In any relationship, it always helps to have someone in your corner. You know, someone that has your back, zigs when you zag, and — this is the most important one! — someone who knows how to compliment your strengths while also identifying your weaknesses.
The relationship between an artist and their DJ is no different.
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When hitting the stage, there are many factors that come into play when attempting to truly rock the crowd: Presence, energy, and delivery are all clutch. However, every true Master of Ceremony knows that without the gifted hands of a skilled record-scratcher, even the most spirited performance will always seem a little…well, out of touch, if you will.
It’s for this reason that we’ve decided to shine light on several of our favorite DJ/rapper duos in celebration of Hip-Hop History Month.
Pairings that perfectly display the way bars and beats ought to be done. Because, regardless of your favorite Hip-Hop era, there’s no dismissing the magic that occurs when the right artist and DJ tap in to make music.
See below for some of our top choices and let us know on social media who you think needs to be included:
Hip-Hop History Month: Tag Team! 5 Great DJ / Rapper Duos was originally published on blackamericaweb.com
1. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
Let’s say they weren’t the first Hip-Hop act to win a Grammy. Let’s ignore the fact they didn’t put the style and sounds of the genre in living rooms across mainstream America, courtesy of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. You could take those milestones away and still have plenty of clout that reigns over Will and Jazzy. The original “Crossover Kings” made non-threatening rhymes that appealed to the masses, while still pushing the culture forward and showing love to their East Coast roots.
Jazzy’s playful production was the perfect match to Smith’s animated style, and yes, while even grandmas could groove to their music you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t start bopping their head when “Summertime” comes on — to this very day!
2. Lil Wayne & DJ Drama
What a time to be alive! The internet was jam-packed with free music, every kid with a CD burner thought he owned a distribution company and mixtapes were dropping like hotcakes.
Just over a decade ago, it was literally Wayne’s World. The Louisiana Monster was hungry, very hungry, and every beat he got his hands on became dinner. Beats came courtesy of in-house Cash Money maestro Manny Fresh, in addition to other producers. Hell, Tunechi could hear your song, like it and proceed to tear it to shreds after deciding to rework it in the booth. Hit records became Wayne’s records after he put a remix to it, and his Dedication mixtape alongside DJ Drama was nothing less than a masterclass in microphone murder.
3. Nas & DJ Premier
Premo may be a Texas native, but his grimey and intentionally-aged production sound is largely responsible for what many seasoned rap heads think of when you bring up the “New York Sound.”
So, it makes perfect sense that he and Esco were a match made in musical heaven. Premier blessed Nas’ masterful album debut, Illmatic, with cuts like “Represent” and “Memory Lane,” with the pair continuing to work together on tracks like “I Gave You Power” from It Was Written and “Nas Is Like” on 1999’s I Am…
Decades later, Preem is still scratchin’ and Nas is still rapping — both are sounding better than ever in recent years. Most recently, the dynamic duo teamed up on the song “Break Beats,” a throwback joint from Premier’s 2022 album, Hip Hop 50: Vol 1.
4. Spinderella & Salt-N-Pepa
Spin deserves all her flowers and then some. If not for breaking into a male-dominated genre during a time when women behind the turntables were much fewer and far in-between, we’d still have to clap it up for her undeniable skills. If you’ve never seen the sister scratch — listen, she gets busy! Plus, she looks quite good doing it.
Spinderella’s run with Salt-N-Pepa is no more, but her effortless style and contribution to the culture will forever be etched on the halls of Hip-Hop. S&P were sexy, colorful and confident — it could’ve made the road to success easier by just grabbing the hottest male DJ of the day. Filling that role with a fellow woman who embodied those same attributes only helped to further the message of girl power way before the Spice Girls made it a thing.
5. Phonte, Big Pooh & 9th Wonder
Without A Tribe Called Quest, you don’t get a Little Brother. The North Carolina trio had a simple-yet-effective mantra: dope beats paired with dope rhymes. Concise, straight to the point and might just look great on a T-shirt if you ask us. Saying it is one thing, but delivering it is a whole other beast. Thankfully, Phonte’s witty lyrics paired with Pooh’s playful bars were packaged well within the production of the group’s in-house music maker, 9th Wonder.
Heralded amongst rap heads from the backpack variety, Little Brother never found huge mainstream success. However, they earned respect in their field with their classic underground LP, Little Brother, standing as a not-so-hidden-gem that focuses less on hip-hop bravado and more on the art of making great rap music.
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