Yesterday many paid tribute to the memory of Big Pun who passed away 11 years ago. Even over a decade since his passing, fans keep his memory alive through his music and through their favorite quotables. This is the power music has over people whether it’s Hip Hop, Pop… R&B, Rock or anything you might listen to. The ability to snap you back to a moment just by hearing a few lines or notes of a song you vibe with.
A lot can be said about the current state of Hip Hop, but that isn’t what this post is about. Before I pursued an industry job, I was a fan and here are 10 Hip Hop songs that changed my perspective, influenced me somehow or were just plain fuckin dope.
10. KRS-1 – Love’s Gonna Get’cha
This was the first song I really listened to, as in listened to the narrative and absorbed the story. All I really listened to was freestyle up until this point and my uncle put this on and told me to check it out. I was enamored with music spreading a message and telling vivid tales. (yea freestyle doesn’t do much for the imagination)
9. Cypress Hill – Insane In The Membrane
I remember literally having this shit on cassette and rewinding it over and over again to get all the words right, not that the shit was that impactful to me, but this was when I was startin to get into the music and getting the words right to recite them shits amongst friends meant something.
8. Wu Tang Clan – Wu Tang Clan Aint Nuthin Ta F’Wit
What do you get when you take the old kung fu flicks they showed on channel 5 on Saturday, put nasty drums and kicks over samples from them same films, wear masks and wield machetes? A lifelong Wu Tang fan. And this is the one that set it off… Some members of the Wu come from Staten Island… Staten Island has contributed nothing to society since.
7. Dr. Dre Feat. Snoop Dogg – Nuthin But a G Thang
This is the first song that came from outside the NYC metro area that I got into. NYC is always typically on some ‘fuck everyone else’ shit… so for a song to break here it had to be big… and few songs were bigger.
6. Mobb Deep – Quiet Storm
By the time this was released Mobb Deep was out for a while, but the reason I picked this song was because after hearing it I literally went out and bought a ’40 inch cable’… the same way Biggie had me running for a ‘Cuban with the Jesus Piece’. The beat was ridic… the remix didn’t fuck up the integrity of the original like most remixes do… and it STILL goes hard.
5. Nas – I Gave You Power
For a while Nas was my fav emcee… until he released the ill conceived Nastradamus. However ‘I Gave You Power’ exhibited high concept story telling, spittin from the point of view of a gun, and was def one of my fav songs off of one of my fav albums.
4. Notorious B.I.G. – Who Shot Ya
Mind you… I could do a top ten of Biggie Jay-z and Nas each, but I’m aiming to be a bit broader with this list. That being said… Who Shot Ya is probably one of my fav tracks of all time. The beat is timeless… any time anyone wanted to make a splash on the freestyle rap circuit, they’d attempt to go over this beat… few have succeeded. Plus anything Biggie instills a sense of Brooklyn Pride. Speaking of which…
3. Jay-Z – Brooklyn (Go Hard)
Jay-Z… The most extensive, prolific, profound, prosperous, prose pugilist (Ha I’ll stop) EVER! I mean the mans catalog speaks for itself. So why this song you wonder when he could have filled out any top ten list ten times over with prior releases? Well it’s simple. This dropped well over a decade after Jay hit the scene and he is still not only contributing worthwhile shit to the culture, but it’s HOT. With lines like… “With no history in my borough… they borrow. With no intentions of returning tomorrow” he sums up the entire sentiment of BK natives when faced with gentrification. He is the best that ever did it… and continues to do so.
2. Blackstar – Respiration
“The new moon rode high in the crown of the metropolis… shinin.. like who on top of this?” Blackstar, made up of Mos Def and Talib Kweli, with the help of Common put forth this effort, something truly worth any music fans attention. This is when Hip Hop becomes art both in the auditory and visual sense. The video nails NYC living circa the 90′s. Sonically the melodies, hymns, drums, lyrics and sentiment crescendos into one of the genres master works.
1. Big Pun – Beware
This song makes number one on my list, because I literally, after hearing it, went to pick up a pen and pad myself and tried to create. The message isn’t profound nor is it even Big Pun’s best work. However it inspired me to attempt and create myself…leading me down a brief but interesting path I would not have traveled otherwise.
That is the beauty of music… the same song can mean different things to different people. Hip Hop, more in this recent era, takes a lot of flack for being contrived and packaged by major labels for mass consumption without giving anything in return, reveling in its ignorance. I hope people remember what greatness once was despite what the art has degraded into.