Are Some Rappers Being Kept Off Features Because They Are Too Good?

Law #1: Never Outshine the Master

The topic of "blackballing" has become popular within Hip Hop; however, the discussion is usually centered around labels, DSP, Billboard, and media platforms hindering artists. But, what is not often discussed is the "blackballing" not enacted by the powerful companies/platforms, but by artists coming together to ice out someone who they view as being too good.

On Talib Kweli's "People's Party Podcast" with guest Questlove, they discussed why rapper Black Thought never blew up outside of The Roots.

Questlove recalled going to Jay-Z, who was president of Def Jam at the time, to see if Jay could use his

influence to get Black Thought on some features. Jay told Questlove, "The problem with Thought's one thing where like a super established artist pulls a move." Quest clarified that he believes that Jay-Z was referring to himself getting "murdered" by Eminem on "Renegade." Questlove continues, "Jay told me in no uncertain terms, no rapper can really afford to look bad in front of him (Black Thought). So it's almost like we gotta blackball him."

Questlove likened Black Thought's "blackballing" to not observing Law #1: Never Outshine the Master. His reluctance to dim his light on features may have cost Black Thought the opportunity to shine brighter as a solo artist.


Considering who Black Thought's peers are, it's odd to hear that they "blackballed" him out of fear of being "sonned" on their own tracks. Rap is a competitive sport. You win some; you lose some. That thinking seems illogical coming from rappers until you listen to a 2010 interview Jay-Z did with Rosenberg addressing Nas's line "Eminem Murdered You On Your Shit."

"The whole thing about collaborations is so skewed. I think Nas did it when he was saying, "Eminem killed you on.., "I think Nas made that thing. I think that was the point where...because we always thought it. We always thought who was better, Kool G Rap, but we still enjoyed the record. Now, it's like you don't even get the record out before the person is saying, "Who won."

Jay-Z's remarks make me realize that by fans and media looking to see "Who won" before even checking to see if the song is hot, it turns collaborations into rap battles. So, when fans ask artists to do collabs, all some may hear is, you want me to battle that artist. It does bring into perspective why we may not have gotten certain collaborations from our faves.


We probably will never get another collaboration between Drake and Kendrick Lamar because the king of name dropping got in his feeling after Kendrick mentioning him on "Control."

After K.Dot shook the culture with his "Control" verse, LA radio DJ, Big Boy, interviewed Drake and asked his thoughts on being mentioned by Kendrick. Drake responded in a way that shows who he truly is as a rapper, "I feel like he made a decision, you know what I'm saying, it was a decision to make. He was like, man, I'm either going to go for this moment cause I know it's going to be a big moment, or I'm gonna like take heed to the fact that I have real relationships, and I'm NOT gonna do that." After describing what Kendrick did as "confrontational" he added, "I don't know if I necessarily respect it. You know we all make decisions. I'm sure he'll be good. He's talented as [bleep], you know what I'm saying. He's gonna have another album and another opportunity to take the world by storm, so he'll be alright even if it doesn't feature any of the names that he mentioned, which it probably won't, to be honest with you. I don't know who's gonna go back from that and be like, "yeah, let's link up," naw you know what I'm saying." He went on to say he is not interested

in working with Kendrick.

Drake's response was childish as fck. Instead of responding back on a track or respecting the competitive nature of it, Drake opted to influence his peers to "blackball" Kendrick for not playing Kum-ba-yah in public. With an artist like Kendrick, we can't tell if he is "blackballed," but there was an attempt, and that is all that matters to me. You also don't hear many rappers mentioning Kendrick as someone they want to collaborate with, but that could be due to artists being so chart obsessed.

In the past 4 years, we have seen Hip Hop become very charts oriented. Talk about who out rapped who is limited to certain rappers, and many artists don't seem to care if they are "murdered" on their own track, just as long as the song goes #1.

In the "charts era" of Hip Hop, do you think an artist is being "blackballed" / kept off features by their peers because they are just too good, or do you believe that is a practice of the past?

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