Since the earliest developments in rap and hip-hop, artists in this community have prided themselves in their ability to attract external talent to their work. These artists form relationships with other artists, whether it be through common neighborhoods during their upbringing, a mutual music executive, or just via the appreciation of another artists work in general.
When these relationships are formed and rappers admire the work of others, they find ways to incorporate guest verses or other elements into their work. This is usually in the form of features, a term used to describe rap musicians that bring other artists into their song or album.
It seems that many artists in rap and hip-hop pride themselves on their features to the point where their own work seems to take a back seat to the features on their tracks. However, we cannot forget about the works that have entire track lists without a single feature. In some cases these featureless albums go platinum and listeners are able to have an in depth perspective on that artist’s work. Let’s take a look at some of the more influential platinum albums without any features:
- J. Cole- 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014): J.Cole has achieved something that is quite uncommon nowadays. 2014 Forest Hills Drive is the first album without features to go platinum in over 25 years. J. Cole kind of threw this album at us without any notification or marketing but on 3/31/2015, the final 7,733 copies were sold to bring the total sales of the album over one million. His previous two albums, while very popular, sold in the 700,000 range but both of those albums had features. This is a momentous step for the rap and hip hop community as one of the most prevalent artists has forgone the need to feature other artists in his work.
- Wu Tang Clan- Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers) (1993): From the slums of Shaolin, Wu Tang Clan strikes again, The Rza, The Gza, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon the Chef, U-God, Ghostface Killah, and the Method Man. Sound familiar? While there are so many members in this iconic group, this album does not feature appearances from any other artist and all of the work is internal.
- Beastie Boys- Paul’s Boutique (1989): The New York City-based Beastie Boys have being doing their thing for multiple decades, and features in their work are hard to come by as they pride themselves on their unique sound and diverse stylistic range. Paul’s Boutique stands out as one of the more technologically advanced albums in their collection, with tons of different samples and engineering techniques. However it is all original Mike D, MCA, and Ad-Rock, with no appearances by any other artists.
- LL Cool J- Bigger and Deffer (BAD) (1987): It seems that for most of his career, Ladies Love Cool James and only Cool James. The album Bigger and Deffer (BAD) has 12 tracks all of which are full-frontal LL Cool J. As his second release, the album sold 3 million copies and those immersed in the United States rap and hip-hop culture did not mind only hearing LL Cool J; they would find time for other artists.
- Vanilla Ice- To The Extreme (1990): This is most likely one of the albums on this list that stands out. Mainly because, why? Vanilla Ice found a way to reach various different audiences and while some deemed it corny, it worked, and the album went seven times platinum in the United States. The controversial track “Ice Ice Baby” is most likely a main culprit in why the album sales soared so high, but nonetheless the numbers were there.
So there you have it folks. Some mainstay artists, and some that you would definitely believe went platinum. Forgoing features seems to be a lost tactic as of late. Maybe J. Cole’s newest debut will turn some heads and bring more attention to the idea of the artist channeling talent into a whole work of art without the help of others.