The 25 Best Posse Cuts in Rap History

Teamwork makes the dream work.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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"I don't care who's first and who last, but I know that y'all just better rock this at the drop of a dime, baby."

Competition is at the heart of hip-hop, an art form where each rapper wants to be better than the next. And there was never a better opportunity for a rapper to prove his or her worth than the posse cut, which is all about strategizing the freshest way to stand apart.

The rare few would come to single-handedly define a track—think Nicki Minaj on "Monster." Others would be content to play their roles and defer to the track's bigger stars. Then there were those rappers who complemented each other perfectly, playing off each other's strengths. And sometimes...well, some guys would just flop.

We defined a posse cut as a collaborative track between at least four rappers, and bringing together at least two acts (so A$AP Rocky's "Fuckin' Problems" doesn't make it, because it has only three rapped verses, and Wu-Tang's "Protect Ya Neck" wouldn't qualify because they're all part of the same group).

But ultimately, what defines a posse cut is the spirit of competition: The sense that each rapper has a burning desire to earn their spot and make a breakout performance (like Nas on "Live at the BBQ") or to completely dominate the track (like Mystikal on "Make 'Em Say Uhh!").

So without further ado, here are The 25 Best Posse Cuts in Rap History.

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25. Drake f/ Kanye West, Lil Wayne & Eminem "Forever" (2009)

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Producer: Boi-1da
Album: More Than A Game Soundtrack
Label: Zone 4, Interscope, Shady, Aftermath

If you're wondering why a platinum artist like Drake would jump on a single for a relative newcomer like A$AP Rocky (as he did last year on "Fuckin' Problems"), look no further than "Forever," and just assume he's paying it forward. On the cusp of full-blown stardom, Drake was ushered into the big leagues by Yeezy, Weezy, and Shady on "Forever"—before his debut album even dropped. And yet it wasn't Drake's coming out party that got everyone talking: it was Eminem's comeback that really shook up the game. After dealing with drug addiction and a brief hiatus from rap, Em emerged from the bat cave with a barrage of bars, proving that it was more than just a game to him; he was born to rock mics. —Insanul Ahmed

Best Verse: Eminem

24. Cool Breeze, Outkast, Goodie Mob & Witchdoctor "Watch for the Hook" (1998)

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23. DJ Khaled f/ T.I., Rick Ross, Akon, Fat Joe, Birdman & Lil Wayne "We Takin' Over" (2007)

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Producer: Danja
Album: We The Best
Label: Terror Squad Koch

In the late 2000s, a specific group of artists defined the sound of popular hip-hop: DJ Khaled brought together the biggest stars, Akon provided the hooks, and producers like Danja and The Runners brought a smooth Miami sound to center stage. Every song was a glossy, wide-screen event. T.I.'s verse is about a country-wide takeover in the form of a dexterous geographical lesson; Ross, at this point still relying on a fairly basic rhyme style, had yet to really lay on the lyricism, but Fat Joe brings an unexpectedly deft verse: "Feelin' like Pac, All Eyez On Me / fresh bandanna and I'm blowin' mad trees." Of course, it was Lil Wayne who would completely steal the show, after a quick intro from Birdman; Weezy even manages a reference to Kindergarten Cop.  —David Drake

Best Verse: Lil Wayne

22. D.I.T.C. "Day One" (1997)

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21. T.I. f/ Jay-Z, Kanye West & Lil Wayne "Swagga Like Us" (2008)

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Producer: Kanye West
Album: Paper Trail
Label: Grand Hustle, Atlantic

When T.I., Jay-Z, and Kanye West all got on stage together at MSG (along with Diddy and 50 Cent) one thing became perfectly clear: With enough star power, anything can be an event. Maybe that's why, about a year later, the trio teamed up and brought Lil Wayne along for the ride, on the M.I.A.-sampling "Swagga Like Us."

The song was an event record, instantly spawning a million debates in comments threads about who had the best verse. The foursome would go on to give us one of the best hip-hop Grammy moments since Eminem and Elton, when they united on stage along with a pregnant M.I.A. to perform the track at the 51st Grammy Awards.

In the long run, "Swagga Like Us" had two lasting effects. It helped popularize the big-name posse cut among the titans of rap. (Drake's Eminem/Wayne/Kanye collab from the following year, "Forever," might as well have been called "SLU 2009.") The other thing this song did was to lay the groundwork for the catchall phrase of the next few years: Swag. —Insanul Ahmed

Best Verse: T.I.

20. Three 6 Mafia f/ UGK & Project Pat "Sippin' on Some Syrup" (2000)

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Producer: DJ Paul
Album: When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1
Label: Loud

It might be difficult to remember, now that sipping on codeine cough syrup is a nationally-renowned trend, but when Three-6 first brought this practice to the country's attention in 2000, it seemed to seep from some dark corner of American culture. With a minor-key Marvin Gaye sample (the opening notes of "Is That Enough?" from Here My Dear), "Sippin on Syrup" oozed eerie, lascivious anti-charm.

Unrepentant in its embrace of casual drug abuse and non-traditional sexual liaisons (at least via DJ Paul), the song still feels radically transgressive. But it's also one of the best posse cuts in rap history, if only for Pimp C's unforgettable opening boast about keeping dope fiends higher than the Goodyear blimp, and Bun B's Duke Ellington reference (yes, of course Bun listens to "Perdido" while sipping on that Texas tea). —David Drake

Best Verse: Pimp C

19. The Luniz f/ E-40, Spice 1, Shock G, Richie Rich, Dru Down & Michael Marshall "I Got 5 On It (Remix)" (1995)

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Producer: Tone Capone
Album: "Bay Ballas (Remix)" - Single
Label: Noo Trybe

"I Got 5 On It" wasn't just the Bay's anthem, it became a national one, too. And the accompanying remix featured a who's who of Bay Area superstars. After an opening pimp rap from Dru Down, Numskull promises to "blow up like Oklahoma." Richie Rich has some slick bars of Yay Area slang ("put your feev' with my fin, best believe we'll bend") but E-40 delivers the song's most inventive verse.

Opening with a sing-song reference to the Club Nouveau song sampled on the beat, 40 then skips into his idiosyncratic rapid fire flow, inventing new words along the way ("flamboasting," obviously a combination of "flamboyant" and "boasting").

Soon thereafter Yukmouth promises to "guzzle the hen-do" so he can "do the evil that men do." He's immediately followed by Digital Underground's Shock G, who switches into Humpty Hump mode halfway through. A brief double-time verse from Spice 1, who keeps his typical flourishes to a minimum, closes out the song, making it the sort of posse cut that needs to be played all the way to the end. —David Drake

Best Verse: E-40

18. Nas f/ AZ, Foxy Brown, & Cormega "Affirmative Action" (1996)

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Producer: Dave Atkinson, Trackmasters
Album: It Was Written
Label: Columbia

Foxy Brown tried her hardest to ruin this song but it was too good to be dragged down by her fuzzy-ass math. The song is set up perfectly by AZ, who eases his way into his verse before taking it home. His opening lines say it all: "Sit back, relax." His persona here is far removed from the stickup kid energy that inhabited Illmatic and Doe or Die, marking a new focus on the mafia mythos that would define The Firm. This cut was so well received in the streets that it lead to an ill-fated group album, which failed because it could never match the intensity of the record that spawned it. —Insanul Ahmed

Best Verse: AZ

17. Main Source f/ Nas, Joe Fatal, & Akinyele "Live at the Barbeque" (1991)

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Producer: Main Source
Album: Breaking Atoms
Label: Wild Pitch, EMI

Everyone and their mother have waxed poetic about how Nasty Nas' breakthrough verse was so revolutionary. As well they should; the teenage Mr. Jones absolutely destroys it. But it's a bit unfair to the rest of the crew to forget that this song didn't just launch Nasir's career, but Akinyele's as well. Granted, Ak might not have become  quite the legend Nas did, but that doesn't mean "Put It In Your Mouth" isn't a classic single, or Vagina Diner isn't an underrated gem. So save them preschool rhymes for the kids at Wonderama. —Insanul Ahmed

Best Verse: Nas

16. Kanye West f/ Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver "Monster" (2010)

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15. Master P f/ Fiend, Silkk the Shocker, Mia X & Mystikal "Make 'Em Say Uhh!" (1997)

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Producer: KLC
Album: Ghetto D
Label: No Limit

There isn't a cut on this list that better captures a whirlwind of pure, untethered energy than "Make 'Em Say Uhh!" Combining No Limit's murderer's row of rap talent with KLC's compulsive groove—New Orleans piano bounce-meets-race car sound effects—results in a track with unparalleled momentum.

Standout bars come courtesy of No Limit first lady Mia X and Fiend ("exercising this right of exorcism, bustin' out the Expedition!"). Even Silkk's off-kilter aggression serves the track's purpose. But it's Mystikal's cleanup verse that makes "Make Em Say Uhh!" a truly legendary posse cut; the rapper's energy is held in check by his absolute control, a tension that threatens to send the song careening off the hinges at any moment. —David Drake

Best Verse: Mystikal

14. Snoop Doggy Dogg f/ Nate Dogg, Kurupt & Warren G "Ain't No Fun (If the Homies Can't Have None)" (1993)

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Producer: Dr. Dre
Album: Doggystyle
Label: Death Row, Interscope, Atlantic

You know it's gonna get raunchy when DJ EZ Dick is on the 1s and 2s. Snoop's ode to sharing women had him and his Cali homies teaming up, the kind of camaraderie that only existed back when they really seemed to believe Death Row was a family, just a bunch of kids who were happy to be making music and sharing the spotlight. Though everybody represents to the fullest, the song's highlight is Nate Dogg's velvety crooning. Never before (or since) has anyone sounded so damn soulful while singing about not loving hoes—he must have really meant what he was saying to put so much feeling into it. Nate's sung/rapped verse was something of an anomaly in the pre-Drake era, but it was so well received that he later referenced it on Dr. Dre's "XXplosive." Yet another classic moment in his long list of classic moments. R.I.P. —Insanul Ahmed

Best Verse: Nate Dogg

13. Obie Trice f/ Eminem, 50 Cent and Lloyd Banks "We All Die One Day" (2003)

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Producer: Eminem
Album: Cheers
Label: Shady, Interscope

Although they have an extensive collaborative history, this was one of the last examples of an Eminem and 50 Cent record where both artists are at the top of their game. At the time this record dropped, Eminem had yet to go through his rehab stints, and 50's CDs were still flying off the shelves. Obie Trice tried his best to keep up, and Lloyd Banks dropped one of his funniest lines ("They say you live by the gun, you die by the gun/If that's the case, then buy a bigger one") before 50 Cent closed the show. But none of that mattered: It was 2003, and when Eminem went off, there was nothing to do but stand back, watch him tear it down, and then sweep up the dust of Source covers burned on stage. —Insanul Ahmed

Best Verse: Eminem

12. Kanye West f/ Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz "Mercy" (2012)

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Producer: Lifted, Mike Dean, Mike Will Made It, Kanye West, Hudson Mohawke
Album: Cruel Summer
Label: G.O.O.D. Music, Def Jam

Produced by Lifted, and with co-production courtesy of Hudson Mohawke, Mike Will, Mike Dean, and Kanye West, this track indisputably dominated 2012. It included a capstone verse for 2 Chainz, and has done more for changing public perceptions of Big Sean than most singles in recent memory. The song also increased public awareness of "thirsty" as a slang term, making a mark on pop culture that cannot be measured by radio spins and digital sales. Simply put, it's the year's most undeniable musical moment, and proof that Kanye is just as adept at churning out hits as ever. —David Drake

Best Verse: 2 Chainz

11. The D.O.C. f/ N.W.A. "The Grand Finale" (1989)

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Producer: Dr. Dre
Album: No One Can Do It Better
Label: Ruthless

Almost every N.W.A. song was, at least in spirit, a posse cut, but the group only truly qualified with their D.O.C. collaboration "Grand Finale." Over ascending organs and live drums courtesy of DJ Yella, Ice Cube drops one of his most intense verses, balancing dexterity with a bulldozer's power. The ever-underrated MC Ren kills his verse ("And when I enter the party, niggas shittin' themselves!") before Eazy E's high-pitched vocal style cuts through like a knife, especially with the timeless "Fuck a car, I do a mothafuckin' walk-by!" D.O.C. concludes the track, climaxing with an intricate pattern before threatening to send your ass to the temple of doom. And make sure to stick around for the end of the track, when Dre shouts out the "super-dope manager Jerry Heller." How times have changed. —David Drake

Best Verse: D.O.C.

10. LL Cool J f/ Fat Joe, Foxy Brown, Keith Murray & Prodigy "I Shot Ya (Remix)" (1995)

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Producer: Trackmasters
Album: Mr. Smith
Label: Def Jam

It's not easy deciding who has the best verse on this record. Although Keith Murray and LL definitely represent—and according to Trackmasters, Fat Joe had to essentially beg his way onto the song by promising ill bars—it's really a toss up between Foxy and Prodigy. Foxy's verse launched her whole career as she came through with undeniable attitude and fire. But it was Prodigy's verse that would live in infamy. His now instantly quotable line, "Illuminati got my mind, soul, and my body" caught a second life as part of the hook for Jay-Z's "D'Evils." With Illuminati talk rampant on the Internet today, that line has had a much better shelf life than Foxy's career. —Insanul Ahmed

Best Verse: Prodigy

9. Ma$e f/ Black Rob, The LOX & DMX "24 Hours to Live" (1997)

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Producer: Carlos "Six July" Broady
Album: Harlem World
Label: Bad Boy

If you had 24 hours to kick the bucket? Fuck it! One of the greatest concept tracks in rap history was also one of the genre's greatest posse cuts. Built upon Frankie Bleu's "Moses Theme," the beat's lush string-laced disco vibe made this song the climactic gem on Ma$e's Harlem World album, and provided the perfect cinematic backdrop for Jada, Black Rob, Sheek Louch, Styles P, Ma$e and DMX to make plans for their very last day.

After Puffy opens the song by explaining the concept ("...that's some deep shit right there"), the assembled talents reveal much about their own characters by the choices that they make. Ma$e promises to take kids from the ghetto and "show them what they have if they never settle." In addition to planning out his menu—complete with what's likely the only rap reference to drinking Nantucket Nectars—Jada buys a lotto ticket. Black Rob gets revenge for a robbery and takes a piss on the floor. Sheek runs up into city hall strapped with dynamite. Styles P teaches his little brother to invest. And DMX brings things home as only he knows how. —David Drake

Best Verse: DMX

8. Heltah Skeltah f/ O.G.C. "Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka" (1996)

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Producer: Baby Paul
Album: Nocturnal
Label: Duck Down, Priority

No, we don't know what Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka means because it doesn't actually mean anything. Probably one of the most unlikely hits of the '90s, "Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka" took on a life of its own. For one, it gave underground act Heltah Skeltah a legitimate Billboard hit, which no one really saw coming. It also inspired this unlikely cast of characters to come together as a group known as The Fab 5. However, according to Sean Price, they were never meant to be a group, and in the end, they never managed to release an album. Price later recalled the song's lasting impact (and the forgotten Fab 5 album) on the cut "Mess You Made," rhyming, "The Fab 5 album got put on the shelf/But they still play 'Leflah' on the throwback at 12." —Insanul Ahmed

Best Verse: Starang Wondah

RELATED: Sean Price Talks About The Making of "Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka"

7. Noreaga f/ Nature, Big Pun, Cam'ron, Styles P & Jadakiss "Banned from T.V." (1998)

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Producer: Swizz Beats
Album: N.O.R.E.
Label: Tommy Boy

In the late 1990s, New York producers sounded increasingly out-of-touch next to the bounce sounds coming out of the South. But when Swizz Beats turned left and brought out his Triton keyboards to represent the Big Apple, he changed the game. Sounding grimy and low-budget, yet contemporary and (crucially) club-friendly, Swizz helped keep New York rap relevant, and "Banned from TV" was his triumphant clarion call.

N.O.R.E. rounded out the lineup on his own track, and got off a few nice lines ("Used to be section 8, now my section is good"), as did a still-emergent Cam'ron, who had yet to completely develop his own distinct style. But Big Pun undoubtedly stole the show, bragging about everything from his dinner ("shark salad with carrots, pork chops and applesauce") to how he'd shoot an Uzi at your hearse, leaving you "double-dead."  —David Drake

Best Verse: Big Pun

6. B.G. f/ Big Tymers & the Hot Boys "Bling Bling" (1999)

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Producer: Mannie Fresh
Album: Chopper City in the Ghetto
Label: Cash Money, Universal

Years of corny old people using the word 'bling' has completely ruined whatever cachet it once had. But try to remember that the term came from one of the CMB clique's best songs. On "Bling Bling," Mannie Fresh was at his most technoid— lessons obtained from a mentorship with Chicago house legend Steve Silk Hurley wedded to New Orleans bounce sound of Mannie's youth.

Joined by Baby and the Hot Boys, New Orleans' own version of the Beatles, "Bling Bling" redefined the posse cut for a new era. Mannie has said that the Hot Boys' trained by rapping back in forth in the style of old-school hip-hop routines. It isn't too often that Baby gets the best verse on a Cash Money track, but his verse ("hit the club, light the bitch up. Cash Money motto: you drink til you throw up") proved to be one of the song's most memorable moments. —David Drake

Best Verse: Baby

RELATED: Juvenile Talks About The Making of "Bling Bling"

5. Craig Mack f/ The Notorious B.I.G., Rampage, LL Cool J & Busta Rhymes "Flava In Ya Ear (Remix)" (1994)

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Producer: Easy Mo Bee
Album: N/A
Label: Bad Boy

You can call them "collabos" if you want, but we all know posse cuts are inherently competitive, especially for the artist of record who's hosting the other guest MCs. Nobody likes to get murdered on their own shit, but when your own labelmate does it to you and then keeps stepping over the lifeless body of your stillborn career—now that really hurts. Biggie Smalls hadn't yet released his classic debut when he murked the lead verse of the remix to Craig Mack's debut single on an upstart label known as Bad Boy Records. And while LL delivered one of his better late-career verses and Busta and Rampage turned in respectable bars, none of it mattered because DJs were too busy bringing back that Biggie verse. "You're mad cause my style you're admiring / Don't be mad, UPS is hiring." And with that Mack was fried, just like a piece of Sizzlean. Rob Kenner

Best Verse: Notorious B.I.G.

4. De La Soul f/ Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Jungle Brothers, Monie Love & Queen Latifah "Buddy (Native Tongue Decision)" (1989)

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3. Puff Daddy f/ Jadakiss, Sheek Louch, Lil' Kim & The Notorious B.I.G. "It's All About the Benjamins" (1997)

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Producer: Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie for The Hitmen
Album: No Way Out
Label: Bad Boy

By the time he threw Biggie and Kim on the remix to make it a true posse cut, Puffy was well on his way to shiny-suit notoriety, but "It's All About the Benjamins"—both the original and the remix—was dope enough to warm any rap purist's heart. Again, the energy: The ridiculous beat helps, sure, but you can't help getting amped hearing MCs (yes, you too Mr. Combs!) trade verses like this. And make no mistake, Puff absolutely killed his verse (as did Jada, Sheek, Kim, and Big, natch). There's a reason tracks like these become club anthems and define eras: you'd have to be comatose not to move when they hit the speakers. —Jack Erwin

Best Verse: Puff Daddy

2. A Tribe Called Quest f/ Leaders of the New School "Scenario" (1991)

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Producer: A Tribe Called Quest
Album: The Low End Theory
Label: Jive, RCA

What, you thought a crew called the Native Tongues were soft? The lyrical content might not have been as gangsta as the gangsta rap that was beginning to take hold in '91 (or maybe it was: "Bust a nut inside your eye, to show you where I come from" is pretty damn g), but "Scenario" is as hard as any rap song before or since. From the ominous bass and keys intro (that predated the similar effect found in "Deep Cover" by six months, for what it's worth) to the snare and double-kick combo to the call and response vocals, "Scenario" defined boom bap in the era when the boom bap ruled. But it's not an angry track. In fact, "Scenario" represents everything positive about rap: joyful, playful rapping for the sake of fuckin' rapping among a group of young dudes hungry to outdo their friends. It threw a spotlight on Busta Rhymes as a solo star and featured as many quotables per couplet as any song in the canon—no time for hibernation, only elation. —Jack Erwin

Best Verse: Busta Rhymes

1. Marley Marl f/ Masta Ace, Craig G, Kool G Rap & Big Daddy Kane "The Symphony" (1988)

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Producer: Marley Marl
Album: In Control, Vol. 1
Label: Cold Chillin', Warner Bros.

This is the jam that every posse cut is judged against. It's a pretty simple formula: Take a loose, funky beat, throw in four young MCs passing the mic like a bottle. Add a Western-themed video (they're a posse, ya dig?), and bang-bang, a genre is born. Some of the lyrics are a little dated wack ("I keep on goin' and flowin', just like a river" is not what old heads are talking about when they wax poetic about rap's golden era), but there's an undeniable swagger to everything about "The Symphony." Capitalism is the mother of invention. Marley Marl needed tracks for a solo album showcasing his production work so he had the Juice Crew gang up for "The Symphony." If innumerable DJ Khaled remixes is the price we have to pay for that stroke of genius, then so be it. —Jack Erwin

Best Verse: Big Daddy Kane

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