The ten best hook singers in the history of rap
When you talk to hardcore hip-hop heads, it almost always comes down to one thing: lyrics, lyrics, lyrics. And while lyrics are obviously the keystone of rapping, the hook is essential as a respite from often dense, less accessible lyrics. Great hooks are among the most underrated aspects of making great music, mainly because those who do it best make it look so easy. From Mary J. Blige to Future, there are infinite ways to hook an audience, but regardless of the method, here are the ten best to do it in rap.
See also: The ten biggest tropes in rap music
Akon blew up in 2005 when his smooth, distinctive voice contrasted Young Jeezy's rough vocals on "Soul Survivor." Although he no longer commands the mainstream respect that he did when he was recording hooks on tracks like Wyclef's "Sweetest Girl" and DJ Khaled's "We Takin' Over," and his solo career is nowhere near where it once was, he's still recording hooks for T.I., Wiz Khalifa and other heavyweights.
Future has been everywhere as a featured artist since breaking out with last year's Pluto. In the same vein as T-Pain, but more melodic and subtle, Future's proclivity for subdued Auto-Tune and simple but effective songwriting has made him a first-rate hook man. Hate Future's shameless mainstreaming if you like, but his talent on the hook is undeniable, including on YC's "Racks" and Ace Hood's "Bugatti."
8. Mary J. Blige
Although Mary J. Blige is best known as a multi-platinum R&B singer, she got her start singing backup for a rapper called Father MC in 1990. Despite her massive success as a solo act, she never stopped backing up rappers on the side. She's appeared on some of the best albums of the '90s, including Method Man's Tical, Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt, Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and even appeared on Kendrick's Good Kid, m.A.A.d City last year.
7. R Kelly
Kelly is such an essential hook man, he's done hooks for some of the other artists on this list such as Future and T-Pain. No hook work Kelly could do could touch solo masterpieces such as "Ignition (Remix)" and Trapped in the Closet, obviously, but he's been a fixture in the rap game for well over a decade, and he shows no signs of stopping -- though you could say fairly that he's slowed. Highlights include "Satisfy You" with Puff Daddy and "Go Getta" with Young Jeezy.