Once in an artist’s lifetime, they give an offering that is the very epitome of their existence, or at least their public persona. It may be the first song you think of when thinking of an artist, but may be very-well be the last. Here are 22 songs that transcribed their creator’s to a tee:
Cam’ron “Down & Out”
Classic Dipset era production from Yeezy, himself. Cam gets into his story while coasting through well-crafted lyrics in that “Cam flow” that he made so popular. He doesn’t dig as deep as on the title track to S.D.E, but this feels more Killa.
Kanye West “Can’t Tell Me Nothin'”
“Can’t Tell Me Nothin'” was always Kanye’s greatest showing of the arrogance, ego, and bravado that propelled him to go from upstart producer to superstar rapper. After hitting a nearly 5 billion (or 2 billion, depending on who you ask), this just hits even more different than it ever did.
Jay Z “Izzo”
“Hov did that, so hopefully you won’t have to go through that“. “I’m over-charging n*ggas for what they did to the Cold Crush“. Not only is this prime Jigga production, again by Yeezy, but this is everything Jay has been about, Reasonable Doubt to 4:44.
A song about how DaBaby is a ladies man, street n*gga, ultra-violent and a CEO. Sigh…yeah. He’s gone on to prove all of these things, on and off camera. No need for details. [Also, the instrumental itself, is one only he can make a hit]
Raekwon & Ghostface Killah “Can It Be All So Simple”
Often confused with its remix from Raekwon’s debut, OB4CL, the original appears on Wu-Tang Clans 1993 Enter The 36 Chambers album. Rae and Ghost brought a level of realism and street know-how that made it not only relatable, but believable. They displayed their own flavor amongst a crowded group of “new-bees”. Some of RZA‘s more soulful, down tempo production proved to be magic for Chef & Tony’s project-hallway flows.
Megan Thee Stallion “Big Ole Freak”
Most of Megan’s work is sexually-charged, provocative and generally not a broke n*gga friendly environment. That being true, she went ultra on “Big Ole Freak”. She’s on the sample-heavy production that she always feels more comfortable on. This is Megan, Megan. No fancy get-ups and futuristic beats.
Lupe Fiasco “Mural”
Lupe has always been the rappity-rap guy, but “Murals” is rappity-rap gold. Lupe went Super-Lupe (no, not SLR) for around 9 minutes. There is so much to unpack and digest that you know deep down Fisaco himself feels this is is finest hour.
Sure, DMX rapped about hardships, plenty. “Slippin'” was slightly different. DMX let us into his mind, more than his circumstances. A man with a gift that picked up a curse along the way. This would be a lifetime battle between two DMX’s that ultimately ended in a stalemate.
Joe Budden “10 Minutes”
Joe Budden is a thinker, an over-thinker. Jumpoff JB has issues in every relationship he’s ever engaged. Joe Budden smokes cigarettes. All of Joe Budden is laid out here, over prototypical Joe production. Heavy bassline, guitar riffs, somber, and don’t forget his signature baritone crooning.
Drake “Marvin’s Room”
Speaking of Joe Budden… Drake literally belts out “And I’ll start hating, only I’ll you make me“. This is a line ONLY he or Joe would have the balls to say and only Drizzy can get away with it. This song is so Drake: Phone messages, singing about a girl he lost, a beat that’s barely a beat, singing, rapping, sing-rapping. It’s all there.
Redman & Method Man “How High”
Chosen for obvious reasons, of course, but “How High” has elements that are classic Red & Meth. They both have a knack for displaying lyrical content, while remaining radio & club friendly. As a group, this defines their existence. Meth sings a bit (which he loves), Reggie does his classic ad-libs (so underrated) and the song is again, references weed throughout.
Cardi B “Bodak Yellow”
Cardi B ran down her entire story in the first verse of “Bodak”. Cardi B is a rags-to-riches story on steroids; A stripper turned pop star. We knew about rags, but here she dangles her newly found riches in the most Cardi B of ways. “I don’t dance no more, I make money moves“, “Got a bag and fixed my teeth“. The level-up.
Big Tymers “Still Fly”
Baby and Mannie’s motto: Ball at all costs. “Still Fly” is f*ckin ballerific! This song is like an episode of MTV Cribs and Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous in one. “Can’t pay my rent, cause all my money’s spent/But that’s OK, cause I’m still fly“. Priorities.
Rakim “Microphone Fiend”
Rakim is arguably the logo for rap music. The man said to be responsible for the more modern style of the artform, singlehandedly. He has a song about being addicted to rapping. This is a no-brainer. This is like Kobe Bryant painting himself doing a turn-away jumpshot over 3 defenders. The God.
Jeezy “Dem Boyz” Verse
In case you missed it (as many did), Jeezy’s entire verse is about a man calling him to say the work Young Jeezy gave him was trash. Jeezy responds by ensuring the man that it’s a simple fix. He can just give it back, along with the $1000 he shorted Jeezy in the transaction. Jizzle also reminds this man that he himself is balling out of control, and has no business interacting with the work in the manner that this man does. It was an honest mistake.
The Game “One Blood”
Let’s get to the elephant in the room. Yes, Game is the face of Blood’s in Hip-Hop. Half of America’s rap fans had no clue about the Crip’s counterparts because affiliated artists like DJ Quik were much more covert in their reppin. Also, The Game loves to not do hooks. This one was built in. He also loves loud, over-bearing production. Lastly, this was his first moment to stand alone, publicly, which he has to this day.
EPMD represented one thing: Hardcore Rap. If “keeping it real” was a group. “Crossover” was a track denouncing rapper’s who attempted to water down the sound and gain an audience outside of authentic Hip-Hop enthusiasts. Erick and Parrish stayed within the code they pushed the line for, up until this day. Real recognize real.
Lil Kim “Lighter’s Up”
A flip of Damian Marley‘s “Welcome To Jamrock“, “Lighter’s Up” served as an official ode to Brooklyn. In 2005, Kim made it her business to put the borough on her back. This isn’t old Kim, or new Kim. This is Kim, Kim. She fkexes her more hood side, like on “Quiet Storm“, but less dramatic. It’s lyrical, fun, radio-friendly and she does that accent she loves. Word to Brooklyn.
Dr. Dre “Still D.R.E”
“D.R.E” is Dr. Dre on Hall Of Fame mode. Dre loves rapping from that “Oh, you’re acting like you forget” perspective, and this is the epitome. It’s “Forgot About Dre” with swag. It’s “Been There, Done That” with better lyrics. It’s “Dre Day” modernized. The doctor may not be in his office often, but he’s always on business.
Mos Def “Brooklyn”
Our 2nd Brooklyn ode, but honestly it deserves two. Brooklyn has 2 sides (at least in Hip-Hop). There’s Biggie and there’s Jeru Da Damaja. It’s criminally underrated just how “Brooklyn” Mos is. This cut also displays Mos Def in his element: Sing-songy at times, straight spitting at others and descriptive all the way through. Bars.
The Clipse “I’m Not You Rapper”
Jay Z may have been the first rapper to market himself as “not a rapper”. The Clipse though, took it a step further. They marketed themselves as “anti-rapper” rapper’s. This is the “I live what I rap” anthem, making sure to never be confused with someone who enjoys rapping, whatsoever. Sorry, Rakim.
50 Cent “Many Men”
50 Cent got shot 9 times.