With Valentine’s Day right around the corner DZI: The Voice is taking a look back at 10 songs that displayed perfect chemistry between Hip Hop and R&B. The two dominant contemporary genres were both born out of the African American tradition of Blues music, so it can be a powerful union when they are married together on a track.
From G-Funk originators to a trifecta of ATL vets to Rhythm & Blues royalty, these artists created rapping/singing collaborations that have forged a love from fans that stand the test of time.
10. Warren G Ft. Nate Dogg
One of the breakout singles from the Above The Rim soundtrack was the joint effort between Warren G and the late Nate Dogg. The song’s story of a night on the Eastside of Long Beach, California propelled the track into the top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned Warren and Nate a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance. “Regulate” is also regarded as one of the defining songs of the Hip Hop sub-genre known as G-Funk.
9. Jennifer Lopez Ft. Ja Rule
~ “I’m Real (Murder Remix)”
Before 50 Cent ethered Ja Rule’s career and Jennifer Lopez was thrust into superstardom from the “Bennifer” madness, the Murder Inc rapper and the former Fly Girl dancer teamed up for the “I’m Real” remix. As much as people may want to pretend like they were never Ja fans or that J-Lo is now too “Hollywood”, they’d be lying to themselves if they didn’t admit this #1 single was blasting at every cookout in the summer of 2001.
8. Jay Z Ft. Mary J. Blige
~ “Can’t Knock The Hustle”
In 1996, Jay Z had yet to become a Hip Hop legend sitting on a $500 million fortune. That year the Roc-A-Fella artist released his debut album Reasonable Doubt which featured a track called “Can’t Knock The Hustle”. Jigga tapped R&B songstress Mary J. Blige to carry the song’s chorus. “CKTH” wasn’t a huge hit at the time, but in retrospect the combination of the Rap King and the Queen of Hip Hop Soul created an undeniable classic.
7. Usher Ft. Ludacris & Lil Jon
The three Atlanta-based performers Usher, Ludacris, and Lil Jon united for the Crunk/R&B smash “Yeah!” off Ush’s diamond selling LP Confessions. The tune’s reign as the number one song in the country lasted for 12 straight weeks in 2004, and the accompanying Mr. X directed video helped popularize the A-Town Stomp dance. The success of “Yeah!” led to the trio doing it again for the Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz’ “Lovers and Friends“.
6. Beyoncé Ft. Jay Z
~ “Crazy In Love”
Music’s most profitable couple, Beyoncé and Jay Z, made headlines with their performance of “Drunk In Love” at this year’s Grammys awards. Before Mrs. Carter and HOV were “Drunk In Love”, they were “Crazy In Love”. Bey’s breakout single was her first to top the Hot 100 chart as a solo artist and the video had women around the world imitating her booty popping routine. Jay shows up with a verse that name drops Tony Soprano, Nick Van Exel, and Ringo Starr.
5. Mariah Carey Ft. Ol’ Dirty Bastard
~ “Fantasy (Remix)”
When Mariah Carey first burst onto the music scene, she released songs like “Vision of Love” and “Hero” that were more reflective of traditional R&B. Then in 1995 MC flipped the script when she recruited Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs to produce a Hip Hop remix to her hit single “Fantasy”. The new version featured an unexpected appearance by Wu-Tang Clan’s Old Dirty Bastard. ODB’s opening line “Me and Mariah go back like baby with pacifiers” became one of the Brooklyn emcee’s most memorable bars.
4. The Roots Ft. Erykah Badu & Eve
~ “You Got Me”
By 1999 the legendary Roots crew had already released three well-received LPs, but it was Things Fall Apart‘s Grammy award-winning single “You Got Me” that lifted the band to their first gold album plaque. The track was an alliance of several musical talents: Black Thought and Eve’s rhymes, The Roots’ instrumentation, Erykah Badu’s vocals, and Scott Storch and Jill Scott’s songwriting. The Philadelphia natives added to the reverence of “You Got Me” when they brought out Erykah and Jill to perform a psychedelic rendition of the song on Dave Chappelle’s Block Party.
3. Jay Z Ft. Alicia Keys
~ “Empire State Of Mind”
“I’m the new Sinatra” rapped Jay Z on “Empire State of Mind”. Those words from Jay’s duet with Alicia Keys turned out to not be just boastful rhymes. The Blueprint 3 track replaced Ol’ Blue Eye’s “New York, New York” as the unofficial anthem for New York City. Keys’ hypnotic hook had listeners from ever corner of the globe singing about their love for the Big Apple. After securing 11 number one albums throughout his career, “Empire State of Mind” also became Jigga’s first #1 single as a lead artist.
2. Nas Ft. Lauryn Hill
~ “If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)”
When Nas decided to ponder what life would be like he if controlled the planet, he enlisted a then relatively unknown singer/rapper/actress named Lauryn Hill to sing the Kurtis Blow inspired chorus. The connection of the Queens emcee and the Jersey vocalist created a historic collaboration that elevated Nas to a mainstream artist. Ironically, “If I Ruled The World” became Nas’ first single to have a global impact and cemented the It Was Written creator as one of the monarchs of Hip Hop.
1. Method Man Ft. Mary J. Blige
~ “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By”
The Wu-Tang Clan was introduced on Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) as a hard-core collective of rappers influenced by martial arts movies and Five Percenter philosophy, so when Method Man released a second version of his Tical track “All I Need” featuring Mary J. Blige, a softer side of the Wu was put on display. Thanks in part to MJB’s soulful interpolation of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “You’re All I Need to Get By”, the Meth and Mary remix is considered one of the greatest Hip Hop love songs of all time.
What’s also impressive about the “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By” remix is the fact that while it contained more radio friendly production, Method Man’s lyrics still contained his trademark Nation of Gods and Earths perspective. Mainstream fans, made familiar with the song from its play on pop stations and MTV, were rapping “I can be your Sun, you can be my Earth/Resurrect the God through birth” not even knowing they were repeating ideas manifested by the Five-Percent Nation.
The “All I Need” remix is an undeniable classic that garnered Method Man and Mary J Blige both commercial success and critical acclaim. The song was one of the biggest hits of 1995 peaking at #3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and reaching the pinnacle of the R&B and Rap Singles charts. It also won the 1996 Grammy award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. Nearly two decades later Johnny Blaze and Queen Mary’s “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By” still represents the crowning achievement every other R&B/Rap collaboration hopes to match.