Making music is a collaborative effort. From rapper to producer to engineer, it's rarely a one-person show. As artists rise up the ranks, the creators they work with change. They begin to share rare air with big-time acts. Once rappers get to a certain level, they work with plenty of producers creating remarkable beats and sometimes songwriters that put together demos with a solid hook. This results in songs or beats changing hands or rappers passing on tracks that go on to be tremendous hits. There are plenty examples of this happening within the genre, some of which are surprising.
One of the more interesting times in which a song was meant for someone else occurred across genres. Drake's single "Find Your Love," which in 2010 felt like the big-budget version of the airy R&B sounds he blew up with, wasn't originally his. According to Jeff Bhasker, who coproduced the beat with Kanye West and No I.D., Rihanna actually recorded the song first. "We actually wrote that for Rihanna," Bhasker said in a 2013 Complex interview. "She actually cut it, it was just another writing day in the studio." It sounds crazy in hindsight, in relation to how huge Rih would become. She never used the song and it became Drake's. Hearing "Find Your Love" now, it's easy to imagine it as a Rihanna cut.
There are also moments that rappers pass on incredible beats because it's just not the right time. A young J. Cole, who was trying to find his footing after signing to Roc Nation, had a chance to drop a song over what would become the beat to Rick Ross' Teflon Don deep cut "Tears Of Joy." No I.D. was in a studio session with Cole and played the beat, which I.D. produced, for the rapper, which led to Cole rhyming over it. "I couldn't have did what Ross did on that, because [I] was in a bad place," Cole explained to MTV in 2013. "Me and No I.D. was in the studio, but the label was on me about some hits, so it was a bad session. I squeezed out a verse on 'Tears Of Joy,' but I was not in a good place to do anything close to what Ross did on that." "Tears Of Joy" ultimately became a cut on Ross' classic album.
Check the list below for songs that were supposed to go to one artist but went to another rapper.
Kanye West and Jay Z’s “Ni**as in Paris” Almost for Pusha T
Pusha T and Jay-Z are not only connected through their place in street rap's history, but also through Kanye West, the acclaimed producer-rapper who has connected more than a few dots. In a 2011 interview with Sneeze magazine, Pusha T revealed that he passed on the Hit Boy-produced "Ni**as in Paris" beat, which would go on to become Jay and Ye's biggest song. "’Ye gave me beats and that was in the bunch,” Pusha said, as he laid out the story. "'Ni**as in Paris' was playful to me and I was in demonic rap mode. I was like, ‘Yo, I don’t want this right now.' He was like, ‘Man, this will be a club smash’ and I’m like, ‘Maybe, but don’t ask me to wrap my brain around that when I’m writing stuff like ‘My God,’ which is another Hit-Boy beat.’” Not bad reasoning at all.
Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” Originally Meant for Shawnna
Kanye West has a lot of songs that are widely considered required listening. One of his biggest is "Gold Digger," his 2005 hit that samples Ray Charles, and features Jamie Foxx on the hook, months after he played the legendary singer in the biopic Ray in 2004. While the song always sounded like a hand-in-glove fit for all parties involved, the track was supposed to go to Shawnna, a talented Chicago MC and the first lady of Ludacris' label, Disturbing tha Peace. In 2006, producer and A&R Plain Pat cleared the air. "He did that beat a while before the movie [Ray] was even thought of," Pat told MTV of Kanye's creative process. "He did the beat at Ludacris' house in Atlanta and he did it for Shawnna. She passed on it, actually. I'm not sure why."
Nicki Minaj’s “Make A Baby” Was for Ciara
No stranger to crafting hits of her own, back in 2009, Nicki Minaj wrote a song that she wanted to give to Ciara. That track, "Make A Baby," leaked in 2012, and only had Nicki on it. It wasn't until 2016 that Nicki would go on Twitter and reveal that the song was meant for Ciara, and that she met with the singer and told her about it. "One day I met her in ATL & told her I wrote a song for her," Nicki began. "She was interested to hear it. I was too scared to send it. Smh. Life…" Life indeed.
Drake’s “Find Your Love” Originally for Rihanna
Drake's 2010 hit single, "Find Your Love," is one of his biggest, early-career songs. However, the triple platinum track didn't always belong to him. Coproducer Jeff Bhasker explained to Complex in 2013 that it was meant for Rihanna. "We actually wrote that for Rihanna," Bhasker said. "She actually cut it, it was just another writing day in the studio. I think No I.D had that drum beat and that's the classic, 'Jeff jump on the piano,' and Kanye started humming in my ear." Rihanna never used the song, and it got to Drake. The rest is history.
Pharrell’s “Happy” First Recorded by CeeLo Green
When Pharrell dropped "Happy" in 2013, nothing was the same. The inescapable No. 1 hit changed P's already illustrious career, and took him to nearly untouchable heights. But according to the man himself, there's a better version of the song out there. "Happy" with CeeLo Green's lyrics and vocals. Sharing this info in 2014 on The Howard Stern Show, Pharrell really does think CeeLo did a better job with the song. “He burns my version! But. . . how do I say this diplomatically? The powers that be, at the time, did not see it fit for him," he explains. "Some folks on his team just felt that the priority should be on [CeeLo’s] album at the time, so they elected not to do that song.” That's just how the cookie crumbles.
Kanye West’s “Mercy” Almost a Kid Ink Song
"Mercy," the 2012 Kanye West hit single that also features his then-G.O.O.D. Music family members 2 Chainz, Pusha T and Big Sean, was huge at the time and is timeless now. Surprisingly, the song almost went to Kid Ink first, but he passed because he chose to be true to himself. “I didn’t have a Murcielago, so it didn’t really make sense,” Kid Ink said in 2014. “I didn’t have a Lambo, so I can’t really rap about this ’cause the hook was on there. I could’ve probably forced some ideas if I thought about it a little harder. I didn’t have any Lambos, so I just felt like I was faking it, rapping about being in a Lambo." The hook of the song famously starts with "Lamborghini, Mercy." Kid Ink chose not to fake the funk.
50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” Nearly a Fat Joe Song
When it comes to hit rap songs, 50 Cent had a touch like few others. He just knew what works when making a classic record. His 2005 No. 1 single, "Candy Shop," was no exception. The track features him rapping about women over a catchy Scott Storch instrumental. With that said, Fat Joe actually told XXL in that same year, that he coproduced the song and was offered the beat first. "I'm pretty sure the world don't know we actually produced 'Candy Shop' together. I produced it with him … Scott called me like 50 times, 100 times: 'Yo, you sure you don't want to use it?," Joe explained. "50 Cent called me. 50 Cent want it.' I never had a problem with this dude. I was like, 'Go ahead." This is interesting, because Fat Joe and 50 Cent were beefing soon after that, unrelated to the song.
French Montana and Swae Lee’s “Unforgettable” Could’ve Gone to Drake
"Unforgettable" is the biggest song of French Montana's career, with a fantastic beat and a flawlessly delivered hook by Swae Lee. The 2017 single peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving both artists a nice chart placement. Possibly unknown to many, the beat was a late submission to OVO in 2016, as the house that Drake built was wrapping up his Views album. According to 1Mind producer Mac Steffan, the track almost ended up in The Boy's hands. "I kind of ducked off back to my friend's house, did a little session for four hours, and that turned out to be the 'Unforgettable' beat," Steffan shared with Genius in 2017. "And I sent it back to Oliver [El-Khatib], he's like, 'Yo, this is fire, hold onto it.' Drake never put the beat to use, but French got a hold of it, and created a smash.
Jay-Z’s “Heart of the City” Meant for DMX
Kanye West's history with Roc-A-fella Records spans over a decade. Jay-Z's career-changing classic album, 2001's The Blueprint, was packed with timeless beats from Ye, Just Blaze and more, but one was originally meant for another Def Jam superstar. As revealed on Kanye's The College Dropout album cut, "Last Call," Ye made the "Heart of The City" beat with DMX in mind, until he was told to play that beat for Jay. Hov loved it and made it his own. "And Hip-Hop said, 'Yo, play that one beat for him.' So I played 'Heart of the City.' And really I made 'Heart of the City,' I really wanted to give that beat to DMX," Ye said on the song.
Rick Ross’ “Tears Of Joy” Slipped Through J. Cole’s Fingers.
Rick Ross is a talented and emotive artist with an ability to translate feeling and imagery to music, which has always set him apart. His 2010 album, Teflon Don, is regarded as one of his best, and it's due to No I.D.-produced classics like "Tears Of Joy" featuring CeeLo Green. Back in 2009, No I.D. had a studio session with an upcoming rapper by the name of J. Cole, who would later become a superstar. His relationship with No I.D. would lead to him getting a crack at the "Tears Of Joy" beat before Ross, but he wasn't in the right state of mind at the time. In an interview with MTV News in 2013, Cole explained the backstory. "'Tears Of Joy,' I couldn't have did what Ross did on that, because [I] was in a bad place," the rapper said. "Me and No I.D. was in the studio, but the label was on me about some hits, so it was a bad session. I squeezed out a verse on 'Tears Of Joy,' but I was not in a good place to do anything close to what Ross did on that." At the time, Cole still harbored some regret over not making the song happen, but both artists reached high levels of rap. All's well that ends well.