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Hip-Hop BFFs: Rating Rap Music’s Most Intimate Friendships

Photo: Patrick McMullan
Photo: Patrick McMullan

Next week, when Kanye West and Jay-Z release their collaborative album Watch The Throne, it’ll mark the pinnacle of modern hip-hop’s highest-profile BFFship, a shining beacon of bro-dom at an elite level. But is Kanye and Jay-Z’s relationship the closest hip-hop has yet seen? Sure, the pairing can’t be matched when it comes to star wattage — but hip-hop’s always been rife with remarkably intimate collaborative relationships, and the rest of the field should not be overshadowed just because ’Ye and Jay have a ton of money. That’s why Vulture’s broken down nine other industry friendships — through numerical analysis, along with general exhibitions of lovey-dovey-ness — and determined just who are rap music’s two bestest friends that anyone can have.

*A few big ground rules: Official duos were not considered. This list is strictly about two dudes who are primarily famous for their individual careers but whose undeniable pull toward one another brings them together, again and again. Also, this is about rapper-rapper relationships, not producer-rapper relationship; the latter is a whole other ballgame. And numbers of collaborations (which means total number of times the two have appeared on the same track) are approximate because, come on, these are rappers — even they themselves don’t know how much material they’ve released.

Duration of Relationship: 2009–present Number of Collaborations: 25-30 Gushiest Moment: This MTV interview, where Curren$y calls Wiz “my main mans.” The young’uns have racked up an impressive roster ofcollabos in a short period of time, and their shared passion for getting really, really high means they are connected in a truly non-superficial way. Wiz might continue to become more famous than Curren$y, though, and may that one day wreak havoc in the relationship?
Duration of Relationship: 2009–present Number of Collaborations: 25-30 Gushiest Moment: “Lock my C.E.O. up, now it’s back to coka.” – Waka Flocka Flame, “O Lets Do It (Remix)” Gucci Mane was originally the one putting Waka Flocka Flame on. But when Gucci’s legal troubles sidelined his career and Waka got more popular, it was the prudent move for the two to team up. And they have, even as rumors of beef swirl, as the duo Ferrari Boyz. But is there the genuine respect and admiration necessary to a stable hip-hop BFFship? Or is this a more business-minded transaction? Photo: Johnny Nunez/2010 Johnny Nunez
Duration of Relationship: 2004–present? Number of Collaborations: Less than five (on which they both rap) Gushiest Moment: “O’s [a.k.a. Otis Jackson, Jr., a.k.a. Madlib] beats and my rhymes attack / A scary act.” – DOOM, “Figaro” Okay, yes, this is really more the ‘producer-rapper’ relationship we said didn’t count in the intro. But a special exception is made here because, when the two prolific, enigmatic forces formed as Madvillian, the aesthetic melding made so much sense indie-rap fans still can’t quite get over it. As in: These two really should be better friends. Sequel rumors continue to surface, so presumably the relationship is on low boil.
Duration of Relationship: 2008–present Number of Collaborations: 25-30 Gushiest Moment: “Damn, I’ll be gone ‘til November / But fuck it, I ain’t trippin’, I know Drizzy gonna kill ‘em.” – Lil Wayne, “Miss Me” A relatively young relationship that’s already maneuvered itself from mentor-protégé to near-equal status and shows great potential: From “Miss Me” to “Every Girl” to the original version of Drake’s “Successful,” these two have repeatedly brought out the best in each other. A full-length WTT-style collaborative album was rumored at one point; if they ever go through with it, and if it lives up to expectations, then their position on this list will be adjusted accordingly. Photo: Kevin Winter/2010 Getty Images
Duration of Relationship: 2001–present Number of Collaborations: 25-30 Gushiest Moment: “Projectile that them blasted with, accurate assassin shit / Me and Kweli close like Bethlehem and Nazareth.” – Mos Def, “Definition” Points added for the fact that 1998’s Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, a modern rap classic, came before their respective solo debuts. Points subtracted for the fact that fans have been begging ineffectually for a sequel since. Despite no update, a decade in and the relationship clearly remains strong: This summer, the two will be performing the entirety of Black Star on the Rock the Bells Festival tour. Photo: Johnny Nunez/2009 Johnny Nunez
Duration of Relationship: Early nineties–2000 Number of Collaborations: 15-20 Gushiest Moment: “I support Pun in anything he does, anything he loves / My brother from another mother, sent from the above / A thug nigga just like me, one of the best.” – Fat Joe, “Twinz” Before Pun’s unfortunate passing in 2000, these two – both overweight Puerto Rican rappers from the Bronx – were real tight. So tight, in fact, they once used a baseball bat to rob some dude together. Of course, this particular relationship would never get the chance to fully flourish. R.I.P., Christopher Rios. Photo: Julian Wasser
Duration of Relationship: 2001–present Number of Collaborations: 25-30 Gushiest Moment: “Kanyeezy, you did it again! You a genius, nigga!”– Jay-Z, “Lucifer” It’s been a dramatic ride for these two, from humble origins in the early 2000s, when Kanye was just some dude who made some beats for The Blueprint, to today, when the two are nearly equals as industry titans. Clearly the situation is stable enough now to the point where they can come up with a goofy duo name (The Throne) and go on tour together, but things are not without complications: Jay is indisputably the superior rapper overall, but Kanye is peaking during Jay’s decline, and that can’t not be a tiny bit awkward; also, as elucidated in Kanye’s “Big Brother,” there are certain residual animosities from the early days, when ‘Ye was so clearly the junior member, that still linger. Photo: MARC DIMOV/? Patrick McMullan
Duration of Relationship: 1993–present Number of Collaborations: 95-100 Gushiest Moment: “Shark Niggas (Biters),” the skit on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx when the two complain for a while about how everyone is ripping off all the cool shit they say. The Wu-Tang Clan’s status may be less stable than ununtrium, but these two Wu soldiers have always stayed close. Ghost’s debut Ironman is billed to “Ghostface Killah featuring Raekwon and Cappadona”; Rae’s Cuban Linx (and its sequel) is billed to “Chef Raekwon … guest starring Tony Starks (Ghostface Killah).” Theirs might not be the most expressive of friendships (they spend a lot of their time on wax running from the police). But what they lack in feelings, they make up for by sounding so very, very right together. Photo: Johnny Nunez/2010 Johnny Nunez
Duration of Relationship: 1997–present Number of Collaborations: 20-25 Gushiest Moment: “You risked your career for me, I know it as well as you / Nobody wanted to fuck with the white boy, Dre, I’m crying in this booth / You saved my life, maybe it’s time for me to save yours.” – Eminem, “I Need a Doctor” Like Weezy and Drizzy, these two also started out as mentor-protégé before Eminem’s quick rise to legend-status evened that up. As far as the current status of the relationship, Em’s verse on “I Need a Doctor,” while perhaps difficult to listen to, is enlightening: As far as we can tell, these are two damaged people who truly do depend on each other for emotional support. Meanwhile, 50 Cent is mad nobody invited him to joint therapy. Photo: Kevin Winter/2011 Getty Images
Duration of Relationship: 1996–present Number of Collaborations: 85-90 Gushiest Moment: “Sipping on a forty, smoking on a blunt / Bust my gun, and Red and Meth getting jumped / La lalalala!” – Redman, “Da Rockwilder” Notably, this is another hip-hop BFFdom tied together with weed. (Drugs! Not always the worst!) Also, as far general sweep, these two are unparalleled: They’ve released two Blackout! albums together, co-starred in the cult classic weed comedy How High, and even had an ill-fated Fox sitcom. And who can forget the video for “Da Rockwilder,” when they walked around a post-apocalyptic landscape adorably chained together? Through expressions in various media, and with years of cohabitation behind them, it’s clear: These two are the greatest friends. Photo: Stephen Lovekin/2009 Getty Images
Hip-Hop BFFs: Rating Rap Music’s Most Intimate Friendships