Happy Birthday Hip-Hop!
By Trey Alessio
I love hip-hop. It has been there to help me celebrate my biggest accomplishments, it has been there to assist in my occasional turn-up, it has been there to teach me countless life lessons and it has been there to get me through the tough times. Today marks the 44th anniversary of the birth of hip-hop, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite songs throughout the years.
One day when I was a kid, my dad randomly found an "8 Mile" CD at work and brought it home for his listening pleasure. After begging and pleading, he finally gave me permission to listen, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever because it cussed, it made me feel confident and it was just cool seeing a rapper who looked like me. Little did I know, Eminem would provide the soundtrack to my life moving forward as a hip-hop fan. The man has a song for every emotion. If you're sad, if you're pissed off, if you feel like laughing, if you need to get fired up, Eminem has a song for you in his discography. But for me, it all started with "Lose Yourself" from the "8 Mile" soundtrack. Don't be afraid to lose yourself in the music!
I have a special place in my heart for Logic. I remember scrolling though HotNewHipHop one day back in 2012 and randomly coming across a mixtape cover with a picture of a young Frank Sinatra. The artwork drew me in but the music spoke to me. I instantly became a fan of Logic and his Young Sinatra alter ego. I remember telling everybody I knew who liked rap music about Logic and feeling so good about recruiting new members into the Ratt Pack. A part of me felt like I discovered Logic. After finding "Young Sinatra: Undeniable," I went back and listened to "Young, Broke & Infamous" and "Young Sinatra" and truly became a super fan. As I followed Logic's career and he released his debut album, "Under Pressure," one song stood out to me more than the others. "Buried Alive" came out during a dark time in my life and really spoke to me. I felt like Logic was telling me that it was okay to feel down, it was okay to feel buried alive, but, in the end, everything will work out. I live with that mindset everyday.
In my opinion, Sylvan LaCue is one of the most underrated rappers in recent years. The dude's storytelling and the way he constructs and pieces together a project are next to none. I can honestly say his mixtape, "Searching Sylvan," changed my life. It came out during a time in my life where it resonated with me and inspired me more than almost any other project ever has. One of my favorite songs from the mixtape is "Maybe I Should." I loved the message similar to that of "Buried Alive," but I also loved the way it set up the rest of the project. I highly recommend giving LaCue a listen.
Biggie was a little before my time, but I have done my homework when it comes to the hip-hop classics. "Juicy" is widely recognized as one of the most iconic rap songs of all-time (or at least in my mind). The samples, the flow, the lyricism, the storytelling, the swagger, it all comes together on this classic track by one of the greatest to ever rap into a microphone. It had to make the list.
My list wouldn't be complete without a 2Pac song. Picking a favorite song of his is hard because he has a wide variety of songs in his discography, much like Eminem, but I think my favorite one is "Keep Ya Head Up." I love the flow and the message about respecting women. I think it's a topic that needs to be heard by the masses, and I appreciate that from the late, great 2Pac.
Like 2Pac, picking one favorite song from Kendrick Lamar's catalog is excruciatingly tough because K Dot is an album guy. The way he cohesively pieces song after song on each album is truly incredible, and the man is a master at the craft. I'll even confidently go as far to say that Kendrick Lamar will go down as one of the greatest rappers of all-time. I think my favorite story K Dot has ever told came on my favorite album of all-time, "To Pimp a Butterfly." The song, "How Much a Dollar Cost" (also President Obama's favorite song from 2015) is a story about Kendrick running into a homeless man at a gas station. The homeless man asks the rich and famous Kendrick Lamar for a single dollar bill, but Kendrick refuses, saying he doesn't have any money to give. Through perfectly crafted, lyrical storytelling by K Dot and a beautiful hook sang by James Fauntleroy, the story is woven around and it's revealed that the homeless man is actually God. God says in the song, "I'll tell you just how much a dollar cost; the price of having a spot in Heaven, embrace your loss." The lesson: always be humble.
I had to throw in a turn-up song into the mix. Travis Scott does a perfect job of making his music sonically above anything you've ever heard before. The beats are always banging and he adds in a great mix of auto-tuned vocals with dope rhymes. Add in an epic verse by K Dot and you have one of the best turn-up songs ever. Turn it one when you're heading to the club.
Don't sleep on "American Gangster" Hov! This song has the bravado of a drug kingpin's conquest and the sound of an ultimate celebration. It's a feel-good song that touches on a lot of dark topics once you peel back the layers. But that's what makes Jay-Z so great. This is one of my favorite music videos as well.
This is the ultimate rap sing-along song. Throw this jam on at a party and watch the whole crowd break into rap mode. "Baby Got Back" is just a fun song to get the vibe right.
I had to throw in a new-age rap-sung jam into the list. This might be my sleeper pick. When I first heard Post Malone's debut album, "Stoney," I thought it was going to get washed away in diluted wave of new-age auto-tuned rap. I thought it was okay but nothing special, but as I listened more and more, the vibes became smoother and smoother. "Go Flex" is one of Post Malone's best songs and I'll go out on a limb to say it could be the poster-child song for the new wave of hip-hop.
Rap music is very near and dear to me. I love hearing rappers' stories and how they piece together projects. I love the range of sounds and emotions you can pull from the songs. I love the lessons you can learn from the stories told. I love dissecting albums. I love hip-hop. This list doesn't even scratch the surface when it comes to my favorite rap songs, but I just wanted to give you a glimpse into my love for the genre, its artists and the stories they tell. Hip-hop is a beautiful thing, it's alive and well and it's here to stay.
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