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RU - A Brief History Of Posse Cuts

The posse cut is a rare creature that, when executed correctly, can epitomise everything that is great about rap: dazzling wordplay, high-octane intensity and the spirit of fierce competition, all delivered over speaker-smashing beats. When the planets align and this becomes a reality, the results are triumphant songs such as the ‘Scenario’ remix, ‘The Symphony’ and ‘Live At The BBQ.’ These were great excuses to get the whole crew together on someone’s album (‘The Grand Finale’), gather your whole posse on a brand new beat (‘Buddy’ remix) or showcase your new ‘supergroup’ (‘Affirmative Action’). Sometimes these collaborations sounded great on paper but lacked any real spark when you heard them (‘Back From Hell’ remix), or seemed to just randomly throw whoever was walking past the studio onto a song together (‘Nuttin’ But Flavor’).

As far as I can recall, it all changed in 1994 when Craig Mack (aka the guy who dropped on Bad Boy the same time as Biggie but was promptly dropped like a bad habit after his album tanked) released the ‘Flava In Ya Ear’ remix, which kept the beat for his hit single and added his mans Notorious B.I.G., veteran LL Cool J, cameo king Busta Rhymes and… Rampage The Last Boy Scout. *Crickets*. This basically set the standard for virtually all posse cuts forever after, allowing lazy producers to capitalise on the hot beat of the moment without having to bother improving it. All that was required was to pick the four or five rapper dudes with the biggest buzz to email a verse that you could then cut and paste onto it. This also allowed for some sneaky behaviour where the original artist could re-do their verse if they felt slighted by one of their guests (as was the case with LL Cool J when he took umbrage to Canibus on ‘4, 3, 2, 1’) or for one of the new contributors to completely steal the spotlight and fire subliminals at the MC whose song it was, as Kendrick Lamar did to Smedium Sean (‘Control’ remix).

The lore behind the record of some of the greatest posse songs is often just as intriguing as the music itself, like Kool G Rap rapping for so long that the analog reel-to-reel ran out of tape or the numerous versions of ‘Scenario’ featuring everyone from Black Sheep to De La Soul to Chris Lighty. And despite the lacklustre approach favored by many, the posse cut can surprise and entertain in recent years, as Nicki Minaj converted sceptics with her Busta Rhymes impersonation on ‘Monster’, when Drake set it off against Common on ‘Stay Schemin’ or when Nas dug up dozens of milk carton rappers for the ‘Where Are They Now’ remix.

Why am I bringing all this up now? Well it just so happens that those wacky mischief makers over at Noisey have announced a 30 MC ‘epic’ designed to blow up the internets / shill for Henny, featuring Killer Mike, Pusha T, Vado, Raekwon, Action Bronson, World’s Fair, Flatbush Zombies, Prodigy, Bodega Bamz, Mayhem Lauren, Scotty ATL, Two-9, Nick Hook, Cyhi da Prynce, Young Thug, SL Jones. Nipsey Hussle, Alexander Spit, Aston Matthews, YG, and Problem. Considering that only Killer Mike, Raekwon, Action Bronson, Prodigy, Vado and Meyhem Lauren are really on my Rap Radar (© Elliott Wilson), I anticipate having to sit through 24 verses I could give no fucks about whatsoever. My only guess is that they’ve promised everyone involved a case of Henrock and a free post at all VICE media outlets in exchange for their participation?

We can only pray that the beat is going to switch up for every verse like on this supreme Stretch Armstrong and DJ Mighty Mi remix of ‘1, 2 Pass It’, else listeners get distracted by their Tumblr and close the tab. How long is this shit gonna be anyway? Are they trying to make something longer than ‘Rapper’s Delight’? Wouldn’t the time, money and resources involved in this be better spent on gathering the rap world to address something important, like how KRS-One and co did back in 1989 on ‘Self Destruction’ after a fan was killed at a show? Nah, why bother when you can Tweet about it and Instagram yourself at a march…

Keep up with Robbie’s weekly ‘No Country for Old (Rap) Men’ here.