The hip hop feature power rankings

Artists like Kendrick Lamar, Offset, Travis Scott, and many others are all known for their guest verses.  (Gozamos/Flickr Creative Commons)

Artists like Kendrick Lamar, Offset, Travis Scott, and many others are all known for their guest verses.  (Gozamos/Flickr Creative Commons)

The guest verse, or hook, is a beautiful thing in hip-hop. It is something that is not completely unheard of in other genres (BADBADNOTGOOD has been recently collaborating with the Future Islands frontman Samuel T. Herring, see “I Don’t Know” by BBNG) but it is used to its full force in hip-hop. Rappers features collaborations come in many different shapes and sizes. Here is a quick refresher on a couple of the forms a guest verse/hook can take:

Promotional: A rapper is promoting an upcoming or newly released album and wants to get some buzz around his/her name. This is the most common form of feature. Example: Kendrick Lamar verse on “F***in’ Problems,” came out two days after “good kid, m.A.A.d city.”

In Album Mode: This is when an artist is in a very active period of music-making and they are open to a lot of verse offers. It takes place after the album is out, separating it from the “Promotional” category. The difference between these types is a fine line, but a critical one. See “To the Max (feat. Drake)” by DJ Khaled and “No Complaints (feat. Drake & Offset)” by Metro Boomin. Both fit the category because they came out three months after “More Life.”

Posse Cut: This is a song the artist knew was fire so they told all of their friends to come rap on it. These features become a competition of whose verse is the best, which is fun. See “1Train” by A$AP Rocky or any of the “UENO” remixes.

Cherry Pick: This is my favorite of the guest verses. This is where a powerful rapper chooses a hot new song to hop on to and then lends their name and status to give the song some exposure. See “Uber Everywhere (feat. Travis Scott).” There are also more adventurous features in this same category where a rapper hears a random song that they like and choose to gift them a verse. Financially, this does not make a ton of sense for a powerful rapper, so Cherry Picks are pretty rare. I will get into a great example of this later.

 

A power ranking is different than a “Best Feature Artists of All Time” list. Power rankings take into account recent timing and buzz surrounding an artist’s name. Another way to say it is that if you saw two newly-released songs and one said (feat. Offset) and the other said (feat. Kanye West), I am assuming most people would be more excited by the Offset one, even though Kanye has had a better career overall. With the sudden emergence of the word “clout” this year, I will use that as a metric because it kind of gets the message across. Let’s say a 0 on the “Clout Index” is a Coldplay feature and 10 is a late-90s Biggie guest verse (with an 11 of course being a Snootie Wild appearance). Clout Index is an amalgam of three variables: quality, cultural power and current nature of production. For example, a guy like G-Eazy has none of these things.

 

#6: Frank Ocean

Guest Verse Style: In Album Mode / Posse Cuts

Quality: Great

Cultural Power: Good

What Have You Done For Me Lately: Meh

Clout Index: 8.4

Notable Guest Appearances: “Slide (feat. Frank Ocean & Migos)” - Calvin Harris, “911/Mr. Lonely (feat. Frank Ocean & Steve Lacy)” - Tyler the Creator, “RAF (feat. A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti, Quavo, Lil Uzi Vert & Frank Ocean)” - A$AP Mob, “Caught Their Eyes (feat. Frank Ocean)” - Jay Z

Known ghost, Frank Ocean comes and goes as he pleases. He is either nowhere or everywhere. This winter and spring, following the release of “Blonde” last August, he was everywhere. “Slide,” “911” and “Caught Their Eyes”  were Frank in his comfort zone. The three songs were guest hooks on summer songs where he could sing his sweet melodies. Say there is an impending zombie apocalypse, or nuclear war with Rocket Man, and we needed to preserve our culture for future generations; my first priority would be to save the audio of a Frank Ocean hook, followed by a VHS copy of “Small Soldiers.” “RAF” was a little different in that we got rapping-Frank and he also used a triple entendre with the word/name Teddy which is a eight-times multiplier for me in terms of how much I like the song. Ocean has the cultural power and quality to be higher on this list but has been relatively quiet in the fall which drops him down a few spots.

 

#5: Quavo

Guest Verse Style: Constant Album Mode

Quality: Great

Cultural Power: Great

What Have You Done For Me Lately: A medium amount

Clout Index: 9

Notable Guest Appearances: “I Get the Bag (feat. Migos)” - Gucci Mane

Following corn, Quavo hooks are America’s #2 export. None of that information is researched but it feels true and that’s all that matters. Quavo accounts for two of my favorite hooks in recent memory (“pick up the phone” and “Good Drank”) and the ultimate hook of the summer (“I Get the Bag”); all guest appearances and all great. Culturally this man, and Migos as a whole, are on top for the 12-18 demographic and that’s an absolute goldmine. It is no surprise 13-year-old LeBron James Jr. chose to get a picture with Migos and no other group. Migos are on top of the “cool” index and, judging off the number of “clout goggles” worn at Saturday’s tailgate, 2017’s leading trend-setters. With “Culture 2” expected for this year or early 2018, there will be no shortage of Quavo and I think we can all agree that that is awesome.

 

#4: Offset  

Guest Verse Style: Constant Album Mode

Quality: Great

Cultural Power: Slightly Less Great than Quavo

What Have You Done for Me Lately: A lot

Clout Index: 9.1

Notable Guest Appearances: “Patek Water (feat. Offset)” - Young Thug & Future

In 2013, Lionel Messi had a slight injury and started the Champions’ League quarterfinal vs. Paris Saint-Germain on the bench. When Barcelona went 1-0 down, the Argentinian was subbed in and in nine minutes the Spanish side had equalized, in large part because of Messi. Dani Alves, speaking to Sid Lowe of the Guardian after the game, said, “Messi gives us a different air. We know that and so do the opposition.” Offset gives songs a different air. His triplet, or Versace-style flow, finds little spaces within a beat that nobody else is able to reach. This style of rapping increases the energy of a song by 10-to-12 notches and separates Offset from his fellow Migo, Quavo. From a cultural power perspective, these two are about equal but Quavo being the frontman naturally carries more weight. “Patek Water” and “Slide” prove Offset’s ability to take a song and flip it on its head. Not to mention, the guy is capable of great guest hooks as Gucci Mane’s “Met Gala (feat. Offset)” was a highlight of the spring and early summer.

 

#3: André 3000

Guest Verse Style: Cherry Pick

Quality: Tied for Best Ever

Cultural Power: Poor

What Have You Done for me Lately: Not Much

Clout Index: 9.3

Notable Guest Appearance: “Solo (Reprise)” - Frank Ocean, “the ends” - Travis Scott, “Decemba (Remix) [feat. $ilk Money & André Benjamin]” - Divine Council

The fact that I have André 3000 on this list is irresponsible and throws my whole list into question, but I am doing it anyway. I think of André 3000 as Aragorn smoking a pipe in the shadows of the pub in the first “Lord of the Rings” movie. He is constantly lurking in the background and, when needed, will absolutely murder everyone in the place. The whole case for André 3000 is based on how highly you rate him as a rapper because his most recent, notable appearance in a song was from over a year ago. That being said, Three Stacks is an assassin on guest verses past (“Int’l Player’s Anthem,” “Pink Matter” and “Walk It Out [Remix]”) and present. His cherry picked verse on “Decemba” is a song that I would never have heard of unless André chose to remix it and I am forever grateful for that decision. “Solo (Reprise)” is verbal tomfoolery. It makes no sense how good he is at rapping on that song. André 3000 makes it onto my list not because he is currently making waves, but because when he does decide to put something out, it is must-listen material.

 

#2: Travis Scott

Guest Verse Style: Everything

Quality: Very Good

Cultural Power: Great

What Have You Done for Me Lately: A lot

Clout Index: 9.4

Notable Guest Appearances: “Fingers Blue (feat. Travis Scott)” - Smokepurpp, “Skywalker (feat. Travis Scott)” - Miguel, “Love Galore (feat. Travis Scott)” - SZA, “Know No Better” - Major Lazer

Travis Scott is adaptable, coachable and relatable. I mean who hasn’t impregnated a Kardashian? Alright, relatable is not accurate, but Scott’s “Notable Guest Appearances” reek of adaptability and coachability. He goes from a dark banger in “Fingers Blue” to the more sensual R&B of Miguel and SZA and finishes with the pop party anthem “Know No Better.” Scott can do so many things well and that is invaluable when it comes to a featured artist. Scott gets the nod at two for being a Swiss Army knife of a rapper.

 

#1: Kendrick Lamar

Guest Verse Style: Everything

Quality: Tied for Best Ever

Cultural Power: Depends on who you ask, but a lot

What Have You Done for me Lately: Comfortable Amount

Clout Index: 9.7

Notable Guest Appearances: “Power (feat Kendrick Lamar & Lance Skiiwalker)” - Rapsody, “New Freezer (feat. Kendrick Lamar)” - Rich the Kid

Is it alright to put Kendrick at the top of the power rankings? Yes. I thought of this column after I heard Offset’s verse on “Patek Water” and my immediate thought was, “Kendrick is number one.” This decision makes this choice a little boring but it has to be this way. If I see two songs and one has a Kendrick feature, I am going to listen to that one first. People forget that “Control” was a guest verse. Why the hell do rappers still have him on their songs when all he’s done for the past five years is upstage rappers on their own songs? Do you remember Schoolboy Q’s verse from “Collard Greens”? No, because Kendrick was on it. His guest verses are in a league of their own therefore, making it easiest choice of the list for me.


Teddy Craven is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at edward.craven_jr@uconn.edu.