Flash Te Hira's top FIVE rap/hip-hop songs of all time!™

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Jun 27 2007, 10h40

I was thinking about this while driving home from the supermarket today. As you do. One of the songs on this list was playing, and as I mentally shuffled it into a rough top list of favourite songs, the idea for this journal was born.

I grew up listening to rap music. When I first seriously got into music at the tender age of about nine or 10, I enjoyed pop and R&B mostly - typical pre-pubescent fare. A couple of years later, friends introduced me to a genre of music that would dominate my teenage years. I began listening to tapes of what was big at the time, including Naughty By Nature, Ice Cube, and Snoop Doggy Dogg. Lighter Shade Of Brown, Brotherhood Creed, and Positive K were on the radio. Kris Kross and Cypress Hill videos were on tv. I soaked it all up. As time wore on, I floated towards the West Coast style of rap that was prevalent on the scene during the mid-90's. As the millennium drew to a close, I became more infatuated with the styles of the Midwest. To me, the 1990's were definitely the halcyon days of rap and hip-hop music. Whether it's to do with the impression the music had on the formative years of my life or not, nothing released since, no matter how awesome or popular, could hold a candle in my heart to the rap music I enjoyed back in those days.

And so without further emotional ado, here is a list of the five absolute best of the bunch, with a small description and blurb about each.

#5: On Tha Grind, by Daz Dillinger (feat. Kurupt)
from the album R.A.W. (1999)

Daz produced two of my top five tracks here, this being the effort for a track of his own. Mind you, this track also turned up on a Kurupt CD a year or so later, credited as Kurupt featuring Daz, with the only palpable difference being the lack of "CRIP!" being yelled right at the end. So it may as well be considered a Tha Dogg Pound song anyway, but the former is what I have and so I'm reviewing it based on that version.

ANYWAY. In my mind Daz has produced some incredible tracks during his career, and he's also cooked up some distinctly average beats - this one, however, is right near the top of the former category. This is the type of music I think of when I hear the term "gangsta" being bandied about, none of this modern day rubbish. It's a laid back groove with some old school keys and stabs, and probably the most ridiculous live bassline I've ever heard in rap music. I'm not sure who's playing bass on this, whether it's Daz or not, but whoever it is kills the track cold. It's that awesome. Daz and Kurupt combine to drop some simple yet effective verses, and Daz delivers with a typical post-Dogg Food hook. Everything just effortlessly falls into place to create a fabulous song, mellow yet intense, still fresh and bumpable all these years later.

And did I mention the BASSLINE?!

#4: High Come Down, by Chico & Coolwadda (feat. Nate Dogg)
from the album Wild 'N Tha West (2001)

I suppose it might be hypocritical of me to include a song from the 00's, after going to reasonable lengths to big up the 90's just a few paragraphs up. This song stands in direct contrast to my feelings though, proving that quality tracks have been laid down in more recent years! And this one is a doozy. Riding a silky Battlecat beat that borrows subtly from Love Come Down by Evelyn "Champagne" King, and with a verse AND hook by the master of the latter, Nate Dogg, the song is undeniably addictive. It's smooth, it's Summery, it's catchy, and it's ridiculously HAPPY! Chico & Coolwadda add their own touches on their verses, but Nate owns this one, pure and simple. I've yet to meet anyone who hears this song that doesn't get soaked up in it's infectiousness, whether it's singing along to the unforgettable chorus or just bobbing their head along with the bassline. Summer 01-02 was a particularly good one, and this track sums the good memories of that period up nicely. Incredible song.

#3: Shoot 'EM Up, by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
from the soundtrack of The Great White Hype (1996)

1995 and 1996 are marked as years that Bone Thugs could do no wrong in my eyes, or in my ears for that matter. They'd released E. 1999 Eternal in the former year, with ridiculous tracks like 1st of tha Month and Mo' Murda on it. Then came '96 where they released Tha Crossroads and Days of Our Livez as singles. My mind was truly blown. They were the most awesome thing to happen to music since the year dot as far as I was concerned! And with a new album just around the corner, the beginning of 1997 saw me pick up a soundtrack CD for a terrible movie that I didn't even like, solely because there was a Bone track on it.

Boy oh boy oh boy...

Let's Fall in Love by The Isley Brothers was interpolated by DJ U-Neek into a slow, bass-heavy groove with a light hearted melody featuring sweet sounding keys and almost a music box-like accompaniment. And it's over this unlikely yet beautiful instrumental that the group, sans Flesh, wax lyrical about what they always waxed lyrical about back in the old days: smoking weed and killing people. Honestly, it's never sounded this good. All four Bones flow ridiculously on point, even Wish, but especially Layzie and Krayzie. They're all so mellow and matter of fact about everything and it's stunning. I flipped my lid when I first heard this song, and despite having over 700 Bone Thugs tracks at the height of my fandom, none of them ever moved me as much as this one. The combination of unmatched smoothness and flow in the delivery, with an incredible beat to back it up floors me to this day. And of course it hurts to see Bone Thugs in 2007 as such shells of their mid-90's selves, but I still have tracks like this from back when they were Godly with their music, and so there'll always be a place in my heart for them.

#2: Thug Passion, by 2Pac (feat. Dramacydal, Storm, & Jewell)
from the album All Eyez on Me (1996)

If there is any song that sums up high school to me, this is it. All Eyez on Me was released in early '96, just after I'd turned 15 and shortly after I started 7th form. I remember a dude bringing the tape along to 7th form leadership camp, and most of us were mesmerised with what we heard. There was just flawless hit after hit on that album, with most of the standouts (including Thug Passion) being produced by Johnny 'J'. Pac completed the thing in a fortnight, and it was certified diamond within three years. To this day it makes for almost unreal listening, a rapper in his prime dropping such an incredible double album that is timeless still. They could release this album anew today and it'd kill everything on the charts without exception! Rushing out to buy it as soon as I got home from camp, and bumping it almost endlessly in the months that followed is a cherished memory.

As for Thug Passion however... to me, it's the pinnacle. Johnny 'J' serves up a masterpiece of an uptempo beat with a funky guitar backing as well as the bassline and some percussion from the Zapp classic Computer Love. Jewell sings a strong sing-a-long hook, and Dramacydal and Storm (who would all later become Outlaw Immortalz) deliver appropriate verses. Pac comes in at the end and drops a few typical commercial Pac bars that round things off perfectly. The song is just so slick! It's amazing. The instrumental is ridiculous, and the vocals fit to a tee. It takes me back to a time in my life when I'd just decided not to give a fuck for a few years, and besides the last two years, those were easily the best years of my life. This is the soundtrack to that time. Love it to bits.

#1: Big Pimpin', by Tha Dogg Pound (feat. Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, & Big Pimpin' Delemond)
from the soundtrack of Above The Rim (1994)

And finally, the second Daz-produced track in my top five, not to be confused with the Jay-Z song of the same name. I remember watching Above the Rim at the time, thinking it was a reasonable movie. At one stage however, towards the end, a whole bunch of cars and jeeps and whatnot pull up outside a basketball court, and one of them had the most incredible music playing on it's stereo. I had to rewind and play it over and over again, just to get a taste of that sound. I'm not even sure I watched the end of the movie! Two weeks worth of pocket money later, and I went out and brought the soundtrack, just for the chance to find out what that song was and who it was by.

The rest is history.

I could not comprehend what I was hearing at the time, and more often that not when I listen to this song now, I still have to wonder. It's HYPNOTIC. It just floats along breezily, with typical early 90's synths and keys. The bassline is again killer, and there are shakers and friggin' bongos with the drums. It's G-Funk and yet it's not. It's melodic and it's funky and it's simply mind blowing. I don't have appropriate adjectives. Whatever Daz was smoking when he composed this instrumental, he got the first and the last of it. Nobody before or since has made music this incredible, not even Daz himself.

And I haven't even got to the vocals yet...

This was '94, a couple of years before Daz decided to change up his flow to the abrupt delivery he continues to use today. He comes in first and drops a smooth as all hell verse, closed out by Snoop before Nate comes in and wrecks it completely with his bridge. Snoop then drops an early-90's Snoop verse, back when he actually sounded like he really believed and lived in the gangsterisms he was spitting. Delemond finishes the track out, and I can't help but wonder what another Nate bridge and perhaps a Kurupt or even a Lil' Malik verse would have done for the song overall, as it's pretty anticlimactic listening to someone just talking pimp nonsense for a minute and a half over such a wonderful beat! It's kinda wasted really, but the first half of the song more than makes up for it. This is when the Death Row camp were in full swing and the music just flowed like water. There's a radio version where everyone breaks into song halfway through Daz' verse, and it is ridiculously awesome as well. Words just can't describe how amazing this song is, they really can't. It has to be heard to be believed.


And there we have my top five favourite rap/hip-hop songs of all time. Go download them, burn them to a cd, and think of me. :)

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