Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Greatest Hip-Hop Songs

If it's gritty street shit, the chances are I like it.

It's kinda in a rough order...but that said, most songs here just came to my head so no doubt I would've missed a few of my favourites. The human brain has a habit of forgetting shit so yeah...

1. Shook Ones, Part II

In this list I'm putting songs here that just are hip-hop. Like KRS-One reckons he is hip-hop, I reckon these songs are hip-hop. This is the most hip-hop song. The piano sends chills down your spine. Dunno why. There's something about a melancholy piano line that does it for me (see Dead Presidents II). For that matter, theres something about songs with "II" in the title that does it for me too...

But anyways, fuck KRS...Prodigy and Havoc are hip-hop on this.

"Meanwhile back in Queens the realness and foundation / if I die, I couldn't choose a better location / when the slugs penetrate, feel a burning sensation / getting closer to God...in a tight situation now..."

Wow...the whole song is like that.

2. I Used to Love H.E.R.

Over a minimalist, eerie beat, Common drops an incredible tale, seemingly about a girl. He goes into incredible detail in this girls history. As we all know, turns out this "girl" is hip-hop. When you find out at the end of the song, you're like "NO SHIT!" and it's an amazing feeling you will never ever get back. That's it. Once you know, you know...

The thing is, listening to the lyrics you realise that, even though the title of the song says Common "used to love her," he actually he still does love her. He always will, no matter what happens. This positivity is what we should all try and grasp on to. It is now well over a decade since this song dropped, but it is still topical. No matter where hip-hop is, or goes in the future, let's try and remember Common's last line and remain positive...

"But I'm a take her back hoping that this shit stop - cos who I'm talking about ya'll is hip-hop"

3. Respiration

Common on another song here. With Mos Def, Kweli and Hi-Tek. This is an amazing beat right here. Hi-Tek really does convey the image of the city breathing. And Mos, Kweli and Common drop some of their best ever verses over the stunning instrumental.

There's Mos: "Skyscrapers' is colossus, the cost of living is preposterous / stay alive, you play or die, no options / No Batman and Robin, can't tell between the cops and the robbers / they both partners, they all heartless...with no conscience"

There's Talib: "Some cats be emceeing to illustrate what we be seeing / Hard to be a spiritual being when shit is shakin what you believe in / For trees to grow in Brooklyn, seeds need to be planted / I'm asking if y'all feel me AND THE CROWD LEFT ME STRANDED"

There's Common Sense: "Ask my God how he thought travellin the world sound / Found it hard to imagine he hadn't been past downtown / It's deep...I hear the city breathe in its sleep / Of reality I touch, bot for me it's hard to keep"


4. Dead Presidents II

This joint doesn't feature life-changing lyrics. But Jay-Z comes so damn nice on this. His word play is insane. The cat was on top of his game back here. And Ski came up with such a mad beat again. Yes, a melancholy piano riff again! Here's a video of how he laced up the beat. Sampling Nas on the hook is also just cool as...

When Jay drops lines like this throughout, you know its over: "My doe flip like Taek-won / Jay-Z the icon / Baby you like Dom / Maybe these cristals'll change your life, huh? "

5. South Bronx

Is KRS-One hip-hop? If he says he is, I understand what he is saying. It's like, it's a culture. You can't define it with just words. It's a whole culture. KRS-One could be seen as an example of that culture. So he is hip-hop in a way...cos he helped define it with songs like this. Just that first trumpet "dun" that Scott La Rock and Ced Gee cued up and repeated throughout the song, when you hear it, that short sound could actually represent hip-hop itself.

You talking about the history of hip-hop - the culture of it...you talking about this song. KRS-One represents his hood, his people. The Juice Crew didn't actually mean Queensbridge started hip-hop - it was a misunderstanding. But that doesn't matter. This was expression through song...a response through song: one of the first. Add some James Brown samples over the top and you have the epitome of hip-hop.

"Many people tell me this style is terrific / it is kinda different, but lets get specific / KRS-One: specialise in music / I only use this style of music when I choose it"

6. C.R.E.A.M.

Two ill verses. First Raekwon, then Inspectah Deck. Again, when MCs are telling me about the streets, I'm definitely listening. This is actually about the streets. No, not those streets you hear everyone these days claiming they're from. The real streets. And the ease with which these two MCs share their tales is incredible.

Deck: "Though I don't know why I chose to smoke sess / I guess that's the time when I'm not depressed"

7. One Love

Again, a rapper really lets us into their world. Through an open-letter in this case - that is some real shit. Q-Tip laces up a truly ill beat here that is perfect for Nas to exhibit his street-concerned ramblings to an unfortunate friend in jail over. Sometimes, you feel like you are that friend in jail, and appreciate Nas for his "One Love" sign-offs. The way Nas tells his anecdotes effortlessly through street slang is a testament to language in itself.

"So I comes back home, nobody's out but shorty doo-wop / Rollin two phillies together in the Bridge we called 'em oowops"

8. Nuthin but a G Thang

Illest beat ever. I've said it before. Most chilled beat ever. And most chilled song ever. A quite simply perfect song. Sometimes those deep songs are too much, and you need songs like this.

9. Time's Up

I'll throw an obscure one in here. O.C. came direct on this incredible beat. A beat made for hip-hop. Made from hip-hop. Give Buckwild credit for that one. The song is directed at fake gangsters and thus is appropriate to consider when talking about real hip-hop songs. O.C. really just keeps coming on this. Line after line is hard felt and directed at these posers. He has many great lines here. The Slick Rick sample in there is really cool too!

"Of course we gotta pay rent, so money connects, but uhh / I'd rather be broke and have a whole lot of respect"

10. T.R.O.Y.

A typically souled out Pete Rock beat here with those horns. And CL Smooth proves he actually is smooth on this. He reminisces about his fallen comrade "Trouble" T-Roy from Heavy D and the Boyz and his love for his family. An extremely positive song: very important, considering it is concerned with death.

"Positive over negative for the woman and master / Mother Queen's risein a chapter / Deja Vu, tell you what I'm gonna do / When they reminisce over you..."

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