(Belated) Friday Pick Six: Six Rap Songs for People Who Don’t Like Rap

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hey! Yes, I’m back. And late. So I’m just not going to make a big deal about either one of those things…

Rap is one of those things that doesn’t get talked about a whole lot on this particular blog. I mean, apart from the occasional reference to Run DMC’s seminal “Christmas in Hollis”, we spend most of our time talking about modern and classic rock, alternative, and punk. And that’s probably because for the most part, rap isn’t a big part of our musical radars. So, this (late) Friday Pick Six is for all of those people who don’t really care for rap – six songs you can enjoy even if you don’t really care for the genre. 

Check them out after the jump!

1) “It’s Tricky”, by Run DMC
Gotta start with the classics, right? Tricky was introduced to me through the SSX franchise (which I’ve talked about before), and I’ve developed a fondness for it. It stands apart from other examples of early, pre-Gangsta Rap tracks in that it’s actually, er, kinda cool by today’s standards (not knocking the classics, but Donald Glover expertly sums up my thoughts on it here). Tricky stands the test of time as a great track from a great group.

2) “Mathematics”, by Mos Def
I initially only thought of Mos Def as Ford Prefect from the rather underappreciated 2005 adaptation of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – it wasn’t until I saw his performance on Chapelle’s Show a few years ago that it kind of dawned on me that he was a rapper. And a really damned good one, at that. Mathematics is one of his better-known tracks, and it deals with similar issues to that legendary Chapelle’s Show performance. It’s also awesome. Take a listen!

3) “The Influence”, by Jurassic 5
A good friend in high school introduced me to J5, a collection of some of the most lyrically talented rappers out there (they broke up a while ago, but most of them have gone on to fruitful solo careers).  And that’s exactly why this track makes the list – the wordplay here is awesome.  J5 might have kept their tracks mostly to the classic subject of “my crew is better than your crew”, but they did it well. Just – just listen.

4) “Otis”, by Jay-Z and Kanye West (a.k.a. The Throne)

Most rap can be sorted into a few categories: the deeply personal stuff, the aforementioned “my crew is more awesome” stuff, the political stuff, and the “I’m so fantastically wealthy” stuff. It is this last category that Jay-Z usually falls into, and I really hate that about him. Similarly, I can’t stand Kanye’s dangerously inflated ego. So, apart, I could take them or leave either of these rappers. But when the two of them team up and start rapping over an Otis Redding sample, magic happens. See, Jay-Z is still punishingly materialistic (he has a weird thing for his watches) and Kanye is actually more of an egotistical jagoff than normal. But I just can’t help it. This track is incredible.  

5) “All The Shine”, by Childish Gambino
I mentioned Donald Glover earlier, and he has rapidly rocketed onto my “favorite rappers” list.  I mostly knew about Donald Glover through his work with Derrick Comedy, but the dude’s got flow, for real. And while there are a lot of tracks of his that I like (his take on “All of the Lights” is better than the original, “Bonfire” is three minutes of epic, etc.) All The Shine is definitely his most accessible song. It’s got a truly epic riff and some of his more introspective and personal lyrics. Though I highly recommend looking at his other stuff. This guy needs more work.

6) "The Show Goes On”, by Lupe Fiasco
The line between pop and rap is a thin one. Guys like Kanye and Eminem end up on the pop channels often. Lupe Fiasco was coasting under the radar for a while, renowned for his witty, pop-culture-heavy lyrics. However, his most recent album, LASERS, was engineered by his new label to be a big pop crossover hit. He hated it. Still, “The Show Goes On”, the lead single from the album, is a wonderfully catchy song which manages to sample Modest Mouse without making me angry, somehow. It also features some great, angry pot-shots at his label. 

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