In hip hop, fans and critics often marvel at and put a premium on the supreme soloists or groups who can craft classic songs and bodies of work while remaining the central figure. However, the most electric moments in the culture occur when multiple emcees collaborate on a track with the sole purpose of asserting themselves as the most lyrically gifted by delivering an epic rhyme spill that outclasses the others. Throughout the years, the songs -- which are generally referred to as "posse cuts" -- have become some of the most memorable in the genre's history, as rap's most legendary stars team up on wax and bringing the most rabid of rap fans' fantasies to reality.
In celebration of these historic songs and what they mean to the culture, REVOLT presents "Tale of the Tape," our series in which we break down the greatest posse cuts of all-time and rank the verses from worst to first.
In our latest installment of the series, we'll be revisiting "Affirmative Action," a song from Nas' album It Was Written. The project finds him matching wits with Foxy Brown, AZ, and Cormega. Pairing four of New York City's hottest MCs on the same track, "Affirmative Action" caught the attention of listeners in a big way and led to the creation of The Firm, a supergroup comprised of the original lineup, but with Nature replacing Cormega. Their first recording as a unit, "Affirmative Action" would be followed up with a full-length album the following year, marking The Firm as the first true supergroup in rap history. Aside from being the genesis of The Firm, "Affirmative Action" is also remembered as one of the most potent collaborative efforts of its time and one of the dopest tracks from one of the best rap albums of the decade. Without further adieu, check out our ranking of the verses on "Affirmative Action."
Initially building his legendary status with his iconic verse on Main Source's 1991 posse cut "Live At The Barbecue," Nas was well-versed in the art of verbal war by the time he rounded up some of New York's finest to bless this track. Being the de facto headliner and the track's host, expectations for Esco to deliver were high. But, the Queensbridge poet lives up to the hype with a verse that is simply masterful. Dropping sly references to obscure action comedy flicks and touching on the inner-workings of politics within the projects, Nas kicks an intricate flow over the percussion and violins. But, his performance is not enough to outshine his collaborators.
Standout Lyrics: "And now the projects is talking that somebody-gotta-die shit/It's logic as long as it's nobody that's in my clique/My man Smoke know how to expand coke in Mr. Coffee/Feds cost me two mill' to get the system off me/Life's a bitch, but God forbid the bitch divorce me/I'll be flooded with ice, so hell fire can't scorch me."
AZ's legacy as one of rap's most underrated talent is no secret. But, during the mid '90s, he was considered one of the hottest prospects in rap with a gold debut album under his belt. Known for his suave delivery and street-wise musings, AZ gets the honor of setting off this classic. The East New York rep does it justice by delivering another career-defining performance. Kicking off his rhyme spill with his now-iconic opening four bars, Sosa's verse finds him adding to the mafioso vibe with mentions of Corleone and Capone, as well as an ample amount of gun-talk. However, his showing fails to eclipse that of two of his future group-mates, resulting in AZ being relegated to runner-up status on this outing.
Standout Lyrics: "Yo, sit back, relax, catch your contact/Sip your con-gi-ac and let's all wash this money through this laundromat/Sneak attack the new cats in rap, worth top dollar/In fact, touch mines and I'll react like a Rottweiler."
Prior to his war of words with Nas, Cormega made his entrance in the rap game as a member of The Firm with his first high-profile performance coming via this bar-fest. Bouncing off of AZ's opening verse, Mega Montana's stanza is a stark contrast to those of his collaborators with the rapper attacking the track with a fervor that's palpable from the opening line to the last word spat. Positioning himself as a flashy career criminal with a blood-thirsty streak, Cormega evokes an enthralling performance with a string of couplets that nearly steal the show.
Standout Lyrics: "That nigga's dead on, a ki of heroin, they found his head on the couch/With his dick in his mouth; I put the hit out/Yo, the smoothest killer since Bugsy, bitches love me/And Queens where my drugs be, I wear Guess jeans and rugbies/Yo, my people from Medina, they will see ya/When you re-up, bring your heater, or your cream go between us."
1. Foxy Brown
The femme fatale of The Firm is the last member of the crew to touch this Trackmasters production, putting her on the back-end of riveting performances from her male counterparts. Released prior to Foxy's Brown's own 1996 debut, her contribution to the proceedings helped further fuel her meteoric rise to stardom and left a lasting impression on rap fans. Shouting out various members of The Firm's constituency and name-dropping luxury brands, Brown's verse is shrouded in opulence, albeit it has a grisly undertone. While the Brooklyn diva's faulty math has become the subject of debate among rap aficionados, her verse -- which was recorded while Foxy was still a teenager -- is brilliant and the best on this east coast rap classic.
Standout Lyrics: "I keep a phat jew-el, sippin' Crist-ies/Sittin' on top of fifty grand in the Nautica Van/We stay incogni' like all them thug niggas in Marcy/The gods, they praise Allah with visions of Gandhi/Bet it on my whole crew is Don Juan/On Cayman Island with a case of Cristal/And Baba Shallah spoke/Nigga with them Cubans that snort coke/Raw though, an ounce mixed with leak, that's pure though."
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