As a lover of music, nothing makes me happier than two musicians coming together and making magic. From Miles Davis and Gil Evans, to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, to B.B. King and Eric Clapton, great musicians working together is a truly beautiful thing regardless of whether it’s for one cut or an entire album. Here are some of my personal favorite collaborations in hip-hop.
NOTE: This only includes artists who perform as separate entities and does not include groups like Run-DMC, Wu-Tang Clan, and Gang Starr. Also, these artists have collaborated several times, and not just for one song.
Honorable Mentions: Nas & DJ Premier, Black Hippy, Common & No I.D.
Q-Tip & Busta Rhymes
The Abstract and The Dungeon Dragon go way back to the early 1990’s. Q-Tip took Busta Rhymes under his wing while the latter was part of a group called Leaders of the New School. Leaders of the New School was famously featured on one of Tribe’s most famous songs, “Scenario,” and set the stage for Busta Bus’ coming out party. His verse on “Scenario” not only launched him to superstardom, but it’s also considered one of the best in the history of hip-hop. Since then, Q-Tip and Busta Rhymes have collaborated several times, the most recent being “Thank You” and a mixtape called The Abstract & The Dragon.
Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre
An argument can be made that if Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre never got together, west coast hip-hop would not exist. Much like Busta Rhymes did with Q-Tip, Snoop got his big break when Dre featured him on “Nuthin’ But A G Thang” in 1992 and stole the show on the track. The words “One, two, three-ah, to the four. Snoop Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre is at the door” became one of the most recognizable lines in hip-hop. Since then Snoop Dogg has appeared on almost all of Dre’ biggest hits including “The Next Episode” and “Still D.R.E.” The good doctor has, in turn, given the Doggfather dozens of beats and produced his debut album, Doggystyle.
For those of you who’ve never heard of the Soulquarians, they were a collective of rappers and neo-soul singers consisting of Common, The Roots, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, J Dilla, Q-Tip, Erykah Badu, Bilal, D’Angelo, and other affiliates. From 1999 to 2002, these guys were constantly appearing on each other’s albums. Even though they weren’t necessarily chart toppers, in terms of pure quality, the Soulquarians were untouchable during their time together. With ?uestlove and J Dilla handling the production, they released a string of classics that included Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun, The Roots’ Things Fall Apart, Common’s Like Water For Chocolate, and D’Angelo’s Voodoo. For many of these guys, their time as a part of the Soulquarians was the peak of their careers.
Common & Kanye West
In 2002 Common released an album called Electric Circus. Noboby liked it. In his autobiography, Common said the album’s negative reception caused him to consider retirement. Fortunately, Kanye West changed his plans. Ye produced Common’s next two albums and revived his career. Be and Finding Forever aren’t just two of Common’s better albums, but for me, they represent Kanye’s best work as a producer. Also, Common’s contributions to College Dropout and Late Registration are not to be ignored, either.
Ghostface Killah & MF DOOM
Of all the tandems on this list, this pairing is the most obscure. Ghostface Killah is one of the best storytelling MC’s ever and DOOM quite possibly the most unique rapper ever. That being said the bulk of their collaborations have involved only GFK on the mic, with DOOM making the beats. But when these two trade verses, you best be ready for a hurricane of lyricism.
Jay-Z & Kanye West
For the past year that I’ve been contributing to Daily Beat, I've been particularly critical of Jay-Z and Kanye West. But this is only because they're both two of my all-time favorites. Yeezy made a name for himself as a house producer for Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records and produced several songs for Hov including “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)” and “Encore.” When Kanye rocked the world with his first two albums, Jay-Z dropped verses on both of them. After years of appearing on each other’s albums, they released Watch The Throne. Even though I personally thought the record was underwhelming, it had a couple worthwhile tracks. Regardless of how I feel about their latest work, whenever these two stepped into the booth together, more often than not they delivered.