Thank you, New York, for birthing the best rappers! And that’s my vote!
When I’m in the car, I like to hear these songs the most on repeat from various hip-hop artists. Listen, maybe they’re all from NY, maybe not, but don’t challenge me here when I say, NYC rappers got that untouchable swag. Period! 🙅🏽♀️Case closed.
If you’re in my area, there is a big, fat chance that you’ll look over and see me in my pony with a volume of lyrics that can be heard with upmost clarity with the windows cracked or all the way down. Yeah, I’m her. The annoying car neighbor at the traffic light.
So, who made my list of frequently repeated in my car? Well, without no particular order, let’s get started!
10: Digable Planets—Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)
Why? Do you not remember them or this song? While not natives of NYC, or at least not all three, I have to say I hated this song as a kid. I didn’t get it. It was too underground for me. However, things change when you’re an adult and there’s an appreciation to that. Things you hated as a child but love as an adult become new to you again. I can’t explain beyond the fact that the bass line from the get and the horns that join in and reappear during the chorus is the catch of the song. Shout out to the first verse!
9: Nas—You Owe Me
Nas and Genuwine did good here. It caught me right from the bat in college. I like the congo-sounding drum and Morris Day-ish vibe I’m catching. And if you don’t know Morris Day and his music, shame on you!
My favorite part? 🎵I put the shackles on your feet•I think you owe me some🎵
8: Fox Brown—Hot Spot
The beginning catches you and then the beat keeps ya. It’s simple beats with hot lyrics. It’s a fun song. Besides, who can forget a video with memorable highlights? You got women wearing dominatrix-esque outfits topped off with white tennis shoes dancing lethargically while serving up raw attitudes as they emanate a silent girl power vibe. Come on! We even got Foxy sitting in an ice throne-like chair that would even make Daenerys T. jealous. Is this not the hot spot? Who wouldn’t wanna party here?
7: L.L. Cool J—Doin’ it Well
🎵I’ma call you Big Daddy and scream your name, matter fact I can’t wait for your candy rain🎵 Now, I may not have it on repeat as the other songs, but the beginning is dope, especially before, Go Brooklyn, Go Brooklyn, Go Brooklyn! Come on. L.L. Cool J made it uncomfortable to play this song around your parents. Don’t lie! I still feel naughty hearing that lady moan on her parts. This song was so naughty as hell, and I loved it! The video was dope, too! Unfortunately, it temporarily cost him his marriage to Simone, but ain’t it fun rapping with them tho?
6: Biggie Smalls—I’m F****** You/Sky is the Limit
I hated Juicy. I still do. But I do love these two mellow songs. I had to name both because honestly, I couldn’t choose, and since he had a huge impact on the HH community, I could give him that. He can have two! Let’s start with IFYT ft... that other artist. I ain’t gonna lie, can’t take no one’s contribution away. He did put a little sumthin sumthin extra on that song, and I don’t care for his vocals, but it fit the song in that particular era. I love the musical arrangement on that song more than the lyrics. However, I will say that on his other song, SITL, the lyrics are dope and of encouragement. If you’ve ever had a dream, then you should be able to relate to this song. If you’ve grown up poor, same thing. I also can’t help but reminisce over my late brother, because when Biggie flows on this song, I think we all paint our childhoods in our minds. And there’s my brother. When Biggie painted that picture when he rapped about his jeans and the alligator... I’ll drop the mic for him right there. #memories I feel ya there, Bigs, I do.
5: Kanye West—Diamonds Are Forever, Flashin Lights
Okay, okay, okay. Let’s get something straight. Kanye West lost me when he hooked up with J. His everything was off for me, and I couldn’t support him. His music wasn’t the same, and I just couldn’t. Now, I hear he’s appearing to find his way back home again. Maybe I can start bumping his new stuff. Who knows? But in the meantime, I’m more than happy to take his old material, because let’s face it: I could put about ten of his spins up here. DAF has everything. His momentum, his energy, the beat, the arrangement—all of it! The lyrics! Verse two!!!! Genius. And the next song, FL, well, the beginning of the song eases with strings and then the beat joins in to make something magical. I can’t wave enough wands to duplicate his trick, but with lyrics like, “I'm just saying, Hey Mona Lisa, Come home you know you can't Rome without Caesar.” Man come onnnn! The whole verse two is a flow I couldn’t create in ten years even in a room of solitude. Lyrical genius! Hands. Down.
4: Kanye West—Jesus Walks
Okay. Every time I play this song, I can’t choose my favorite line. It’s all good. It’s all . . . good. As a believer, I can relate to wanting to talk to God but not feeling like you can because it’s been a while. Thank God I don’t go long without prayer so I rarely experience that feeling anymore. I can relate to the whole song. It almost makes you wanna cry when he says, “To the hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers (Jesus walks for them)
To the victims of welfare for we living in hell here hell yeah.” My goodness and Amen to that. The grace is real and to me, this is Kanye’s most creative and meaningful work. How a rapper can sing about Jesus without angling it toward gospel listeners while staying in his lane is almost unheard of. Without crossing over or compromising his style, he got the message across just as effectively as any gospel singer. If that’s not talent, what is?! Thank God he’s getting back to what I feel will be Old Kanye. This is the one I supported.
3: Migos—Bad and Boujee
I couldn’t promise you guys that the whole list would be of rappers from NYC. Migos, from Lawrenceville, GA made a song that hooked me when I heard it on its first rotation on YOUTUBE: Bad and Boujee. This song. Who made this beat? I mean, they can mumble through the whole song and I wouldn’t care. Gimme that beat. I just like when he said, “I’ll take your bih right from you. I’m a dog—woof! Grrrrr.” Yeah, he said ‘bih.’ If you can get over the crude lyrics, you just might be able to appreciate the happy-haunted chords and beats that taunts the song like a clown going trick-or-treat. Did that make sense? No? Good. Now you’re forced to turn on the song and fall in love for yourself. You’re welcome, Migos.
2: Kanye West ft. Nas—We Major
Do you remember this song? It’s like the gem in the middle of the dessert that nobody picked up because it didn’t get noticed. Was it because it wasn’t released on the radio? I don’t know, but that’s the beauty of unreleased singles, ain’t it? That you get to determine the appeal to it while not have to worry about it being overplayed on the radio until it’s hated. Doesn’t matter, this song is blasting in my car while stuck in traffic and my vehicular neighbors have to endure it.
1: Kendrick Lamar —Alright
The flow. The pace. The beat. The rhythm. The lyrics. The resonance. The uplifting. The rawness.
The only reason you need me to explain why this song is it for me, is because you haven’t heard it for yourself. If you have, we shouldn’t be having this conversation, should we?
And that is it. Hip hop is not meant for the faint of hearts or those looking for rose-colored words. It’s a form of expression that’s best painted with a battered-tip brush covered in colors, old and dry, new and wet. It doesn’t get cleaned or sanitized. And that’s what makes the art is produces a priceless gift to the world.