Those who have appeared on tracks with Jay-Z -- much less those who have agreed to marry him or collaborate on entire albums -- are at that very moment doing very well in the music industry. That's a major shift: Time was, you would strive to make a name for yourself leaning on talent and perseverance. A break here and there wouldn't hurt, though in general love, aptitude, and hard work bore their own fruit, sometimes, in vast and long term success. Every so often, two independently well-known artists -- think Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney or David Bowie and Mick Jagger -- would come together, and magic would happen, but in general major collaborations were rare.
That's no longer the case. Especially in hip-hop, collaborations between massively popular artists are standard at this point. Of course, rap legend and peerless contemporary Jay-Z needs no such leverage and never has. Rather he is one of those who instantly elevates the name and game of anyone attached to anything he touches. Here's our list of his hottest collabos.
5. "Umbrella" Rihanna feat. Jay-Z
With talent and a sun-bright future, Rihanna was building her own brand and doing just fine in 2007. This Jay-Z collaboration was simply gravy, and music chart gold. "Umbrella" is Rihanna's song, almost exclusively. But you ask Jay-Z to join you for a reason. Even if he only says a few words in the introduction, if he's willing to participate at all, and amenable to attaching his name, it becomes a collaboration, and you've got a worldwide hit on your hands.
4. "Can I Get A..." feat Amil & Ja Rule
On the other hand, "Can I Get A..." is purely Jay-Z's. Sure, Ja Rule leveraged the track in his own way, and Amil had her own following in 1998, but a Jay-Z collaboration combined with a Rush Hour soundtrack equals two winning lottery tickets. "Umbrella" was a more notable chart presence and Ja Rule is no Rihanna. But each artists contributed significantly to this track, which in this contest, makes it a higher ranking collaboration.
3. "Suit & Tie" Justin Timberlake feat. Jay-Z
Combine the star-power of "Umbrella" with the harmonious inclusion of "Can I get A.." and what you get are the top three songs on Jay-Z's collaborative top five. "Suit & Tie" could easily top this list, that is, if the one other track didn't feature Beyoncé, and the other wasn't actually Jay-Z's very best work. If you went to a club of wedding in the last four years, you heard this tune, and probably danced to it. You probably also heard the following two songs twice.
2. "Crazy In Love" Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z
How is a song featuring two prominent figures on the modern music rendition of Mount Rushmore not considered the #1 song of all time? It is by many. Those who do not completely agree, including the composer of this list, point to the fact Beyoncé and Jay-Z have gone on to produce a huge handful of monumental songs together. You can't say "Crazy In Love" is forgotten or watered down as a result, but when you plant the field with diamonds, it becomes harder to harvest a stand out.
1. "Empire State of Mind" feat. Alicia Keys
Is a piece of work your best because it is your most popular, or because it is the purest representation of your talents? If it is the former, "Empire State of Mind" is Jay-Z's best collaboration because it's his best song, period. The song dropped when both Jay-Z and Alicia Keys were peaking, which, if you are producing records, ought to be the point. This song is also a pure demonstration of that which Jay-Z is capable. Yes, there is apparently a place for simply saying, "Uh huh," into a microphone, though it doesn't help designate you as an artist. "Empire State of Mind" has Jay-Z's name, Alicia Keys' indelible hook, and the best of what both have to offer. If Paul McCartney was still putting in work like this, Jay-Z would probably agree to cut an album with him, and the result would probably impress even Sgt. Pepper himself.