A$AP Rocky featuring Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson & Big K.R.I.T."1 Train"
It’s hard to deny a song with SIX XXL Freshmen as the greatest Freshmen collaboration, even if it comes from the rapper who was too cool for school in 2012. Damn you, Rocky! Anyway, Pretty Flacko drafted some of the most talented lyricists to ever appear on a Freshman cover for “1 Train,” which makes stops in Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens, Compton, Alabama and Detroit, before K.R.I.T. closes out the festivities with some southern twang. Who had the best verse on this epic posse cut? It's still a matter for legitimate debate.
Isaiah Rashad featuring ScHoolboy Q and Jay Rock"Shot You Down (Remix)"
TDE's youngest gun and fifth consecutive Freshman made a lot of heads turn when he dropped his Cilvia Demo late in 2013, and had some pointed words for XXL's Freshmen List as well. But his Top Dawg brothers stopped by for the remix and transformed a standout track into a bonafide banger.
Dizzy Wright & Joey Bada$$"Maintain"
The Golden Age
Dizzy Wright and Joey Bada$$ take it back to hip-hop’s golden era on “Maintain.” The two lyrical spitters rap about the different ways of keeping your head above water. Produced by DJ Hoppa, the soul-driven sample provides the perfect backdrop for the two 2013 Freshmen to go in.
dizzy wright joey badass
Ace Hood featuring Future & Rick Ross"Bugatti"
Trials And Tribulations
The club anthem of the year in the early part of 2013, Ace Hood turns up with the help from Future the hookmaster and the Teflon Don himself, Rick Ross.
ace hood bugatti
Asher Roth featuring Action Bronson"Choices"
Pabst & Jazz
Two dexterous white boys drop some hoop references and follow the bass line on “Choices,” which appeared on Asher Roth’s 2011 Pabst & Jazz project.
Kevin Gates featuring Wiz Khalifa"Satellites"
Stranger Than Fiction
Easily the best song Gates has ever produced, it's catchy and melodic all the way through, with his monstrous hook taking things to a new level. Wiz comes in bouncing on the beat at the end and puts an exclamation point firmly on the track.
Big Sean featuring J. Cole"24k Of Gold"
Big Sean and J. Cole carved out a gem for Detroit on this introspective offering that features the rhymesters delivering their rags-to-riches tales and aspirations on wax. When Sean ponders on lines like, "A world where you didn’t need sleep, that way we could catch up instead of chase dreams," or when Cole imagines his level of fame ("Sometimes I got to pinch a fat ass to see if it's real"), the two altogether create a beloved record that’ll never get old within each of their respective catalogs.
Big Sean Detroit
August Alsina featuring Trinidad Jame$"I Luv This Shit"
Downtown: Life Under The Gun
August Alsina exploded onto the scene based off the strength of this banger with 2013 Freshman Trinidad Jame$, and his upward trajectory has only blossomed since then. The R&B singer with the story of a rapper was able to tell his side of the world on the celebratory track, while Trinidad did what he does so well—spit catchy, simplified verses.
Wiz Khalifa featuring Big Sean"Gang Bang"
Wiz and Sean stunt all over this monster of a Lex Luger beat, which is somehow able to transform two of rap's nicest and approachable rappers into intimidating forces to be reckoned with.
big sean wiz khalifa
Ab-Soul featuring Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q & Jay Rock"Black Lip Bastard" (Remix)
By the time we realized that every rapper in the Black Hippy crew is super good at rapping, all we could think, talk, or ask about was when the Black Hippy album was coming. It may never come, or it might come in a few months—who knows? What we do know, though, is that this rare collaboration is really a gem. Ab brought along the whole squad for a remix of "Black Lip Bastard" off his Control System album, and the result is a great lyrical exercise on which every member flexes their humor, diversity and versatility over a beat that sounds like an outtake from 2Pac's All Eyez days.
Ty Dolla $ign featuring Wiz Khalifa and DJ Mustard"Or Nah"
Beach House EP
The hook on this song launched straight out of the speakers and landed squarely in the popular lexicon, giving it a level of popularity that gave such huge boosts to "Started From The Bottom" and "The Motto." But Dolla $ign's effortless cool and Wiz's smoky flow pair together better than most.
Kendrick Lamar“HiiiPoWeR” (Produced by J. Cole)
It’s more than a song. Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul have described “HiiiPoWer” as a movement, one standing for heart, honor and respect. The song’s title has grown to become one of Black Hippy’s signature phrases. Often thought of as solely belonging to Kendrick Lamar, “HiiiPoWer” is very much a Freshmen collaboration, with J. Cole on the beat. Cole sat in on dozens of mixes of this Section.80 standout, which went on to garner critical acclaim.
cole kendrick lamar
J. Cole featuring Kendrick Lamar"Forbidden Fruit"
These two have a long history, with their chemistry shining on nearly every track they hop on together, and this one is no different. With KDot only submitting a handful of verses in 2013 his small contributions add a ghostly feel to the track, while Cole's referential first verse and indignant second both showcase his top-level lyricism.
DJ Drama featuring Crooked I & B.o.B"Every City"
The host of this year’s XXL Freshmen Mixtape, DJ Drama elicited the services of two Freshmen alum for this cut off his Third Power album from 2012. Crooked shows love to his hometown and others in a series of tongue-twisting verses while B.o.B handles hook duties.
crooked i every city
YG featuring ScHoolboy Q and Jay Rock"I Just Wanna Party"
My Krazy Life
One of the bounciest street albums in recent memory, this track encapsulates what sets it apart from others in the genre—it eschews violence for the blunt and the 40, at least unless things get a little out of hand. DJ Mustard is one of the best out right now.
CyHi Da Prynce featuring Big Sean"Woopty Doo"
Royal Flush 2
G.O.O.D. Music head honcho Kanye West is behind the boards on the groovy "Woopty Doo," where labelmate and 2010 Freshman Big Sean joins in on the jazzy fun to roll his eyes at people who brag about nonsense.
cyhi da prynce
Big K.R.I.T. featuring Future"Just Last Week"
King Remembered In Time
K.R.I.T. steps out of his usual comfort zone to get down with his Southern counterpart for a track that oozes with much more modern Atlanta than it does K.R.I.T.'s usual soul-infused Mississippi beats. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, and Krizzle still shines while Future floats nearly unintelligibly over the song's hook.
French Montana featuring Mac Miller & Curren$y"Triple Double"
Mac & Cheese 3
Originally entitled “It Was A Good Year,” this song was supposed to appear on French Montana’s Excuse My French. Instead, the Bad Boy rapper opted to include the collaboration with Curren$y and Mac Miller on Mac & Cheese 3. The track, which samples The Isley Brother’s “Footsteps in the Dark,” is a recreation of Ice Cube’s iconic hit, “Today Was A Good Day.” Although we don’t get the same vivid story as Cube’s, the three here spit celebratory rhymes about living the good life. It's just as catchy.
French Montana Mac and Cheese 3
Jarren Benton featuring Jon Connor and Rittz"Billion Bucks"
Freebasing With Kevin Bacon
Two of the most lyrical MCs that the Freshmen List has ever featured—Jarren Benton and Jon Connor—set the tone for this 2012 banger, and it's a furious display of rapping skills, particularly from Benton.
Vic Mensa featuring Ab-Soul and BJ The Chicago Kid"Holy Holy"
Emotional and raw, "Holy Holy" is one of the standout cuts off Vic's solo debut tape that grows more personal with time. The Chi-Town MC dedicates this one to his fallen friends while Ab-Soul opens up about the tragic suicide of his ex-girlfriend Alori Joh with an intensity that he rarely exhibits, making this cut mean more than just another collaboration on another rapper's mixtape. Like all great songs, it ages well.
Gorilla Zoe featuring Gucci Mane & OJ Da Juiceman"Helluva Life"
Don't Feed Da Animals
OJ's ad-libs here sound like there was a chihuahua barking in the studio while this was being recorded, but "Helluva Life" is still a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. It's an all ATL affair, with Zaytoven overseeing production duties while Zoe croons on the delicate auto-tuned hook.
Chance The Rapper featuring Ab-Soul"Smoke Again"
One of the woozier tracks on Chance's Acid Rap, it was also one of the best verses of Ab-Soul's otherwise-quiet 2013, and provided one of the more quotable lines of his career (which we won't print here, but you can hear below).
chance the rapper
Lupe Fiasco featuring Ab-Soul"Thorns & Horns"
This dropped out of nowhere, but Lupe and Soulo on the same track was a collaboration nobody knew we needed so bad, and now we can't get enough. It's almost apocalyptic in its execution, and the two of the trade lines impeccably throughout.
Harry Fraud featuring Action Bronson & French Montana"Mean"
Despite totally different styles and approaches, French Montana and Action Bronson both share a love for the warm and woozy production of La Musica de Harry Fraud. French moans inaudibly and Action spits some heat, saying, “They just want me for these things I have acquired/Yo when I told you that I loved you I was lyin’."
harry fraud french montana action bronson mean
Wale featuring J. Cole & Melanie Fiona"Beautiful Bliss"
Wale scored one of his strongest records to date with his 2009 collaboration with J. Cole. Off Wale’s debut album, “Beautiful Bliss” quickly became a radio favorite. Cole might have even stolen the show with his guest verse here.
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Kendrick Lamar featuring Jay Rock"Money Trees"
good kid, m.A.A.d city
The record that had everyone screaming screaming “Ya Bish.” K Dot made his only TDE collaboration on good kid, m.A.A.d city a strong one with the instantly catch hook to match the top notch lyricism, and Jay Rock came through like a runaway train to steal the show.
kendrick lamar grammys
Chance The Rapper featuring Vic Mensa and Twista"Cocoa Butter Kisses"
On a mixtape full to the brim with standout tracks, "Cocoa Butter Kisses" might just be the best one. It was a lot of the rap game's introduction to Vic Mensa, and also featured a spitfire verse from Twista, but it was the song's mix of heartfelt hook and serious rapping skills that set it apart.
chance the rapper acid rap
Curren$y featuring Freddie Gibbs"Scottie Pippens"
No hook was needed when Curren$y and Gangsta Gibbs cruised through the murky and mysterious Alchemist-produced “Scottie Pippens.” Gibbs’ relentless verse in particular is something to be marveled at, opening with the awesome, “Reporting live from the Devil’s palace/Breakfast had two titties, two blunts and a turkey bacon sandwich."
ScHoolboy Q featuring Kendrick Lamar"Blessed"
Habits & Contradictions
In the most gripping song off Habits & Contradictions, Q shows an introspective side, counting his blessings while contemplating the realities of others. The second verse is hair-raising as Q tries to console a friend who's lost a child. K. Dot closes the show with an equally moving verse.
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Macklemore featuring ScHoolboy Q"White Walls"
Before "Thrift Shop" became your grandma's favorite song, this jam from The Heist seemed to be Macklemore's most radio-ready hit, with a crazy-catchy hook from Hollis, feel-good and nostalgic spitting from Mack, and an awesomely aggressive feature from Q.
Macklemore Ryan Lewis The Heist
Meek Mill featuring Big Sean"Burn"
Summer 2012 can best be defined by this burning collabo from Meek and Sean. Not only did the Jahlil Beats-produced jam set the summer ablaze but it also scored Meek a Top 50 Billboard hit and spawned a string of attempted remakes. Does anyone remember this track originally belonging to Jadakiss? Us neither.
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Kendrick Lamar featuring ScHoolboy Q"Michael Jordan"
Before Section.80 and good kid, m.A.A.d city fame, K. Dot captured the critic's ear with 2010's Overly Dedicated release, especially with this rowdy banger featuring his TDE partner-in-rhyme, ScHoolboy Q. Together the two leap over the free throw line, slamming in a barrage of cunning wordplay and boasts galore.
Mac Miller featuring Action Bronson"Red Dot Music"
Watching Movies With The Sound Off
Mac and Action are two of the goofiest guys in the game, and they brought it on this track from Mac's second—and much more mature—album from the summer of 2013. The two trade hooks and then Bronson goes in, peppering the track with some seemingly unconnected streams of conscious thought, but they wrap it up impressively.
ScHoolboy Q featuring Jay Rock"2 Raw"
Habits & Contradictions
Q and Jay Rock get grimy on this Habits and Contradictions bonus cut.
schoolboy q habits contradictions
Ski Beatz featuring Wiz Khalifa & Curren$y"Scaling The Building"
24-Hour Karate School
Rapping over a Ski Beatz beat alongside Wiz Khalifa is the definition of Curren$y’s comfort zone. He’s put out great releases with both of them and “Scaling The Building” is an oft-overlooked gem from both of their respective collaborative catalogs. It’s such a banger that Spitta can get away with bars like “Niggas used to think I was crazy/Now they see my new whip and be like ‘Dog that shit crazy.'”
ski beatz 24hr karate school
Ty Dolla $ign featuring B.o.B"Paranoid"
Beach House 2
Welcome to the show, Ty Dolla $ign, and we hope you solve that problem with your bitches in the club sooner than later. This track was a massive boost for Dolla $ign's career, and became so ubiquitous that it sparked tons of remixes.
Ty Dolla Sign
Photo Credit: Jory Lee Cordy
Wale featuring Big Sean"Slight Work"
This song knocks, but should've been at least ten times better than it is. It was Diplo's next hip-hop crossover after producing Breezy's "Look At Me Now," and after that banger all we could expect was an equal amount of awesomeness. What we got was a beat that may or may not have been a throwaway Diplo probably found in a hurry before the session, and Wale and Sean—who sounds like he has a chest cold—do what they can. Best line: "I'ma need a yellow cab and a yellow bad bitch."
wale big sean
Action Bronson featuring Wiz Khalifa"The Rockers"
One of the most typically-Bronson songs ever recorded, Bam Bam floats over Harry Fraud's dreamy production and drops professional wrestling and food references left and right, showing an agility on his second verse that he doesn't usually flash. And then there's Wiz, who pairs with Fraud so perfectly it's a wonder why he would ever work with anyone else.
Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean & Curren$y"Weed Brownies"
This under-appreciated single from the trio of Big Sean, Wiz, and Curren$y (whose collaborative project never quite came together) is as good of a weed anthem as you can make. The beat has the kind of smoked-out retro feel that reminds you of Kush & Orange Juice, and the filtered vocals fit the production perfectly. Sean sounds a little too hyper for the record, but Wiz and Spitta are so cloudy they mellow the whole thing out.
big sean wiz khalifa currensy
Big Sean featuring Kendrick Lamar and Jay Electronica"Control"
Oh yeah, remember this baby? Kendrick's lyrical assassination encompassed no less than six of his fellow XXL Freshmen, and put the game on notice that it had a new king gunning for the throne. By the time he was done with his lung-splitting verse, people forgot that Jay Electronica and Big Sean were even on the track—though the two of them didn't embarrass themselves with their own verses, Kendrick was untouchable.
Wale featuring Meek Mill, J Cole and Rockie Fresh"Black Grammys"
Self Made Vol. 3
MMG banded together and brought J Cole along for the ride with this track that helped make Self Made Vol. 3 a compilation that had more to it than just Meek's standout "Levels." Meek steals the show again here, but Cole and Wale in particular give him a run for his money.
Photo: Johnny Nunez/WireImage
ScHoolboy Q featuring Kendrick Lamar"Collard Greens"
There was a period of time after this song dropped where it was absolutely everywhere, and that bouncy beat was inescapable. Already one of the most respected lyricists in the game, Kendrick threw another monkey wrench in the perception of him by rapping a good chunk of his verse in Spanish.
Curren$y featuring Nipsey Hu$$le & Wiz Khalifa"I Don't Fucks With Em"
Spitta linked up with right-hand man Wiz Khalifa and Nipsey Hu$$le for this Smokee Robinson standout. In place of the actual song here, we’ve included some in studio footage of the three knocking the track out. As great as the song is, it's obviously way more fun to watch Curren$y lecture Nipsey about the dangers of smoking blunts.
Asher Roth featuring Vic Mensa"Fast Life"
The groove perfectly sets up Asher and Vic to go at it, and they both get deep, opining about the speed of life while adding just the right amount of nostalgia to make it both personal and relatable.
asher roth retrohash
Lil Durk featuring French Montana"L's Anthem (Remix)"
Signed To The Streets
Durk has always been the most melodic and pop-friendly of the Chicago drill soldiers he came up with, and this co-sign from French began his journey toward signing to Montana's Coke Boys imprint, becoming his biggest song along the way.
Filed Under: Ab-Soul, Action Bronson, Asher Roth, August Alsina, big krit, big sean, Black Hippy, Chance The Rapper, currensy, Dizzy Wright, Feature, featured, Isaiah Rashad, J. Cole, Jarren Benton, Jay Rock, Joey Bada$$, Jon Connor, Kendrick Lamar, kevin gates, Lil Durk, Mac Miller, Meek Mill, ScHoolboy Q, Ty Dolla $ign, vic mensa, Wale, Wiz khalifa, XXL Freshmen 2014, YG