Hip-hop brings out some of the deepest and strongest emotions found within us, and each track draws out something different. One might get lodged in your mind and play itself over and over again.
The following tracks have infectious instrumentals and powerful messages that repeat in our heads. Overall, each one is unique in its own way.
These are ten essential rap songs that we listen to routinely.
1. Joey Bada$$ – Snakes (Feat. T’nah)
From the start of this song, it is clear that this track is produced by the great J Dilla. The hip-hop producer is known for his strong use of snares, and a smooth, melodic beat plays throughout the song. This track is an instant classic. In addition, Joey’s verses complement the beat well, and T’nah’s voice is and soothing and pure.
2. Nas – Life’s a Bitch (ft. AZ, Olu Dara)
“Life’s a bitch and then ya die!” Ain’t that the truth…
This Nas song, from his critically acclaimed debut album Illmatic, is one to which everyone can relate. We all feel that inner frustration that life throws at us, whether it’s from work, school, family issues, or something as a simple as not getting that parking space we desperately wanted. Overall, the song’s message is that life likely will not get any easier and that it will abruptly end with an eternal sleep.
3. Vince Staples – Lift Me Up
Dark, gritty, and extremely insightful, Vince Staple’s “Lift Me Up” is brilliant. The song intertwines important issues that plague the black community, while Vince raps with an almost lackadaisical flow and sound. The video for the song also adds to the experience, as the visuals help give an idea of who the Long Beach, California rapper is.
4. J. Cole – Can I Live
As avid J. Cole fans, we understand that the Dreamville emcee has hundreds of songs we can select. However, one track from which we gain a lot of inspiration is “Can I Live.” J. Cole mentions the wittiest puns as if they are casual lyrics and tells stories of gun violence that place the listener in the moment. The energy in J. Cole’s voice is palpable in the latter part of the song. It sends proverbial chills down our spines whenever we listen.
5. Kendrick Lamar – Real Ft. Anna Wise
This was from the days of the “Control” Kendrick. Before the dreads. Before he released TPAB and Damn. But just as he does today, this Kendrick still had the deep love for true hip-hop. This song speaks to what is most important in life – what it truly means to be real.
6. Big Sean – Million Dollars
“Just wait till tomorrow, we won’t borrow ever again”
Another track that speaks to the soul, Big Sean’s “Million Dollars” is proof that hard work leads to success. Similarly to Kendrick Lamar’s “Real,” it is right at the time that Big Sean was becoming more mainstream. This song, in particular, is a nostalgic journey back to a time when Big Sean was on the come up, and it is definitely a worthy listen.
7. A Tribe Called Quest – Find A Way
Frankly, every song from A Tribe Called Quest is one that we put on repeat. However, this is a track from the talented alternative hip-hop/rap group that we happened to be bumping this morning. Enjoy!
8. Isaiah Rashad – Free Lunch
It goes to show that people will gravitate to what is real. This song currently has over four million views, and that number is still on the rise. Relaxing and joyful, this song is among the best of Isaiah Rashad, and his catalog is likely to grow in the near future.
9. Jay-Z – Feelin’ It
In one word, this song is a classic. The beat is sublime. Jay-Z’s verses are rhythmically on point. Virtually everything about this song is just right. It is a constant head-bobbing track that shows why the Marcy Projects emcee is arguably the greatest rapper of all time.
10. Kanye West – Family Business
A special song that has a special message, this is the Old Kanye that people claim to miss. The Kanye that made the soulful beats and shed light on the importance of family. Every time we hear this song, it transports us to another place, whether it’s Thanksgiving with the family or a nostalgic family reunion. It is powerful and speaks to the essence of hip-hop.