Ariana Grande's 5 Best Hip-Hop Collaborations: Critic's Picks

Mac Miller and Ariana Grande
Kevin Mazur/One Love Manchester/Getty Images

Mac Miller and Ariana Grande perform on stage during the One Love Manchester Benefit Concert at Old Trafford Cricket Ground on June 4, 2017 in Manchester, England. 

On Friday (Feb. 1), Ariana Grande released a booming remix of "7 Rings" featuring hip-hop's top trap lord 2 Chainz. The trap-laden record not only finds 2 Chainz revisiting his "Spend It" flow, but allows Grande to team up with another rap heavyweight, which has become the norm for the perennial pop titan.

Throughout her career, Grande has unabashedly linked up with rap stars, making her a magnetic force among MCs in hip-hop. Not only does she provide an incredible platform due to her monstrous presence in music, but her vocals are second to none. Whether it's Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne or A$AP Ferg, Grande is now adept at threading her way into the world of rap, making her not only one of pop's biggest acts, but a consistent visitor to the Billboard Hot 100.

Below, Billboard compiled Grande's top five hip-hop collaborations. Check out which ones made the cut. 

5. "Break Your Heart Right Back," feat. Childish Gambino

Deeply nestled inside Grande's 2014 My Everything album is the criminally underrated jam "Break Your Heart Right Back" featuring Childish Gambino. Stung by heartbreak, Grande aligns herself with the multi-faceted star for a tuneful collab. Sampling Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out," Grande seeks retribution after being duped by her former beau. "What goes around comes around/ And if it goes up, it comes down/ I know you're mad 'cause I found out/ Want you to feel what I feel right now," she sings. 

In a 2014 interview with Billboard, Gambino reflected on how the record with Grande first came about. "The song was sent to us and we immediately were like, ‘This is a hit,’" he said. “She came in when I was recording and was like, ‘That’s great. I love the tone of your voice,’” he recalls. “She knows her stuff about music and rap.”

4. "Problem," feat. Iggy Azalea

In 2014, Iggy Azalea was at the top of her game, doling out hit after hit. Not only did she land her first Hot 100 chart-topper with "Fancy," but she also churned out a top three record in "Black Widow" with Rita Ora.

Azalea's smoldering pace caught the attention of Grande, who recruited her for their anthemic collaboration "Problem." The uptempo record contained a bevy of ingredients, including saxophones, a whispery hook from Grande's former flame Big Sean and one sizzling verse from Azalea. The first single from Grande's sophomore album, My Everything, was a success, soaring to No. 2 on the Hot 100.

"‘Problem’ truly represents the feeling of being absolutely terrified to re-approach a relationship that’s gone sour -- but you want to more than anything," Grande told Billboard that year. "In the song, it ends on a sappy, negative note, but in [real] life, we’re hoping it’s going to end on a positive one. I feel like it’s all very honest and human."

3. "Side to Side," feat. Nicki Minaj

In 2016, Grande enlisted Nicki Minaj for her reggae-tinged bop "Side to Side." The ILYA and Max Martin-produced track is a titillating banger, which finds the bubbly twosome reveling in their sexual expeditions. Even if you have a bad reputation, just knowing how to help Ariana and Nicki reach their melting points can serve as a rewarding feat. Here, Minaj skillfully woos her love-drunk partner with her advances. "Kissing me, copped the blue box that say Tiffany/ Curry with the shot, just tell 'em to call me Stephanie." Throughout the years, the Nicki/Ari tandem has become a popular choice among fans, with the fiery duo teaming up again on "The Light Is Coming" last year and, of course, on the 2014 pop smash "Bang Bang," also featuring Jessie J.

2. "Right There," feat. Big Sean

In what she considered "the sequel" to "With You," Grande's "Right There" featuring Big Sean was a splashy return after releasing her Mac Miller-assisted single in 2013. Sean Don -- who is a proven guest-verse savant -- plays into his role with ease, squeezing out indelible bars about love and romance. "I love and I like you/ Five-course meals, even though you don’t mind a drive-thru," quips Sean.

The then-couple dated for nine months before calling it quits in 2015. In a joint statement, reps for both stars confirmed the breakup with Billboard. "They both deeply care for each other and remain close friends. We kindly ask that the media respect their wish for privacy regarding this personal matter at this time." During their relationship, Sean and Grande also collaborated on "Best Mistake" and "Research."

1. "The Way," feat. Mac Miller

In what was deemed a curveball by many fans, Grande's decision to incorporate Mac Miller on her debut single "The Way" proved to be the best move possible, as the record later became a triple-platinum success. Grande's penchant for samples began on "The Way," which samples Brenda Russell's "A Little Bit of Love," just like Big Pun's "Still Not a Player" did in 1998.

On the track, Miller's jocular nature allowed fans from the pop world to quickly become enamored with his playful personality. "Come and watch a movie with me, American Beauty/ Or Bruce Almighty, that's groovy, just come and move closer to me," he spits. 

The budding duo would forge a romantic relationship in 2016 after collaborating on Miller's "My Favorite Part" that year. In 2018, Grande announced her decision to part ways with Miller via Instagram story. "This is one of my best friends in the whole world and favorite people on the planet,” Grande wrote. “I respect and adore him endlessly and am grateful to have him in my life in any form, at all times regardless of how our relationship changes or what the universe holds for each of us!”

In September 2018, Miller died of an accidental overdose.


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