Here Are Hip-Hop’s Best Songs Within a Song
Everyone loves a good ol’ fashion BOGO. Having the ability to get two (or more) things for the price of one is one of the tricks that helps drive capitalism, and when it comes to music, getting a double dose of vibes on a single track can make a song hit different.
Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode” featuring Drake has been lauded for its second half alteration. Though only containing one title, the Hit-Boy, Tay Keith, Mike Dean, OZ and Cubeatz-produced track’s binary breakdown resulted in La Flame’s most famous track to date.
This is far from a new strategy. Another memorable dual ditty came in the form of Jay-Z’s “Intro/A Million and One Questions/Rhyme No More” off his sophomore album, In My Lifetime Vol. 1 in 1997. The DJ Premier beat goes from an upbeat piano-driven sample loop to a piece assembled with grimy symmetry. Hov attacks both flawlessly.
Future’s “Life Is Good” featuring Drake produced by D Hill and OZ is another shining example of a track that hits just as hard from both angles, with Hendrix and Drizzy attacking each side with a corresponding tone.
While the song within a song can be a game-changer, the turn isn’t always a popular one. Some double tracks find listeners vibing to the first part only to be thrown off by the bait and switch. It can be a slippery slope that only some artists and producers can pull off without a hitch.
XXL highlights some of hip-hop's most successful attempts at putting two or more songs in one.
“Pound Cake / Paris Morton Music 2"Drake featuring Jay-Z
Drake's “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2," off his Nothing Was the Same album, features a memorable split. Produced by The Order, Matthew Burnett, Detail, Jordan Evans and Boi-1da, Drizzy taps Jay-Z for the ethereal-sounding first half, with both rappers weaving in and out of pockets with ease. Drake takes over the show on the second act as the song turns into an anthem with frantic drums leading the way.
“Intro/A Million and One Questions/Rhyme No More”Jay-Z
Jay-Z chose to kick his sophomore album, In My Lifetime Vol. 1, off with a double dose of heat provided solely by DJ Premier. One of hip-hop's most memorable openings, Premo uses elements of Latimore's "Let Me Go" on a short loop on "A Million and One Questions," giving Hov ample space to breathe over the beat. "Rhyme No More" turns the table with its sample of Isaac Hayes' "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," slowing things down and allowing Jigga to showcase multiple flows.
"Range Brothers"Baby Keem featuring Kendrick Lamar
Baby Keem's "Range Brothers" featuring Kendrick Lamar sneaks two scoops of dopeness into a singularly named song. Six producers crafted the dense track (Ricky Polo, Jahaan Sweet, Dez Wright, Scott Bridgeway, 30 Roc and Baby Keem), which kicks off with a lively trap sound as Keem delivers multiple flows. When K-Dot joins the party, the twist takes form. Things become more menacing, with a tonal change pronounced by dark chords.
"Sweet / Thought You Wanted to Dance"Tyler, The Creator
While most binary bangers split the runtime of the average length song, Tyler, The Creator's "Sweet / Thought You Wanted to Dance" is a lengthy nearly 10-minute jaunt into two different musical worlds. Starting with an "Earthquake"-esquse ballad, Tyler lays it on thick with the falsetto over a synth-charged score. Following a brief intermission, the song's second half alternates to straight island vibes, spearheaded by mellow riddems. Totally unexpected, but we would expect nothing less from Tyler.
Thugger's serious attempt at making a love song resulted in the two-part ballad “Stupid/Asking” on his 2021 album, Punk. With the first half of the song being rhymed from the woman's perspective and the second part being rapped from how the man sees things, the dichotomy is displayed over soft instrumentation from a cast of producers including Charlie Handsome, Metro Boomin, Taurus, Yo Benji and Crater. Not much of a change in tone equals a smooth transition.
"Life Is Good"Future featuring Drake
Future and Drake kill one bird with two beats on the 2020 Hendrix single "Life Is Good." With a yin and yang in production provided by Abezza, OZ and D. Hill, the track takes two different avenues to reach a satisfying intersection of sounds. Drake's paced intro lulls you into a sense of calm behind quirky chords. The twist comes and Future's turn is punctuated with a head-butt of bass that the Atlanta rapper accents with his stabby cadence.
“Flight at First Sight/Advanced”Kid Cudi
Kid Cudi and Pharrell found two times the magic on Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin's “Flight at First Sight/Advanced.” Cowbell P and Cudder leave Earth on the spacey "Flight at First Sight," with Cudi matching the dreamy production from the Virginia beat legend with a subdued melody. "Advanced" pushes the plot forward as the tempo amps up with satisfyingly beating bass.
"Sicko Mode"Travis Scott featuring Drake
Travis Scott’s diamond-selling single “Sicko Mode” featuring Drake actually has three separate soundscapes on the split track. Produced by Hit-Boy, Tay Keith, Mike Dean, OZ and Cubeatz, the intro features Drake crooning over driving organ chords before the instrumental flips into a horn-heavy construction for Travis’ verse. The third, and many people’s favorite turn, comes on Drake’s verse where the turn up jumps to level 10.