These Rappers Are Certified Cheat Codes to Success on the Charts
If you're an avid video game player, everybody knows what a cheat code is. The same rules apply to music. A cheat code in hip-hop can be a link-up between two artists in the hopes of soaring straight onto the Billboard charts at unprecedented speeds. For many rappers, the lyrical sauce and loyal fandom surrounding them can open up other artists like rising R&B singer Giveon and even pop princesses like Taylor Swift up to new audiences when they collab with hip-hop's major players.
Drake is the pinnacle of cheat code for the work he's done with other rappers. Whether he's got an artist featured on his song or he's laying down guest vocals for someone else, his star power is undeniable. From Migos' "Versace" in 2013, to recently with Yung Bleu's "You're Mines Still" in 2020, the Drake feature will get an artist to the charts.
Travis Scott's "Sicko Mode" reached the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 spot in 2018 thanks to Travis' star power combined with a Drizzy feature. However, Travis is his own cheat code. Much like the 6 God, a Travis Scott feature is a must-have. And at the rumored cost of his feature being upwards of $250,000, it's pricey. A feature from Cactus Jack can help other artists land on the Billboard charts, earn RIAA certifications and set them up in the rap game.
Young Thug is a pillar in the Atlanta rap community. He's even paid other rappers like Lil Baby to focus on rap. The 29-year-old rapper is a highly coveted feature artist for rappers everywhere. On a global spectrum, there is no chart that a Young Thug features leaves untouched. From singer Camila Cabello's "Havana" to T.I.'s "About the Money," adding Thugger to a track makes it a chart win more times than not.
Young Money star Nicki Minaj also fits the bill. Her verse on Kanye West's "Monster," from his 2010 album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, was the talk of the moment and for years following its release. Nicki killed it. "You could be the king, but watch the queen conquer," was an understatement for this iconic lyricism. Her resume as one of hip-hop's ultimate cheat codes continues to grow as she evolves in the rap game. Yo Gotti's "Rake It Up," 6ix9ine's "Trollz" and "FEFE," A$AP Ferg's "Move Yo Hips" and many more of her features have helped boost artists' status on the charts.
The rap world is no stranger to G.O.A.T.s and rap gods with in-demand features. These artists have distinguished themselves above the rest. Check out the rappers who are certified cheat codes to success on the charts below.
Young Thug is a slam dunk when it comes to features. He is an automatic cheat code to appear on a Billboard chart or earn an RIAA certification. Oddly enough, the rapper's biggest feature is far outside of the hip-hop space. Singer Camila Cabello, formerly of the girl group Fifth Harmony, dropped her hit song "Havana" featuring Thugger in the summer of 2017. In early 2018, it went No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, is now nine-times platinum and earned the rapper his first spotlight performance at the 2019 Grammy Awards ceremony. "Chris Brown's "High End," T.I.'s "About the Money" and Rae Sremmurd's "Throw Sum Mo," among others, have all received a spot on the Hot 100 thanks in part to Thugger's feature.
But, beyond his features and personal catalog of singles like "Pick Up the Phone" and "Hot," Thugger has been the catalyst for several rap careers. Thug has inspired many young rhymers to focus on their music careers. Lil Baby revealed to XXL in the fall of 2019 that Thug paid him to focus on hip-hop after Baby was released from prison. His close mentorship of rappers like Gunna and Lil Keed also proves that the 29-year-old rapper enjoys helping to build legacies that are separate from his own star power.
Drake's placement on this list is a must because few artists have the ability to help rappers on the come up like Drake. Scrolling through Drizzy's RIAA certifications of multiple platinum and gold records fill his personal page but these accolades are not just his own. He's also received plaques for his work on other artists' records. Migos' "Versace" in 2013, Lil Yachty's "Oprah's Bank Account," Yung Bleu's "You're Mines Still" and Future's "Life is Good" in 2020 and many more have earned gold or higher with a Drake feature and climbed up the Billboard Hot 100.
The Toronto native is like the secret sauce to your favorite rap recipes. In 2020 alone, he secured more than seven spots on the Billboard Hot 100 while riding in the passenger seat. Whether it was his work on Chris Brown's "No Guidance" or "Mr. Right Now" from 21 Savage and Metro Boomin's Savage Mode 2, Drake is versatile. The rhymer plays into the romantic Certified Lover Boy while he's in his R&B bag and pulls out the toxic king doppelgänger when he's trapping with Atlanta-based artists. As it stands now, a look from Drake can set rappers up for success, provided they've got the talent to back it up.
Travis Scott has distinguished himself as a force to be reckoned with after collaborating with McDonald's, breaking records for virtual Fortnite concerts and launching his Cactus Jack-inspired CACTI Agave Spiked Seltzer. But when he's not stacking the bag as a business man, he's creating lauded albums and first-rate features. Before unloading his first debut album, Travis began his rise to stardom as a featured artist for a run dating back to 2012, when he linked with Meek Mill to deliver "I Get It."
Since then, Travis has found himself throughout the Billboard Hot 100 chart with features on some of the hottest hip-hop and R&B tracks of the last five years. Kodak Black's "Zeze" featuring Offset and Travis Scott helped the rapper achieve his second top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Spending 25 weeks on the chart, the track went five-times platinum and became a club anthem in 2018. With more than 70 singles on the Hot 100, Travis Scott has helped other artists achieve major milestones in their careers by offering guest vocals.
If you put his career into video game terms, André 3000's effortless glide onto any record makes him the equivalent to the Slidey Cars effect in the Grand Theft Auto video game. UGK 2007 hit "International Player's Anthem (I Choose You)" featuring OutKast showcased both members' lyrical abilities, but Three Stacks floated over the gospel-inspired intro.
As André continued to elevate himself as more than just one-half of the Atlanta-bred duo, the 45-year-old rapper revved up his engine and went on to collect a platinum plaque for John Legend's "Green Light" and Billboard Hot 100 placements for his collaborations with other artists. André's work with Frank Ocean on "Pink Matter" and "Solo (Reprise)" features the rapper's upbeat flare adding a different layer to Frank's songs. Since his guest vocals have become a must-have for other artists, Three Stacks has collaborated with the likes of Drake, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne and more. It's hard not to be out-barred by the veteran rhymer. So contrary to any Young Thug opinion, André 3000 is one of hip-hop's most desirable feature kings.
Whether he's known for being a non-secular rap icon or a controversial fire-starter, Kanye West's effect on society is undeniable. The man is a walking, talking headline with controversial political views at times as well, but when it comes to hip-hop, he's known as one of the best to do it, from lyricism to making beats. ’Ye has worked tirelessly to distinguish himself as a world-class producer and rapper.
Getting his start as the in-house Roc-A-Fella Records beatsmith in the early 2000s, the G.O.O.D. Music founder wanted to move from behind the boards and into the spotlight. Since releasing The College Dropout in 2004, West has 10 studio albums under his belt, including Watch The Throne with Jay-Z and all but one have peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Numbers aside, Kanye's commercial success isn't the determining factor that lands him on this list. His feature work on songs like 2 Chainz's "Birthday Song," which hit No. 47 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2012, and the two-times platinum hit ScHoolboy Q's "That Part," which hit No. 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2016, are still as relevant as the day they came out.
Kanye has also developed a sound and rap style unique to him while developing other musicians in the process. In the summer of 2018, the G.O.O.D. Music troop went on a run, releasing multiple Kanye West-produced projects throughout the season like Pusha-T's Daytona. Despite where you land on the Kanye spectrum, most rap fans have that one Kanye feature they put on a pedestal.
Young Money breeds stars, and Nicki Minaj is a supernova. The 38-year-old rapper has dedicated more than a decade to solidifying her spot as the queen for her Barbz. But with all the effort she put into forging a long-lasting career for herself, the New York native has been sure to work with both rappers on their come up and vets in the game. Nicki has come a long way from the days where she was charging "50K for a verse, no album out," as she raps on Kanye West's hit song "Monster." The rapper is now boundless with features that cross genres and even continents.
In 2010, Nicki bested every hip-hop heavyweight on Kanye's "Monster." She delivered one of the most memorable verses in the 21st century. When it comes to other features, Yo Gotti's "Rake It Up," 6ix9ine's "Trollz" and "FEFE," A$AP Ferg's "Move Yo Hips," the late Pop Smoke's "Welcome to the Party (Remix)," which helped the rapper receive his second top 10 placement in the Billboard Hot 100, and Doja Cat's "Say So (Remix)" secured Doja her first No. 1 single on the Hot 100. Nicki Minaj is the ultimate cheat code to the charts.
It's Weezy F. Baby and the "F" stands for "forever breaking boundaries." Lil Wayne is a once-in-a-lifetime generation talent that's been on the scene since he was 8 years old. But unlike most child rappers who age out of the industry, Wayne has built a legacy withstanding almost three decades of fluctuating music trends. He's also responsible for birthing a new class of rap stars with fan bases to rival his own. Drake, Nicki Minaj and even Tyga are just a few of the names to emerge under the Young Money umbrella, which was established in the early 2000s.
His contributions to hip-hop don't stop at artist discovery. Wayne has collaborated as a feature with the likes of Chance The Rapper for "No Problem" and Jack Harlow for "What's Poppin (Remix)" featuring DaBaby and Tory Lanez. With nearly 30 years in the rap game, the 38-year-old rapper always comes through with a hard-hitting feature. Long before he was a vet helping out Gen Z rappers, Lil Wayne collaborated with Chris Brown and Busta Rhymes to create the seven-times platinum single "Look at Me Now," which earned a No. 1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2011. He's been the go-to guy for chart-climbing features for decades.
Though the late Pop Smoke isn't here to witness the legacy he developed for himself, his power still permeates through hip-hop culture. Pop stays on repeat in Brooklyn and across the country, he's remembered for the contributions he made to not only the Brooklyn drill scene, but the culture as whole in a short amount of time. His ability to have his feature catalog grow was cut short after his death in 2020, but since his passing, Pop has become one of the biggest posthumous features for any A-List artist.
Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon III: The Chosen offered a surprising Pop verse on the song "Show Out" also featuring Skepta. The track hit No. 54 on the Billboard Hot 100. French Montana's "Double G" and Lil Tjay's "Zoo York" also featuring Fivio Foreign showcase posthumous guest vocals from the beloved rapper. "Zoo York" climbed to No. 65 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2020, and was a New York anthem. DMX recently revealed that Pop would be making an appearance on X's upcoming album. Even after death, Pop Smoke is still one of the hottest commodities in hip-hop and his fire is not going out anytime soon.
As fans wait eagerly for Kendrick Lamar to bridge the gap between DAMN. and his upcoming, long-awaited, rock-influenced LP, the delay has left fans hungrier than a pack of rabid dogs. Though stans are barking for more, they can take a look back and listen to his catalog as well as his features on other artists' tracks. From A$AP Rocky's "Fucking Problems" to Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood," K-Dot's airtight flow proves that the rapper can achieve success on any record he's featured on. Both songs debuted in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, but his star power doesn't stop there. His collaborations on Travis Scott's "Goosebumps" and Rich The Kid's "New Freezer" also highlight how the introspective rapper can hold his own in the trap lane and secured that rappers a spot on the Hot 100 for four weeks after peaking at 21.
In 2019, Dreamville Records secured an undercover feature with Kendrick for "Under The Sun" by having him deliver the chorus. Kendrick's placement on the song came as a surprise, seeing as how the 33-year-old rapper wasn't publicly listed as a participant on the track. Beyoncé's "Nile" and Raphael Saadiq's "Rearview" were among other songs released that year to tide fans over until his next project hits. A feature from Kendrick might as well be coated in gold because whether the rhymer is rapping on a song or breathing near it, his proximity brings eyes from music critics and overall fans of the Compton native.
Ty Dolla $ign
Despite earning much of his fame as a featured artist, Ty Dolla $ign has made the gimmick work for him. In 2020, the Atlantic Records artist unleashed Featuring Ty Dolla $ign, an LP inspired by the role he plays as a welcome feature on plenty of favorite songs. But don't get it twisted, Ty's artistry was never lost in the mix of A-list collaborations. The Grammy Award-nominated rhymer's earliest features date back to YG's 2010 single "Toot It and Boot It."
Since then, Ty has floated between singing and rapping on tracks like Fifth Harmony's "Work From Home" and Megan Thee Stallion's "Hot Girl Summer." The latter track hit No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2019. The number of features Ty Dolla $ign has offered over the years are more than 70. He's also a skilled songwriter with credits from tracks by Trey Songz, Wiz Khalifa, Chris Brown and more.
Dreamville Records' head honcho is known for being the artist to go platinum with no features. However, in 2018, J. Cole proved that joint efforts work in his favor. The 36-year-old rapper linked up for one of the most surprising partnerships of the year when he delivered a feature on 21 Savage's thought-provoking track "A Lot." The 2018 song secured both rhymers their first Grammy Award win at the 2020 awards ceremony. Anderson. Paak's "Trippy," 6lack's "Pretty Little Fears," which snagged the No. 76 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, and Jay Rock's "OSOM" are some of the many artists to receive a verse from the rapper in 2018 as well.
J. Cole's feature run bled into 2019, when he appeared on Young Thug's "The London" also featuring Travis Scott. The track is equal parts unexpected and enjoyable. For a short while, the Fayetteville, N.C. native continued to show he wasn't playing with his new title as feature king. Unfortunately, all good things do eventually come to an end. After the Dreamville team delivered the Revenge of the Dreamers III album in 2019, J. Cole's verses went back on lockdown. If you were one of the few to catch him before the feature well dried up, consider yourself lucky.
Jay-Z is a G.O.A.T. level MC who got his start in 1988. Since then, the Brooklyn rapper has helped usher in countless artists to superstardom, whether it be through his current company, Roc Nation, or a feature. Dating back to 1989, Jay has more guest feature roles in his arsenal than one person can count in an array of genres. In 2003, Jay-Z made his rounds through the R&B scene, collaborating with Mariah Carey and Freeway on "You Got Me," Pharrell's "Frontin'" and Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love." The latter were two of the most memorable songs to come out that year.
Further into his career, Jay has offered his guest vocals to Drake, Kanye West, Meek Mill and Jay Electronica, making hip-hop headlines around the world for doing so. Meek Mill's 2018 track "What's Free" featuring Rick Ross and Jay-Z climbed to No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 that same year, proving an assist from Jay moves the needle. Last year, Hov's collaboration on Jay Electronica's debut album, A Written Testimony, grabbed a lot of attention from fans eager to hear how the two rappers planned on bringing this highly anticipated project to life.
Frank Ocean's association with Odd Future, his own rapping abilities and sheer genius earn him a place on this list despite not being the typical rapper. His first album, Channel Orange, released in 2012, was critically acclaimed. Four years later, he dropped Blond to the same fanfare. With plenty of lauded songwriting skills and vocal talents in his bag, Frank is the go-to guy, as elusive as he his, for many artists across genres. Jay-Z and Kanye West have linked with the singer multiple times for their 2011 album, Watch The Throne. Frank added his vocal flair to the excellent tracks "No Church in the Wild," which is platinum-certified, and "Made in America."
In 2017, Calvin Harris' "Slide" featured Frank and Migos, provided a banger for the summer. The song is now four-times platinum. In the same year, Frank made an inconspicuous appearance on Tyler, The Creator's "911/Mr. Lonley" and A$AP Mob's "RAF," too. The esteemed artist, who has distinguished himself as an accomplished songwriter, crafting songs for Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, among others, is a feature worth having.
The way younger rappers have sampled and interpolated 50 Cent's classic 2003 track "Many Men (Wish Death)" is reason enough to land Fif on this list. However, the Power producer's spot is reserved for the accomplishments he's made over the years. In the early 2000s, Fif lent his voice to Lil' Kim's 2003 single "Magic Stick" and The Game's "How We Do." Both tracks peaked in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. Eminem's 2009 track "Crack a Bottle" featuring Dr. Dre and 50 scored the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100, and Jeremih's 2011 banger "Down on Me" landed at No. 4 on the Hot 100.
Nowadays, Pop Smoke's "The Woo" comes to mind when thinking of elite 50 Cent features. His posthumous debut album, Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon featured Fif as the executive producer. The G-Unit leader's guidance helped Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon spend 36 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart. With a record like his, 50 Cent is one of a select few rappers who are cheat codes to success on the charts.
An Eminem feature isn't only popular just because he's one of the G.O.A.T.s, but also because he tends to name-drop artists into oblivion. Em has started verbal wars with rappers like Machine Gun Kelly and Nick Cannon and won. With the earliest Eminem features dating back to the 1990s, the rapper has gained more than 20 years of experience laying down guest vocals.
Adding his lyrics to songs from R&B heavyweights like Rihanna to hip-hop heroes like The Notorious B.I.G. and Big Sean, his features have climbed the charts as much as his solo efforts. Westside Boogie's 2019 track "Rainy Days" featuring Eminem was a welcomed collab with the "Rap God," too. And one of Em's most prized collaborators is Nicki Minaj. The pair first linked up in 2010, for her track "Roman's Revenge," which hit No. 56 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2019, the rappers unleashed another collaboration with "Majesty" featuring Labrinth, for her Queen album. When Em gets on a song as a feature, it's guaranteed to be a win.