Pop music has embraced hip-hop's burgeoning popularity over the last two decades. Today, the Venn diagram of where pop music fans and hip-hop fans intersect continues to grow making the guest verse an integral part of the genre; so much so that artists tend to forgo remix packages and go directly to releasing hits with a side of Quavo.
The proliferation of hip-hop signalled an exciting time for mainstream music - what was once a novelty is now standard and these guest verses have gone from adding a new dimension to songs to rappers marching to the beat of their own drum.
Just cast your minds back to 2007. The dawn of the financial crisis had everyone up in arms, and Rihanna's hit Umbrella did its best to read the room. It was your typical love conquers all salvo with Rih promising to love her man through the good times and the bad. "These fancy things / Will never come in between / You're part of my entity / Here for infinity," she sings, promising to stick around through rain, hail or empty bank accounts.
The addition of Jay-Z's verse was exciting — after all, he played such an instrumental role in Rih's rise to the top. And despite his seemingly perfect judgement, his verse teetered in the wrong direction. Make no mistake, there are lots of skilled references to rain and umbrellas, but rather than taking on a Love Don't Cost A Thing approach, he doubles down. "No clouds in my stones / Let it rain, I hydroplane in the bank," he quips, making sure we all know that despite the disastrous finances of others, he's doing just fine.
For what it's worth, Jay's verse isn't the most tone-deaf hit-and-miss a rapper has made on a pop song about love, lust or finding the one. Sometimes it's so out of pocket it's funny. Other times it's obvious the artists have never met, let alone recorded the song together.
We decided to compile our favourite random verses, from Nicki Minaj's frivolous basketball references to Kanye West dropping lines about Shrek.
Monsta X - WHO DO U LOVE? feat. French Montana
K-pop group Monsta X released an English song featuring French Montana and it's a bop. But despite having the advantage of understanding the lyrics, it looks like French had the wrong idea. In Who Do You Love the band pleads to its lover to choose them over another man, eventually putting forth an ultimatum. "Who do you love? Is it him or me? 'Cause I can't take the pressure anymore / Who do you love? Girl, it's killin' me If you can’t say that I’m the one for sure / Then I'm walkin’ out the door."
French's verse is 16 bars of horniness, packed to the rafters with pop culture references that range from Gordon Ramsay and 2Chainz to LL Cool J. He does nod to Monica and Brandy's love triangle classic, The Boy Is Mine, but the relevance ends there.
Maroon 5 - Payphone feat. Wiz Khalifa
2012 was a weird time. In fact, it was so strange it birthed a Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa collaboration. The band definitely has a penchant for guest hip-hop verses but it was clear here that Wiz decided to do his own thing and ignore the overarching storyline of Payphone.
The song, which sees Adam Levine yearn for a former flame, has Wiz awkwardly flaunting his wealth to an ex he has a lot of pent up aggression towards: "Made it from the bottom / Now when you see me, I'm stuntin' / And all of my cars start with the push of a button."
M.I.A - Come Around feat. Timbaland
This is one of those verses that sounds fine until you do a cursory Google search of the lyrics. Come Around contains the kind of lyrical content that sums up M.I.A.'s entire manifesto. It's politically-driven and doesn't shy away from topics like war and cultural disparities ("Ray-Ban shades, warheads laid / Babies born in air raids"). This makes Timbaland's verse all the more perplexing.
Timbo's verse is filled with misfired exoticisms, ("Baby girl, you and me, need to go to your teepee") and odd innuendo about camels (?) ("Put a hump or two on your back, just like that") Maybe he thought he was laying down rhymes for an entirely different song.
Lil Uzi Vert - The Way Life Goes feat. Nicki Minaj
To say that Nicki Minaj has a style that she likes to stick to, is the best way to describe why the Trinidadian rapper writes the lines she does on her guest verses. Still, her appearance on Lil Uzi Vert's emo-revival meets trap hit, The Way Life Goes makes little to no sense. Uzi's brand of self-afflicting, sad and depressing lyrics are a stark contrast to the traditional braggadocio akin to rap but that's not Minaj's style. Despite this, the news of the remix had fans excited.
As she raps about being part of hip-hop's elite, her bars are jarring against the deflated and melancholy song. Though it's palpably cumbersome when Minaj booms, "I'm still shadin' all these n****s, yeah the DITA way / You gotta pay me flatbread, yeah the pita way" and is followed by Uzi singing, "I know you're sad and tired (Yeah) / You've got nothin' left to give (Yeah) / You'll find another life to live."
Katy Perry - E.T. feat. Kanye West
West might have missed the underlying meaning and metaphor of Katy Perry's E.T. when he wrote his verse for the remix. From iconic lines like, "Tell me what's next? Alien sex," to Shrek references and streetwear-meets-outer space innuendo that is hard to wrap your head around ("I’m tryna bathe my ape in your Milky Way") the ridiculousness of it all clearly didn't matter. In fact, it boosted the song, taking it from a fan-favourite to a global sensation. Sometimes being weird works!
Justin Timberlake - My Love feat. T.I.
Justin Timberlake is a romantic at heart, so the dedication and loyalty he professes to 'the one' on his song My Love came as no surprise. Yet, the addition of T.I. does. The reasons don't point to his talent or lyrical ability but, if we know anything about the Houston rapper it's that he has a hard time staying faithful.
Which makes his verse unsurprising yet glaringly out of place. "I'm patient, but I ain't gonna try / You don't come, I ain't gonna die," he confesses to a girl who at the beginning of his verse T.I. is verbally wining and dining. And by the end of his 16 bars, the rapper dumps the girl swiftly: "You say you wanna kick it when I ain't so high / Well, baby it's obvious that I ain't your guy."
Billie Eilish - Bad Guy feat. Justin Bieber
When Billie Eilish met her idol Justin Bieber at Coachella in 2019 everyone was overcome with joy. None more so than Billie, who later teased their first collaboration. The cover art for the remix of Bad Guy was a photograph of the pop star surrounded by Bieber posters. The anticipation for the remix almost bubbled over until it finally dropped.
Sonically, the Canadian pop sensation has never put a foot wrong when it comes to his guest appearances although on Bad Guy Bieber should have chosen a songwriter who had heard the original song. "Gold teeth, my neck, my wrist is froze (So icy) I got more ice than, than the snow." It's a PG-rated flex that we're willing to forgive.