Every so often we're lucky enough to hear our favorite rappers join forces Justice League–style on one record. It's a shining opportunity us fans get to directly compare the most popular MCs bar for bar. We know these key moments in the competition-based rap genre as posse cuts. From early records like "The Symphony" to newer examples like A$AP Rocky's "1 Train," posse cuts are a consistent occurrence in rap. Just as consistently, there are always rappers who stand out each time someone dares to share a track with them.
It's impossible to determine whose had the best posse cut verse over the lifespan of hip-hop, but we can definitely hone in on one rapper who has consistently outshined his peers over the last five years. That MC is Big Sean. That's right I said it, Big Sean.
He's the rapper you love to overlook when it comes to giving proper credit. Since he broke onto the scene in 2009, Sean Don has risen to the occasion time and time again on tracks with your favorite rappers’ favorite rappers — and has given them the business.
By now you may be recoiling at the notion of anyone receiving such an honor other than your coveted Kendrick Lamars, J. Coles and Drakes. I must also have some nerve to exclude Hov, Rick Ross or Pusha T from this conversation. However, if we take one solid look at Big Sean's posse cut resume, I'm sure you'll find yourself in agreement.
When it comes to artists' consistency and challenging themselves on features year after year, Big Sean is the champ. Rap is a contact sport, and Sean will go head up against anybody. Let's review the case.
Kanye West, "Don't Look Down" feat. Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def & Big Sean (2010)
Let's take it back to 2010, shall we? At this time, Big Sean was just breaking in, and his verse on "Don't Look Down," alongside Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco and Kanye West, showed us all that he was a force to be reckoned with. Beyond the verse itself, it was the fact that Sean was able to hold his own on a record featuring proven artists from diverse categories within rap: the conscious in Mos Def, the controversial in Kanye and the lyricist in Lupe Fiasco. What's most captivating about Sean's verse is that we witness his ability to effortlessly maneuver through subject matter and different flows in one verse.
What happens when people turn to cheers / Dreams turn to memories, and weeks turn to years / Been standin’ in the same spot for a couple of weeks / Give me my feelings back, wish love came with a couple receipts.
Here, Sean gets personal by touching on the early years of his career and the changes he's seen in his relationship due to increasing fame. The things he used to dream of are getting checked off his list of accomplishments, while his personal relationships are falling apart. This is where he captured listeners by being identifiable within an elastic flow; touching on the art of balancing work and personal life, a skill we all struggle with at a young age.
How could my girl do this to me? / Woke up to a note sayin' the world did this to me / Now I'm testin' one-two, reporting live from the rubble / Drinkin' all I can so I can turn to fire when I hug you / One, two, three, four, five models on the double / Give me head all at once look like they lyin’ in a huddle.
Sean took the cake here by blending bravado with sensitivity. He details the heartbreak he's dealing with, while reminding us that there's women coming at him in droves.
Kanye West, "Looking for Trouble" feat. Pusha T, Cyhi Da Prynce, J. Cole & Big Sean (2010)
This was a tough one, and honestly speaking, there's an argument to be made that Big Sean didn't have the best verse on this track is because J. Cole's delivery in the closing was so dramatically definitive, a tone that can't be overlooked. However, this posse cut stands out as a clash of future titans. We saw two of rap's soon-to-be juggernauts square off before their prime and, again, Sean not only holds his own here, but he stands out. As a matter of fact, he completely washes Pusha T and Cyhi Da Prynce, and this literally becomes a Big Sean and J. Cole song. The pair both foreshadowed their own position in the game, and it was so damn dope.
Ye invited me a seat to sit at the throne / So now I'm snappin' like yo' ass just finished a poem / Does he sound like 'Ye, Jay or Drizzy Drake? / Meanwhile, I'm chillin' with all these niggas, countin' all this money you ain't / Consider yourself lucky to see a legend before the prime / A killer before the crime, a Big before the Don / Greet me wit' a middle finger when you see me / It's cool, 'cause I can't see yo' ass from this side of the TV, motherfucker.
Sean reminds us that while we're so busy making comparisons (which we're still doing), we ought not to forget his potential was identified by one of hip-hop's greatest. No matter what our opinions were or how much we were overlooking his skill set, he was still on the incline. Before the moment passed, he warned us to pay attention to a legend unfolding in front of our eyes. Perhaps hip-hop fans should be taking heed to the same lesson now.
Big Sean, "Clique" feat. Kanye West & Jay Z (2012)
A crowning moment for any rapper is a co-sign from the OGs who set the bar high. Not just a compliment or a shoutout, but a strong verse. We should all remember that "Clique" is technically Big Sean's song, but it appeared on the G.O.O.D compilation. So Jay Z and Kanye opting to hop on the track solidified Sean's seat at the table among rap's top tier. What's better than that? How about the fact he had the shortest verse and still gave both rap legends a run for their money. As he always does, Sean steals the show using a flow switch mid verse where he speeds up the tempo, reminiscent of the infamous "Supa Dupa" delivery he was jacked for by everybody back in the day.
I tell a bad bitch do whatever I say / My block behind me like I'm comin’ out the driveway / It's grind day from Friday to next Friday / I been up straight for nine days I need a spa day.
I'm rolling with... fuck I'm saying? Girl, you know my crew name / You know 2 Chainz? Scrrr! I'm pulling up in that Bruce Wayne / But I'm the fucking villain, man, they kneeling when I walking in the building / Freaky women I be feeling from the bank accounts I'm filling/ What a feeling, ah man, they gotta be / Young player from the D that's killing everything that he see.
While we got the usual boss talk from Jay Z and the typical stunt push from 'Ye, it was Sean who came through with force. He's not the little homie anymore, that's for sure. In fact, time after time and up to this point in his career he was crushing every single track.
Drake, "All Me" feat. Big Sean & 2 Chainz (2013)
I don't even need to dig in on this one. Your favorite rapper is so much of a Big Sean fan that he does the verse in Sean's absence. Boyeeeee.
Eminem, "Detroit vs. Everybody" feat. Big Sean, Dej Loaf & Royce Da 5’9 (2014)
"Detroit vs. Everybody" was one of those records we were starving for, just so we could hear Eminem and Sean on the same track. We thought we might get such a treat on Hall of Fame after a few hints from Sean in which he warned of a major surprise on the album. Still, our hunger for a special moment in hip-hop was left unsatisfied for a little longer than expected. In my opinion, this is Sean's strongest performance on a posse cut. Why? Because if there's one rapper you need to prove yourself against and especially to claim the king's throne in Detroit, it's Eminem.
I'm never callin' collect, I call to collect / My homie wanted a Chevy, so I put my dog in the 'Vette / Plus I'm so loyal that that paper, boy, is all that I fetch / Got the ball in my hand and the ball in the net / Bitch I'm the D, can't no offense dunk on me.
I'm Mr. Big Shot, these hoes get drunk off me / I'm over-respected, my mama gated community's overprotected / So futuristic, I'm already over my next bitch / Reminiscin' on listenin' to 50 fifty times a day / Back when tenth grade was like 50 days away / Tryna get paid 50 ways a day / Used to put 50 on the layaway, now my closet 50 shades of gray / Twenty-six and I done lived a lifetime a few times/ From futons to Grey Poupons / In church tryna get a little savings, yeah coupons.
I spit that A1 every day, I'm hittin' new primes / Now the stakes high, niggas surprised at the new lines / Or takin' down my number like "you still ain't got a new line"? / Nah it's the same, we've been laborin' for years / I know it took way longer than nine months, but fuck it, it's all in due time.
First, he creates wordplay between dog and vet and Corvette. Then he keeps up with the dog reference with his paper line, and that's all he fetches. Then he packs in a double entendre on the "shot" liquor/basketball bar. Which he quickly follows with A1/prime and steak/goals wordplay. And ends it with nine months and due time? COME ON!
All in all, it's time we act like we know Big Sean. (See what I did there?) Sure, we could debate all day on who had the best verses on each of the songs listed above. However, the overall point still remains. Big Sean proved himself as a rookie on tracks with seasoned vets. He's bested legendary rappers. He's either hung with or outshined his peers who are often ranked above him, meaning Drake, J. Cole and K.dot.
Most importantly, he's done it on multiple occasions, every single year since 2010. A lot of rappers don't take on that type of challenge, and if they do, their track record isn't as strong. Big Sean has set the bar higher than Snoop and Wiz's green room when it comes to posse cuts. For that reason, he doesn’t belong on just anyone's posse cut. He's too damn G.O.O.D.
Since not too many people can hang with him, to end this piece here's my Big Sean Posse Cut Wishlist. A little bit of the old school in combination with a little bit of the new. Let us know what your Featuring Big Sean wishlist would look like.
The Notorious B.I.G. featuring Charlie Baltimore & Big Sean: The Commission reloaded.
Consequence featuring Canibus & Big Sean: Lyrics to go.
Nas featuring Raekwon & Big Sean: Over a Havoc and Kanye West beat.
Foxy Brown featuring Fabolous, Lil Kim & Big Sean: Goodfella rhyme time.
Pimp C featuring Big Boi, Sleepy Brown & Big Sean: Pinky-ring flows.
ASAP Rocky featuring ScHoolboy Q & Big Sean: X-rated, playboy living.
Ab Soul featuring Chance the Rapper & Big Sean: Brainy bars and conscious confessions.
Bia featuring Big Sean & Pharrell: This would make us happy.
Drake featuring Big Sean, J. Cole & Kendrick: You knew damn well this was going on the list!