The year is wrapping up faster than I want it to, meaning we at the TSS compound are beginning our year-end debates for how to wrap up ’07. We have all been instructed by our fearless leader to nominate a few artists, albums, and songs in different categories. In thinking of whom to nominate for rapper of the year, the first name that popped into my head was Lil’ Wayne, who’s kind of a weird choice. Yeah, he’s been everywhere, but he hasn’t even released his own album. He gets all the shine he needs to dominate off mixtapes and guest appearances.
But after thinking about it some more, I realized this is nothing new; the ability of an artist to showcase his or her abilities on music attributed to another artist has always been a part of hip-hop. Moreover, the dynamics of the Guest Appearance reveal several underlying traits: of promotion in hip-hop, interactions between rappers, and ways in which fans respond to music. Most guest appearances are done by protege’s or associates of the featured star, and there is an unspoken code in rap music regarding outshining the alpha dog. That’s not to say it’s taboo, but the phenomenon certainly caused hurt feelings in its day. Understandably no one wants to see someone grab the spotlight from their time to shine, but as we look back over rap’s history, it has happened to some of the all time greats.
Outshining someone usually happens in two ways: either an up and coming talent out does an overrated star, or an MC delivers an all-time great verse that makes even the best rapper seem ordinary. Today, I’ll look back at a few examples of each, guest appearances that signaled hip-hop should be shifting their attention elsewhere, or guest turns on classic albums that outshone legendary solo performances.