So I lied, these aren’t The Greatest Guest Verses of All-Time, but I suppose they are probably some of them. They’re all very good! Often times rappers are able to condense their best punchlines and lay out their most concise and aggressive bars when they are simply dropping one verse, as opposed to trying to carry a whole album. Sometimes it’s a young talent bursting with energy and wit, with absolutely zero regard for status, propriety, or history. I like concision and wit. I bet you do, too. These are some of my favorites.
Beanie Sigel - The Roots, “Adrenaline”
The Roots’ fourth studio album is spectacular, but B. Sigel’s verse on the posse-cut, “Adrenaline,” might be the absolute zenith of the entire endeavor. The simplicity of the end rhyme “and them” belies a bunch of straight out of the quarry hard rock shit that still busts your shit wide open.
Nicki Fucking Minaj - Some Old Dudes Who Should Know Better Than to Drop This Wack-Ass DooDoo, “Monster”
This song might have been the moment that all three of these supposed rap geniuses jumped the Cristal sipping shark, if it weren’t for Nicki dropping one of the most Captain Save ‘Em verses of all-time and yanking their geriatric asses out of the roiling seas. The woman murdered this otherwise totally laughable endeavor.
Nas - Main Source with Large Professor, “Live at the BBQ”
This is the moment, for me, when the MC became the equivalent to the lead singer of a rock band. Hip-hop was already replacing rock and roll as the lingua franca of American teen culture. But up until the moment Nas wrecked this verse every MC was either a boutique NY rapper, a West Coast gangster, or a Voice of Cultural Importance. Nas let us know that every project house probably had a handsome kid who, if he were transported to a white suburban milieu, would be playing guitars and smoking Marlboros they stole from their mom’s purse. He was a rock star who couldn’t give less of a shit about whether or not anybody liked him, he just wanted girls, weed, and to absolutely obliterate you lyrically.
Ghostface Killer - Raekwon, “Criminology”
Speaking of criminology, Ghost is the Coen Brothers making a movie with John Woo, Robert Richardson as cinematographer and the undead spirit of Kurosawa overseeing it all. That’s all I got.
The Clipse - Baby, “What Happened To That Boy?”
I mean, I guess Birdman can read rhymes okay? But other than the Big Tymer’s verses that Weezy wrote for him, would we even remember he rapped if it weren’t for this track? Next to B. Sigel, who really will kill a motherfucker, Pusha and Malicious might be the most menacing dudes you can get for a guest appearance. Mal’s flat affect, PT’s unquenchable thirst for wealth at any cost, anybody else on this track and the whole thing would’ve been goofy as fuck.
Nice & Smooth - Gangstarr, “Dwyck”
Look, I love Guru and Primo. They made a sound that was at once distinctive and seamless, while simultaneously sounding timeless. But man, when you put Guru next to two dudes with as much personality as Greg N-I-C-E and Smooth B, he is vanilla as hell. Luckily, in this case, Guru brings some heat and silliness (“Lemonade was a popular drink and it still is...”) on this because he seems to know how fun the other dudes are. Nice & Smooth were never the greatest lyricists, but they were entertaining and confident and their spots on “DWYCK” make it one of the most enduring and entertaining hip-hop tracks of all-time.
Rick Ross - Drake, “Lord Knows”
It helps that Drake sets the table so well, but this is one where Ross just clubs the fucker out of the yard. He is perfect as the fat gangster eating caviar in the steam room. This track is all the Drizzy and Rozay I really need. I’m good.
Jadakiss - Ghostface Killah, “Run”
I’ve said it before, Kiss can’t carry an album. His shit gets so raspy and lugubrious over more than a verse that I just can’t do it. But limit the dude to 16 bars and he can throw flames. This video is absolutely TERRIBLE, but I will still sit through it for Jada’s spot. Street scene vérité at its finest.
Drop your favorite thangs below.