August 20th, 2011 | By Edwin
The world of music can be frightening for young rappers who are just starting out in the game today. It is a cutthroat environment and even rappers with a huge amount of talent can sometimes fall between the cracks. How can somebody stand out from the crowd? One technique that has existed since the early 90s was the “featured rapper.” Here are a few observation that I made about this phenomenon:
1) New rappers may establish themselves and gain fame, notoriety, and buzz by rapping a strong verse on an established album by a veteran. Some notable examples in recent memory include Lupe Fiasco, who got a significant amount of buzz by killing his guest verse on Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky.” J. Cole had his career boosted with a guest verse on The Blueprint 3 (a mediocre album, by the way) and on Wale‘s album Attention Deficit. Likely the most famous example of all was AZ’s historically fierce cameo on Nas’ Life’s a Bitch.
2) Conversely, established rappers can jump into new micro-niches of the hip hop culture with guest appearances on tracks that may diversify their portfolio. Lil’ Wayne fueled his rapid ascension to hip hop stardom not only with the incredible amount of mixtapes he put out, but also with cameo appearances ranging from Destiny’s Child to Wyclef Jean. He ensured that his music was constantly heard in both the streets and the radio.
3) Rappers can also form a cohesive group of sorts in which they can feed of each other’s styles and energies. One of the earliest examples of this was N.W.A, which consisted of Arabian Prince, DJ Yella, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and MC Ren , all of which became solo legends in their own right. In the early 2000 era, conscious hip-hop merged with the native tongue movement and inspired rappers Common, Talib Kweli, and Mos Def. When you listen to an album like Black Star, you can hear the chemistry between them, the common sound they share and the lyrical ideas that they seem to effortlessly create today. This still continues on to this day (Young Money, for better or worse).
Just like how transcendent talents in the tech industry often make sweet music together by combining their energy, efforts and ideas together in the start up world, rappers can help each other reach levels that they can otherwise not achieve by themselves as long as the sound is cohesive, the chemistry is sound and (perhaps most importantly) they all actually like each other.