A few days ago, I impulsively called Soundtrack 2 My Life my favorite rap song of all-time. While that might be true, I decided a proclamation like, “Favorite Rap Song of All-Time” deserved a more arduous vetting process than just a spur of the moment blog posting.
It deserves a two part-in depth-blog posting. Welcome to Part I.
First, let me explain the route I took in narrowing down the massive pool of rap tracks.
1) I narrowed down an authentic list of my favorite rappers. Originally, I intended on making a list of twenty, but felt extremely odd (unauthentic) cramming names that, while I like, I would never consider my “favorite.” So the list stands at stands at 18 MCs. (Note: this is not the 18 best, it’s my 18 favorite.)
2) By pure gut, I chose the songs that strike me as my favorite from each MC’s disocgraphy. (Once again not their best songs, but my favorite songs.)
3) From the list of nominated songs, I listened, re-listened, and picked one song from each artist.
4) After choosing one representative for each artist, I ranked the 18 songs, with number one grabbing the title as my Favorite Rap Song of All Time.
My Deepest Condolences to (but not really), some very notable rappers left off my list: Nas, The Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Rick Ross, The Game, Public Enemy,
Soulja Boy Tell Em, Young Jeeszy, T.I., Mos Def and Talib Kweli.
Biggie (2 Nominations)
I’ve never been a huge Biggie fan, but he was one of the first rapper’s I listened to not named Will Smith or Coolio. I also listened to Hypnotize about a million times during middle school.
Representing Biggie: Hypnotize
Common (2 Nominations)
I Used to Love H.E.R.
I’m sort of surprised that Common only has two noms, since I really like him. But for me these are the only two true contenders for my favorite Common track. Go is so upbeat and Common’s flow is tight, but c’mon, I Used to Love H.E.R. is a masterpiece.
Representing Common: I Used to Love H.E.R.
Childish Gambino (2 Nominations)
The Longest Text Message
Biggie, Common…..the black kid from Community??? I know, you didn’t expect that, but I’ve liked Childish since his, I Am Not A Rapper Mixtape. I almost feel like I discovered him. I was under the impression he would never gain much traction as a rapper and remain my own little secret. Now, he’s rhyming with Gostface, so what do I know? The reworking of Kanye’s All of the Light’s is totally rad, and has an awesome indie feel.
Representing Childish Gambino: Break (AOTL)
Outkast (2 Nominations)
So Fresh, So Clean
Let me start by saying, I am ashamed of myself. Only two Outkast noms is a total slap in the face to one of the greatest rap duos of all-time. Compounding that disrespect, I nominated two of their more poppy cuts, instead of some of their deeper more complex tracks. I’m embarrassed. The other day, while listening to Sixteen, I realized (in a purely technical sense) Andre 3000 is the best rapper alive, and it’s not even close. This assertion is not based solely on Sixteen, but after listening to Sixteen, I went back and listened to a bunch of 3 Stacks stuff and he has no peer in the rap kingdom. That’s not hyperbole or, even an opinion, it’s a fact. Okay, now that I got that out there, I got to go with Ms. Jackson.
Representing Outkast: Ms. Jackson
Wu-Tang/ODB (2 Nominations)
Shimmy Shimmy Ya
Is this cheating? Am I allowed to combine two related entities? I don’t care. This is my exercise (and I’m going to it again before I’m done). Triumph is one of the most lyrically dense rap songs ever, no hooks, just line after line. Shimmy Shimmy Ya is belligerent and incomprehensible. What do you think I’m going to pick? Shimmy Shimmy Ya, of course. It was my ring tone for most of college.
Representing Wu-Tang/ODB: Shimmy Shimmy Ya
Lupe Fiasco (3 Nominations)
Go Go Gadget Flow
It seems like everyone I talked to was really disappointed by Lasers (me included). I guess that’s why my three Lupe noms come from his earlier efforts. For this one, I’m going all the way back to Food & Liquor.
Representing Lupe Fiasco: Kick, Push
Fugees/Lauryn Hill (3 Nominations)
Ready or Not
Sorry, I couldn’t rationalize Killing Me Softly as a rap song. No offense to Pras or Wyclef, but it’s always been all about Lauryn (the best female rapper of all time). The more Lauryn, the better.
Representing Fugees/Lauryn Hill: Doo Wop
Lil Wayne (3 Nominations)
Drop the World
It should be noted, there is no rapper I hate on, more than Lil Wayne. It should also be noted, that there are few rappers I listen to more than Lil Wayne. Continuing with that logic, Rebirth
may be is undeniably the worst album I’ve ever heard, and my favorite Lil Wayne song comes from that album, go figure.
Representing Lil Wayne: Drop the World
2Pac (3 Nominations)
Brenda Got a Baby
By my nominations, you can tell I like thoughtful, socially conscious Pac rather than thug life Pac. It’s hard to get more socially conscious than Changes.
Representing 2Pac: Changes
50 Cent (3 Nominations, Sort of)
Hate it or Love it
Get Rich or Die Tryin’
In a move that’s a bit unorthodox, I nominated an entire album. That’s because Get Rich or Die Tyin’ is basically just twenty tracks of amazing and it’s impossible to choose a favorite. I never considered it my favorite album, but I’m pretty sure I’ve bumped each of these songs ad nauseam. Ayo Technology features Justin Timberlake, who is pretty boss. Hate it or Love it, I guess it’s technically The Game’s song, but who cares, it’s dope.
Representing 50 Cent: Ayo Technology*
*I’m only choosing this because picking one track on Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is entirely too difficult.
Dr. Dre/Snoop Dogg (4 Nominations)
The Next Episode
Nuthin’ but a G Thang
Is their anything better than the piano strokes in the beginning of Still D.R.E.? Yea, the first verse of Nuthin’ but a G Thang, but is their anything better than that? Yep, Pharrell in Beautiful. Sorry, I’m totally ignoring The Next Episode (I do like it a lot, though).
Representing Dr. Dre/Snoop Dogg: Beautiful
Eminem (4 Nominations)
Till’ I Collapse
Sing for the Moment
I think it bears mentioning, Eminem was my first favorite rapper. He’s no longer my favorite (ahem Relapse, ahem, Recovery), but like a first best friend, I have a special place for him. Like almost everyone else, my favorite Eminem song is Till’ I Collapse. Is that a cliche answer? Yea, but who cares, if Till’ I Collapse doesn’t pump you up, check your pulse, you might be dead.
Representing Eminem: Till’ I Collapse
J. Cole (5 Nominations)
Before I’m Gone
Can I Live
I was a bit disappointed by Cole’s debut album, Cole World. I don’t blame him though, I’m fairly sure the record companies were pushing a more mainstream agenda, which conflicted with Cole’s backpack roots. I mean look at the subject content on The Warm Up and Friday Night Lights compared to Cole World, it just doesn’t match up. Anyway, sorry for the mini rant. On another note, a friend of mine mentioned J Cole raps a lot about semen, I laughed it off, now I can’t listen to him without hearing semen.
Representing J. Cole: Before I’m Gone
The Roots (5 Nominations)
The Seed (2.0)
The Next Music
Pass the Popcorn
I promise you, you won’t see this one coming. Ready?
Representing The Roots: Anti-Circle
Kid Cudi (6 Nominations)
Man on the Moon
Make Her Say
Soundtrack 2 My Life
Pursuit of Happyness
So, we get to what led us here in the first place. Is Soundtrack to My Life, even my favorite Cudi song? Let’s explore. I’m pretty sure the Supreme Court just ruled that it’s unconstitutional for anyone, under 30, to dislike Pursuit of Happyness. Make Her Say boasts Common, Kanye, Lady Gaga (?) and, of course, Cudi. Man on the Moon spawned the entire Cudi movement. The Prayer is just all around awesome. All Along is one of the most beautifully depressing songs ever (it should really come with a disclaimer saying, “please don’t jump”). All that said…
Representing Kid Cudi: Soundtrack 2 My Life
Drake (6 Nominations)
Shut It Down
I bet a lot of you think you know where I’m going with this, considering, you know. But, there I was trying to find the best Drake song. Here, I’m choosing my favorite Drake song. My favorite song is…well…maybe, you do know where I’m going with this.
Representing Drake: Marvin’s Room
Kanye West (9 nominations)
Say You Will
Can’t Tell Me Nothing
Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix)
Everything I Am
Ni**as in Paris
Now it’s getting hard. Let me be clear, in a list of my top 50 favorite rap songs, each of these tracks would make the cut. I’m not even going to explain my decision. I’m just going to play each song on repeat and see what songs chooses me (very metaphysical).
Representing Kanye West: Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix)
Jay-Z (9 Nominations)
Hard Knock Life
Heart Of the City
Dead Presidents II
Ni**as in Paris
Paris gets a second life. Unfortunately, as much as I like that song (I like it A LOT), it won’t advance. It goes without saying, like Kanye, all these songs would be on my list of top 50 rap songs. Also like Kanye, I’m not even going to explain my decision, I’m going the metaphysical route, let it choose me.
Representing Jay-Z: P.S.A.
Tomorrow, I rank the Final 18, and reveal My Favorite Rap Song of All-Time…Stay Tuned.