Two things: One, last month I helped launch a rhythm and blues club with two friends, Ashley and Marcus, in Washington, D.C. A monthly meeting that essentially serves as nostalgic listening sessions for classic ’90s R&B (Jodeci’s Diary of a Mad Band in February and Aaliyah’s One In a Million in March), the events have already hit a nerve in need of soothing. And two, this R&B rabbit hole I’ve been in is the exact reason for the return of our Aux Cord Chronicles. The rules for this one? Simple. R&B songs with a hip-hop feature — not the other way around. For example, no Method Man and Mary J. Blige “You’re All I Need” or Big K.R.I.T. and Lloyd’s “1999” because Blige and Lloyd are the featured artists. Get it? Got it? Gucci. Pull up on us on social media and let us know your favorites. Let’s stop wasting time and get to the money …
Mary J. Blige feat. Grand Puba — “What’s The 411?” (1992)
An OG R&B/rap classic, co-produced by the man then known as Puffy, that any list of this sort is incomplete without.
SWV feat. Wu-Tang clan — “Anything (Remix)” (1994)
Let the record show, “Anything” was already one of the coldest bounces of any R&B song in history. Add in Method Man’s legendary opening bars? Kaboom, guess who stepped in the room/ Tical, hailing from the Shaolin Isle / It be me the killer bee, on the M-I-C/ With the S-S-double-double-U to the V-V, and it was a wrap.
Brandy feat. MC Lyte, Yo-Yo, Queen Latifah — “I Wanna Be Down (Remix)” (1994)
Of the Sylvia Rhone-created remix, Brandy said in 2012 that the record remains one of the most surreal moments of her career. It helped make for a close friendship with all three MCs too. “The hip-hop remix to ‘I Wanna Be Down’ meant the world to me,” she’s said. “I’m fresh out of the box and these superstars are part of my first single. They’re my mentors and I look up to them.”
Total feat. The Notorious B.I.G. — “Can’t You See” (1995)
Gimmie all the chickenheads from Pasadena to Medina … not much more needs to be said. A classic ’90s cut in every sense of the word.
Jodeci feat. Ghostface killah & Raekwon — “Freek’n You (Mr. Dalvin Remix)” (1995)
Women wanted to be with them. Men wanted to be them. It’s no secret Jodeci was the first real R&B presence with hip-hop’s stamp of approval — long before Ghost and Rae helped give a classic a makeover.
Mariah Carey feat. ODB — “Fantasy (Bad Boy Remix)” (1995)
First off, R.I.P. Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Secondly, Mariah, like Mary J. Blige, has a ton of classics with this formula. ODB brought so much energy and one-of-a-kind swag on this, it’s crazy.
Blackstreet feat. Dr. Dre & Queen Pen — “No Diggity” (1996)
The rare Dr. Dre feature did not go to waste here. And shout-out to Ted Riley for using the Lil’ Teddy doll in the video — paying homage to Penny Hardaway’s Lil’ Penny. Pop culture synergy at its finest!
Gina Thompson feat. Missy Elliott — “The things that You Do (Remix)” (1996)
Thompson doesn’t get the credit she deserves for the incredible hook on this. Vintage ’90s and with the Missy feature, a year before Supa Dupa Fly dropped? Flawless.
Dru Hill feat. Jermaine Dupri and Da Brat — “In My Bed (So So Def Remix)” (1996)
Bless J.D. and Da Brat for bringing some edge to a ballad that originally had Uncle Sam “I Don’t Ever Wanna See You Again”-type vibes. Aight, maybe not that sad.
112 feat. The Notorious B.I.G. & Ma$e — “Only You” (1996)
Another classic Bad Boy remix. One of the great travesties, aside from the fact Biggie’s been gone for 21 years, is the fact we’ll never know how many more R&B songs he would’ve destroyed. His flow and voice made him a natural on any song, but especially records like these.
Case feat. Foxy Brown & Mary J. Blige — “Touch Me, Tease Me” (1996)
This song’s been getting people in trouble for 20+ years now. And I can’t see that changing anytime soon. Good trouble, that is.
D’Angelo feat. AZ — “Lady (Remix)” (1996)
One of those records that made women feel sexy and men feel cool even trying to croon along to the original and this remix. Shoutout to Erykah Badu, Faith Evans (and her daughter) and Joi in the video too.
Mary J. Blige feat. Lil Kim — “I Can Love You” (1997)
It doesn’t get mentioned nearly as much as it should in either woman’s catalog, but it should. This song was a vibe even before people started calling everything “a vibe.”
Janet Jackson feat. Q-Tip — “Got ’Til It’s Gone” (1997)
“ ‘Got ’Til It’s Gone’ is about a great lesson learned — appreciate what you have while you have it,” Jackson told Jet in 1997. “In my life, I try to take nothing for granted, even if I don’t always succeed.”
Mariah Carey feat. The L.O.X. & Ma$e — “Honey (Remix)” (1997)
In fact / This is why I act like that / I ain’t dropped one single / And I made this money back … Mimi’s 12th No. 1 hit. And one of the biggest hits Bad Boy Records ever worked on.
Destiny’s Child feat. Wyclef Jean — “No, No, No (Pt. 2)” (1998)
A great “did you know?”: The first time Kelly Rowland heard this song on the radio she, Beyoncé, LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson were riding to pick up Solange from school. None of them could believe what was happening. “We started running around the courtyard at Solange’s school and she hops out of the school and is like, ‘Why are y’all embarrassing me?’ ” Rowland said.
Aaliyah feat. Timbaland — “Are You That Somebody?” (1998)
The late Static Major wrote this and “Try Again” for Aaliyah. She wasn’t a huge fan of either. Thankfully, she listened to those around her, as both became huge hits. Unfortunately, neither Major nor Aaliyah is here anymore to see the song’s legacy evolve.
Mya feat. Silkk The Shocker — “Movin’ On” (1998)
So how old do you feel now that this Mya song is 20 years old?
Mariah Carey feat. JAY-Z — “Heartbreaker” (1999)
She wanna shop with JAY, play box with JAY/ She wanna pillow fight in the middle of the night / She wanna drive my Benz with five of her friends / She wanna creep past the block spying again / She wanna roll with JAY, chase skeeos away / She wanna fight with lame chicks, blow my day / She wanna inspect the rest, kick me to the curb / If she find one strand of hair longer than hers. Jay-Z was in his bag something crazy on this.
Jagged Edge feat. Rev. Run — “Let’s Get Married (Remix)” (2000)
Mya feat. JAY-Z — “the best of Me” (2000)
The Jadakiss version was great. But if I can be completely candid, the Jay version is one of my favorite songs of all time. And while Have an affair, act like an adult for once eventually turned into life imitating art for Jigga, I still proudly recite both verses verbatim — sober or inebriated. Long live the video and the birth of jersey dresses that soon followed.
Jagged Edge feat. Nelly — “Where The Party At?” (2001)
Day parties, rooftops and pool parties are on the horizon. Because that’s exactly what this song sounds like, even 17 years later.
Erykah Badu feat. Common — “Love of My Life” (2002)
Badu and Common were talking about hip-hop, but if you and your better half have always connected over music, it’s the most romantic song ever.
Kelly Rowland & Nelly — “Dilemma” (2002)
Thought you were going to catch me slipping, huh? Nelly and Kelly’s monster hit record was also featured on the singer’s solo debut Simply Deep. One thing we’ve never figured out, though? Why Kelly was texting Nelly on Microsoft Excel and caught an attitude when he didn’t text back.
Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z — “Crazy In Love” (2003)
Crazy to believe Beyoncé’s solo international hit is already 15. Even crazier to see how this marriage has directly impacted pop culture in the years since. Even crazier than that? They’re about to embark on their second world tour together.
Destiny’s Child feat. T.I. & Lil Wayne — “Soldier” (2004)
How much has changed since this song dropped? The “chicken head” was like 372 dance crazes ago. Tip and Weezy went on to become two of the biggest (and at times most controversial) stars of the 2000s. And they’re not yet considered old heads. And Beyoncé’s We like them boys up top from the B.K., a not-so-subtle homage to she and Jay’s still new relationship, was considered big news.
Bobby Valentino feat. Lil Wayne — “Tell Me” (2005)
If you were in college when this song was poppin’, you already know it was big business. The legend of Lil Wayne, still then in the early stages of his iconic 2004-09 run, was blossoming before our very eyes. Wayne owned everything. This song included.
Chris Brown feat. Lil Wayne — “Gimme That” (2005)
You thought it was a joke when I said Wayne’s run was magical? He jumped on any and everything, and more often than not it turned into a hit. Case in point, this early Chris Brown chart-topper.
Ne-Yo feat. Peedi Peedi — “Stay” (2005)
Back when we all thought Peedi had next. Thirteen years later, it’s still impossible to not sing along with this hook. That joint still goes.
The-Dream feat. Young Jeezy — “I Luv Your Girl” (2007)
The-Dream, like other names on this list, could have his own separate list. He’s one of the most important artists since the turn of the century. But Jeezy’s Type of n— leave his skully on while he serving ya was a standout line then. And it still is now.
T-Pain feat. Yung Joc — “Buy U A Drank” (2007)
Again, this is another one of those “if you were in college when this dropped,” then there’s absolutely no way you can have anything bad to ever say about this song.
Lloyd feat. Lil Wayne — “You” (2007)
Lloyd is a great artist who could have and probably should have been even bigger than what he was. Also, 2007 Lil Wayne was just unreal. “Girls Around The World” was the follow-up hit between these two a year later. They had a run.
Mario feat. Lil Wayne — “Crying Out For Me (Remix)” (2008)*
This makes the cut for the vivid, eccentric story only prime Weezy could have gotten away with.
Usher feat. Beyoncé & Lil Wayne — “Love In This Club (Part 2)” (2008)
The original was fire. But this second installment blew it out the water. Keep in mind Usher, a superstar in his own right, landed 2008 Bey and 2008 Wayne. Unreal. Also, congrats to Wayne for being the first artist in Aux Cord Chronicles history to three-peat.
Beyoncé feat. Kanye West — “Ego (Remix)” (2009)
“Ego” was already a huge record, but Kanye’s remix took both of them all the way to a Grammy nomination.
Alicia Keys feat. Drake — “Un-thinkable (Remix)” (2009)
The time’s 2009 and Aubrey’s still the new kid on the block. This kind of introspective and introverted emotional feature became the calling card for the next decade of Drizzy’s time on rap’s Mount Olympus.
Keri Hilson feat. Kanye West & Ne-Yo — “Knock You Down” (2009)
Or as it’s become known in the years since: the song on which Kanye first professed his love to Kim Kardashian.
The-Dream feat. Fabolous, Juelz Santana, Rick Ross & Ludacris — “Rockin’ That Thang (Remix)” (2009)
I remember when this song hit all the blogs. Anything with Dream was a hit. Ross, too. Time flies.
Ciara feat. Ludacris — “Ride” (2010)
While I could’ve easily gone with their 2004 hit “Oh,” this has always been my favorite of the two. The video might have had a small part to do with that.
Miguel feat. J. Cole — “All I Want Is You” (2010)
Miguel’s breakout hit and Cole’s first huge feature has aged quite well.
Chris Brown feat. Busta Rhymes & Lil Wayne — “Look At Me Now” (2011)
Technically, it’s a record with no singing, which partially violates the rules. But given it is by an R&B singer, I’m letting it rock if for no other reason than it was one of the more fun records to party to seven summers ago.
The Weeknd feat. Drake — “The Zone” (2011)
Before The Weeknd became the international pop star we see today, his mysterious vibe produced songs like this on the regular — dark, romantic, maniacal and yearning all at once. Also, Drake absolutely rips this to shreds.
Kelly Rowland feat. Lil Wayne — “Motivation” (2011)
Fun fact: The NBA played a part in making this record happen. Rowland ran into Weezy at a Miami Heat game and told him about the record. The rest, as they say, is history.
Rihanna feat. Future — “Love Song” (2012)
It’s sad that these two haven’t recorded (or at least released) more music together. Because this collaboration, found on 2012’s Unapologetic, proved the two had more than enough chemistry to craft hits.
Ty Dolla Sign feat. B.o.B. — “Paranoid” (2014)
If someone tells you they’ve never sung along with this hook, they’re either lying or that’s honestly so heartbreaking for them.
Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z — “Drunk In Love” (2014)
Quite literally, an ode from man and wife celebrating their sex lives. A massive song that became one of the biggest of the year too. The last mega hit between The Carters before the Lemonade and 4:44 era. Now that things are back on the up and up, do they have another future No. 1 in them?
Jeremih feat. YG — “Don’t Tell ’Em” (2014)
Late Nights is still a criminally underrated album. And how this song, which peaked at No. 6 on Billboard, never got a video is beyond me. And by a video, I mean one with YG.
DeJ Loaf feat. Lil Wayne — “Me U & Hennessy” (2014)
R&B Weezy at his most explicit.
Anderson .Paak feat. The Game & Sonyae Elise — “Room In Here” (2016)
.Paak is a rapper and singer, and on this song he’s the latter to me. This cut on the modern-day classic Malibu has always been an underrated jam in A.P.’s eclectic catalog. A very strong guest feature from Game resides here too.
Rihanna feat. Drake — “Work” (2016)
One of these days Rih and Drake will release the joint project they were destined to: AubRih. Until then, they’ve got bangers on their mantle with 2010’s “What’s My Name?” 2012’s “Take Care” and 2016’s “Too Good.” The best song of their bunch? This one featuring a Billboard assassin’s pot luck of undeniability in island vibes, an infectious hook and incredibly strong guest feature. A tailor-made cut for parties of all sorts, this song helped both own the summer of 2016.
Miguel feat. Travis Scott — “Sky Walker” (2017)
These two were bound to craft a banger at some point together. Evident by this song’s inclusion here, they did just that with one of the waviest singles of the past year.
SZA feat. Kendrick Lamar — “Doves In The Wind” (2017)
A vibe and a half, if we’re keeping it a buck. The whole premise of the song is SZA and Kendrick addressing the role of sex in a relationship — in particular, what SZA proclaimed a “[dedication] to vaginas.” In fact, between the two, the word “p—y” is used 48 times. Twenty-eight by SZA, in case you were keeping count.
Kali Uchis feat. Tyler the Creator and Bootsy Collins — “After The Storm” (2018)
“I have a huge level of respect for people who actually work hard and are survivors,” Uchis said of the song’s inspiration. “When you’re in a good place or when you’re the unicorn that was able to get out of the circumstances, that doesn’t happen for a lot of people because of the way the system is built.” Ain’t that the truth.
Bruno Mars feat. Cardi B — “Finesse (Remix)” (2018)
Bruno’s been at the center of a complex cultural appropriation debate that, to say the least, has folks very much divided. Regardless, there’s no denying that Mars and Cardi B, headed out on tour together, have a bona fide smash that will go down as one of the better singles of 2018 — with a mean In Living Color homage in the video.