Well, we’ve reach the pinnacle… the BEST OF THE BEST… the Rocky of Hip Hop lists, if you will. Or Rambo. Or Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All The Way. Or whatever.
I have listened to each of these songs hundreds, if not thousands, of times. They are in heavy rotation every time I DJ, as well as in my car and my iTunes… and in my heart. (Insert sad fog-horn here)
Now, before I ramble too much, let’s finish this bad boy.
10. Notorious B.I.G. & Bone Thugs-N-Harmony | “Notorious Thugs”
Running at over 6 minutes, “Notorious Thugs” is THE posse cut. Kick it off with one of Biggie’s greatest rhymes, and leave it up to Bizzie to spit fire all over the place. Everybody brought their A-game; a fitting tribute to the recently deceased B.I.G.
9. Ol’ Dirty Bastard | “Got Your Money”
What can be said about ODB that his name doesn’t already tell you? Dirt McGirt was totally insane. Dude had more nicknames than Wu-Tang had members. But dammit if he couldn’t rhyme. “Got Your Money” was ODB’s highest-charting single, and featured production by The Neptunes and a chorus by a young Kelis. And the video was a Dolemite parody. What else is there to say?
8. N.W.A. | “Straight Outta Compton”
I would say that “Straight Outta Compton” is the ultimate posse cut, but that would be an undersell. This song was a friggin’ revolution. It was like a shotgun blast to your ears. Ice Cube kicks down the door with a verse that epitomizes gangsta rap. It showed white, suburban America just how pissed off the African American community was. They were tired of being ignored, and N.W.A. was forcing people to listen.
7. T.I. | “What You Know”
It was hard to choose between “What You Know” and “Rubber Band Man,” but the former showcased a more mature T.I. who knew exactly what he was doing. He had transformed from a “couple hundred grand” hustler to a kingpin who had no problem throwing down if some fool ran his mouth off.
6. Three 6 Mafia feat. Young Buck, Crunchy Black, 8-Ball & MJG | “Stay Fly”
For the sake of keeping you all entertained, I refrained from putting 15 Three 6 songs on here, because I totally would. The production team of DJ Paul and Juicy J is something to be revered. “Stay Fly” (originally titled “Stay High”… who’d a thunk?) sampled Willie Hutch and had all sorts of features. 8Ball & MJG, Young Buck, and if you ask me, a song ain’t shit without some Crunchy Black.
5. Outkast | “B.O.B.”
Outkast is one of my favorite hip hop groups of all time. Screw it, one of my favorite music groups, period. I could think of a million of their songs that deserve a spot on this list, but there’s something about “B.O.B.” that really grabs me. The pounding drum’n’bass’ beats with wailing guitars, organs and a friggin’ gospel choir are all I want in an Outkast song. I know both Andre’s and Big Boi’s rhymes by heart, and I still get mush mouth trying to keep up with the song. Can we talk about that all-pastel video? It’s like I’m on ‘shrooms or something.
4. Kanye West | “Good Morning [Intro]”
I may get flack for picking this Kanye song, when his first three albums alone warrant spots of half of this list. “Good Morning,” to me, represents Kanye struggling with himself. One of the few moments Kanye seems vulnerable. This is the song that I’ll listen to if I need inspiration to keep going. Striving to claw my way to the top. It also further illustrates how well Kanye can produce. Elton John and Jay-Z samples, with vocals from Sneaky Sound System’s Connie Mitchel? That’s next-level mixing.
3. 2pac feat. Dr. Dre & Roger Troutman | “California Love”
If you thought we were going to get through a Top 50 Hip Hop list without “California Love,” you need to get your life together. We have Dr. Dre and 2Pac in his prime, and backing vocals from funk legend Roger Troutman. Not to mention a sample from Joe Cocker’s “Woman To Woman” and a Mad Max-based video! Thanks to Dre and 2Pac, Cali managed to snag the best state-themed party anthem of all time. Sorry guys, “All My Exes Live In Texas” doesn’t make the cut.
2. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony | “Crossroads”
“Crossroads” showed the world that, in fact, thugs do cry. I don’t care who you are, this track pulls at your heart strings. Especially when you watch the video, which perfectly depicts the sadness over the those gone-too-soon. I mean, the Angel of Death (played by a dude that looks like Morphius from The Matrix), who takes a young man, a newborn baby, and Eazy-E up to Heaven. Just try getting through this song without yelling “I miss my uncle Charles y’all!”
1. UGK feat. Outkast | “International Player’s Anthem”
Well, we made it. My #1 Favorite Hip Hop song of ALL TIME. For those of you who know me, this pick isn’t a surprise. We’ve got UGK and Outkast and production by Three 6 Mafia (sampling “I Choose You”… another great Willie Hutch track). This is not only the perfect Dirty South cut, it is the greatest hip hop song ever. The opening freestyle by Dre builds to a break that kicks in pounding bass and a dominating Pimp C verse. We then add hand claps for Bun B’s lyrical smack down, and then slowly strip out of the beat for Big Boi’s slick flow finale. I guarantee you this is getting played at my wedding for me and all my boys, much to the dismay of my future bride and her family.