The tag team match is the greatest invention in the history of man. Forget the wheel, forget sliced bread, forget “the Clapper,” the tag team match reigns supreme. For those of you not well-versed in the concept of the tag match, you had a joyless childhood and I can assume nothing other than that. A tag match is when 2 or more competitors in a wrestling match go up against another group of wrestlers. One person wrestled for each team at a time, with the other team members waiting outside of the ropes. Tag team members can switch out by tagging into the match (slapping your teammate). They can devolve into chaos but are always wildly entertaining. *
*I truly believe that all problems could be solved by a tag team match.
There has to be a certain amount of trust between two people to be involved in this.
The reason I bring up the tag team match is because I view rap songs with features as tag matches. A rapper can come in and kill it, and when they run out of steam, they can tag in another artist to keep the track going forward. There’s no construct more beautiful. It is the peak of human cooperation, giving support to one another in order to deliver a great track, or you know, win a tag match.
In the WWE (formerly known has WWF), often times a solo wrestler is forced into a tag match. Maybe they’ve drawn the ire of a commissioner or were challenged by another wrestler, either way they need to call upon someone else to help them. They could call on another superstar to try and overpower the other team, or go with someone that perfectly matches your wrestling style. Either way, your well-being depends on who you chooose: you don’t want to get decimated in a match. Who you choose is very important.
The same goes for calling on another artist for a feature. An amazing feature could set your song a part from the pack, while an awful one could sink the track and send it into the proverbial abyss. It is a wildly important decision. Imagine paying $50,000 for a feature verse just for them poop all over your song like an incontinent infant. No, thank you.
It is at this time that I would like to defer to the immortal Ray Parker Jr., and his famous words, “Who you gonna call?” Well, it depends what you want.
Rappers are not monolithic. They don’t all do the same thing. I’m gonna go back to the wrestling ring to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Some wrestlers are technically gifted, some are über strong and basically bowling balls with legs. There are others who are energetic high-flyers, and there are others who are display smooth movements in the ring. Sometimes just calls upon a legend to be a crowd pleaser, which is always fun. Other times you just want to go for star power. Basically, the same goes for rappers.
Maybe a feature verse needs a technical rapper to coincide with the artist’s sound. It usually works best when another technical rapper with high lyrical acumen is already on the song. On Black Thought’s EP, Streams of Thought, Vol.1, he executed this to perfection when he called upon one of the best, pure rappers in the game, Rapsody to deliver a guest verse. Black Thought set it up, and Rapsody knocked it out of the park. On Talib Kweli’s most recent album, Radio Silence, he called up J A Y E L E C T R O N I C A and he gave a flawlessly executed technical verse, which gelled perfectly with the sound of the track. Other people who you should definitely call when a lyrically sound verse is needed: Kendrick Lamar, Mos Def, Big K.R.I.T, Common, Joey Bada$$, Mick Jenkins, Tobe Nwigwe, Isaiah Rashad.
Sometimes you need a smooth feature with a silky voice to deliver the hook. This is ever important, if you’re a rapper who can’t sing and has gotten tired of rapping the hook on your album. Bringing on a talented R&B singer can cross your song over multiple genre lines, bringing it more ears to your song and adds another layer to the structure of the track itself. For example, when you call Ty Dolla $ign, you understand that you’re getting one of the smoothest voices in all of music, and that he’s going to completely blow you away with either the hook or a verse (see, “Freeee (Ghost Town Pt.2),” “Psycho,” “Lil Baby”). Other people that should be called when you need this: Kari Faux, Tory Lanez, Jeremih, Anderson .Paak, August Alsina, Bryson Tiller, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Jacquees.
There are times when you just want to go grab a rap superstar (or other times, they grab you to latch onto your rising success). This helps when you want to get a lot of media success because when these people rap, they pay attention. Great examples of these moments are: Dreamville signee Cozz calls on J. Cole to deliver a verse for “Zendaya,” TK Kravitz got a verse from 2Chainz (the greatest rapper alive, I will take this to the grave), on “Out The Gate,” Rich the Kid was gifted a verse from Kendrick Lamar on “New Freezer,” and Lil Baby got the magical Drake cosign and guest verse on “Yes Indeed.” Other people to call: Schoolboy Q, Migos, Gucci Mane, Big Sean, A$AP Rocky, Lil Wayne, Cardi B, Pusha T, Young Thug, Rick Ross.
What do you do if you started off the track with a burst of energy and need someone to keep the momentum going? You call someone who is going to turn the dial up to 11 and ramp up the energy by 100%. When Trippie Redd started off “Dark Knight Dummo” with 100 cc’s of electricity and energy, do you think he called Barry White to deliver the next verse? No! He called up Travis Scott, who burst through everyone’s speakers like the damn Kool-Aid man. When Rico Nasty needed someone to match her energy on “In The Air,” did she call Kenny G to do a smooth clarinet solo. No, she called BlocBoy JB, and the rest was history. Other people to call when you need to keep the energy going: Desiigner, Rae Sremmurd, A$AP Ferg, Ski Mask the Slump God, Lil Pump, Playboi Carti, DRAM.
Do you want satisfy rap; purists and casual rap fans alike? Then call upon a rap legend for verse. These are always the most fun, because these are the people who paved the way for the newer artists. The mix of old and new creates for tantalizing combinations that are always wildly entertaining. Perfect examples of this are: Rapsody calling on Busta Rhymes to feature on “You Should Know,” when Schoolboy Q utilized Jadakiss on “Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane,” André 3000 delivered a flawless feature on Frank Ocean’s “Pink Matter.” Other people you should always call on in this situation: Big Boi, Pharrell, Jay-Z, Killer Mike, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Scarface, Q-Tip, Ludacris, Lil John, T.I., Fabolous.
But if all else fails, just call 2Chainz or Ty Dolla $ign. They’re always the right choice,