5 Songs: Hip-Hop, Love of my Life

Note: If interested, here’s more background of where I’m at on the current state of hip-hop.

Photo credit: Pop Crush

This is a new blog series I’m starting where every week I will post 5 songs about a particular topic, mood, or whatever, but each post will have a cohesive theme. I’ll keep it hip-hop, although there are other styles I love too, I actually describe my musical taste as follows — I’m BFFs with hip-hop, married to deep house, but I still like to go out and chill a lot (by ‘chill’ I mean specifically chill trap, chillstep, Future Bass, and Liquid Drum & Bass). The house and dnb can be more subjective as far as matching to mood, I just find hip-hop easier to describe for what I’m trying to do, or perhaps I just need to step up my writing game!

This is not a ‘best ever’ or ‘top 5 of all-time’ type of series, but I’ll always be posting bangers. Sometimes the focus will be lyrics. Sometimes flow. Sometimes just how it sounds. But the production will always be on pint, either head nodding, subwoofer thumping, booty-shaking, or arrestingly beautiful. Because you can always have the most clever, metaphysical whatever lyrics but if the song doesn’t sound good, then it’s not a good track, people forget that.

This is motivated by a couple of things, first is frustration at the perception by many of hip-hop as superficial or one dimensional. Second, by how much “mainstream” or “commercial” acts STILL gets bashed. There will likely be some Drake and Young Thug songs on these lists as this isn’t about “underground” or “keeping it real” elitism. Third, because some older heads insist that the contemporary trap influenced style is “not hip-hop”, so I want this to be an inclusive space, that there are legitimate rappers out there even if they are in the ‘mumble rap’ category. Fourth, I hope to peak the curiosity of someone new to the genre and offer them an easy entry point as eventually I intend for this series to have something for every mood — aggressive to melancholic to joyful to rock-inspired to minimalist near-acapella tracks.

Lastly, I just want to share and I see this as an outlet to share a little bit of something that I truly enjoy. I hope that for each post, readers will respond with their own favorites and suggestions .

Without further ado, here’s today’s theme — Hip-Hop! It feels appropriate to kick this series off with tracks about this beautiful culture. Feel free to skip the text to the tracks as the music is embedded:

  1. Rock and Roll (could never hip-hop like this, pt 2) f/ Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park — Handsome Boy Modelling School (2004)

This song is an experience. The song opens and ends with the classical “Concerto №1 in E Major” by Antonio Vivaldi, yes the one from the 18th centurey. The intro has clips of some of the original creators of hip-hop — Kool Herc, Africa Bambata, et. al. Meanwhile, portions of the song is actually rock, which includes Linkin Park. So it’s hip-hop, classical music and rock mixed rolled into one.

2. Yesterday — Black Eyed Peas (2015)

Probably the most surprising entry because honestly didn’t think the new Will.I.Am and Fergie dominated Black Eyed Peas still had it in them. Here they rap about many classic hip-hop songs, and the beat switches to sample the song being referenced. Excellent. Nice video too that harkens back to the days of digging for records and CDs.

3. Act too (Love of my life) — The Roots f/ Common (1999)

This song is a heartfelt love letter to a lady, but her name is hip-hop.

4. My 1st Song — Jay Z (2003)

In 2012 this was said to be President Obama’s favorite song. This is arguably more biographical, but the hook makes it clear that he’s expressing his love for the rap game:

The songs that I sing to you is my everything
Treat my first like my last, and my last like my first
And my thirst is the same as when I came
It’s my joy and my tears
And the laughter it brings to me, it’s my everything

5. Labels — GZA/Genius (1995)

If ever an MC had an appropriate name. This song is about the record label side of the business circa mid-1990s. Over an ageless thumping vintage RZA beat (it stillsounds fresh after 20+ years), he talks about record executives. It’s already great but he basically manages to mention forty two labels, which was pretty much every single hip-hop label at the time.

What are your favorite songs about hip-hop culture or the rap game?