This past decade was an extremely innovative one for hip-hop. More unique, melodic rappers started to emerge by ways of newer streaming services like SoundCloud. While these streaming services helped push hip-hop into a more mainstream and popular sound, the roots of hip-hop have been held on to very well throughout the years, both on solo songs and collaborations. Here are five (plus an honorable mention) of the best hip-hop features from the 2010s:
Kendrick Lamar on “Control” by Big Sean
This list could easily be made with just Kendrick Lamar verses, as he has proven time and time again that he’s the best lyricist out right now. To limit the Kendrick overload, an honorable mention will suffice.
“Control” is Big Sean’s critically acclaimed track before his album, Hall Of Fame, in 2013. The verses from Big Sean and Jay Electronica are impressive with smooth flows and deliveries. The verse from Kendrick, however, makes them underwhelming in comparison to his.
This is Kendrick’s infamous verse where he calls out the whole rap game. He says, “I heard the barber shops be in great debates all the time / 'Bout who's the best MC: Kendrick, Jigga and Nas / Eminem, André 3000, the rest of y'all / New n----s just new n----s, don't get involved / … I'm usually homeboys with the same n----s I'm rhymin' with / But this is hip-hop, and them n----s should know what time it is / And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Wale / Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake / Big Sean, Jay Electron', Tyler, Mac Miller / I got love for you all, but I'm tryna murder you n----s / Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you n----s / They don't wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you n----s.”
The hunger and tenacity that Kendrick expresses in this verse, as well as the controversy that followed, makes this one of the top verses of the past decade.
Meechy Darko on “Bones” by Beast Coast
Meechy Darko, who is one-third of Flatbush Zombies, is one of the best when it comes to delivering verses with immense amounts of aggression and rawness. He has showcased his skills many times, but this track does it like no other one has. Over a hard-hitting instrumental, he spits:
“Friends think I'm ungrateful, damn near hateful / Crazy, thought I was the one they can relate to / Call it nervous breakdown; I call it nervous breakthrough / Please don't let the loyalty escape you / Relentless, the quicksand is right where my neck is / They double-bolted the doors of perception / Higher in voltage, my aura is bigger / My frequency different, your boy is clairvoyant / I often see issues 'fore they even form / Ready and arm up my pistol / Knowledge plus understanding equal wisdom / Your third eye blind, no foresight to get me.”
Darko’s Gritty, unfiltered flow instantly makes this one of the top verses from the 2010s.
Earl Sweatshirt on “Really Doe” by Danny Brown
Earl Sweatshirt, who got his start with Odd Future, has never been a stranger to energetic, lyrically impressive verses. He has been showing off his lyrical ability since his release of Earl in 2010 when he was just 16 years old. This is one of the only rap songs where another feature out-raps Kendrick Lamar, as he’s featured on this song as well.
Earl spits, “So disrespect will get you checked like the top of the month / I was a liar as a kid so now I'm honest as f--k / And I never pass my mama no blunt / And kept my head straight / Listen deadweight never been a problem to dunk / Look, I just broke up with my b---h ’cause we ain't argue enough / I keep it dirty as a spliff my uncle Alchemist puff / I strike a birdie on 'em, while I hit your mouth with the club / … Well it's the left-handed shooter, Kyle Lowry the pump / I'm at your house like, ‘Why you got your couch on my Chucks?’”
Technically speaking, there’s nothing extremely innovative in his verse, but his delivery paired with some insanely hard one-liners make it a top-tier verse.
Black Thought on “Crowns for Kings” by Benny The Butcher
Black Thought, the lead-MC of The Roots, has shown no signs of slowing down at 48 years old. Last year, at 47, Thought delivered one of the most impressive verses in recent years.
He shows us why on his verse, “Yo, when we was hooked in the hood, gettin' booked like literature / Kept us shook, like when the boogeyman comin' to get ya / We was crooks, tryna cop more rides than Great Adventure / Any image we took, not a father was in the picture / There was times, not a bite nor swallow was in the kitchen.”
Thought has been talked about as one of the best lyricists of all time, and his verse easily validates that argument. If there has to be one artist to show people how to rap, he would be the guy.
André 3000 on “Solo (Reprise)” by Frank Ocean
André 3000 hasn’t released an album since OutKast’s Idlewild in 2006. His infrequent verses on songs since then, however, have been proof that he’s still among the best rappers out. “Solo (Reprise)” off Frank Ocean’s Blonde in 2016 is yet another performance from André where he makes rapping sound simple.
He says, “So low that I can see under the skirt of an ant / So low that I don't get high no more / When I ‘geronimo!’I just go ‘heh’ / Solo, my cup is a rojo, my cholo, my friend / So low that I can admit / When I hear that another kid is shot by the po-po / It ain't an event no more / So low that no more high horses, so hard to wear polo / When I do, I cut the pony off / Now there's a hole where there once was a logo, how fitting."
His ability to rap over a solemn piano-only instrumental with hard-hitting lines is beyond unique. Now, in his mid 40s, he still can showcase his lyrical ability to be as good as ever.
Kendrick Lamar on “THat Part” by ScHoolboy Q - Black Hippy Remix’
Nothing is more impressive than Kendrick’s 87 rhymes in just 24 bars. His rhyme schemes are almost always impressive, but this one takes the cake.
He spits, “And we don't stress / A .38 'til it free your chest / Then PP on the PO's desk / I'm Jay-Z in a blow out press / Relate me to your blowout's best / Can't hate me; I'm remote; you're deaf / I'm HD, causin' photo theft / My AC antifreeze gotta — that part / Hold your breath, I'm 8 feet when I hold this TEC / Protect me from the local threats.”
Kendrick makes one of the most breathtaking verses in hip-hop sound effortless. His simple-sounding yet extraordinarily complex verse on this track is the best verse from the past decade.