By Alvin Blanco
Every good rapper needs an R&B hook. But using a new age crooner is about as prevalent as a new Nicki Minaj personality, so getting a seasoned Soul vocalist on your hook is a great way to stand apart.
Recently El Debarge recruited Fabolous for his new song “5 Seconds” and Kanye West must have kept Charlie Wilson close in Hawaii because the former Gap Band front man has appeared on the last couple of G.O.O.D. Fridays leaks. In celebration of another new ‘Ye leak, here are 10 vintage hip-hop hook masters with vocal tricks to spare.
1. Ronald Isley
While the Isley Brothers are a staple in the record collections of your parents, lead singer Ronald Isley managed to remains bit more familiar to younger generations thanks to his Mr. Biggs persona. His butter smooth crooning found its way onto many a rap record including “Project Windows” from Nas’ fourth album Nastradamus.
Uncle Charlie Wilson has been working harder than R&B singers half his age, working with the likes of Lil Kim, UGK and particularly Snoop Dogg. Lately Kanye West has the O.G. on speed dial with Wilson appearing on a couple of G.O.O.D. Fridays leakings including “Lord, Lord, Lord”
The spaced out but always funky leader of Parliament/Funkadelic still brings the funk. The music in his discography has been repeatedly samples by hip-hop producers but Clinton has guested with many a rapper including Too Short (“The Movie”), Wu-Tang Clan (“Tar Pit”) and especially OutKast (“Synthesizer“)
4. Isaac Hayes
The RZA lifted the beat from Isaac Hayes’ “Walk On By” for Wu-Tang Clan’s “I Can’t Go To Sleep.” But the producer didn’t stop there, he finagled the late, and legendary, Soul man to perform on the track as well—the best of both worlds.
5. Chaka Khan
Kanye West sampled Chaka Khan’s “Through the Fire” for his breakout hit “Through The Wire” in 2003. But eight years earlier she herself lent her powerful vocals to the late Guru of Gang Starr’s “Watch What You Say.”
OutKast got Patti Labelle on their “Ghettomusick” record via a sample, but somehow momentary Haitian Presidential candidate Wyclef Jean managed to nab the real deal. The R&B diva loaned her vocals to “Celebrate” from his debut solo album The Carnival. Hip-Hop could definitely use more Patti.
Little Stevland Wonder grew into Stevie Wonder and became a Soul music icon along the way. Long revered by the hip-hop community for his contribution to music, and many a rap sample, Wonder sung and played keys on Busta Rhymes’ “Been Through the Storm” from The Big Bang LP and appeared on “Conversations” from Snoop Dogg’s Tha Blue Carpet Treatment, both released in 2006.
8. Teena Marie
Teena Marie always had some hip-hop in her, just check her rhyming on her 1981 hit “Square Biz.” In 2004, after previously appearing on Eve’s “Life Is So Hard” and oddly on Afu-Ra’s “Open,” Teena Marie sealed up her rap cred by signing with Cash Money Records.
Jay-Z got Mary J. Blige to interpolated Meli’sa Morgan’s “Fool’s Paradise” for his “Can’t Knock the Hustle” from Reasonable Doubt. But when it came time for the remix (“Can’t Knock the Hustle (Fool’s Paradise Remix)”), Hova got the genuine article to sing on the track. The tune is an unheralded remix worth seeking out.
10. The Delfonics
Ghostface Killah has a things for Soul music. If he had his way he’d probably sing—not that he hasn’t tried—but luckily for us Ghostface recruited the still active Philadelphia Soul troupe the Delfonics on “After The Smoke Is Clear” from his classic debut, Ironman.
The former member of DeBarge was one of our first mentions, but his ditty with Fab isn’t where his list ends. Outside of Polow Da Don flipping his “I Call Your Name” hit into Rich Boy’s “Throw Some D’s,” El crooned his way through DJ Quik’s 1998 Rhythm-al-ism LP to our delight.
Nah, we’re not citing Sting because he sung while Diddy danced around the stage at the 1997 VMAs. We’re noting Sting because, besides the Police getting the hip-hop stamp of approval, he made Pras’ “Roxanne ’97” bearable. That is no easy feat.