Do Remember: 10 Classic Rap Duets From 1995

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Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)

As we continue on with our throwback coverage of one of the most significant years in hip-hop history, it seems fitting that in the wake of Drake and Future’s collaborative release we highlight some of the strongest duets of 1995. Imagine getting a full Nas and AZ album back then, or better yet, a full Nas and Kool G Rap project? Or what if Fat Joe and KRS-One just came out of nowhere and did an EP together, for the people. You youngins don’t know how lucky you are to have your favorite artists make it a point to bombard you with full projects of Watch The Throne-style collaborative work. Appreciate the blessings, because back then, they were few and far between. But shit, I’ll take quality over quantity all day—and these 10 songs (plus bonuses) from ‘95 right here are as quality as it gets when it comes to rap duets (tracks listed in alphabetical order). Peep the manuscript.

1. AZ ft. Nas “Mo Money, Mo Murder ‘Homocide'”

True story, my friend once jacked Nas’ opening line from this song for a fiction assignment he wrote in our high school English class. “In the mahogany, black scenery, that was lightning and rain drops.” Haha, yo! Shit was mad funny. He read it aloud to the class and I was in the back of the room dying laughing. Out teacher totally bought it too, and thought it was his original work! Little did he know.

This follow-up to “Life’s a Bitch” made it clear that Nas and AZ were one of the illest duos in rap music, and it would only snowball into more and more classic duets (“How Ya Livin’,” “The Flyest,” “Serious”). Props to the Dips for remaking it on their double disc, too.

By the way, Doe or Die turns 20 today.

2. Fat Joe ft. KRS-One “Bronx Tale”

I’ll go out on a limb and say this is in my Top 5 favorite rap beats of all-time. Shouts to Diamond D on the boards, he came and did his job on this for real, blessing these two fellow Bronx heavyweights with a production designed specifically for head-cracks. Cats don’t give Joe his due respect in this game enough, in my humble opinion. But when you listen to how tough he goes in on this (“I got rappers under pressure like two outs, tie score, in the 9th inning), you gotta give it up. As for KRS, well, no one’s fucking with The Teacher. This is the O.G. right here, catchin’ wreck! You’re not worthy, chumps!

3. Grand Puba ft. Sadat X “Play It Cool”

Puba’s second album can’t hang with his solo debut, but it does have a few memorable joints on it so don’t snooze. My favorite is this duet with his Brand Nubian homeboy Sadat X. The “play it cool, and move slow” vocal sample is crazy, and Puba and Sadat show that even during their group’s separation, the chemistry remained in tact. Check out more Grand Puba and Sadat X duets HERE.

4. GZA ft. Method Man “Shadowboxin’”

Meth’s opening verse on this Liquid Swords heater received the coveted Rhyme of the Month nod in The Source, and for good reason. He “break[s] it down to the bone gristle,” falling back on RZA’s venomous soundscape with an effortless, relaxed delivery. Then GZA comes through to “break motherfuckin’ backs” with his bars, exhibiting the skills to show any doubters that his “sword still remains imperial.” This is one of those timeless Wu records that raised me well. Nice to see the album finally went platinum!

*Bonus* Ol’ Dirty Bastard ft. GZA “Damage”

I admittedly never really got into ODB’s album when I was a teenager, so it wasn’t until a few years ago that I fully realized how fire this duet with him and the Genius is. It wasn’t that I slept, it’s just that Ol’ Dirty was never really my favorite of the Wu rappers so joints like Cuban Linx and Liquid Swords always got priority play. But as I’ve gotten older and revisited the album, I’ve grown to appreciate how awesome his fatherless style is. You gotta love how Dirt and GZA finish each other’s bars on here, and the energy they bring to RZA’s simple but brilliant track. I can’t front, this shit still gets me amped like it’s brand new!

5. Junior M.A.F.I.A. ft. The Notorious B.I.G. & Kleptomaniac “Oh My Lord”

Going back and forth on the same track with Biggie Smalls isn’t the easiest task, but his Junior M.A.F.I.A. crewmate Klept held his own on this one. Shout to Special Ed on the production, this beat is dope. And those keeping score at home will remember these Biggie classic verses from this overseas Bad Boy freestyle with Craig Mack.

*Bonus* Junior M.A.F.I.A. ft. The Notorious B.I.G. and Lil’ Kim “Get Money”

“Get Money” was one of the big singles off the Junior M.A.F.I.A. album, and one of the songs that helped propel Lil’ Kim into superstardom. It’s a lyrical party jam that still pops, no question. B.I.G. freaks the fresh rhyme style on here, and manages to take some subtle shots at his ex in the video as well, with the help of Charli Baltimore.

6. Kool G Rap ft. Nas “Fast Life”

Nas didn’t drop an album in ‘95, but off features alone he made his presence more than felt. We’re just talking duets here with “Fast Life” and “Mo Money Mo Murder,” but let’s not forget joints like “Eye For An Eye” and “Verbal Intercourse.” Biggie may have been crowned the King of New York, but in retrospect, guest spots like these really make a case for Nas deserving the throne, too. “I got guns from Italy, smoke trees considerably…” What a crazy verse. And G Rap murks the beat too on some fly shit. But you gotta love when they pass the mic back and forth after the second chorus, so dope. Queens legends, united on one track. Props to G Rap for throwing Nas on the 4,5,6 album cover too, that was an ill look.

7. Method Man and Redman “How High”

Meth and Red coming together during the summer of ‘95 was a big deal. After Def Jam grouped them for the Month of the Man to promote the Tical and Dare Iz a Darkside releases, it was only a matter of time before they would officially team up. This track is the beginning of a career-long partnership that included loads of features, a pair of LPs, endless touring, a movie, and even a sit-com. And though I do prefer the original version over the video version above, I have no qualms including it on this list. Light up!

*Bonus* Erick Sermon ft. Redman “Freak Out”

Want that crazy, spaced-out Def Squad shit? Here you go. Reggie and Erick go back-to-back on this Double or Nothing album sleeper, piggy-backing off each other seamlessly with funk styles galore. Redman is particularly sharp on here, pronouncing each syllable with severe potency, ripping his stanzas to shreds. In ‘95, dude was absolutely unfuckwittable. By the way, go pick up that new Erick Sermon album, it’s out now!

8. Raekwon ft. Ghostface Killah “Criminology”

When I interviewed Raekwon about this song back in 2011 for Complex he told me, “The beat was so strong, we already knew that was definitely gonna be one on the album that niggas was gonna be like, ‘Yo, them boys from Staten Island ain’t playin’ on this microphone.’” True indeed. Rae and Ghost showed how vicious they were with the darts, slaying their verses with Shaolin slang and force. It ain’t that easy to spit hard shit and fly shit simultaneously, but that’s what these two do best. Are they the greatest rap duo of all time?

9. The Roots ft. Dice Raw “The Lesson Pt. 1”

As a kid, I was obsessed with this song, primarily because of how crazy Rahzel’s beatbox on it was. I had it on the B-Side of the “Distortion to Static” cassette single, and would play it constantly in my car. Black Thought’s “lyrically versatile” bars are understandably insane on here, but Dice Raw steals the show with his off-the-head display. And to think he was only like 15 years old when he spit this!

10. Smoothe da Hustler ft. Trigga tha Gambler “Broken Language”

You know how many rappers are still using this flow? Twenty years later, and it still gets bitten. Who can blame them though. Smoothe and Trigga, who are actual blood brothers if you didn’t know, bodied the fuck out of this beat. Shit still bangs too—just ask the cats who were at the Stretch and Bobbito Central Park concert this summer.

Photo via UpNorthTrips.

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2 Responses to “Do Remember: 10 Classic Rap Duets From 1995”

  1. Paris Roulette Says:

    Dope ass list…

  2. TS-LTE Says:

    Co-sign all this.

    This whole damn list!

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