In 2011, for the first time in years, cameo king bragging rights were pretty much up for grabs. Nicki Minaj dominated the guest appearance circuit leading up to her Pink Friday debut last year—grabbing the baton from her Young Money brethren Drake, who was the game’s most sought after MC the prior year. But in ‘11, even cameo Gods Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne—who both appear on this list—didn’t quite monopolize the guest star lane. This year, standouts include a hungry West Coast upstart and a missing-in-action Southern rapstress. XXL’s year-end countdowns continues with the Top 10 Best Guest Appearances of 2011.—XXL Staff
Keeping up with Eminem and Yelawolf is no easy feat, but former Hypnotize Minds First Lady, Gangsta Boo pulled it off. Seemingly resurfacing out of thin air after years on the milk carton, the Memphis rapper sets up Yela's "Throw It Up" with a riotous chorus before delivering a menacing verse between Wolf and Em's. On paper, this collaboration looks like a horrible typo, but make no mistake about it, the odd merging makes for one of the most entertaining songs of the year.
T.I.'s been spitting like he's still paying dues as of late. Perhaps because his last LP, No Mercy, was underwhelming, per the general consensus. Eager to show he hadn't lose a step, a fresh-out-of-jail Tip commandeered several hot records, including the remix to 2 Chainz's "Spend It." Tip’s in Trap Muzik form here as he effortlessly flaunts a series of cadences. He still got it. It’s the kang, bitch!
Jizzle’s “I Do” was an event. Initially slated to feature Andre 3000 and Drake, the final version paired up Dre and the Jigga Man for the first time. The two vets didn’t disappoint, but it’s Three Stacks who took center stage. Spinning Jeezy’s concept, Andre recites unorthodox vows with lines like, “Crazy I tell you this in the middle of a club/Where words tend to get thrown around lightly like like like love/Friend, rock star and so and so’s a genius/So him vow to never utter him do unless him mean it.” The last of Dre’s six guest appearances in 2011, the verse should hold his fans down ‘til he appears on B.o.B’s album in March of next year.
J. Cole never stood a chance. Four bars into his cameo on signee J. Cole’s “Mr. Nice Watch,”—the last verse on the song—Young Hov had already outshined his young pup. “I got a Hublot, I call it Tebow, I strap that bitch with a gator band/Y’all niggas ball halftime, y’all niggas like the Gator band/Y’all niggas need a timeout, who got these niggas all wound up/Cock sucker I’m 730, Y’all know where y’all niggas gon’ wind up?” he rhymes. Hovi, you did it again!
Beware of Kendrick Lamar. Lately, the Compton lyricist has been on a tear, mercilessly embarrassing MCs on their own tracks. It all started on Game's "The City." K. Dot delivers a potent hook—though it comes off more like a short verse placed between Game’s three verses. The track ends with Kendrick delivering another hook before blacking out for 16 bars a capella.
With C. Breezy's "Look at Me Now" still in heavy rotation, Busta turned things up a notch with his verse on Tech N9ne's "Worldwide Chopppers"—a posse cut on which Tech, Yelawolf, Twista, a few international MCs, and of course, Busta, took turns cramming words into rapid-fire flows. To let the Internets tell it, upon the track's premiere on XXL's Channel Live on Ustream—Bus's "Choppers" was quite possibly the best of his career. Time only will tell. In the meantime, call it a comeback.
Like Busta, Nas delivered a memorable guest verse 20 years after his breakthrough guest appearance—in this case, Main Source’s “Live at the Barbecue.” Sharing mic time with Bun B, Shyne and Busta Rhymes, Nas dropped a clever verse in which he boasted of inspiring Eminem and Kanye West and being Nasty like “gas from a fat man’s intestines.” Released with Nas’s own single, “Nasty,” already garnering spins, the verse built more anticipation for the Queens MC’s next LP, Life Is Good.
Lil Wayne’s no stranger to stealing the show, but on Ace Hood’s “Hustle Hard (Remix),” Birdman, Jr. did so in an unusual fashion. Relying on a subdued flow, the typically cartoon-ish Weezy wasted no lines as he offered comical pop culture references (“Swagger just dumb, call it Kelly Bundy.”) and hilarious sexual boasts (“I’ll fuck that bitch ‘til she short-winded.”).
"I'm On One" may has well have been Drake's track. Actually, it sort of was. According to the track's producer, T-Minus, Drake recorded his part first and then sent the song to Khaled. Lil Wayne and Rick Ross laced their verses next. But it's Drizzy who shines—spark plugging the cut with four bars of singing before transitioning into fast paced raps ranging from the OVO rapper being a fixture in gossip blogs' rumor mill to his royal ambitions. "I just feel like the Throne is for the taking," he offers to close his verse. Many believed the line was a subliminal dig at Jay-Z and Kanye. Drake then delivers the year's most undeniable hook. His commanding presence over DJ Khaled's most successful single to date helped the song dominate radio and clubs all summer and is still in heavy rotation. The song was certified triple platinum certification.
Busta Rhymes never fell off. But, the Dungeon Dragon had been relatively quiet on the guest artist front in the past few years. Then, 20 years after his scene-stealing guest verse on A Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario" made him arguably the most sought after collaborator in hip-hop history, Bussa Buss did it again; he jumped on a song and made it his with one verse. This time, Buss took over Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now”—which also featured Lil Wayne—with a dizzyingly fast, yet crystal clear verse only a tongue contortionist like Buss could deliver. The verse exposed Busta to a younger audience, reignited his buzz, opened the floodgates to more guest appearances and set the table for him to sign to Cash Money. Look at him now!