Mariah's Not-So-Secret Weapon: Collaborating With Underground Rappers

Billy Johnson, Jr.
Yahoo MusicMay 14, 2014

Pairing pop stars with rappers has been a winning formula for radio exposure for years, and Mariah Carey was one of the first to get it. Since featuring Wu-Tang Clan's late Ol' Dirty Bastard on a remix of her 1995 song "Fantasy," Mariah has recruited some of the biggest names in hip-hop to appear on alternative versions of her songs.

But what separates Carey from her counterparts is her consistency and emphasis on working with rappers who are on the cusp of going mainstream. Her latest single, "Thirsty," introduces Atlanta's underground rapper Rich Homie Quan to her massive audience, a great opportunity for the artist who has yet to release his debut album.

Of course, the rap stars aren't the only ones who benefit from the collaborations. Carey's associations with hot new talent keeps her relevant with younger music fans and shows she's up on current trends.

We've checked Carey's track record and have listed some of her best records with rappers on the verge of being the next big thing.

"Thirsty" f. Rich Homie Quan (2014)

Just because Carey is a legendary diva with 25 years in the game doesn't mean she can't keep up with the next generations. Quan, one of 2013's breakout stars who made XXL's Freshman Class 2014 cover, holds his own on the electric, party record "Thirsty" that disses those desperate for attention. On the song from Carey's "Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse," Quan adds a comedic element to the song with lyrics like, "Somebody get this girl a class of water / I say she six nickels, not a dime past a quarter."

"Fantasy" (Remix) f. Ol' Dirty Bastard (1995)

"Fantasy," the lead single from Carey's fifth album, "Daydream," was the beginning of her teamings with rappers. A remix of the song produced by Carey, Dave Hall, and Diddy featured a scene-stealing breakout moment from Wu-Tang Clan's late Ol' Dirty Bastard, who released his solo debut, "Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version," the same year. The song's sample of Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love" and ODB's memorable lyrics "Me and Mariah go back like babies with pacifiers" still stick nearly 20 years later.

"Honey" (Remix) f. The Lox, Black Rob, Mase (1997)

Before Bad Boy Records rappers Mase, The Lox and Black Rob dropped their debut albums, they shared a spotlight with Carey on a remix of "Honey," the first single from her 1997 album "Butterfly." On the song, Mase raps, "I ain't dropped one single / And I made this money back." The James Bond-themed video that involved a kidnapping and helicopter chases is one of the best of all time.

"Breakdown" f. Krazyie Bone & Wish Bone (1998)

Cleveland rappers Bone Thugs-N-Harmony were longtime superstars by the time they collaborated with Carey on "Breakdown," the third single from her "Butterfly" album. But their harmony was on display here as they actually sounded great alongside the singer with a five-octave vocal range.

"Heartbreaker" f. Jay Z (1999)

Mariah continued with her winning formula, enlisting rapper Jay Z to contribute ad-libs and a verse to "Heartbreaker," the introductory track from her 1999 album "Rainbow," one year after he scored his first crossover hit "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)." In the video, Carey portrays multiple characters, including her brunette nemesis that's cheating with her man. (Also hear another version with Da Brat and Missy Elliott.)



"Loverboy" (Remix) f. Ludacris, Shawnna, Da Brat and Twenty II (2001)

Even though Carey's film "Glitter" earned her a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress — not to mention five other nominations, including Worst Picture and Screenplay — the soundtrack that captures the sound of 1980s R&B is pretty good. The debut single, "Loverboy," samples Cameo's 1986 hit "Candy," and features the group's lead singer and producer Larry Blackmon as well as rappers Ludacris, Shawnna, Da Brat, and Twenty II.

"Boy (I Need You)" f. Cam'ron (2002)

Arguably one of her coolest hip-hop pairings, Carey tapped Cam'ron and producer Just Blaze for her "Charmbracelet" album to recreate the Harlem rapper's hit "Oh Boy" that was released just seven months earlier. Cam'ron appears in the video that pays homage to Japanese culture (a Godzilla-like monster destroying a city and all) as he spits the cocky rhyme: "Sing my hook. Help me sell a couple mill."

"Obsessed" (Remix) f. Gucci Mane (2009)

It doesn't matter that Mariah will never admit that "Obsessed" from her 2009 album "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" is about Eminem — even though she appears to impersonate the Detroit rapper in the video — the concept is brilliant. Even better is the featured rap from hip-hop's loose cannon Gucci Mane, who is dressed in a white suit, white gold chains, and diamond-encrusted glasses as he brags, "You see her with the kid, you know what it is."

"Up Out My Face" (2010) f. Nicki Minaj

Nearly a year-and-a-half before Nicki Minaj hit it big with "Super Bass," Mariah showed her love, featuring the Young Money rapper on her song "Up Out My Face," from her "Imperfect Angel" album. The sassy, breakup storyline and fashion-doll music video was definitely a good look for Minaj, who unfortunately clashed with Carey when they served as "American Idol" judges together more than three and a half years later.

"Triumphant (Get 'Em)" f. Rick Ross, Meek Mill (2012)

A few months before Meek Mill made his Warner Bros. debut with "Dreams and Nightmares," he scored a set up single of a lifetime, "Triumphant," billed as Mariah Carey featuring Rick Ross and Mill. Mill scored the opening verse and starred as the video's prized fighter as Ross and Carey provided the chorus and supplementary verses, respectfully.

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