“Boy versus girl in the world series of love”, intones Prince on “U Got The Look”. Sheena Easton was his sparring partner on that track and he plays off her disdain (“Oh please”) to make a point. So often when males and females get together on a track – or maybe just in life – it’s a battle over love and lovemaking. We see it everywhere in pop, but nowhere is it expressed more vehemently than through the narrative of rap. For a genre famed for political incorrectness, if the ladies can get a word in edgewise, they’ll get their own back – as evidenced by our countdown of gender battle raps that emphasises sex over sexism.
Project Pat ft Tatala Licius & King Ray “Use Your Head”
Pat is probably best known for his affiliation with fellow Memphians Three 6 Mafia, and this lead-off track from his 2011 mixtape Deep In The Hood features a Lex Luger beat and the southern drawled suggestiveness of Tatala Licius, who definitely delivers the best bars. Cheating isn’t something to be proud of, but a gal like this is convincing.
Trick Daddy ft Trina “Nann Nigga”
Miami’s Trick cut his teeth with Uncle Luke Campbell, so you know he gets nasty as he wants to be. This track featuring the sassy Trina comes off his second album www.thug.com (so Soulja Boy wasn’t the first rapper to title his record like an URL), which was released in 1998. “Nann Nigga” matches boast for boast in sweaty club fashion, and if the two are to be believed, they are a match made in heaven.
Dizzee Rascal ft Shystie “I Luv U”
“I Luv U” from Dizzee’s 2003 debut album Boy In Da Corner is arguably one of his best and enduring tracks – even after the British grime MC and producer transcended the genre ghetto to become the star with chart-topping pop hits such as “Dance Wiv Me”. Here, Shystie returns his lyrical bile in equal measure for a dark and disturbingly honest portrayal of relationship ugliness.
Mo’Ney ft Leno “Kamasutra”
I first heard this track on DJ Slugo’s Respect My Grine Vol 4 compilation of Chicago hiphop. Slugo is known for his work in juke, so it was a surprise – it’s hard to tell when it was released, but I picked it up during a trip to Chicago in 2009. I’ve not heard of these rappers before or since, but this track, with its slinky subcontinental flute and didgeridoo-inspired bass rumble evokes the right atmosphere for tantric love. Mo’Ney makes herself clear, and as much as Leno might want us to believe otherwise, who do you think is in charge here?
Bo Deal ft Mello G Blanca “Safe Sex”
Chicago’s Bo Deal came out with his mixtape The Chicago Code 2 in the latter half of 2011 and this was one of the standout tracks, not least because of Mello G Blanca’s pussycat tones and its unusual storyline. Bo humourously subverts the stereotypes, trying to trap Mello into pregnancy and presumably a long-term relationship.
Psycho Drama “Magic”
Er, I didn’t realise how many tracks from Chicago we had on this list, but this trio includes the lady Newsense, and probably dates from the mid-90s. Male and female voices get their pimp on, making magic by not just trading verses, but also backing duties and switching from a chorus to a single voice. It’s clever vocal arranging over laid-back production.
Charli Baltimore ft Ghostface Killah “Stand Up”
This track off of Charli’s debut album Cold As Ice, released in 1999, features Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface on the mic and RZA on production. That’s some serious backing, and Charli makes the most of it with one of the coldest lines ever: “Throw a razor in my mouth on the low/and suck your dick wid it”.
Sway ft Stush “F Ur Ex”
Forget your ex or fuck ‘em? UK grime MCs Sway and Stush can’t decide, and neither can most of us, judging from the situation-recognition this track inspires. While you can’t find many Stush tracks (check our her banger “Dollar Sign”) and her rumoured album never materialised, you can see why she’s a British favourite.
Tommy Wright & Princess Loko “Comin’ For ‘94”
These two aren’t so much battling – they’re really on the same side, representing Memphis – but Loko could teach any rapper a thing or two. Over a slowed down Meters sample and the usual T3 minimalism, they make the mid 90s sound like a hot and sticky alternate reality of rap.
Drake ft Nicki Minaj “Make Me Proud”
Here’s another example of men and women working together in harmony and mutual respect. Who would have thought we’d have to leave it to a Canadian to remind us how much we need each other?