20. Lizzo feat Sophia Eris – Batches and Cookies (2013)
The single from Lizzo’s pre-fame debut album, Lizzobangers, Batches and Cookies is irresistible in an entirely different way to her subsequent pop hits. Minimal, based around a frantic, repetitious hook, it has lyrics about hallucinogenic drugs and shopping in thrift stores, and a great hyperspeed verse from her fellow Minneapolitan Eris.
19. Kelela feat Princess Nokia, Junglepussy, Cupcakke and Miss Boogie – LMK (What’s Really Good) (2018)
A left-field latterday update of the old rework-an-R&B-track-as-hip-hop trick, LMK retains the original’s chorus but features a variety of punchy indie MCs. All make really strong contributions, but Cupcakke has the best line: “You could be Charlie Sheen, and I’ma tell you again / A bitch like me keep two and a half men.”
18. Erykah Badu feat Queen Latifah, Bahamadia and Angie Stone – Love of My Life Worldwide (2003)
Erykah Badu’s paean to hip-hop was originally recorded with Common, but this version beats it, featuring two artists better known as singers – Badu and Angie Stone – turning their hands to rapping with surprisingly strong results (“you for real, soul singer?” asks Stone, rhetorically), a killer appearance by Bahamadia and an infectious sample from Stone’s disco-era outfit the Sequence.
17. Various Artists – Freedom (Dallas’ Dirty Half Dozen Mix) (1995)
The rap version of Freedom, the theme from the 1995 film Panther, is so overstuffed with contributors – everyone from Salt-N-Pepa to dancehall MC Patra is involved – it should be a mess. Instead, it’s a delight: righteously pissed-off rhymes inspired by the movie’s Black Panther theme over a sparse beat, and warped choral samples.
16. Female Takeover – Game Over (2010)
Grime’s definitive female collaboration, in which a plethora of MCs – including Ruff Diamondz, Lady Leshurr, Mz Bratt and Amplify Dot, who opens her verse with a cry of: “Ugh! Vagina Monologues!” – rework Tinchy Stryder’s posse cut of the same name to startling effect. Packed with great lines, it’s more than a match for the original version.
15. MIA feat Missy Elliott and Azealia Banks – Bad Girls (NARS Remix) (2012)
The second remix of Bad Girls swapped out a verse by rapper Rye-Rye for one by Azealia Banks to stunning effect. Bursting out of the musical scenery – buzzing synthesisers, orchestral stabs – her warp-speed contribution lifts the track to a different level.
14. Lil’ Kim feat Angie Martinez, Missy Elliott, Lisa ‘Left-Eye’ Lopes, Da Brat – Not Tonight (Ladies’ Night Remix) (1997)
The lyrics are toned down by comparison with the ultra-raw original and the disco samples wilfully familiar, but the remix of Not Tonight bounces gleefully along, highlighting the stark contrast between the various MCs styles. Missy’s dissatisfaction at merely singing the hook – “who’d you think I am? Patti LaBelle?” – is a joy.
13. Roxanne Shante v Sparky D – Round 1 (1985)
Not really a collaboration, so much as increasingly lairy rap battle, released during the celebrated “Roxanne wars” of the mid-80s. Shante edges it, but Sparky D’s assault on her rival’s dentistry is pretty great: “You got braces in your mouth, you’re full of disgust / Don’t try drinking water or your mouth will rust.”
12. Gangsta Boo and La Chat feat Mia X – Bitchy (2014)
Former Three 6 Mafia member Gangsta Boo’s collaborative EP with fellow Memphis rapper La Chat, Witches, was a raw, dark hardcore blast, as demonstrated by the chaotically thrilling Bitchy, home to a fantastic verse from New Orleans’ Mia X that flips from dismissive to demanding.
11. Eve feat. Da Brat and Trina – Gangsta Bitches (2001)
The all-conquering hit from Eve’s second album was her collaboration with Gwen Stefani, Let Me Blow Your Mind, but Gangsta Bitches is cut from a different, tougher cloth. Swizz Beatz’ spare production is great and the rhymes bite: “When three raw bitches get together, it’s off the chain,” summarises Eve, correctly.
10. Shystie feat Azealia Banks – Control It (2013)
A collaboration that, alas, ended in mutual mud-slinging, diss tracks and Ms Banks ultimately announcing that UK rap was “a disgrace” – she was unhappy with the video – it’s tempting to reverse engineer Control It and suggest there’s already a certain simmering tension about its power. Either way, it’s a fantastic track.
9. Bahamadia feat K-Swift and Mecca Starr – 3 the Hard Way (1996)
Sometimes hip-hop collaborations are about toploading tracks with star power, sometimes they’re just about finding rappers that work perfectly together. K-Swift and Philadelphia’s Mecca Starr never went on to vast commercial success, but they sound fantastic here, blending socially conscious lyrics with screw-you boasts over a DJ Premier beat.
8. Total feat Foxy Brown, Lil’ Kim and Da Brat – No One Else (1996)
The career of R&B trio Total didn’t last long – they never quite achieved the kind of TLC-sized success predicted for them and split after two albums – but the rap version of No One Else is one of the mid-90s great female posse tracks, and the only time Foxy Brown and Lil’ Kim appeared on the same song.
7. Nicki Minaj feat Foxy Brown – Coco Chanel (2018)
Based on the Jamaican dancehall Showtime riddim, Coco Chanel is the flipside to Minaj’s pop hits: a mean, gritty collaboration with Foxy Brown – who had defended Minaj during umpteen beefs – filled with stinging put-downs, West Indian slang (both have Trinidadian roots) and a Spanish-language tribute to Yoko Ono.
6. Cardi B feat Megan Thee Stallion – WAP (2020)
WAP isn’t just a record-breaking success, nor the source of apparently endless controversy involving everyone from CeeLo Green to Tiger King’s Carole Baskin – but a multiplatinum catty stereotype-busting rejoinder to the wearying notion that female rappers can’t work together without the trouble that ensued when Cardi B and Nicki Minaj collaborated on Migos’s Motorsport.
5. Missy Elliott feat Da Brat – Sock It 2 Me (1997)
You could, if you were so inclined, populated this list almost entirely with tracks by or featuring Missy Elliott – always keen to boost fellow female MCs, she has also become a regular elder-statesman presence on others’ tracks in recent years. From her debut album, Supa-Dupa Fly, Sock It to Me offers the perfect balance of sweet vocals and raw rapping.
4. Remy Ma feat Lil’ Kim – Wake Me Up (2017)
Described by Remy Ma as “a homage” to Lil’ Kim – “the Madonna of hip-hop” – Wake Me Up doesn’t just feature an Auto-Tune-heavy guest spot from the rapper, it’s based around a sample from her 1996 track Queen Bitch. Her presence seems to spur Remy Ma on: the backing is eerily atmospheric, the lyrics tough.
3. MC Lyte feat Missy Elliott – Cold Rock a Party (Bad Boy Remix) (1996)
The collaboration that introduced Missy Elliot to the wider world, released a few months before her debut single, The Rain. It would probably work without her, thanks to the sample of Diana Ross’s Upside Down, but her verse, complete with prescient announcement that she will “take your No 1 spot”, is spectacular.
2. Brandy feat Queen Latifah, Yo-Yo, MC Lyte – I Wanna Be Down (Remix) (1994)
Remaking Brandy’s debut single as a hip-hop track was a masterstroke, commercially and artistically – Queen Latifah, Yo-Yo and MC Lyte change the track’s tone from eyelash-fluttering “please like me” to something noticeably more forceful. “A ghetto star’s who you are and I’ll be your sexual chocolate bar.”
1. Queen Latifah feat Monie Love – Ladies First (1989)
Academic papers and TV documentaries alike have been devoted to examining the importance of Ladies First, setting its dextrous blast of feminist power – “a woman can bear you, break you, take you” – against a backdrop of rampant sexism in the 80s hip-hop industry. This was an era when, it has been claimed, labels would sign only one female rapper each (and deliberately reduce their marketing budgets) and when label Tommy Boy’s female president found herself mistaken for a sex worker at a conference. Ladies First wasn’t just a hit, but a groundbreaking moment in hip-hop. It’s also a total banger.