Madonna’s relationship with hip-hop has had its ups and downs. On one hand, there’s her early championing of the Beastie Boys, inspired sampling of Public Enemy (“Justify My Love”) and Main Source (“Human Nature”) and her sadly lost duet with Tupac. On the other there’s those “Mini Cooper/super-duper rhymes” in “American Life” and that Sex book image with Vanilla Ice.
Featuring contributions from Swae Lee and Quavo, her forthcoming 14th studio effort, Madame X, suggests that her interest in the genre is still as strong as ever. On the eve of its release, we take a look back at ten of the Queen of Pop’s most successful hook-ups with rappers.
10. “Revolver” feat. Lil Wayne
This second release from 2010’s Celebration retrospective was also Madonna’s final single with the Warner Records label that had been her home for 28 years. Ignore Lil Wayne’s tired sex machine metaphors and “Revolver” has plenty to offer. There’s a certain symmetry to the fact that its robotic electro-pop sound borrows heavily from her one-time protégé Britney and her Blackout opus, while its main “do you wanna die happy” hook proved Madge still had the power to create an almighty earworm.
9. “Into the Hollywood Groove” feat. Missy Elliott
A fun-filled mash-up which gave one of the best ‘80s pop songs a new lease of life? Or a cash-in which wasted the coming together of two bona fide musical innovators? Opinion sure was divided over Madonna and Missy Elliott’s joint efforts for a 2003 Gap commercial, which aired just weeks before the pair famously joined Britney and Christina on stage at the MTV VMAs. First given away free to the clothing outlet’s customers (but later released officially on the Remixed and Revisited collection), this melding of “Into the Groove” and “Hollywood” is infectious enough: you can’t really go wrong when it comes to the former. But Missy’s plugs (“you’re going to love us in our new Gap jeans/Walk by, people ask, where’d you get those jeans”) mean you’re always aware it’s essentially a glorified commercial.
8. “Give Me All Your Luvin” feat. Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.
With its Toni Basil-esque chants and colorful pom-pom-shaking video, “Give Me Your Luvin” appeared tailor made for Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl halftime show. And yet the head cheerleader herself appears strangely short of peppy spirit here, as does — less surprisingly — M.I.A., another pop provocateur far more likely to give the middle finger than perform the Spread Eagle. Instead, it’s left to Nicki Minaj’s breakneck-speed rhymes and Martin Solveig’s effervescent production to bring the energy on the catchy lead single from MDNA.
7. “Future” feat. Quavo
Following Madge’s brief appearance with Cardi B on his debut album cut “Champagne Rose,” Migos’ breakout star then returned the favor by lending his signature monotone to this chilled reggaeton effort. Just like her guest star, Madonna also drowns her vocals in so much Auto-Tune she’s almost unrecognizable. But with echoes of regular Diplo collaborator Santigold, “Future” brings the Mad Decent Block Party vibes.
6. “Waiting” feat. Everlast (Remix)
Mariah Carey’s 1995’s “Fantasy” remix may have pushed the pop star ft. rapper concept into the mainstream. But two years previously, and with much less fanfare, Madonna also joined forces with a hip-hop artist on the B-side to Erotica single “Waiting.” There’s little here of the future emo-rap style that would predate Post Malone by a good two decades. Instead, Everlast is in full-on cocksure House of Pain mode, spitting slightly ridiculous rhymes like “I’m a stud like Captain Kirk and it’s your body that I’m workin’” over some seductive New Jack Swing beats.
5. “Crave” feat. Swae Lee
“I’m tired of being far away from home/Far from what can help/Far from where it’s safe,” coos Madonna on this surprisingly subdued second single from Madame X. It’s a rare display of vulnerability which perfectly complements the subtle acoustic guitars, muted trap beats and relaxed lyrical range of Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee. On paper, “Crave” sounds like a misguided attempt to gatecrash the mumblerap movement, but instead it’s one of those rare Madonna hip-hop moments which seems relatively effortless.
4. “Bitch I’m Madonna” feat. Nicki Minaj
The third single from Rebel Heart became Madonna’s first Hot 100 hit in three years, largely thanks to a dizzying star-studded promo featuring everyone from her sons David and Rocco to fellow pop icons Beyoncé, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus. As you’d expect from producers Diplo and PC Music pioneer Sophie, the track itself is just as deranged, blending elements of EDM, dubstep, rave and happy hardcore with nursery rhyme melodies, abrasive dog barks and that most hip-hop of instruments, the kazoo. In fact, the rapid-fire rhymes of Nicki Minaj sound positively quaint amidst all the organized chaos. Whether “Bitch I’m Madonna” makes you want to “go hard” or “go home,” it’s certainly never boring.
3. “Veni Vidi Vici” feat. Nas
“I came, I saw, I conquered,” boasts Madonna on an intriguing collaboration with a rapper no stranger to blowing their own trumpet. The self-proclaimed King of New York appears to be competing with the superstar about who experienced the tougher rise to fame on one of several Rebel Heart bonus songs that deserved to grace the main track list. Nas acquits himself well over a Diplo production which veers from sweet acoustics to hard-hitting bass pop. But “Veni Vidi Vici” is perhaps most notable for how many past Madonna hits it manages to reference (we’re counting at least 13!).
If anyone’s earned their right to be self-aggrandizing, it’s Madonna. This self-empowerment anthem sees the world’s biggest-selling female artist truly embrace her legendary status over a chaotic blend of throbbing EDM beats, ominous synths and crowd cheers, while Chance the Rapper justifies the personal recommendation from Jay-Z with his typically melodic flow. Mike Tyson’s inclusion remains problematic but his improvised mission statement (“I’m the best the world has ever seen/I’m somebody you’ll never forget cause I work hard and sweat in my tears/I’m never falling again and if I did, I’d come back”) made “Iconic” the perfect choice to open the Rebel Heart Tour.
1. “Beat Goes On” feat. Kanye West
A standout from Madonna’s Hard Candy, “Beat Goes On” isn’t miles away from her comfort zone — there are definite shades of the post-disco funk that she conquered in early ’80s New York on this cut. Of course, it would be interesting to hear what the far more confrontational Kanye West of today would do with a Madonna guest spot. But although Yeezy’s contribution lacks his familiar bite, it still complements the chunky grooves and space-age synths that once made the Neptunes the producers du jour.