Do you know the feeling you get when an album’s track list is revealed and you see the features? Two or three big names could get your blood boiling with excitement, but it’s the posse cuts that get the mind spinning. When it was revealed that Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition had a song that featured Earl Sweatshirt, Ab-Soul and Kendrick Lamar, my mind nearly exploded. Four elite rappers? I haven’t been this excited for a song since “Swagger Like Us” in 2008. Eight years ago, a song that featured T.I., Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Jay Z was a fantasy, a hip-hop wet dream, and the end result happened to be a Auto-Tune nightmare. But that was eight years ago. This is a new day, a new fantasy, a new elite posse, and I’m excited for the raps to come.
Posse cuts reminds me an all-star game – when all the most prominent names are on the same court. In rap it isn’t always the biggest names, but the biggest talent that matters when a group rappers join together on one beat. The posse cut has birthed countless debates, discussions and arguments about who bested whom. Rappers are expected to bring their sharpest pen or else be left in the shadows. Competition is inspiring – rap is the land egos and hyper-machismo, a place where losing is never an option. Rather, it’s beef, battling, or penning a verse that will best any other incredible spitters on the same record – no one wants to be the weak link. It’s that very spirit that has made some my favorite posse cuts; records that need to be remembered.
Joe Budden “Slaughterhouse” (ft. Crooked I, Nino Bless, Royce da 5’9” & Joell Ortiz)
When Joe Budden, Royce Da 5’9”, Crooked I and Joell Ortiz came together as Slaughterhouse in 2008, there was speculation that the group wouldn’t be more than a single collaboration. I don’t think anyone saw the foursome sticking together longer than eight months, especially not eight years. The signing to Shady Records, the cyphers, the mixtape, releasing two albums, and having a third being executive produced by Just Blaze are all accomplishments that even the biggest fans couldn’t have foreseen. By some hip-hop miracle, the four-headed monster is still living and breathing fire. The original song that started it all might not have the best production, or the best mix, but the rapping has held up. It’s a bit underground rap history – one the few times a posse cut evolved into something bigger than a single collaboration.
Jay Rock “Vice City” (ft. Black Hippy)
Like Slaughterhouse, Black Hippy was four rappers coming together to form a Voltron-esque entity. Unlike Slaughterhouse, Black Hippy was four rappers who were all signed to the same label – ScHoolboy Q, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock and Ab-Soul. 2010’s “Zip That Chop That” (originally titled “Black Hippy” on Jay Rock’s From Hood Tales To The Cover Of XXL mixtape) was the first notable Black Hippy song to receive attention that featured all four artists. Since then, each Black Hippy song has been better than the last. There’s a huge demand for an entire album – it feels both possible and painfully far-fetched. There’s a natural chemistry between the long-time collaborators and, despite their differences in style, together they are a well oiled machine. “Vice City” from Jay Rock’s 90059 is arguably the best representation them in perfect sync.
Killer Mike “Big Beast” (ft. Bun B, T.I. & Trouble)
Killer Mike’s resurgence has been beautiful to witness. He has leveled up tremendously over the last few years: Run The Jewels, Bernie Sanders, the infamous shout out from Kendrick – Killa Kill from the Ville has reached a height acclaim that he hasn’t seen since his short time affiliated with OutKast. Right before the first Run The Jewels, Killer Mike released R.A.P. Music, an album produced entirely by El-P. The album starts with “Big Beast,” an explosive, monstrous street banger that is more destructive than a cherry bomb. El-P embodied the very spirit a rampaging Tyrannosaurus Rex. Killer Mike keeps it Southern with guest features – Trouble on the hook, with Bun B and T.I. pouring oil on the flame. “Big Beast” is a shot adrenaline, a haymaker to a glass jaw, and one the most memorable Southern posse cuts from the last half decade.
A$AP Rocky “1 Train” (ft. Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown & Action Bronson)
A$AP Rocky isn’t someone who seems to care for competition in rap. Rocky has the Harlem confidence that can easily be labeled as arrogance, but never seems compelled to prove himself. He’s the best in his world, and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. It wasn’t competition that inspired him to do “1 Train,” it was the desire to make the ultimate posse cut that was reminiscent all the ‘90s classics. He single-handedly recruited Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson and Big K.R.I.T. Hit-Boy’s production is a minimal loop with drums that hit with the force a black belt’s hand chopping boards. The song goes on for six minutes, with each rapper getting their moment to display their lyrical prowess. “1 Train” was a huge deal in 2013 – every rapper that Rocky selected were just beginning to peak. It’s also worth noting that Big K.R.I.T., the only artist representing the South, had the best verse.
Eminem “Detroit vs. Everybody” (ft. Big Sean, Danny Brown, Dej Loaf & Trick Trick)
“Detroit vs. Everybody” started f as a song and exploded into remixes, hashtags, t-shirts and various other forms branding and memorabilia. It’s one the more recent and popular posse cuts. The song is genius; Eminem brought together Royce Da 5’9”, Big Sean, Danny Brown, DeJ Loaf and Trick Trick – some Detroit’s most notable rap artists – to pay homage to their home with a title that challenges the world. Not only does it encourage other states to do the same, but a weak lineup would be unacceptable. Eminem brought out his best, and anything less would be laughable. I foresee a future with “Detroit vs. Everybody” becoming the D-Town’s national anthem.
Kanye West “Monster” (ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross & Nicki Minaj)
Kanye once secluded himself in Hawaii, surrounded himself with brilliant minds and shining talent, and that period gave birth to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and G.O.O.D. Fridays. Some incredible posse cuts were made – “Lord, Lord, Lord,” “Good Friday,” “Looking For Trouble,” and the incredible “So Appalled.” Out all the great music made during that time frame, though, I've always gravitated toward “Monster” as my favorite Kanye posse cut – the ridiculous placement Rick Ross’ four bars, Kanye rhyming sarcophagus and esophagus, Jay Z taking the song title serious by starting his verse f naming different monsters, and course Nicki. Nicki Minaj’s iconic verse was one those moments in rap where it felt undeniable. She was simply a star waiting to shine. Kanye threw her the alley oop, and she dunked with enough force to shatter the backboard. “Monster” is a rap national treasure.
There are countless epic posse cuts that deserve to be mentioned, especially once you start digging back into the ‘90s. Some rap's most magical moments happened when a posse rappers came together to wreak instrumentals. I know we’re in the squad age, but I’m hoping that elite posse’s make a big resurgence. Let’s hope that Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition is the match that sparks the flame.
By Yoh, aka My Beautiful Dark Twisted Yohtasy, aka @Yoh31.
Photo Credit: TDE