When someone asks me what my favorite songs are, I get embarrassingly awkward and flustered, mainly because I know I’m always missing something. I can never narrow it down to just one, because I know there’s always something else that I’m neglecting. These songs listed below are just a few that have heavily influenced my love for hip-hop whether presently or in the past. It is definitely written in no particular order and will be updated often.
My Mind Playing Tricks On Me – Geto Boys| This is easily one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time in my opinion. I’ve always admired the hell out of the Geto Boys for their ability to create such amazing word play and develop such beautiful imagery while having such a simple, nursery rhyme-like flow. The first time I heard this song I was left speechless by the different stories I heard, with the Halloween verse being my absolute favorite. As someone who is overly anxious and extremely uncomfortable being left with their own thoughts, I loved the paranoia being described. I could truly feel it. The Light – Common| This song will never not give me butterflies. It’s the epitome of falling in love for me. One of the most beautiful choruses I’ve ever heard, and Common’s voice over it just feels like honey. D.R.U.G.S. – Ab Soul Ft. Mac Miller| I actually didn’t really listen to this song much until after Mac Miller passed away, and it made it a lot harder to get through. Both Ab Soul and Mac Miller have made music that sounded like cries for help, and this was one of them. Hearing Mac Miller sing “I can’t help myself I think I need some help” is one of the most vulnerable things I’ve ever heard and it’s bringing me to tears just writing about it. The background vocals are so hauntingly beautiful as well and the instrumental is just so hypnotic. Hearing Ab Soul say that he “[doesn’t] need any of these things to do anything” makes Miller’s death even more difficult to process. Misunderstood – Common| This song has an EXTREMELY special place in my heart. It actually inspired my first ever tattoo. Recreating Nina Simone’s Misunderstood (who re-did the Animals) through Bilal’s beautiful vocals just felt so right as he’s pleading for help in the chorus. The flute in the instrumental tells its own story and is definitely something you don’t hear in too many hip-hop songs, but it feels so right. The verse about the young woman who was stripping was what I related to the most, especially as I struggled a lot throughout high school with coming to terms with my body and my sexual being as men started to sexualize me more. I feel as though this song helped me to understand just how I felt as I got older, because I truly was misunderstood. I think for the most part we all are. The Season | Carry Me – Anderson .Paak| I just love this song so much♥ Anderson .Paak is one of my favorite artists ever and this song is just so beautiful and vulnerable. The chorus just leaves me with goosebumps. And goodness, that second part of the song where the instrumental flips is just stunning. We experience AP going back in time and reminiscing along with him and it is just so incredible. How they managed to make two instrumentals that were so different but so similar is beyond me, but they really do fit together like two puzzle pieces. Also shoutout to Dewey for all of this incredible artwork that he blessed us with for this whole project. Pusha Man – Chance the Rapper| This song has a very similar set up to The Season | Carry Me but in a very different way. Chance overall had a very playful tone throughout Acid Rap but that switch up from when Pusha Man goes into Paranoia (which Spotify annoyingly classifies it as two different songs which REALLY takes away from the effect if you’re listening to it on shuffle) is just…wow. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why it would always fuck up because there was a god damn 5 minute long break in between (not actually but it felt like it) so I would always skip to the next song, until one day I listened to it all the way through, and I was amazed by how dark it turned. Although the mixtape was overall very dark in a very light-hearted way, that part just always really hurt. Not quite as much as Chance The Rapper’s horrible let down of a career though. That really was a disappointment. Sacrifice – The Roots Ft. Nelly Furtado| This song just makes me happy. That chorus has the prettiest harmonies ever. The Roots can never let me down. Lighthouse – The Roots Ft. Dice Raw| My good friend Rick Friedrich created this masterpiece. I still remember when I worked with him while I was in college and talking to him about how much I love this album with this song in particular, just to find out that he worked on it. The whole metaphor is just incredible and Dice sounds gorgeous on the chorus. Music For Life – Common, J Dilla, Hi-Tek, Busta Rhymes, Nas, Marsha Ambrosius| That lineup says it all. Not only does it have my two favorite producers on one beautiful piece but just every single person on this moves me so much. Hearing my favorite hip-hop artists talk about the one thing that connects us and how they feel about it is just so amazing. One of my favorite instrumentals also. I don’t think I can even convey just how much this song means to me. Please listen to this all the way through, you really won’t regret it. Sleep – The Roots Ft. Son Little| In just two minutes, this song has an everlasting effect on the listener. It amazes me that in such a short amount of time, The Roots were able to create such a strong melancholy mood, which sounds incredibly underwhelming until you’re sitting there a minute after the song ended still feeling so numb. Fall In Love – Slum Village| Just so so so good. I also strongly suggest looking up the Suite for Ma Dukes live orchestral version of this on Youtube. Just amazing. Definition – Black Star| This song does such a great job encompassing hip-hop. From the beat to the energy to the ad libs to the lyrics, it all just feels so good. Mos Def and Talib are two of the best to do it whether together or on their own, but nothing will ever measure up to their stuff as Black Star. That Kweli line that goes “my name is in the middle of equality”. SO GOOD. So Far to Go – Common Ft. D’Angelo| One of the most sensual Dilla beats topped off with Common and D’Angelo?! Oh my god. Sexiest song ever. This song just makes you crave intimacy. Analyzing it from this point of view I now realize it was a strange choice for my graduation cap but it makes sense out of context. Still so beautiful. The Reminisce Over You – Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth| Another song that just is hip-hop. The flow on this is just so feel good and the lyrics are just so real. This is one of those songs that I love driving to on max volume. It just has that kind of energy. Selfish – Slum Village Ft. John Legend and Kanye West| This is one of those songs that I would kill to have John Legend sing to me. And honestly probably one of my favorite Kanye West flows along with The Food and The Corner by Common. Definitely makes him seem a lot more approachable. This is one of those songs that I just think is really fucking cute. Doo Wop (That Thing) – Lauryn Hill| This is that song that you can definitely see me sing very passionately at 1:30 AM after a significant amount of vodka cranberries at just about any Philly bar or club. However I have a very complex relationship with it in reality. I have always loved this song (I mean, who doesn’t) but it also made me feel kind of shitty about myself. That very first verse where Lauryn’s being “truly genuine” attacked just about every single one of my insecurities, so I always felt an overwhelming sense of shame listening to this. But maybe after seeing what Lauryn’s career has developed into today I should take it with a grain of salt. Still have nothing but love for her though. Congratulations – Mac Miller| I can’t lie, I listened to this song for the first time since Mac Miller’s death to write this. Something about that piano intro makes me cry. It reminds me of a music box, something so innocent and naive, and yet this is some of the most mature music Mac has ever created. I remember hearing this song for the first time and being amazed that this was the same Mac Miller who made K.I.D.S. I have never seen an artist develop so beautifully, but at such an unfortunate cost. You hear his demons throughout this album, but it created something so lovely. Airworks – J Dilla| I’m not exactly sure why, but this has always been one of my favorite J Dilla beats. I’ve never heard someone rap over it and frankly, I’m not sure I want to. I don’t think I could ever understand why I love it so much, but it just reminds me of the ocean in how rhythmically hypnotizing it is. It feels like a breath of fresh air. Lost – Chance the Rapper Ft. NoName| Don’t worry, I’m not here to subtly bash Chance the Rapper again. This song describes such a complex relationship in a way that I both can and cannot relate to. The wordplay is stunning and the metaphors are incredible. It was also the first I had heard of NoName and I just loved everything about her. She wasn’t overtly feminine or masculine with her raps, she was just authentic and poetic and I loved it. Faithful – Common| Nothing made me fall in love with Common at a very sexually frustrated age of 17 years old more than hearing him speculate if God was a woman. The struggles he discusses in the song are so simple and so innocent as he faces his own actions in relation to morality. It would also be a travesty if I didn’t comment on John Legend’s STUNNING vocals towards the end of the song. It is the icing on the cake. It ties it together so beautifully and leaves me with the biggest smile on my face.
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