Throughout the history of rap we’ve rarely seen a rhyme technician with as much dazzling skill as Black Thought. Yet the Philly MC is often left out of GOAT conversations, despite always rapping like one. Perhaps it’s his membership in The Roots, a group that found it hard to break into hip-hop as a live band, that makes his profile as an MC smaller, but as soon as he grabs a mic, the whole world shrinks in front of him. Now that he’s said he’s working on a solo album, fans are ready for him to stake his claim as one of the illest of all time.
Today is Thought’s birthday, so to celebrate his greatness, we pulled up his 20 best guest features. Let us know what your favorite Black Thought guest verse is in the comments below.
20. Shaq – In The Sun (2001)
Shaq always managed to score crazy guests and production, so it’s hardly a surprise when Black Thought murks this groovy, slept-on cut.
Best Line: “The language is mine, I take advantage of that / I’m like the ghetto thug B-Boy’s Brittanica, black”
19. Statik Selektah – Bird’s Eye View (2013)
Statik said Black Thought just walked into the booth, spit this verse in one take, and then walked out. Rapper’s don’t have half the emotion that he brings in this verse. Punching in won’t save you.
Best Line: “My sonogram was an image of a gun in the womb / That was soon to be doper than heron in a spoon”
18. Jedi Mind Tricks – Get This Low (1993)
This is the earliest known Jedi Mind Tricks song ever recorded, and it’s clearly funkier than their later, darker work. It might seem strange to hear Black Thought on their record, but Vinnie Paz has always said Thought was one of his favorite MCs. He sounds a lot like G Rap on here, though.
Best Line: “On your case like a lawyer, think you run, you mistaken / Put all records to the side and it’s your face I’m fuckin’ breakin”
17. DJ Krush – Meiso (1995)
Throughout his career, Thought has done a ton of random guest features for artists like Sergio Mendes and Bob Marley. This one just proves Thought is at his best over classic drum breaks.
Best Line: “Yin for yang, I walk on a line / Between ghetto slang and stimulation of the mind”
16. Pharcyde – Network (2001)
Thought has two 8-bar verses on this, and though the second one clearly wins out, it’s still dope to hear him over some West Coast flavor.
Best Line: “A hundred flavors of this widespread chaos / About to blow like the sextet of Miles Davis”
15. Walkin’ Large – Listen To This (1997)
When Black Thought and Freddie Gibbs revealed that they had music coming, it made perfect sense. Neither of them have ever sacrificed their hard-hitting techniques, and Thought always sounds most comfortable over dusty boom bap like this.
Best Line: “We wake you up out your dream like Allah, we on / Advanced eon, the battlefield I kill a MC on”
14. Dilated Peoples – Hard Hitters (2001)
Thought is an underground MC at heart, so his braggadocio bars never get old.
Best Line: “My style certified, Philly animal rough / Runnin’ things, pull more strings than Gamble & Huff”
13. Philly’s Most Wanted – Away From Here (2004)
Thought recycles that “mechanical hands” bar from his dope little outro on De La Soul’s “With Me,” but this is still a must-have collaboration with one of Philly’s forgotten duos.
Best Line: “Know some pick-pockets and fiends and gambling mans / That leave you laid out stiffer than mannequin stands”
12. Triple Threat – You Got 2 (2003)
Even though the Roots had a dope sound, sometimes you hear Thought over beats like these and resent the fact that he didn’t rap over more drum machines.
Best Line: “Through the Illa make soldiers outta men all day / ‘Cuz on the corner n*ggas holdin’ like the NRA”
11. Nonchalant – Take It There (1998)
The hardest rappers often sound the best over R&B. Hence why this song works so well.
Best Line: “I’m out the legendary Illa, fifth stand firm like a pillar / To whoever concern, burn killa”
10. Fong Sai U – Own This Microphone (1999)
“Extort your ice images” is such a Wu-Tang type line, it begs inclusion.
9. Black Star – Respiration (Flying High Pete Rock Remix) 
Black Thought over Pete Rock production is a fucking God send.
Best Line: “Narrow walls closin’ in, cutthroat to exit at the openin’ / Wrong place, you wasn’t where you ‘posed to been”
8. Spacek – Countdown (2000)
Thought can come off on any kind of beat, at any time, so when he flames up this lowkey Spacek cut, it shouldn’t be a shock.
Best Line: “Dumpin’ in surround sound, bringin’ the fireworks downtown / It might happen right now”
7. Dice Raw – Lockdown (2000)
The way Black threads this concept through a narrative verse is genius. Instead of writing another verse about how radio stations are corrupt, he pen a surreal story about getting pulled over for having mics in the car.
Best Line: “Mandatory, the judge said “Fuck jury deliberation / Maximum incarceration, in these camps for concentration we call radio stations”
6. Jamaaladeen Tacuma – Relax
Take your pick of either verse here, though that flow on the first is hard to beat. It sounds like something that could have been on on Do You Want More, but if the live vibe isn’t your speed, spin the Lord Finesse remix.
5. Larry Gold – Ain’t No Stoppin’ (2003)
This is a stunning take on the McFadden & Whitehead classic with two powerful verses.
Best Line: “You know survival is filled with rivals / Nines and forty-fives, slugs flyin’ in spirals”
4. Ghostface Killah – In Tha Park (2010)
Black Thought is the only dude who could verge on blacking out and give a rap history lesson at the same time.
Best Line: “‘Kick The Ball’ with Krown Rulers out of Camden / People Patty Duke-ing in the party, all cramped in”
3. Big Pun – Super Lyrical (1998)
A collaboration of epic proportions.
Best Line: “Thought from Illadelph sought the light, nothing else / My talk stomp like elephants upon every elf”
2. Soulive – Clap! (2002)
Tariq gets all the way the fuck off on this track. Every single line is a quotable.
Best Line: “Y’all phobic off of this like we was arachnids / Drastic, it ain’t plastic, it’s pro-Blackness”
1. Pharoahe Monch – Rapid Eye Movement (2014)
Thought is one of those rare specimens that seems to be actually improving with age. It’s hard to believe, but who’s getting off like this today?
Best Line: “I’m diabolical, follicle triggers that I cock and squeeze / Sending shots to ancient Greece to pop Socrates”