Two turntables and a microphone might be all that’s needed to cut a decent rap song, but that hasn’t stopped plenty of hip hop artists experimenting with a little guitar from time to time. From the Beastie Boys to Mos Def, Post Malone to The Roots, dozens of rappers have added a six-string to their songs over the years, resulting in the kind of rock-rap mash-ups that fans of both genres would be happy to have on their playlists. Here’s our pick of ten of the best rap songs with guitar to check out.
10. Hate The Other Side – Juice Wrld & Marshmello ft. Polo G and The Kid Laroi
Named one of the best rap songs with guitar by pickuptheguitar.com, Hate The Other Side became the highest-charting single of both The Kid Laroi and Polo G’s career in 2020, taking them, Juice Wrld, and Marshmello to number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Listen out for the Mello-produced opening guitar sample before it segway’s into Juice’s intro.
9. The See 2.0 – The Roots
The Roots have always played fast and loose with the rap rule book. With their fifth album, Phrenology, they made the guitar the centerpiece. Jazz-rock guitarists James Blood Ulmer and Jef Lee Johnson pop up throughout the record, but it’s Cody Chestnutt’s hooky riff on The See 2.0 that stands out the most. Described by Billboard as “a genre-bending mix of rock guitars and Prince-styled keyboards and drums,” the song was a major hit in Europe, reaching the top 40 in the UK, Switzerland, Germany, Finland, and the Netherlands and peaking at number 2 in Denmark.
8. Go Flex – Post Malone
Considering he’s made his name by blending various genres and subgenres, it’s probably no surprise that Post Malone is one of the few rappers who doesn’t see hip-hop and the six-string as mutually exclusive. On Go Flex, he demonstrates his skills as a guitarist as much as a vocalist, opening things up with a gorgeous piece of acoustic guitar before the beats kick in. Released as the third single from his 2016 debut Stoney, Go Flex reached number 76 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and has since certified 4x Platinum in the US.
7. The Way I See Things – Lil Peep
Lil Peep’s genre-hopping approach to hip-hop incorporated everything from emo and lo-fi to pop-punk and rap-rock, so if anyone was going to introduce some guitar into a rap song, it was going to be him. On The Way I See Things, he kicks things off with a sample of the guitar riff from Joshua by Fights Without Fears Within, which continues to weave in and out of the song as Peep raps about loneliness, sadness, and heartbreak.
6. Me and My Guitar – A Boogie wit da Hoodie
A Boogie with da Hoodie created Me and My Guitar with the intention of asking Juice WRLD to contribute, but after Juice died before they could get it made, he decided to record it alone instead. The guitar sample at the opening of the song is phenomenal, but it’s A Boogie’s painfully raw, emotional delivery that makes the track what it is. Find it on A Boogie’s third studio album, Artist 2:0, which also features some must-listen collaborations with Young Thug, Ed Sheeran, Roddy Ricch, Khalid, Gunna, London on da Track, DaBaby, Rick Ross, Trap Manny, Summer Walker, and Lil Uzi Vert.
5. Lose Yourself – Eminem
With its thunderous guitar, big baselines, and hard-hitting lyrics, Lose Yourself sent Eminem’s career into the stratosphere, taking him to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time, becoming the first rap song in history to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song, winning two Grammys, and eventually certifying diamond after selling over 6 million copies in the US alone. Since its release in 2002, it’s been ranked as one of the ‘100 Greatest Songs from American Films’ by American Film Institute and one of the ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’ by Rolling Stone.
4. No Sleep Till Brooklyn – The Beastie Boys
The Beastie Boys used guitars on several of their biggest hitters. As if the garage riff on Fight For Your Right wasn’t epic enough, Kerry King’s jaw-dropping guitar lead on No Sleep Till Brooklyn serves as one of the major highlights of the group’s 1986 debut, Licensed to Ill. Released on March 1, 1987, the song smashed its way into the top 40 in the UK, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium.
3. Rock ‘n’ Roll – Mos Def
As guitarworld.com says, Rock ‘n’ Roll keeps up the East Coast underground tradition of rap and rock crossover with a sparse, funky guitar that keeps things ticking over as Mos Def raps about African-American rock and roll history until the hardcore beatdown kicks in.
2. She Watch Channel Zero?! – Public Enemy
Public Enemy’s second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, was a critical and commercial sensation, spending 42 weeks on the Billboard 200, certifying platinum, and ending 1988 on multiple publications’ year-end top album lists. Chuck D’s politically charged lyrics might have gotten most of the credit for the album’s success, but the genius sample of Slayer’s guitar-laden Angel of Death comes close to stealing his thunder.
1. Rock Box – Run-D.M.C.
Considering Rock Box was the first major rap song to feature guitar (which was provided courtesy of Blondie session player Eddie Martinez), it’s only fitting it takes the number one spot on our list. The idea to incorporate rock guitar into the track was proposed by Run-D.M.C’s producer Larry Smith. It took some persuading, but the group eventually agreed, later going on to exploit the rock/rap connection even further on songs like Walk This Way.