsensical scientific jargon as if he just finished reading a dictionary and wanted to squeeze in as many word-of-the-days as possible. But on “4th Chamber,” RZA’s verse is just incredible, combining a crazy flow with history lessons and some of the best lines off the album.
Killah Priest: As far as Liquid Swords and working with GZA, I was in the studio with him all the time. We were in the studio playing chess or whatever. The same thing, RZA threw on the track “4th Chamber,” Ghostface Killah came in, and that’s how the magic happened. We were actually joking and battling each other before we got on the mic and I just came out with ‘judge wisely.’Interview – Killah Priest | Cryptic Rock
Mobb Deep – “Eye for a Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)”
Album: The Infamous
Released: April 25, 1995
Rappers: Prodigy, Havoc, Nas, Raekwon
Who had the best verse: This is a really tough one. Prodigy and Havoc hold their own with strong verses, but it’s really between Nas’ smooth mafioso talk about buying “Tailor-made ostrich, Chanel” for his women friend, and Chef’s in-your-face, gun-toting aggression. I’m going to go with Raekwon for this one, just off the strength of Eminem using a portion of his rhymes 15 years later:
Hold up, and analyze the wildcats slang cracks They swing in Ac's, the new routines, be my eyes black's Playin' corners, glancin' all up in your cornea Corner ya, seen cats snatch monies up on ya - Raekwon - "Eye for a Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)"
You're walkin' down a horror corridor It's almost four in the mornin' and you're in a Nightmare, it's horrible, right there's the coroner Waiting for ya to turn the corner so he can corner ya You're a goner, he's onto ya Out the corner of his cornea, he just saw ya run - Eminem - "3 a.m."
Raekwon: So that beat was just freshly made once we all got into the studio together. I remember P was up in there first settin’ it off, and Havoc came behind him. And me and Nas was over there in the corner writing. Like, one thing about me, I think I was more excited just chillin’ with ni**as than writing. Like, I was always the type of ni**a like, “Aight, you go. Gimme like ten minutes.” So a lot of my rhymes are wrote quick. Like, that’s what cats always say about me like, “Yo Chef you write so fuckin’ fast.” I’m like, “Cause I get open quick.” If I get open off of something then it makes me write like that.Raekwon Breaks Down His 25 Most Essential Songs | Complex
Nas – “Affirmative Action”
Album: It Was Written
Released: July 2, 1996
Rappers: Nas, AZ, Cormega, Foxy Brown
Who had the best verse: The original Firm line-up was magical – “Affirmative Action” and “Full Circle” (nearly 20 years later) would prove it. Nas and Cormega both drop flawless verses, but the way AZ’s verse comes in before the drums and the way he pronounces “cognac,” you just couldn’t top it.
Nas: AZ was my man and he told me about Foxy Brown; drove me to Brooklyn to meet her at her house. I wanted to put the Firm together and she fit perfectly. It was the first song we recorded together.The Making of Nas’ ‘It Was Written’ | Complex
Ghostface Killah – “Assassination Day”
Released: October 29, 1996
Rappers: Raekwon, The RZA, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa
Who had the best verse: Another incredible Inspectah Deck opening verse. Even though the Rebel INS doesn’t have a classic solo album to his name, I bet if you took all the feature verses and Wu appearances over the years, you’d have enough to put together 3-4 classic joints. Side note: I never understood why Ghost wasn’t on this song.
Ghostface Killah – “Winter Warz”
Released: October 29, 1996
Rappers: Ghostface Killah, Cappadonna, U-God, Masta Killa, Raekwon
Who had the best verse: Much has been made about Cappadonna’s verse over the years, but to me personally, I never understood the hype. Just because a rapper’s verse is twice as long on a song, doesn’t make it the best verse, it just means they don’t know how to edit the rhyme. If you actually sit down and digest Cap’s lyrics on “Winter Warz”, you’ll realise that he isn’t saying much at all. For me, I much prefer the way Masta Killa approaches it with his menacing flow and clear imagery.
2Pac – “Got My Mind Made Up”
Album: All Eyez on Me
Released: February 13, 1996
Rappers: 2Pac, Daz Dillinger, Kurupt, Redman, Method Man
Who had the best verse: At the height of the East Coast-West Coast beef, 2Pac linked up with Meth and Red, along with Dan and Kurupt for this timeless posse cut. Every single rapper delivers, but it’s Redman who stands out the strongest. Bonus fact: Inspectah Deck was originally on this track, but go cut for the final version.
Method Man: I was out in Cali, Daz and them came and picked a ni**a up. We went over Daz’s house. That was like my third time there. Those were my ni**as so we used to hang. Daz throws on the record and I remember Rage was there. We were all rhyming on it. He went first, then Rage went, then Kurupt, then me, then Red, then Inspectah Deck. Then Pac comes home. I hadn’t heard anything about the record, but I had done so many different records with so many different ni**as and I never really heard anything. Pac comes home and All Eyez On Me is being recorded. I’m listening to the radio, and it comes on the radio. So I’m like, ‘Oh shit.’ I’m listening to it and I hear Pac.Method Man Breaks Down His 25 Most Essential Songs | Complex
The Notorious B.I.G. – “Last Day”
Album: Life After Death
Released: March 25, 1997
Rappers: The Notorious B.I.G., Sheek Louch, Jadakiss, Styles P
Who had the best verse: At his peak, Big was just on a different level than any other rapper, and Life After Death proved it. As one of the best hip hop albums of the ’90s and definitely the best double disc rap album ever, Big’s sophomore proved that he could do everything – battle rap, storytelling, club hits, radio records, mafioso – at the highest level. Sheek, Ja and Styles all come with strong verses, but as soon as you hear Big say “Who the fuck wanna squeeze”, you know it’s a wrap.
Jadakiss: I tried to get over on Big. I had some bars already written before I got into the booth and came up with the verse that you hear today. But BIG was like, ‘Nah, I like it, but I need something else.’ Now this is Big telling me that I have to come with something better. I used to second-guess sometimes when Puff would tell me to switch up my verse, but when BIG told me, I didn’t even think about it. I just did it. I went back to a neutral corner and started writing. I tried to ride this beat as much I could and say some hard shit. That’s when I came with, ‘You already know what it’s about when I run in your house.’ People loved that cadence and flow. Diddy was like, ‘You nailed it!’ Big was the one that put the battery in my back.UNBELIEVABLE: Jadakiss Remembers Recording “Last Day” With The Notorious B.I.G. | Vibe
The Notorious B.I.G. – “Notorious Thugs”
Album: Life After Death
Released: March 25, 1997
Rappers: The Notorious B.I.G., Bizzy Bone, Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone
Who had the best verse: Another example of why Big was the best rapper of his time. What other New York rapper would bring Bone Thugs into the studio and replicate their intricate, melodic flow? Only Big had the confidence to do it and the rap ability to pull it off.
Lil’ Cease: The Bone Thugs shit, nobody could be in the room [when Big was recording his verse] for that. He really wanted to sit there and master that shit, ’cause he knew he was about to do something different, and whatever came out the studio was gonna be so, so new.Check Out How Biggie’s ‘Life After Death’ Was Made | XXL
Wu-Tang Clan – “Triumph”
Album: Wu-Tang Forever
Released: February 11, 1997
Rappers: Inspectah Deck, Method Man, Cappadonna, U-God, RZA, GZA, Masta Killa, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon
Who had the best verse: “I bomb atomically, Socrates’ philosophies and hypotheses / Can’t define how I be dropping these mockeries.” No words needed. Inspectah Deck killed this shit. This is a top five greatest rap verse of all time.
Inspectah Deck: We had just came up from tour. Dudes was in the house, knocked out. Ghost was there, Meth was there. But RZA is up, and he’s cooking. I sneak up on him, and I’m like, “I hear that.” So I’m writing, sitting next to him, putting pen to pad. As I’m writing, I thought of the rhyme I did with Tony Touch. And as I’m saying it to RZA, it hit him. I’m like hold up, let me call Touch first and get the blessing on him man. We from that school where you can’t say the same rhyme twice. It didn’t matter what capacity. So yeah man, I had to call Touch real quick and he gave me the blessing to drop that verse. So I told RZA “I’ma drop this real quick,” and I had to leave that morning, so RZA threw that beat on. The beat wasn’t even complete – I just heard the drums, couple of the voices, some hi-hats. I dropped the rhyme.Inspectah Deck Shares Story Behind Legendary “Triumph” Verse | HotNewHipHop
Capone-N-Noreaga – “L.A., L.A. (Kuwait Mix)”
Album: The War Report
Released: June 17, 1997
Rappers: Noreaga, Capone, Havoc, Tragedy Khadafi
Who had the best verse: So it turns out that Prodigy actually had a verse on this song, not just a hook, but he took it off to put it on Nas’ “Live Ni**a Rap.” It’s a hot verse, but nothing tops Tragedy’s vivid imagery on this track, especially over Marley Marl’s terrifying Kuwait remix.
Prodigy: We were performing that song out there [in California] because that song was number one in L.A. We were getting requests to come perform and we were going out there performing it when the song was hot. That’s why we took offense when Jay-Z came out years later. After everything died down – and people lost their lives – he came out with that song “Money, Cash, Hoes,” where he had that line ‘It’s like New York’s been soft ever since Snoop came through and crushed the buildings.’ We took offense to that like, ‘How you talking now? We was out there risking our lives.’Prodigy Breaks Down His 25 Most Essential Songs | Complex
Puff Daddy – “It’s All About the Benjamins (Remix)”
Album: No Way Out
Released: July 22, 1997
Rappers: Puff Daddy, Jadakiss, Sheek Louch, Lil’ Kim, The Notorious B.I.G.
Who had the best verse: In a matter of a few bars, Biggie goes from referencing Donnie Brasco to rocking Redman and Naughty By Nature to calling himself Francis, the Praying Mantis. What else do you want from him?
Jadakiss: I already had that rhyme. He [Puffy] heard it and was like, ‘Nah, that’s me. Let me get that rhyme right there. He took that and put that on “Benjamins.” Me and Sheek Louch didn’t like the “Benjamins.” He almost forced us to record the verses that we have on there. We didn’t really understand what that beat, it didn’t grasp us at the time. We wasn’t eager to just record it. But Diddy knew, that’s what makes Diddy Diddy. He knew what it was. That really was like our first commercial and hood hit that capitulated us.Jadakiss Reveals He Wrote Diddy’s Verse On “It’s All About The Benjamins” | Genius
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – “Thug Luv”
Album: The Art of War
Released: July 29, 1997
Rappers: Bizzy Bone, Layzie Bone, Krayzie Bone, Wish Bone, 2Pac
Who had the best verse: This is peak Death Row era 2Pac with the nihilism, intensity and paranoia, but the way Bizzy Bone sets off the song with his flow and melody takes the cake.
LL Cool J – “4, 3, 2, 1”
Released: October 14, 1997
Rappers: LL Cool J, Method Man, Redman, Canibus, DMX
Who had the best verse: An insane line-up of veterans (LL), hottest rappers (Meth and Red), and hungry up-and-comers (Canibus and DMX). Much has been made about Canibus and LL’s beef that stemmed from the former’s verse, but it’s DMX who’s the superstar here. The aggressive lyrics, when he breaks down in a little sing-song melody (“but you asked for it, baby”), the confidence on the mic – this was just a teaser of what was coming the next year.
Onyx – “The Worst”
Album: Shut ‘Em Down
Released: December 23, 1997
Rappers: Sticky Fingaz, Fredro Starr, X1, Sonny Seeza, Raekwon, Method Man
Who had the best verse: Sticky Fingaz and Method Man kill it when they trade bars at the end of the song, but it’s Raekwon who has the best verse with the way he conjures up imagery with his first few words (“Aiyyo, staircase to stage now, major waves”). One of Chef’s best opening verses ever.
Sticky Fingaz: It was a collaboration. It’s about the worst of the worst, meaning the best. We’re the worst nightmare for everyone in hip-hop. When we recording this song in the studio all night, Meth said that he wouldn’t leave the studio until this track will be done.Snoop, Wu-Tang, Onyx, Nas On Ride Soundtrack | MTV
N.O.R.E. – “Banned from T.V.”
Released: July 7, 1998
Rappers: N.O.R.E., Nature, Big Pun, Cam’ron, Jadakiss, Styles P
Who had the best verse: There are very few rappers who can jump on a track with Big Pun and get away with having the best verse. The man rhymed “Fort Knox Lazarus” with “pork chops and applesauce” – he simply had no competition. And to think that Nore almost removed Pun’s verse off the track.
N.O.R.E.: Actually, Pun bullied his way on there. I had Nature on there, but Pun was in the studio. I went to take a shit and Pun snuck himself on there. I wanted to erase [Pun’s Verse] ’cause he violated. But I never did erase it. That was always my brother.N.O.R.E. Recalls How Big Pun Got On “Banned From TV” | The Source
Fat Joe – “John Blaze”
Album: Don Cartagena
Released: September 1, 1998
Rappers: Fat Joe, Nas, Big Pun, Jadakiss, Raekwon
Who had the best verse: According to Fat Joe, Nas, Jadakiss and Pun were going at each other, in a healthy competition way, and Rae had to step in to calm things down (“My son cool out (What), don’t beef, yo, throw the tool out”). It’s super close because Nas and Big Pun on this track, but the way Pun stutters (“Even if I stuttered, I would still sh-sh-shit on you”), he edges it.
Fat Joe: Pun was like, ‘We gotta get Nas and me on the same track.’ Like I said, he wanted to get his favorite rappers on a song and go crazy. So we had Jadakiss, Nas, and you know I always got Rae. We all got together. To me, Pun had the most legendary verse. ‘Even if I stuttered, I would still sh-sh-shit on you.’ That shit was crazy! Everybody was in the studio. Nas was there. I think Busta Rhymes was there, just hanging out. It was fun.Fat Joe Breaks Down His 25 Most Essential Songs | Complex
Pete Rock – “Tha Game”
Album: Soul Survivor
Released: November 10, 1998
Rappers: Pete Rock, Raekwon, Prodigy, Ghostface Killah
Who had the best verse: This is one of Pete Rock’s craziest, most banging beats ever, but his verse on the song sticks out like a sore thumb. Especially when it’s the last verse on the song following killers like Rae, P and Ghost. He should have wedged himself in the middle or something. Raekwon absolutely kills it here. “Iceatollah Motorola’s, gun reloaders, broads with rollers” – like what?!
DMX – “Blackout”
Album: Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood
Released: December 22, 1998
Rappers: DMX, Jadakiss, Sheek Louch, Styles P, Jay-Z
Who had the best verse: In 1998, DMX and Jay-Z were the two hottest rappers in the game. Hov was fresh off dropping Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, which would go on to become his best-selling album ever, while DMX’s Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood was his second number one album of the year (the second rapper to ever achieve this, after 2Pac). Their two styles couldn’t be more different, DMX with his aggressive, in-your-face flow, while Hov exudes a menacing cool. Jay-Z edges it, especially with his opening line, “I’m a monster / I sleep whole winters, wake up and spit summers.”
Swizz Beatz: There was definitely competition between me and the other producers. So I would be in there banging beats because I only had a little time to display what I could do. They all came in and Jadakiss was like, ‘Oh man, that is crazy.’ Once one person co-signs it and they start writing to it, you’re locked in. Jada started writing to it and everybody else followed him. That’s how it stuck.Swizz Beatz Tells All: The Stories Behind His Classic Records (Part 1) | Complex
Sway & King Tech – “The Anthem”
Album: This or That
Released: June 15, 1999
Rappers: RZA, Tech N9ne, Eminem, Xzibit, Pharoahe Monch, Kool G Rap, Jayo Felony, Chino XL, KRS-One
Who had the best verse: One of the craziest line-ups of lyrical rappers of all time. Every single rapper delivers one of their best verses on here, but Kool G Rap is just a another level above everyone else. I’m just going to leave his whole verse here so you can read how crazy it sounds:
I sway the TEC with the Tech and Sway Step away, weapon spray, rep today Who owe the debt to pay get swept away Across the whole board, like checker play When I blaze, your whole sect' arrays Wake Up Show for those who slept away Ni**as that met the tre, hit the deck and pray DJ Revolution, spinnin' like lead from out the Heck and K Tearin' your neck away, flood up the street with blood redecorate Until the head of Jakes investigate
Kool G Rap: That one was hard to call ’cause it was so many phenomenal dudes on that track that just destroyed it. Tech N9ne, oh, my God, yo. I was just happy to be a part of that one. I was content not feeling like, “Oh, I killed everybody on the track this time.” I was just glad that I was a part of it ’cause it was a great track. RZA caught a body on that.Kool G Rap on the Highly Technical Rap Style That Influenced Generations | Rolling Stone
D12 – “Fight Music”
Album: Devil’s Night
Released: June 19, 2001
Rappers: Eminem, Kon Artis, Bizarre, Proof, Swifty McVay, Kuniva,
Who had the best verse: Devil’s Night as an album and D12 as a group haven’t aged very well as the years have gone by, but “Fight Music” will always be a classic. Over a Dre production, who replaces his bouncy G-funk for menacing guitar licks, Eminem delivers one of the best verses of his career, capturing all the angst of the youth that turned him into the best-selling rapper of all time.
Denaun Porter: But “Fight Music” was a no brainer. Em always said – he still says – that that’s his best vocal performance ever, in his whole career. From the verse to the hook, he felt like that was his best. And I would say that’s one of my best, and one of my favorites.Denaun Porter, In-Depth: Working With Eminem & Dr. Dre, Making “Devil’s Night,” & “Infinite” | HotNewHipHop
Obie Trice – “We All Die One Day”
Released: September 23, 2003
Rappers: Obie Trice, Lloyd Banks, Eminem, 50 Cent
Who had the best verse: This is peak Aftermath-Shady-G Unit era. At the time it just felt like Dre, Em and 50 would be running the rap game forever. Em is at the top of his game here, some of the best bars he would deliver before his descent into drug addiction, but 50’s closing verse is just classic 50 Cent.
Obie Trice: It was one of those things, we all had to get to know each other real fast. They was from New York. We were from Detroit. They would fly into Michigan and we’d all be in the studio, learning different things from each other. The vibe was tough, man. It was like, we was all in there vibing. 50 would lay a verse, Banks laid a verse, I laid my verse. We played it all fuckin’ night, over and over again, tweaking it with Marshall. It was one of those things.Obie Trice Talks Shady Records’ Prime, Working With Dr. Dre, & Nate Dogg’s Life Lessons | HotNewHipHop
DJ Khaled – “We Takin’ Over”
Album: We the Best
Released: March 27, 2007
Rappers: T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, Lil Wayne
Who had the best verse: After dropping Tha Carter II, Lil Wayne went on a legendary run never seen before, killing guest verses and mixtapes left and right. From his Dedication 2 mixtape to stealing the show on “Duffle Bag Boy” to the epic Da Drought 3, there was no one in the game touching Wayne’s output. “We Takin’ Over” was the verse that would take him over the top, and eventually lead to Tha Carter III selling over a million in its first week.
DJ Khaled: It changed my life. That’s when I knew they let me in. I broke the barriers, the circle. That’s when I said it’s gonna be on and poppin’. And I knew it on the video set when me and Ross was driving the convertible Bentley backwards. I told Ross, “Oh, it’s on now.” I remember that day. It’s a certain feeling: people were rooting for me. And it felt good. And I ain’t never turned back since. That record [was] Wayne’s best verse of the year at that time—shit, maybe the decade, that’s how serious, “I am the beast, feed me rappers or feed me beats.” And that’s when Ross just broke with “Hustlin'” and he became the new big artist. And me and Ross repping that Miami, and we on there. There’s a lot of special things about that record, you know what I’m saying?How DJ Khaled Won Friends, Money, And Power | Fader
UGK – “International Player’s Anthem (I Choose You)”
Album: Underground Kingz
Released: June 6, 2007
Rappers: Bun B, Pimp C, Andre 3000, Big Boi
Who had the best verse: Bun B, Pimp C and Big Boi all deliver solid verses here, but how can you not say Andre 3000 had the best verse? Floating over no drums and a blissful sample of Willie Hutch’s “I Choose You,” Stacks deliver a beautiful ode to commitment, in a game that doesn’t value it at all.
Bun B: Just the fact that [Andre] was interested in rapping on the song was a trip because at the time he wasn’t really rapping at all. He was like, “I’ll rap on it, but I probably won’t do a video, I’m not really shooting any videos.” We were like, “That’s fine, that’s no big deal. I would just love to have you on the record.” But once we got it we knew it was special. Everybody knew it was special. Andre just opened this song and Big just closed it. This is crazy.The Making of UGK’s “International Player’s Anthem (I Choose You)” | XXL
T.I. – “Swagga Like Us”
Album: Paper Trail
Released: September 6, 2008
Rappers: T.I., Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z
Who had the best verse: T.I.’s verse on here is super overrated. The man put himself last on the song and threw a bunch of big words together, but isn’t really doing anything special. Lil Wayne absolutely murders his verse, as you would expect during his ’06 to ’08 industry takeover run. Side note: when you watch Weezy record the verse in his hotel room, you gain a new appreciation for it.
T.I.: [Kanye West] said that it was his first beat that he’d done since the untimely passing of his mom. He said it was the first beat that he went in the studio to do. I just happened to be the beneficiary of it. You know how Kanye is. [He said], ‘I got something for you. You like it don’t you? Yeah, thought so.’ And you know, he was right. I think it’s probably one of the hottest beats of the year if not the hottest beat of the year and I appreciate Kanye for giving it to me.T.I. Explains Why “Swagga Like Us” Video Never Happened | SOHH
Drake – “Forever”
Album: More than a Game (soundtrack)
Released: August 27, 2009
Rappers: Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Eminem
Who had the best verse: The fact that it’s a hard choice between these four verses, despite just how great Eminem’s verse is, just speaks to the level that we’re talking about. This is hungry underdog Drake who was plotting his decade-plus run, No Ceilings-era Lil Wayne, guest verse-killer Kanye and back from rehab Eminem.
Drake: Everybody does their thing on that song. My favorite line on the song, though, is when Wayne says, ‘Life is such a roller coaster and then it drops / but what should I scream for, this is my theme park.’ That right there, word-play-wise, that’s my favorite. But everybody does their thing. Kanye does Kanye. Eminem raps in a way where nobody might have heard him rap in a long time and says some things that are great for his fans to hear. I’m just proud to even be on the record. People are telling me they like my verse. I’m just happy I held my own.Drake (Sort Of) Names His Favorite ‘Forever’ Verse | MTV
Kanye West – “So Appalled”
Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Released: September 24, 2010
Rappers: Kanye West, Pusha T, Jay-Z, Cyhi the Prynce
Who had the best verse: It’s a really close race between Hov and Push on this one. On one hand, Hov has the more quotable lines (“Dark Knight feeling / die and be a hero”) and a low-key brutal MC Hammer diss (“I lost thirty mil’, so I spent another thirty / ‘Cause unlike Hammer, thirty million can’t hurt me”). On the other hand, Pusha’s whole verse about his manager doing time “for what he did to nostrils” just makes you screw up your face like “ugh” (or rather “yuugh”). Difficult pick but I’m going with Pusha T here.
No I.D.: A lot of those records I would come in with the music, and Kanye would come with the drums. When it was being made in Hawaii it was just Kanye and Pusha on it; and I remember Jay coming in and saying ‘Oh word? You’re just not gonna put me on that record? Oh word?’ The record was something we’d initially cut for The Blueprint 3 and the files got lost. So the record was in limbo because we couldn’t find the files. We were just searching everywhere for that beat. Jay didn’t hear it again until Pusha and Ye were on it, and then we added Cy-Hi later.No I.D. Tells All: The Stories Behind His Classic Records | Complex
Kanye West – “Monster”
Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Released: October 23, 2010
Rappers: Kanye West, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj
Who had the best verse: I mean is this even a question? Not since Live at the BBQ as there been a feature verse as impactful as Nicki Minaj on “Monster.” Rapping alongside Kanye, Hov and Rick Ross, the Young Money freshman blew away the rap veterans and deliver the verse of her life. Nicki’s verse isn’t just one of the best feature verses of all time, it’s one of the best rap verses in history, full stop.
Kanye West: It was like that moment when I thought about taking Nicki’s verse off of “Monster” because I knew people would say that was the best verse on the best Hip Hop album of all time or arguably top ten albums of all time. And I would do all that work, eight months of work on Dark Fantasy and people to this day would say to me ‘My favorite thing was Nicki Minaj’s verse.’Kanye West Talks Potentially Cutting Nicki Minaj’s “Monster” Verse & His Issues With Nike | AllHipHop
Lil Wayne – “Outro”
Album: Tha Carter IV
Released: August 29, 2011
Rappers: Bun B, Nas, Shyne, Busta Rhymes
Who had the best verse: This whole song is set up to let Nas shine (no pun intended). Even Bun B’s verse is designed as a intro for Nasty Nas to deliver one of the coldest verses of his career. You had to expect it. This was during Nas’ album mode for Life Is Good, when he was going around killing features for Rick Ross, Common, Raekwon and Mobb Deep. You just had to expect it.
GOOD Music – “Mercy”
Album: Cruel Summer
Released: April 3, 2012
Rappers: Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T, 2 Chainz
Who had the best verse: I wouldn’t say that 2 Chainz’s verse on “Mercy” had the same breakout effect as, say Nas on “Live At The Barbeque” or AZ on “Life’s a Bitch,” because he was already making a (new) name for himself with his mixtape grind, but you can definitely say that this song cemented Chainz’s superstar status. Kanye’s verse over a foreboding Scarface sample was basically an alley-oop for 2 Chainz to dunk on every rapper in the game.
2 Chainz: The vibe was a studio adventure. We got the same objective, which is to keep hip-hop alive and also keep it entertaining, you know what I mean? It’s to give the summer something’ to listen to, and this is just the first installation.V Exclusive! 2 Chainz Talks About Recording “Mercy” With Kanye West and G.O.O.D. Music | Vibe
A$AP Rocky – “1 Train”
Released: January 15, 2013
Rappers: A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, Joey Badass, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, Big K.R.I.T.
Who had the best verse: Rocky brings it all the way back to the ’90s with this one, inspired by classic Wu-Tang records – a bunch of rappers going in on a hard beat with no hook. I think the easy pick for the best verse would be either Kendrick or K.R.I.T., who delivers a masterful, hungry performance, but I’m going to go with Joey Bada$$. The young Brooklyn rapper manages to go from flexing a Roc Nation meeting with Hov to lamenting his people still on the corner selling crack within a few bars.
Just got back to the block from a 6 o'clock with Jigga And I'm thinkin' 'bout signin' to the Roc But my ni**as on the block still assigned to the rocks And I swear it hurt me soul I try to prevail but when I preach I only hurt their sales
A$AP Rocky: You gotta be competitive. As far as me, I laid my first verse with confidence, and everyone else went from there. Everyone spit in order. After I laid it down, we sent it to Kendrick, and then to Joey, and it went on down the line. We just wanted to make a posse cut that people would relate to.Q&A: A$AP Rocky on Sudden Fame, Relating to Kurt Cobain and Rihanna | Rolling Stone
Jay Rock – “Vice City”
Released: September 11, 2015
Rappers: Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul
Who had the best verse: This was one of the rare times Black Hippy got together for a track in the later stages of their career. “Vice City” isn’t a barred up, lyrical fest that we’d expect from the four wordsmiths, it’s a fun, bouncy record, and it has Schoolboy Q’s name written all over it.