The US has always been the biggest marketplace when it comes to music, especially Hip Hop. Early UK rap was polluted with British acts trying to replicate Americans with mock American accents which suggested a lack of self-identity in some artists. Grime and Garage then gave UK acts more leeway and confidence in being themselves over Hip Hop beats rather than trying to copy US music.
The UK’s yearning to be recognised by the Americans always seemed so important until recent years. We would see UK acts collaborating with US artists, and come the release date we’d see no promotion or announcement from the US side. There has of course been some anomalies with that and in recent years the success of UK music has made US artists want to come and work with us. In no particular order, here are 9 of the greatest UK x US music collabs.
Snoop Dogg – Murder Music ft. Potter Payper, Benny the Butcher, Jadakiss & Busta Rhymes
This collab was very unexpected and came on Snoop Dogg’s international project ‘Snoop Dogg Presents Algorithm’ (Global edition) which dropped in late 2021. While the project featured artists such as Fabolous, Yk Osiris and Method Man, it was the track titled ‘Murder Music’ that stood out thanks to one of the UK’s most talented rappers Potter Payper, whose effortless flow and poignant verse highlighted to the American audience that UK rappers are no joke. The track also featured Benny the Butcher, Busta Rhymes and Jadakiss alongside Snoop and Potter.
Estelle – American Boy ft. Kanye West
For me, this is the greatest UK x US collab of all time. The popularity of the track as well as the flawless verses from Estelle make this track very special. The single featured on Estelle’s 2008 album ‘Shine’, and went number 1 in 5 different countries and top 10 in another 18. If you’ve ever been in a dance and heard Estelle’s classic lines “Tell em wagwan blud” yelled out by the 200-odd people inside you’ll truly know the impact this song has had on both the UK and US.
A$AP Rocky – Praise The Lord (Da Shine) ft. Skepta
Alongside American Boy, ‘Praise The Lord’ is one of the most successful cross-Atlantic fusions. Not only did the track feature UK royalty Skepta alongside American superstar A$AP Rocky, but it was also a Skepta production. The track was released in 2018 but is already 3x platinum in America with over 3 million sales and 2x platinum in the UK with over 1.2 million sales. The track wasn’t only a hit in the two artists’ respected countries but globally, it went platinum in 6 other countries, Gold in 4 and Diamond in France.
The Plug x M1llionz x G Herbo – Father Figure
This track saw a collaboration between two of the most unique drill artists in their countries, Birmingham’s M1llionz and Chicago’s G-Herbo were brought together on a track with The Plug, who in recent years has played a pivotal role in the number of American and British rap collaborations. The beat is one that fans of M1llionz would have never heard him on before with it leaning more towards G Herbo’s sounds. Despite that the pair both laid impeccable verses on the track, I believe it to be unfairly underrated having garnered 1.8 million views nearly 2 years after its release.
Drake – KMT ft. Giggs
UK fans remember how American Twitter dragged Giggs after Drake released ‘More Life’ in 2017, so they saw that and said we’re about to make this song the biggest track of the project. If you’ve ever been at a show when Giggs or Drake has performed this hit you will know the impact it has. Summer 2017 saw timelines flooded with videos of insane crowds bouncing as Giggs rapped his legendary line “Batman, da-na-na-da-na”.
Mura Masa – Love$ick ft. A$AP Rocky
The track between UK electronic producer Mura Masa and US rapper A$AP Rocky was an instant feel-good hit. The track titled ‘Lovesick’ dropped in 2016 and was accompanied by a video that perfectly illustrated life as a London youth. A$AP Rocky has always had strong links to the UK and this electronic-rap infused track was one of his earliest pieces of work with an artist from over this side. The success is undoubtable with the video sitting on over 105 million views.
Skepta – It Ain’t Safe ft. Young Lord
The first time a member of the A$AP Mob and Skepta linked up was in 2014 for his track ‘It ain’t Safe’ alongside A$AP Bari, who at the time went by the stage name Young Lord. The video was quintessentially British, especially for the year it came out. It saw a montage of clips of the artists and their large posses chilling on the block, to make it even more authentic they had shots around a phone box and even the classic clip that seems to be in every UK hood video of someone doing a wheelie.
Krept & Konan – Don’t Waste My Time Remix ft. Chip, French Montana, Wretch 32, Chinx Drugz, & Fekky
The remixes of today all seem a bit incomparable when you look back at Krept and Konan’s remix to their smash hit ‘Don’t waste my time’. The remix featured some of the UK’s finest with the likes of Chip, Wretch 32 and Fekky, making it not only one of the best UK collabs, but one of the best UK x US collabs, and it was the two other features that made this track so special. The remaining two features were New York’s French Montana and the late Chinx Drugz. Similarly to Skepta’s ‘It Ain’t Safe’, this was still at the beginning of the UK rap charge to the mainstream with the video being shot around the Croydon duo’s hometown Thornton Heath. This collab was massive for UK rap and was the first time an actual rap superstar had gone out of their way to work with some of the UK’s best.
Chipmunk – Champion ft. Chris Brown
Champion came out in 2010 and saw one of the world’s biggest pop stars Chris Brown link up with Tottenham wonderkind rapper Chipmunk. The track went platinum in the UK and even gave fans of Chris brown a rare opportunity to hear the American popstar rap. The video was shot in the middle of nowhere with helicopters and sports cars racing around, for 2010 this was one of the first time UK rappers had seen one of them in this kind of surrounding. The track was a massive hit but has followed Chip throughout his long career with his countless rap beefs always leading to who is he going up against, and calling him a popstar for a track such as this one.