Whether they like to admit it or not, even the toughest of rappers get caught up in their emotions from time to time. The evidence of this was spread throughout classic hits in the late 90s and early 21st century. Put a beautiful, rising R&B star next to a rapper, start talking about relationships, and a phenomenon begins to occur: rappers will actually talk about their feelings.
Ja Rule and Ashanti were one of the best combinations when it came to creating this musical fusion, and with their Natural Born Killers tour on the horizon what better time than now to reach into the vault and pull out some other classics. In no particular order, here are some of the top rap/R&B features that will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day:
Ja Rule ft. Ashanti – Always On Time (2001)
They may have not started this trend, but Ja Rule and Ashanti sure have perfected it. One of the classics of this generation, the pair combines for a song about forgiving and forgetting in the name of love. Ja Rule raps a few verses about stepping it out of line, but realizing his mistakes and is willing to work on being better in the relationship. Ashanti’s incredible voice is on the chorus for this song and is the steady girlfriend is always there no matter what. A solid beat, great chorus and Ja’s raspy voice is a great combination for a hit.
Nelly ft. Kelly Rowland – Dilemma (2002)
A notch below our stars of the show, we have Nelly and Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child. Nelly trades his traditional rap style for a smoother, slower cadence in this song and it works well with Kelly Rowland on the hook. This song is about the struggle of being attracted to someone else while in a current relationship, “Even when I’m with my boo you know I’m crazy for you,” sings Rowland. Nelly is happy to play the role of spoiler, and tries to persuade Rowland to give him a chance throughout the song.
Aaliyah ft. Timbaland – Are You That Somebody? (1998)
Before Rihanna, Beyoncé and even Ashanti, there was Aaliyah. A pioneer for the industry, and a rising star, Aaliyah died in 2001 in a plane crash, but not before leaving her mark on the music world forever. Any Aaliyah song could have made this list, but a Timbaland-produced beat that works perfectly for this song put it over the top. Layered with higher pitched vocals, her voice hits every note perfectly on the way to singing about finding that right man and asking him, “Are you that somebody?”
Jennifer Lopez ft. LL Cool J – All I Have (2002)
New York natives connect for the next song on our list. Jennifer Lopez and LL Cool J take turns rhyming over a soft jazz beat featuring drums and a steady bass line. J-Lo is tired of LL Cool J’s mistreatment and sticks up for herself throughout the song. Pride is all she has and she resists all of his efforts as he tries to explain himself, and is hoping for just one more chance.
Beyoncé ft. Jay-Z – Crazy in Love (2003)
Yes, the Jay-Z and Queen B connection dates all the way back to 2003. The quality of music was the same back then as it is now. The chemistry between these two artists is unparalleled, and this song is the prime example. Beyoncé sticks to her diva roots and delivers the goods when singing about how hard it is to resist her significant other. The upbeat tempo features drums and horns, and the song is tied together with a classic Jay-Z verse.
Ja Rule ft. Jennifer Lopez – I’m Real (2001)
Two of our stars on the list join forces as 2001 was a big year for Ja Rule. This time attracting the talents of J-Lo, the two go back-and-forth about their perfect relationship, and how the best quality about it is the fact that it’s real. No games, tricks or lies, the two share everything they like about each other, and do it over an up-tempo, contagious beat. J-Lo’s soft voice contrasts nicely with the raspy tones of Ja Rule, and just like many of the other songs on this list, it was an instant hit.
Nas ft. Lauryn Hill – If I Ruled The World (1996)
This song makes the list due to the talent on the track and the trailblazing nature of it. It’s not the typical love song that the rest of this list is made up of, but it shows the emotional, thoughtful side of Nas with the supremely talented Lauryn Hill of the Fugees. Dating back to 1996, this paved the way for the rest of our list as the R&B and rap genres crossed paths to make a great song. Nas imagines a world where stress, beef and crime are no longer issues. Hill’s melodic humming and singing are perfectly layered over the Brooklyn native’s rhymes and beats.
What duo would you like to see hit the road for a co-headliner tour? What other jams are out there that missed the cut?