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 "The Symphony," a song from hip hop producer Marley Marl's 1988 compilation, In Control, Volume 1. It's considered the first bonafide posse-cut in rap history. While there had been instances of multiple rhymers from one group appearing on a lengthy track and exceeding the standard three-verse song structure, "The Symphony" was the first instance of four solo artists battling it out for mic supremacy. Produced by Marley, "The Symphony" featured various members of his collective, the Juice Crew; along with Big Daddy Kane, Kool G. Rap, Masta Ace and Craig G all testing their mettle against one another in an epic clash of the titans. Upon its release, "The Symphony" established the Juice Crew as the most powerful collective of star talent in rap. It's still regarded as one of the greatest and most influential songs in the genre's history.
Without further adieu, check out our ranking of the verses on "The Symphony."
4. Craig G
When most teenagers were worried about keeping their grades up and finding a date to the school dance, Craig G was facing off against rap's most fearsome spitters. A mere 15 years of age at the time of the song's release, Craig G validated his induction as a member of the Juice Crew with a strong verse that was delivered with the precision of a savvy vet. In spite of kicking a few witty punchlines and showcasing his chops as a lyricist, Craig G's verse -- while impressive for his age -- is not enough to withstand the onslaught of his label-mates, giving the Queensbridge phenom a last place finish.
Standout Lyrics: "This jam is dedicated to all un-optimistics/That thought I wasn't coming out with some exquisite rhymes/But that's alright, cuz now I'm back/To kill all the rumors and straighten the facts of me/Not rockin' rhymes like I always used to/But you jumped on the tip when you heard me and the Juice Crew/You said, 'Mmm mmm mmm, ain't that somethin'?/Yo Craig, I heard you in that jam, and it's pumpin'!'"
3. Masta Ace
One legendary introduction of a rapper that often gets overlooked is Masta Ace's first appearance on wax. According to Marley Marl, Ace's presence on the track was a hard sell, as more tenured members of the Juice Crew were skeptical of the newest member's ability to hang. However, when tapped to warm-up the listeners with his opening verse, the Brooklyn native performed admirably, delving into his bag of lyrical tricks and exuding a confidence that's palpable from the second his vocals touch the track. Flexing his wordplay and visceral one-liners, Masta Ace earns his keep, giving his more acclaimed costars a run for their money and etching his name in the annals of hip hop.
Standout Lyrics: "Listen closely, so your attention's undivided/Many in the past have tried to do what I did/Just the way I came off then, I'm gonna come off/Stronger and longer, even with the drum off/I keep on goin' and flowin' just like a river/I got a whole lot to give so I'm-a give a/Little at a time, new trails are blazin'/Action is in effect, and always stays in."
2. Big Daddy Kane
In 1988, few rappers on the planet possessed the same star power as Big Daddy Kane. Staking his claim as rap's new king with his debut album, Long Live the Kane, the Bed-Stuy tough had transformed himself into a suave ladies man with the ability to go heads up with any MC in hip hop. So, when Marley Marl selected the lineup of Juice Crew members who would appear on this classic posse-cut, it was necessary that Kane bless the track. Given his superstar status, Big Daddy Kane being the headliner was a foregone conclusion. The smooth operator ended the posse-cut with a stanza that's battle-ready and full of awe-worthy musings. An explosive showing in its own right, in the end, Big Daddy Kane's verse would be bested ever so slightly by another. This resulted in him receiving the silver medal in a photo finish for the ages.
Standout Lyrics: "That I'd been there and there at the party/The mic had my prints, and on it was a body/So take caution/I'm not horsin' around in a throwdown, clown/I'm takin' yours son/So just acknowledge the way that I kicked it/Cause if rap was a house, you'd be evicted/And dismissed from the microphone/Chokin' on a bone, cause Daddy's home/And battlin' me is hazardous to your health/So put a quarter in your ass, cause ya played yourself."
1. Kool G Rap
Kool G Rap had yet to release an album at the time this classic hit the presses. But, the Queens native had already acquired a significant buzz amongst rap loyalists. Garnering glowing reviews from early singles like "It's A Demo" and "Poison," Kool G Rap was touted as the next great MC in hip hop. This reputation was confirmed through his presence on this groundbreaking selection. The third rhymer to speak their peace over the beat, the Kool Genius compares his voice to the horrors of a Vincent Price flick, and his rap style to Brillo by reeling off a spellbinding succession of intricate couplets. Rapping with such a relentless fervor that Marley Marl famously had to cut his verse short in order for Big Daddy Kane to get air-time, Kool G Rap puts forth a performance that is electrifying and full of grit, all of which makes his verse the best on the track.
Standout Lyrics: "Can't kill though. Solo. Cuz you're still all...soft like a pillow/My rap is rougher than Brillo/So fear me, don't dare dare me/And don't compare me to him when you hear me/Talk about a battle but you ain't yet ready for war/Your metaphor sucks more than a whore/You can't replace me, ice me, or ace me/Bass me, face me, slice me or race me/Bite me or taste me -- I'll show you that I got force/My rap burns your mouth like hot sauce."
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