The Braxtons f/ Jay-Z "So Many Ways (Extended)" (1996)
Album: Maxi Single
Producer: Jermaine Dupri
Jay's never been quite as known for his R&B guest spots as some of the rappers who followed him (think Fabolous) even though he's got a few classics under his belt (think "The Best of Me Pt. 2"). But one of his best is "So Many Ways," a slept-on collaboration with The Braxtons, courtesy of Jermaine Dupri.
It captures a similar vibe to Jay's own work circa Reasonable Doubt, thanks to Jermaine Dupri's ominous loop. Jay's delivery matches the beat's eery use of space, with the same coldhearted detachment that gave all of his verses an edge at that time. Jay was only mildly more popular than The Braxtons (who had been Toni-less for several years—and she, of course, was massively more popular than either her sisters or Jay) so the slinky collaboration is now widely forgotten. Although it's worth watching this somewhat stiff performance at the 1996 Soul Train Lady Of Soul Awards for a glance at Reasonable Doubt-era Jay's quick sixteen and fly palm frond t-shirt. —David Drake