What Does Hip-Hop Look Like To You?

A couple of days ago I got a text message from one of my homies from way back. Somebody she knew read the recent profile of Jay-Z by Zadie Smith in the New York Times that read an awful lot like any other profile of Jay-Z talking about being Jay-Z. You know the one, where the interviewer goes into total fanboy mode – no judgement, I’ve never met anybody of Jay’s stature so perhaps I’ll be starstruck too – and their excitement jumps off the page a little too much? Anyway, somebody that the homey knows who wasn’t that up on Jay or much of hip-hop asked her for some hip-hop songs that he should check out.

You know, this is the moment that most fans of hip-hop wait for in life. See, most folks you come across already have an opinion on hip-hop, either good or bad. If they’re upwardly mobile and white, chances are that they view rap as the devil spawn of what happens when Nikki Sixx meets cocaine meets Harlem meets blaxploitation. But every now and then, you come across that person who is open-minded enough to still be willing to form a new opinion. And thus you get the opportunity to introduce this person to the art form you love and help to shape their impression. Basically you get to point them to your own personal version of what hip-hop looks like. You know, not Chief Keef and whatever is going on with the Chicago Public Schools. And no Soulja Boy. And you can take them to a place where people named Lil Reese and Lil Scrappy are more irrelevant than they currently are.

Yes. You get to create a Hip-Hop Utopia and introduce this individual to the good sh*t. So the homey and I went back and forth on songs that she should present to her friend. Believe it or not, there’s a lot of pressure involved here. So I figured, I’d bring the pressure to you all. But first, if I was given the opportunity to represent hip-hop to somebody who was open enough to believe that my version of the genre was the one to believe in, and I could only share ten songs, here are the songs I’d offer up:

1. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – T.R.O.Y.

Pretty self-explanatory here, plus it’s my favorite song in hip-hop and one of my favorite songs period. I get to pretend like all hiphop is beautifully produced full of verses about something and nothing AT THE SAME DAMN TIME (and get to use played out statments like that one…which makes no sense because I wouldn’t actually say that…the Ravens put up 41).

2. Geto Boys – Mind Playing Tricks On Me

For one, it samples Isaac Hayes and I just got finished watching the Stax documentary for the umpteenth time. For two, it’s a song about paranoia and it proves that hip-hop can actually discuss mental health issues. Mmhmm. I said it. Obama is fighting for the right for songs like this. Dr. King marched for this song. Plus, it’s just a great hiphop song.

3. Eminem – Lose Yourself

Probably the best song in his catalog and the perfect description of what it feels like to step on stage. Plus, it describes the essence of hip-hop. It’s not a slow burn type of sport, it’s about taking in the moment, rising to the occasion, and leaving no doubt. It’s like Remember The Titans, except not at all.

4. Queen Latifah – Ladies First

Mostly because I actually think King La went off on this joint and Monie Love repped for the ladies quite properly.

5. Nas – One Mic

This song is pure hip-hop from one of the purest representations of hip-hop, you know, when he’s not channeling his Rick Ross aspirations.

6. Notorious B.I.G. – either Juicy or Kick In The Door

“Juicy” is probably the most logical choice because it’s the story every rapper wishes they had. Minus the phone bill being about $2000 flat. Luckily, most people have unlimited plans now. ‘Pac and Big died before that happened though.”Kick In The Door” on the other hand is so perfect to me. I’d marry it if it wasn’t probably already married to “Unbelievable”.

 

7. Outkast  – Bombs Over Baghdad

This isn’t even remotely my favorite song by the group, however, it’s such a dope record that shows how different hip-hop could take it, I’m all in. Oh, and by the way, ATLiens is my favorite ‘Kast album though Aquemini is totally worthy of its praise.

8. Jay – Z – Can’t narrow this down…Reasonable Doubt

I know this is cheating, but I can’t do it. I can’t pick just one.

9. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – Thuggish Ruggish Bone

It’s just a dope ass song. Sue me. Worthy of being included for diversity of sound’s sake.

10. Tupac – Keep Ya Head Up

Self explanatory again.

Okay, there are so many songs and artists I didn’t include for various reasons but could easily deserve a spot on this list. However, I will bring it to you, the people…and for those that hate hip-hop, I’m gonna throw you a bone here…list some of the songs you think are the worst representation as evidence of the terribleness. Equal opportunity, plus I’m curious as to what songs folks who hate hip-hop really know and view as proof positive of the negativity within.

So creep with me folks…what does hip-hop really look like to you?

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. HIP HOP SAVED MY LIFE aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

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