When thinking of hip-hop's respected rappers, one thing they tend to have in common is a goal to make good music. An added bonus is to hopefully have a moment where they really get to shine, whether that's on the charts or gaining recognition at awards shows. Those moments can come as a result of a solo song catching on or because they collaborated with another big-name artist and rose to the occasion. The world of hip-hop really isn't that predictable; some of rap's biggest names made it to the charts without a cosign. But then there are others who got a boost by linking up with others. Here, XXL highlights the rappers who locked down their first big feature from another artist that ended up giving them the bump they needed to get to the Billboard charts and rise to the next level. This is the hip-hop stimulus package.
Now, there could be rappers who linked with another big rhymer on a song earlier in their career, but if it didn't chart, it doesn't fit into the kind of stimulus package we're talking about here. However, every artist doesn't cash in on their connections when they first get in the game; some wait a while for the timing to be better while others strike while the iron is hot. The rappers who chose one of the two routes are showcased here, and the songs featuring another artist or more solidified their place on the Billboard Hot 100. In some cases, like with Lil Durk and his 2020 track "3 Headed Goat" featuring Polo G and Lil Baby, even six years after they first made a name for themselves. The song earned Durkio a No. 43 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 last year, his first highest-charting song as a solo artist.
The idea of the stimulus package signifies when a rapper taps a more established artist for a feature. It's nothing new, but some artists have success in doing so than others. The beginning of Jeezy's ascent, then known as Young Jeezy, came in 2005, as a result of teaming up with Akon for their hit song "Soul Survivor." A year prior, Akon's 2004 single "Locked Up" was everywhere. His honesty about the streets fit well with Jeezy's handbook for surviving the block. "Soul Survivor" was an obvious hit as it showcased the rapper's rhymes about "livin' in hell" and the singer's melodic delivery as a "rider," and becoming the No. 4 song on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2005 cemented that.
Lil Baby's stimulus package came out of left field when he got Drake on his 2018 single "Yes Indeed." Before that, Lil Baby had plenty of promise, and was one of the more buzzworthy street rappers out. Once he released "Yes Indeed" three years ago, all of that seemingly changed overnight. He held his own alongside Drake, and got the visibility that comes with getting The Boy to rap on your track. From the time it became the No. 4 song in the country in 2018, Lil Baby never really stopped winning.
Lil Durk, Lil Baby and Jeezy aren't the only rappers who experienced a hit with the help of another artist by their side on the collab tip. Take a look below to listen to your favorite rappers’ first stimulus package on the charts.
Gunna"Drip Too Hard" with Lil Baby
While they will always be tied together due to their friendship and blowing up around the same time, 2018's "Drip Too Hard" was the collab single between Lil Baby and Gunna that took the latter to the mainstream. While Baby had already touched the upper reaches of the Billboard Hot 100 with his Drake-assisted single "Yes Indeed" in June of 2018, Gunna didn't have a similar moment until "Drip Too Hard" in October of 2020. That month, the track climbed to the No. 4 song in the country, which kicked off Gunna and Lil Baby's extremely successful album Drip Harder.
A$AP Ferg"Plain Jane (Remix)" featuring Nicki Minaj
By 2017, everyone knew A$AP Ferg. His name was solidified as the second biggest artist out of the A$AP Mob camp. That same year, he came out of nowhere with one of his biggest songs ever, "Plain Jane," a Tear The Club Up Thugs-sampling track about ballin' out. Once Ferg got Nicki Minaj on the remix in December of 2017, the song peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January of 2018. The placement earned him his highest-charting track ever at that point as a result of Nicki's legendary status, which took the song over the top and added more momentum to it.
Rick Ross"The Boss" featuring T-Pain
T-Pain's dominance in hip-hop in the mid-to-late 2000s was unparalleled at the time. He's one of the early pioneers of creating the singing-rapping melodic music that is so prevalent today. If a rapper wanted a hit with a singer using Auto-Tune and delivering a great hook, they'd call on Tallahasee Pain. Rick Ross made that call to T-Pain in 2008, and had his first big hit due to that decision. Ross' "The Boss" perfectly embodied the contrast of boastful rhymes and a melody-drenched hook. The track helped solidify Ross' "boss" image. Peaking at No. 17 on the Hot 100 in 2008, Rick Ross' long, consistent reign pretty much began here.
Future"Where Ya At?" featuring Drake
Future was heading into 2015's DS2 album with a promising movement after his sophomore LP, Honest, scored a No. 2 position on the Billboard 200. DS2 ended up changing his career commercially, landing at No. 1 on the 200 chart, and launched him into real stardom. The lead single "Where Ya At?" features Drake, who famously remixed Future's 2011 single "Tony Montana" then didn't want to appear at the video shoot. However, "Where Ya At?" marked the moment they put all that behind them and collaborated once more. This was Future's biggest hit at the time, peaking at No. 28 on the Hot 100.
Yung Bleu"You're Mines Still (Remix)" featuring Drake
Since 2015, when he dropped the first installment of his Investments mixtape series, Yung Bleu has been consistently releasing music and taking home plaques for years now. Five years after that first tape, 2020 was his best year yet. That year, he dropped his song "You're Mines Still," on his Love Scars: The 5 Stages Of Emotions project. On its own, the track was a banger, but when he got on Drake's radar, the track went up more than a notch. Drizzy decided he wanted to add a verse to it. That move launched the song up the charts, peaking at No. 18 on the Hot 100. Now, Bleu has his first stimulus package as an artist and the future looks promising.
J. Cole"Power Trip" featuring Miguel
J. Cole was the featured artist on Miguel's debut single "All I Want Is You" in 2010, and by 2013, when they teamed up for Cole's single "Power Trip," Miguel had fashioned himself into an R&B star. The Dreamville Records head honcho was earning success on his own, with his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, landing at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2011, and he kept the momentum going by staying in a familiar territory. Cole strung together a new hit in "Power Trip" to keep his name buzzing. The song peaked at No. 19 on the Hot 100, proving that when Miguel and Cole link up, it's a success story.
Lil Baby"Yes Indeed" featuring Drake
Right before his debut album, Harder Than Ever, came out in 2018, Lil Baby already had major buzz stemming from the mixtapes he was releasing throughout 2017. Songs like "2 The Hard Way" with Marlo had eyes and ears in his direction. Baby was also winning over other rappers near and far like Drake, who teamed up with him on "Yes Indeed" in 2018. The track skyrocketed to No. 6 on the Hot 100 that year, and locked in Lil Baby as one of the hottest new rappers to watch. The rest is history.
Coi Leray"No More Parties (Remix) " featuring Durk
Coi Leray has been consistently dropping music since 2018, but recently found her big hit with "No More Parties." The song took off on TikTok in January of this year, as a result of Coi releasing a snippet on the platform. Once the banger officially arrived that month, the hook of "I'm off to better things/I'm only doing shit that's gonna make me elevate/Only want people around that's gonna make me better/Bitch, pull up in that mhm/It's a mhm/They ask how I get that ooh," was already viral. Thanks to Lil Durk's remix treatment, he helped catapult the track to No. 26 on the Hot 100. Coi's breakthrough moment has arrived.
2 Chainz"No Lie" featuring Drake
Nearly a decade ago, 2 Chainz was transitioning through his career's second wind in 2012, leaving his Tity Boi days behind. His hit single "No Lie" featuring Drake came at the perfect time. After he had already dropped a scene-stealing verse on G.O.O.D. Music's "Mercy" with Kanye West, Big Sean and Pusha-T that same year, he followed up with "No Lie" when Drake was in the process of becoming a huge act himself. The song peaked at No. 24 on the Hot 100, and is still one of 2 Chainz's most beloved records.
Kendrick Lamar"Poetic Justice" featuring Drake
Kendrick Lamar was the hottest young rapper of the moment in 2013, with all of the noise he made from his previous releases like his 2011 debut album, Section.80, and his elite lyrical skills. He already had a hit with "Swimming Pools (Drank)," which climbed to No. 12 on the Hot 100 in 2012, and is featured on his sophomore LP, good kid, m.A.A.d city. However, "Poetic Justice" featuring Drake, which appeared on that same album, was Kendrick's first stimulus package with another artist to climb the charts, No. 26 on the Hot 100 in 2013 to be exact. The thoughtful ode to women from the serious technical rapper that Kendrick is, when he usually raps about his upbringing and societal ills, showed a different side to K-Dot, plus having Drake on the song helped.
A$AP Rocky"F**kin' Problems" featuring Drake, Kendrick Lamar and 2 Chainz
A$AP Rocky was an anomaly in hip-hop when he first entered the game. Though he's a Harlem, N.Y. rapper, he stylistically borrowed from the South and Midwest, but stepped out rocking drip that reflected New York City's youth. Once he got popular, he took off both locally and online. His 2012 star-studded single "F**kin' Problems" featuring Kendrick Lamar, Drake and 2 Chainz, all of whom were hot at the same time, helped Flacko get further along in his career than he was in that moment. The song reached the No. 8 spot on the Hot 100, received a 2014 Grammy Awards nomination for Best Rap Song and put Rocky on every television and radio station all over the country.
Roddy Ricch"Start Wit Me" featuring Gunna
Shortly before he dropped the Billboard No. 1 staple "The Box" in 2019, Roddy Ricch was making a name for himself as a Compton, Calif. rapper with talent and potential in droves. He wasn't a big collaborator when it came to working with established acts that moved the needle, but Start Wit Me" featuring fellow 2019 XXL Freshman and close friend Gunna changed that. The song didn't chart particularly high, falling just outside of the Hot 100 top 50 at No. 56 in January of 2020, but it went platinum and gave a look at the heights Roddy would soon reach.
Meek Mill"Ima Boss" featuring T.I., Birdman, Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled, Rick Ross and Swizz Beatz
Meek Mill got hot in hip-hop through the Philadelphia battle rap and mixtape circuit. Take a look at those old videos of Meek wearing braids for a reminder. As he evolved in his career, Meek began getting closer to mainstream relevance through his signing to Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group after previously ending a deal with T.I.'s Grand Hustle Records. The Philly rhymer came out swinging with his 2011 hit "Ima Boss." Rapping alongside Ross on the remix, those horns and Meek's energy correctly sold him as up next that year. Late 2011 found T.I., Birdman, Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled, Rick Ross and Swizz Beatz showing up for the remix. In early 2012, the song hit No. 51 on the Hot 100. Meek's first platinum song has aged well.
Lil Durk"3 Headed Goat" featuring Lil Baby and Polo G
Lil Durk's popularity has been rising consistently over the last three years. He has maintained a loyal fan base that sits just outside of the mainstream based on his early days as a drill rapper. Take last year for example, his music and brand hit harder, earning him more praise and looks from fellow rhymers like Drake, who tapped Durkio for "Laugh Now Cry Later" last summer. These days, Durk's solo songs center on honest experiences in romantic relationships or the ups and downs of the streets. "3 Headed Goat," which appears on his 2020 album, Just Cause Y'all Waited 2, recruits Polo G, a fellow Chicago rapper who has made his own lane, and Lil Baby, who is red-hot in the game. With all three of them rapping as hard as ever, the song's title makes sense, as does it becoming Durk's highest-charting song ever, No. 43 on the Hot 100. "3 Headed Goat" put Durk in tune with other listeners who were more familiar with the likes of Lil Baby, and provided him with a banner moment for his career.
Pooh Shiesty"Back In Blood" featuring Lil Durk
Three years ago, Pooh Shiesty was making noise in his hometown of Memphis, appearing as features on local artists' tracks and releasing music of his own. Last year, he signed to Gucci Mane's 1017 Records, receiving a major cosign from one of hip-hop's most revered street rappers. "Back in Blood" featuring Lil Durk, a single from Pooh Shiesty's 2021 debut mixtape, Shiesty Season, is what turned him from interesting new name to solidified newcomer. In addition to becoming a viral hit on TikTok and any social media platform you can name, Durk's presence helped the song elevate, considering he experienced his own new level of success after linking with Drake on "Laugh Now Cry Later" in 2020. Between the hook and Durk's oft-repeated lyrics, "Back In Blood" rose to No. 13 on the Hot 100, giving Pooh a huge hit out the gate, and raising Durk's visibility.
Megan Thee Stallion"Cash Shit" featuring DaBaby
In early 2019, there weren't too many new rappers hotter than Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby. Realizing the talent and spotlight they had a hold on, the two collaborated on Megan's Fever cut "Cash Shit." Her decision to enlist DaBaby on this one made too much sense. He was more popular at the time and had been releasing mixtapes as early as 2015. Their chemistry was (and still is) great, with sharp bars and plenty of quotable lyrics to fill Instagram captions and tweets. The song became something of a club hit, peaking at No. 36 on the Hot 100 in 2019, and going double platinum despite never having a video. These two rappers have experienced major glow-ups since then with even more Hot 100 hits to their respective names.
Jeezy"Soul Survivor" featuring Akon
When Jeezy dropped "Soul Survivor" with Akon in 2005, the song rang off everywhere. Akon was already popular off the strength of his 2004 hit song "Locked Up," so Jeezy bringing on the singer to deliver the hook of "Soul Survivor" with similar energy for the 2005 single was a smart move. While Jeezy was well-known in the streets for his mixtapes and gruff rhymes about hustling, "Soul Survivor" molded his story into a motivational track about getting through anything. The world reacted, surging the song to No. 4 on the Hot 100 in 2005, giving Jeezy his first hit song and setting the stage for his classic debut album, Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101.
Young Thug"Pick Up The Phone" with Travis Scott, featuring Quavo
Young Thug was an off-kilter rapper out of Atlanta who's star was starting to rise in 2016 when he collaborated with Travis Scott on the smash hit "Pick Up The Phone." The track was Thugger's first big break in the game, even though it went through some turmoil. Travis was accused of leaking the song himself when it was originally belonged to Thug. The final version featured both Thug and Travis—both appearing as top billing—with the addition of Quavo as the featured guest. "Pick Up The Phone" peaked at No. 43 on the Hot 100 in 2016, and put Thug next to two of the hottest young rappers at the time. The song pretty much became an anthem that year.
Gucci Mane"Wasted" featuring Plies
Gucci Mane was already a prolific mixtape artist who had the streets under control, but he had yet to grasp commercial success in the 2000s. However, all of that changed in 2009, when he dropped "Wasted" featuring Plies. Peaking at No. 36 on the Hot 100 in 2009, this was the song that put Gucci Mane on the map all over the U.S. With its infectious hook and focus on partying as well as Plies' delivery of a strong verse riddled with quotables, Guwop's track was running up the charts. Considering Plies already had a string of successful songs ahead of this moment and was known down South and beyond, his presence elevated the song, and warmed people up to the man they call Wop.
Drake"Successful" featuring Trey Songz
Transitioning from child actor to a rap star is no easy feat, but luckily enough for Drake, his first big song set him on the right path for success—no pun intended. In 2009, Drizzy dropped "Successful" featuring his friend Trey Songz. The record finds the Toronto wanting more for himself, and pushing to the top even when things get rough. Long before he was the superstar we know now, the lyrics on the hook are a manifestation of better days. "I want the money, money and the cars, cars/And the clothes, the hoes I suppose/I just wanna be, I just wanna be successful," Trey sings. Drake also sounds like he knew the heights he would eventually get to, most notably on the charts. "Successful" climbed to No. 17 in October of 2009, with the assistance of having an established act like Trey Songz holding down the hook. This was Drake's first platinum song, and, no surprise, many more followed.