From 21 Savage to Rihanna, the Definitive Ranking of Drake’s Collaborators

As his new album with 21 Savage proves, Drake is the greatest team player in the history of rap. But who does he make the best music with?

Image may contain Lil Baby Human Person Rihanna Rick Ross Sunglasses Accessories Accessory 21 Savage and Fashion

Photographs: Getty Images; Collage: Gabe Conte

On Friday, Drake will drop his third album in 14 months, Her Loss, with 21 Savage, quietly one of his most dynamic collaborators of the last five years. Drake has teased a number of collaborations over the years, some of which have come to fruition, some remain dream projects his fans are still holding their breath for, but throughout it all, he has quietly established himself as, perhaps, the greatest team player in the history of rap.

His dynamic talent and genre promiscuity means that he can masterfully collaborate with anyone, at any time, on any track. Soulful house? Trap? Reggaeton? Afrobeat? Dancehall? Love ballads? Yes, and. He also has impeccable taste and is always on the lookout for fresh talent to prop up (and reap the benefits of supporting), so while his peers may make young artists “earn” a guest verse, Drake has a generous spirit: He’s more than happy to remix a popular regional single if he vibes with it, which is simply good business. He proudly gloated about this very strategy in one of his best, brashest boast raps: “Give these n-ggas the look, the verse and even the hook/that’s why every song sound like Drake featuring Drake.”

In the spirit of Her Loss, GQ offers the definitive ranking of all of Drake’s collaborative partners. But first, a brief aside on methodology: to make the list, the artist in question needed a minimum of three proper Drake collaborations. And we’re not ranking the individual greatness of the artists in question—nobody is claiming that Majid Jordan is better than Jay-Z. We are only comparing the artists’ success with Drake. What did the artists bring out of each other, and cumulatively, how good was the resulting body of work, song for song?

26. Kanye West
Songs (4): “Forever,” “Digital Girl (Remix),” “Pop Style,” “Glow”
Best Song: “Glow” (“*30 Hours”)
Notes: The Kanye/Drake pairing is historically bad. ”Forever” was a bloated blockbuster, and the result was one of the incomprehensible Transformers movies. The “Digital Girl” remix actually catches Kanye at the peak of his killer R&B guest verse run, on a Jamie Foxx all-star effort, but it’s weird and bad in the way the most egregious of those overworked The Dream metaphor singles from the early 2010s could be.

Kanye recently confirmed that Drake “had a hand” in writing “30 Hours,” and in it you can see what a more engaged creative partnership might’ve looked like between the two if they hadn’t been locked in a decade-long Cold War that briefly turned hot during Drake’s Pusha beef. The song perfectly meshes their childish emo sensibilities and forms of unhealthy attachment, and is one of the better late-era Kanye songs.

Drake clearly idolized Kanye, so it’s a shame that Kanye didn’t have the same generosity of spirit for him that Jay-Z did. (More on that later.) Ye always held Drake at arm’s length, and when they did work together, you could see the flop sweat. Even the tracks Kanye produced for Drake were mid.

25. Bun B
Songs (4): “Mo Milly,” “Uptown,” “Put It Down,” “It’s Been a Pleasure”
Best Song: “Uptown”
Notes: An instance of Drake missing the end of a legend’s prime. Bun had kind of run out of gas by this point, but I respect Drake for paying homage and doing more than just stealing H-Town valor. These songs are all fine, but a pale reflection of what Bun once was and what this teamup might’ve been. It also reminds me of one of my least favorite aspects of Drake’s early career: His fascination with Houston, which came off as the work of a vinyl collector/fanboy trying to be down with every regional market share.

24. Big Sean
Songs (4): “Made,” “All of the Lights (Remix),” “All Me,” “Blessings”
Best Song: “Blessings”
Notes: Drake and Sean haven’t worked together in seven years and counting, but they embraced each other early in their stint as Blog-Era peers. They kept their joint energy going as they first made it big, most notably during Sean’s career peak on “Blessings,” a classic “Drake featuring Drake” song if there ever was one. But that was just a case of evening the score—two years earlier even Sean’s most devout critics (of which there are many, among rap fans) unanimously agreed that his verse on Drake’s Nothing Was the Same bonus track banger “All Me” was a certified spotlight stealer.

23. Trey Songz
Songs (9): “About the Game (Remix),” “Replacement Girl,” “Underdog,” “Give Ya,” “Missin You (Remix),” “She Just Wanna Dance” “Successful,” “I Invented Sex,” “Unusual,”
Best Song: “I Invented Sex”
Notes: Much of their uninspired work feels like a product of proximity in the pop space, like they were paired for being in the same celebrity class rather than because anyone thought they’d have any chemistry. Their collaborations often have the perfunctory feel of a generic Drake guest verse or generic Songz hook. Early in Drake’s career, he was happy to clout-chase with the more established Trey, and they made a couple of very good songs alongside forgettable workmanlike dreck. The only thing you could say about the pairing is…that there was a lot of it.

22. Jay-Z
Songs (6): “Off That,” “Light Up,” “Pound Cake,” “Know Bout Me,” “Talk Up,” “Love All”
Best Song: “Light Up”
Notes: It’s pretty shocking how low Hov rates in this context, considering he’s…Hov. Maybe that’s because “Light Up” seems like the only time they truly took collaborating seriously and afforded the moment the proper gravity it deserved. The moody, angst-ridden track, a highlight on Drake’s otherwise uenven debut, was their first time trading verses (the less said about “Off That,” including Drake’s hook, the better) and it showed the huge potential for their relationship. It’s about as direct and interesting as Jay is when he goes meta on rap and fame and delivers some gems, along with a prophecy that we would all come true for Drake in the coming years (“Drake, here’s how they gon’ come at you/With silly rap feuds, tryin’ to distract you/In disguise, in the form of a favor/The Barzini meeting, watch for the traitors.”) Unfortunately every subsequent collab was either overthought or undercooked. Drake would later offer a borderline apology for “Talk Up,” admitting he tried to go too far in subverting expectations that a song with him and Jay should always be a bar fest (Instead: “I ain’t on the ‘Gram, they record who I am/God to these dope boys, how could you not be a HOV fan?”) The 2021 “Love All,” their next collab, isn’t much better, with Drake tacking a rare uninspired Jay verse onto a leak that never seemed like it was screaming for a God MC feature.

And then there is the strange case of “Pound Cake,” in which Jay bemusingly agreed to let Drake take two verses from a would-be song from Magna Carta Holy Grail (unanimously agreed to be one of his least inspired albums) and put them over a different beat that Team OVO would build themselves. It’s no wonder Drake has a career best verse on here: It’s literally made for him, next to two verses Jay probably pseudo-freestyled while bent off of D’usse. That he let this happen is a sign of how much more secure Jay was about embracing Drake’s rise than Kanye, but it’s also a rare case of Jay being out-maneuvered. (Drake definitely knew what he was doing, taking two average verses to then spaz out next to as the only rap guest feature on a Very Important Album.) With Jay’s renewed interest in bodying every feature, there’s hope we’ll get the “Light Up 2” we deserve one day.

21. Migos
Songs (6): “Versace (Remix),” “Portland,” “Bigger Than You,” “No Complaints,” “Flip the Switch,” “Walk It Talk It,” “Having Our Way”
Best Song: “Versace (Remix)”
Notes: Drake first collaborated with Migos with a guest verse on their breakout hit, one of the earlier indications that he would make it his business to be first to attach himself to new artists and relevant rap trends, planting his flag as one of the great talent scouts in industry history.

But there’s a long draught in between this initial smash and their next reunions, by which time Migos had lost their hot hand a little (a form they recently rediscovered, albeit separately). Drake is strong on all these tracks, but aside from “Portland,” they’re pretty sloggy.

20. Chris Brown
Songs (4): “Deuces (Remix),” “Only,” “No Guidance,” “Not You Too”
Best Song: “No Guidance”
Notes: Chris Brown is another missed opportunity. In the 2010s, he was a Drake-like machine who made rap-tinged R&B that mirrored Drake’s R&B-tinged rap. Their relationship severed over the Montague-Capulet rift over Rihanna that lasted years, full of bitchy subs on social media, on wax, and at one point, a nightclub brawl. But you can really feel their natural stylistic fit in the limited time they worked together.

19. Young Jeezy
Songs (4): “I’m Goin In,” “Unforgettable,” “Lose My Mind (Remix),” “I Do (Remix)”
Best Song: “Unforgettable”
Notes: Like with Trey Songz, Drake and Jeezy just happened to be swimming in the same waters. Thank Me Later’s “Unforgettable” is the one great song that truly feels like a collaboration between the two in terms of energy and tone, but since then it’s been Drake jumping on random remixes that work in a very unremarkable and of its moment way. They feel more like two guys who won a few glorified exhibition matches together on the Dream Team than a pairing that shares any real championship equity. There’s no real spark here, as the medium rarely demands one to meet the other.

18. Popcaan
Songs (4): “Controlla,” “My Chargie,” “Twist & Turn,” “All I Need”
Best Song: “Controlla”
Notes: One of the most baffling decisions in Drake’s career was leaving the Popcaan version of “Controlla,” which had already absolutely exploded on radio, off of Views. The pair have more or less been chasing the feeling ever since, with dreamy Rhythm & Dancehall lullabies.

17. Kendrick Lamar
Songs: “Buried Alive Interlude,” “Poetic Justice,” “Fuckin Problems”
Best Song: “Buried Alive Interlude”
Notes: One thing that I counterintuitively love about rap is its ingrained sense of competition. While we’re missing out on potentially incredible music because various artists can’t put their egos aside, we also gain some special moments when it actually happens (see: “Black Republicans,” “Verbal Intercouse,” “The What,” etc.). Case in point: Kendrick and Drake.

The scarcity of their joint work makes it hard to place Kendrick much higher than this—especially in light of the fact that the very best entry in their partnership, “Buried Alive,” has Kendrick writing a brilliant short story about what it’s like being an intellectual poet in the face of a force of celebrity and personality like Drake. And then there’s the equally inspired decision by Drake to include the monologue on his best and most important album, Take Care. On “Poetic Justice,” you can see what the two could’ve been for each other, with Kendrick bringing a grounding cerebral neurosis to a type of love song he’s struggled with almost every other time he’s attempted it since—but it works here because Drake makes it fuck. It could’ve been beautiful, but it still was.

16. Birdman
Songs (6): “Money to Blow,” “Fuck Da Bullshit,” “4 My Town,” “Mo Milly,” “We’ll Be Fine,” “The Language”
Best Song: “Money to Blow”
Notes: The patriarch of Cash Money will always be a presence in our lives and Drake’s work. It might seem crazy to say a guy who mostly just shows up to talk shit as the beat plays out has no business being ranked this high, but his little atmospheric touches, ad libs and outros build mood and vibe just like any other element of the song, and Birdman is the best in the business at it. Each song above would be less interesting or fun without him on it.

15. Majid Jordan
Songs (3): “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” “My Love,” “Stars Align”
Best Song: “Hold On, We’re Going Home”
Notes: Majid Jordan is either too high or too low, depending on if you’d agree that their three collabs with Drake are in fact perfect. But the real star here is Drake’s producer and right-hand-man, 40. Majid Jordan arguably represents his taste in an even greater way than Drake’s rapping side ever could. It’s also a testament to Drake, and his incredible amorphous and shapeless talent for being able to seamlessly slide into Majid Jordan and 40’s lush sonic soundscape of Weeknd-esque pop with a blend of ‘80s Stevie and Michael, perhaps a touch of blue-eyed soul, and Yacht Rock if the Yacht had suicide doors . This suite wears its references on its sleeve while still sounding like something entirely new and original. Bonus points for “Feel No Ways,” which doesn’t explicitly feature Majid but was a co-written effort.

14. French Montana
Songs (5): “Pop That,” “Stay Schemin,” “No Shopping,” “No Stylist,” “To the Top”
Best Song: “Pop That”
Notes: Their track record speaks for itself. These two are genuine close friends, not just industry collaborators, and that friendship and ease comes through in the music in a way that almost places you in the studio, wearing sunglasses inside at night, clutching bottles and envisioning the streaming royalties as soon as the mix is done and the track is ready to ship out. In the case of “Pop That,” we got more than a good time, but a generational anthem.

13. 2 Chainz
Songs (8): “Fuckin Problems,” “No Lie,” “I Do It,” “All Me,” “100it Racks” “Sacrifices,” “Big Amount,” “Bigger Than You”
Best Song: “Big Amount”
Notes: Sure, a couple of these tracks are run-of-the-mill Chainz fare that’s forgettable in the context of either artist’s collective work. But perfect songs like More Life’s contemplative “Sacrifices” or the absolute bar-fest that is “Big Amount” definitely pad the stats. Chainz may be the weakest link on “All Me,” but on “Fuckin Problems,” his presence was electric enough to outshine Drake, Kendrick and A$AP Rocky with a simple, juvenile hook. And “No Lie” is maybe the definitive “Drake featuring Drake” track. When he’s right, he’s right.

12. Lil Baby
Songs (6): “Yes Indeed,” “Never Recover,” “Life Is Good (Remix)” “Wants and Need,” “Girls Want Girls,” “Staying Alive”
Best Song: “Wants and Needs”
Notes: Baby is a phenomenal example of why this ranking is so worthwhile. At their collective best, he brings an entire other element out of Drake: A perma-sneer, a hard spit, and a breathless athletic rapping that Drake reverts to whenever he’s in Baby’s presence. The result is always a great hang.

Another note on Baby: He has, perhaps, the single greatest verse on this entire list, on “Wants and Needs.”

11. 21 Savage
Songs (5): “Sneakin,” “Issa,” “Mr. Right Now, “Knife Talk,” “Jimmy Cooks”
Best Song: “Sneakin”
Notes: Why do they have such an unimpeachable track record for picking perfect songs? Is it an ear for beats that kicks in when they’re together? Do they have some sort of improbable Lennon/McCartney dynamic we don’t understand because they haven’t released their Get Back yet?

There’s a bit of a Tribe Called Quest component with these two, where their complementing vocal tones and energies create a balanced, tonal sonic contrast, with Drake as Phife and Savage as Tip. Beyond their simpatico tones, it’s hard to pinpoint why this partnership has worked so well. The production is flawless, as is the songwriting, but is it an alchemical mix in collaborators, or merely a case of two artists being in the right place at the right time? We should get our answer—and maybe, a re-ranking for 21, on Friday.

10. Young Thug
Songs (6): “Sacrifices,” “Ice Melts,” “D4L,” “Way 2 Sexy,” “Solid,” “Bubbly”
Best Song: “Ice Melts”
Notes: Theirs is a near perfect body of work; almost every song is an incredible vibe, full of fascinating little digressions and tossed-off gorgeous melodies that you’d expect from any vintage Thug effort. And Drake is game: He’s twitchy and unpredictable and brilliant all over these in a way that has always comes naturally to his collaborator, who is generously given as much space as each song demands.

9. Future
Songs (29): “Tony Montana,” “We in This Bitch 1.5,” “Fo Real,” “Shit (Remix),” “Love Me,” “Never Satisfied,” “DnF,” “Diamonds Dancing,” “Jumpman,” “Scholarships,” “Digital Dash,” “Life Is Good,” “Live From the Gutter,” “Big Rings,” “Change Locations,” “Plastic Bag,” “I’m The Plug,” “Where Ya At,” “100it Racks,” “Grammys,” “Used to This,” “Blue Tint,” “Big Mood,” “Desires,” “D4L,” “Way 2 Sexy,” “N 2 Deep,” “Wait For U,” “I’m on One,”
Best Song: “I’m the Plug”
Notes: In terms of quantity, charts, and stats, Future is definitely among the top five of Drake’s most prolific collaborators. Their problem is that while they have a lot of high highs, they also put out a whole lot of songs that are just…okay. And in light of their best work, every meh release is all the more disappointing because of our astronomical expectations. Take What A Time To Be Alive, representative of most of their less interesting work: Much of the album is about a 3.5. Which would be fine for most artists, but an incredible bummer from Drake and Future, who that same year released solo projects (If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late and Dirty Sprite 2, respectively) that rank among their best. This summer they released an inescapable smash with “Wait For U,” but it’s telling that Drake clearly found working with a different Atlanta compatriot to be the more exciting option right now than indulging in a long-teased What a Time 2.

8. Meek Mill
Songs (3): “Amen,” “R.I.C.O.,” “Going Bad”
Best Song: “Going Bad”
Notes: Their study of contrasts combined for three perfect songs, then they got into a silly beef that nearly ruined Meek’s career. He shares 21 Savage’s Tribe dynamic, but with the roles reversed: Drake plays calm and laid-back to Meek’s high-energy squeak. Just a blast, and all three songs are significantly different but great in the same way.

7. Nicki Minaj
Songs (11): “Fuck da Bullshit,” “Finale,” “Up All Night,” “Moment 4 Life,” “Champion,” “Bedrock,” “Make Me Proud,” “Only,” “Truffle Butter,” “No Frauds,” “Seeing Green”
Best Song: “Truffle Butter”
Notes: In retrospect, some of the appeal of this pairing is certainly nostalgia-based, as these two came in the game and grew up together. But something genuinely special happens when they’re on a track together. Most of their songs are a specific kind of gleaming, saccharine, Z-100 rap—which isn’t to say it’s bad. They generally inspire the other to deliver some of their hardest verses. The Meek Mill beef put a lengthy pause on their relationship on and off wax, but as last year’s long-awaited reunion with “Seeing Green” confirms, they haven’t lost a step.

6. The Weeknd
Songs (6): “Crew Love,” “The Zone,” “The Ride,” “Good Ones Go,” “Live For,” “Trust Issues (Remix)”
Best Song: “Crew Love”
Notes: Another real opportunity missed after a relationship went south. The Weeknd probably had the most profound effect on Drake’s early work, behind 808’s era Kanye. Not just in his heartbroken nihilistic content and the glitched out alt-R&B sonic palette that he and 40 shared, but also the stale smoke, sleep deprived, weepy fuckboi energy that helped Drake take a big step towards maturity with Take Care. We’ll never know the full extent of Weeknd’s behind-the-scenes contributions, but we know that Drake wouldn’t be today’s Drake without Weeknd.

5. Travis Scott
Songs (5): “Company,” “Portland,” “Sicko Mode,” “Fair Trade,” “Bubbly”
Best Song: “Sicko Mode”
Notes: Travis unlocks something special with Drake, who makes his weirdest and most experimental music with the weirdo from Houston. The beat changes, the unexpected left turns, the dropping out and popping back up without warning—every time these two get together it’s the musical equivalent of Lost Highway. But somehow Travis made at least one of them into what is arguably the most miraculous and impossible hit of the last 20 years: “Sicko Mode.” That these gonzo compositions are being smuggled onto daytime terrestrial radio—hell, into the halftime show at the *fucking Super Bowl—*is incredible, and will only become harder to understand as its reign gets further away.

Their best songs together find Drake willingly entering Travis’ screwed, gothic world, complete with ominous beats and a disregard for structured songwriting conventions. In Drake he found the perfect Frankenstein, a freak singer and rapper who can project all of Travis’ bridges and phrases with beautiful clarity, while Travis would have rendered them into fuzzy mud.

4. Partynextdoor
Songs (9): “Over Here,” “Recognize,” “Preach,” “With You,” “Come and See Me,” “More Ready” “Since Way Back,” “Loyal,” “Twist & Turn,”
Best Song: “Over Here”
Notes: PND increasingly influenced Drake’s music and eventually served as his lodestar in the middle/late 2010s, filling the role Drake envisioned for Weeknd as his right-hand songwriter and vibe influencer after Nothing Was the Same. Drake’s overall story is as much about curation as it is about talent.. While this partnership didn’t involve much blended rap, PND contributed quite a bit of balladic, hard R&B, and together they made some jittery, sweet, bizarre boot knockers, both with direct collaborations and brilliant PND writing jobs like “Come Thru” and “Ratchet Happy Birthday.”

3. Lil Wayne
Songs (46): “Man of the Year,” “Stuntin,” “Brand New (Remix),” “I Can Take Your Girl,” “Successful,” “Ignant Shit,” “Unstoppable,” “Bedrock,” “Forever,” “I Want This Forever,” “Money to Blow,” “I’m Goin In,” “My Darling,” “Pass the Dutch,” “Fuck Da Bullshit,” “Every Girl in the World,” “Stunt Hard,” “4 My Town,” “Finale,” “Miss Me,” “Uptown,” “Gonorrhea,” “With You,” “Right Above It,” “Light Up (Remix),” “I’m On One,” “It’s Good,” “HYFR,” “The Motto,” “The Real Her,” “She Will,” “All of the Lights (Remix),” “Love Me,” “I Do It,” “Ransom,” “No New Friends,” “So Good,” “Only,” “Believe Me,” “Used To,” “Truffle Butter,” “Grindin,” “Family Feud Freestyle,” “BB King Freestyle,” “You Only Live Twice,” “Seeing Green”
Best Song: Nearly impossible to choose one, but for the purposes of this exercise, why not go with “Believe Me”?
Notes: Theirs is perhaps the most prolific pairing of rap solo artists ever, with the exception of Ghost and Rae. And it’s all the more incredible for their astronomical hit rate across different eras of their respective careers. Granted, considering their complete catalog means you have to answer for Kidd Kidd verses and the entire Young Money compilation and I Am Not a Human Being, not to mention Wayne’s most lazy and incoherent verses in the grips of lean, and the early Drake mixtape shit when he was still finding his voice and his flow. But that all diminishes nothing from their iconic peak run, and fingers crossed there will be another to add to this list come Friday.

2. Rihanna
Songs (4): “What’s My Name,” “Take Care,” “Work,” “Too Good”
Best Song: “Work”
Notes: Every time these two got together, they made timeless, incredible, iconic music that would fill nearly half of either one of their essential top 10s. And what’s even more amazing is how wildly different each track is. Part of me wants to hear a new song from them one day when bygones are bygones, but part of me wants them to never speak again: I can’t imagine this partnership has anywhere to go but down.

1. Rick Ross
Songs (16): “Aston Martin Music,” ”Lord Knows,” “Made Men,” “She Will,” “I’m On One,” “Us (Remix),” “Stay Schemin,” “Diced Pineapples,” “Pop That,” “No New Friends,” “Free Spirit,” “Money in the Grave,” “Gold Roses,” “Lemon Pepper Freestyle,” “You Only Live Twice,” “To the Top”
Best Song: “Stay Schemin”
Notes: In an Occam’s Razor result, Ross predictably but deservedly takes the top spot. We’re not reinventing the wheel here, folks: These two simply bring out the best in each other, armed with technique and style to spare, making drawn butter anthems with stunning quality and consistency. Rihanna may have a better record, statistically. But it’s encased in amber behind thick glass on a podium at the Met. Ross and Drake’s work is alive and messy and thrilling and incredibly fun and ongoing, a constant conversation between funny asshole bosses that never ends. When it comes to long-standing would-be Drake projects that still spark interest to this day, the YOLO Tape with Rick Ross is the gold standard for a reason.

Honorable Mentions:

Drake rarely does one-off collabs. Throughout his career the pattern has been to do one home game, then one away game, so several artists just missed this list, notably his R&B collaborators Alicia Keys, Jamie Foxx, and Mary J. Blige. My favorite of the bunch is Beyonce, because whenever they touch a record together it’s a hit, including the recent Drake-penned “Heated,” which would’ve made three team-ups if he actually featured on the track. The late Static Major could technically make this list, and he’s one of Drake and 40s great influences, but it’s really stretching the credulity of this enterprise because he never actually made a track with them, he’s the ghost of Obi-Won, a specter hovering over the proceedings. As would Khaled, who has played host to a number of Drake’s greatest singles, but isn’t a true collaborator. And finally there’s Lil Durk (“Laugh Now Cry Later”, “In The Bible”) and Wiz Kid (“One Dance”, “Come Closer”) who simply had the clock run out on them. We’ll check back with them for this list’s 2023 update.

Pop Culture

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

Manga and Manhwa like Nano Machine
Tom Sandoval se aísla mientras filma ‘Special Forces’ en medio de escándalo
Kanye West Parties in Dubai with Wife Bianca Censori
âBehind the Scenesâ How We Produced Magic with The Fujifilm GFX100 IIÂ
12 Of The Best Gifts For New (and Recently New) Parents

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *