Ten of the Greatest Rap Songs You’ve Never Heard

das efx baknaffexI know the majority of the quizzo crowd isn’t crazy about rap, so I could list just about any ten songs and many of you probably haven’t heard them. But here are ten that I really think showcase the true spirit of hip-hop, not the flashy pop music that hip hop has become as it has moved to the mainstream. I think that even people who don’t like hip hop will appreciate the poetry and feeling heard in these songs. These aren’t songs to listen to if you’re trying to dance at the club. These are songs to listen to if you enjoy urban poetry. Give ’em a try, and see what you think. If you like ’em, click “Like” below.

  1. Ed OG Featuring Masta Ace-“Wishing” Masta Ace is the most underrated rapper in hip hop history. Period. The black Eminem. Similar flow, similar voice, and complete mastery of the English language. Here’s a song done a few years ago (when Bush was president) that takes Martin Luther King’s speech and updates it. Ed OG isn’t as strong of a rapper, but still delivers some nice lines in this one.
  2. Scarface-“My Block” Best known from his days in the Geto Boys, Scarface has since had a moderately succesful solo career. Pretty much the only rapper other than the guys in Outkast that I like that’s from the Dirty South. Here’s a great homage to where he came from.
  3. RZA-“Grits”. A heartbreaking but nostalgic look back on a childhood in the ghetto. Everybody knows RZA, but not a lot of people know this one.
  4. RA the Rugged Man-“On the Block”. A great look back on the Golden Era of hip hop from the Soundbombing album. One of the great underground rappers of today. Like most great rappers today (Jay-Z, Nas, Common) in his 30s. When these guys quit rapping, it’s all over.
  5. Das Efx-“Changes” Most people remember these guys as the “They Want EFX” guys. To me, they were much more than that. The best group in hip-hop when it was at it’s absolute apex. Lyrical geniuses, their dexterity with the English language was awe inspiring. This is a more recent song with a great Queen sample that I think you might dig about the changes in hip-hop over the years.
  6. Brand Nubian-“Slow Down”. Speaking of great samples…A masterful use of Edie Brickell’s “What I Am”. Whereas rappers today are encouraging women to behave like whores, back in the day Brand Nubian encouraged them to “slow down”. And Grand Puba had one of the illest flows of all time. I loved his solo stuff too.
  7. Big Daddy Kane-“Who Am I?”. If you only listen to one song on this list, listen to this one. I can’t overemphasize how much I love Big Daddy Kane. Great beats, great flow, and great lyrics. Here he talks about the trappings of fame, and how he was chasing fame at the expense of his soul. Also includes a verse from Malcolm X’s daughter. God damn, hip-hop used to be so awesome.
  8. Public Enemy-“Harder Than You Think” Yeah, everybody has heard “Fight the Power” and “Bring the Noise”. But their more recent stuff has been great as well. That Public Enemy at the Troc I saw a couple of months ago was one of my favorite concerts of all time.
  9. Sticky Fingaz-“Why?” Most people know Sticky Fingaz for his role in the group Onyx. But in 2000 he released a brilliant concept album, Blacktrash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones. In this song, he manipulates his friend who is trying to make a better life for himself to be his accomplice in a jewelry store heist. Later in the album, there’s a song about the court proceedings following a murder in the jewelry store heist called “The State vs. Kirk Jones”, in which various rappers take different roles in the courtroom proceedings, including Redman as the Defense Lawyer. (Ok, so that makes 11, but you have to listen to these back to back to appreciate what Sticy was doing with this album.)
  10. K-Solo-“Fugitive”. A wonderful song that reminds us why so many black teenagers are disillusioned with the police and the justice system. And now you’ve got people hailing Lil Wayne a genius for songs like “Mrs. Officer”. Please. Hip hop is dead. But when it was alive, it was beautiful.

9 thoughts on “Ten of the Greatest Rap Songs You’ve Never Heard

  1. I look forward to listening to all of these.

    One question: Das EFX = “The best group in hip-hop when it was at it’s absolute apex?”
    Really? I mean they were very talented, but better than Wu-Tang, Tribe, De la, EPMD, Cypress Hill, Pharcyde, Gangstarr…I think not.

  2. I acknowledge that their catalogue isn’t nearly as impressive. A combination of everybody biting their style (Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” anyone?) and hip hop politics in the form of EPMD breaking up kept them (and K-Solo) from really evolving the way they would have otherwise. But “Dead Serious” is an absolute magnum opus, and I will put it up against any album recorded by any of the other groups you mention. Were they the best overall group in the long run? No. Did their songs have great social and political importance? No. But lyrically and production wise, I will put that album up against any album recorded by any group you mention (Though I will admit that anyone that has 3 Feet High and Rising or 36 Chambers as being slightly better will have a strong argument.)

  3. Usually I trust your judgment in this category. But that #4 song (“On the block”) is horrible. It sounds like Cookie Monster going over a list of “Who’s who in Rap.” Really bad. Some of the others aren’t all that great either.

    I guess there’s a reason why we haven’t heard of most of these.

  4. I’m surprised you’re not feeling it, Steve. Like I said, these aren’t the ten best, but the poetry in each of them is excellent. Most of them tell a story, and most of the stories aren’t glorifying guns, hoes or money, which is what most people nowadays think hip hop is about. The one that is about violence is more of a cautionary tale than a glorification. I think it’s perhaps unfair to say “There’s a reason we haven’t heard most of these.” There is a reason. These are not “radio friendly”. They require more thought than “It’s got a beat I can dance to.” Give some of these a second chance (though I see you’ve got your mind made up on RA the Rugged Man. I love the beatbox on that song, but I know a lot of people who do not like RA. He’s kind of the Napoleon Dynamite of rapping. Love it or hate it, no in between.) I think you’ll like some the poetry in some of them, even if perhaps you’re not crazy about the initial production. I remember that I didn’t like “Nation of Millions” the first time I heard it, and a couple months later it was my favorite album. It just took some getting used to because it didn’t sound like anything else I had heard. And if you like Changes, listen to some more Das EFX. They are really, really great lyricists.

  5. I really don’t like that R.A. the Rugged Man track (and I’m a minor fan). Everything else is really solid. I always forget how much I like Big Daddy Kane. Don’t know much about Das EFX, I’m going to have to look into them more.

    (Obligatory “needs more Del Tha Funkee Homosapien” comment.)

  6. Wow. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable of hip-hop, but I think I had only heard two of these songs before. Fugitive by K-Solo and Slow Down by Brand Nubian. Johnny, I know you’re big on Das EFX, and I definitely think that they are talented, but I just can’t get past all that “ickity, lickity, dickety” stuff that they do. It just seems to gimmicky to me. Even on this song here which is pretty cool, they still drop those in. I definitely liked the Big Daddy Kane one except Malcolm X’s daughter kind of ruined it at the end. The Masta Ace and Scarface ones were pretty good too. I really liked the Sticky Fingaz stuff. I’ll have to check out that whole album. Seems like a pretty cool idea. I was slightly let down by Grits because I think you had hyped that one up to me before. It was pretty good, but I didn’t think it was great, although I did enjoy Raekown as the ice cream man in the video. For a really good RZA verse from 36 Chambers, check out “Tearz”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFXkqef3Njk
    Also, for a good nostalgia track off another classic album, check out “Things Done Changed” by Notorious B.I.G.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdciOXroU9o
    And if you think hip-hop is dead, luckily Lupe Fiasco is coming out with a new album soon. Check out “Hip-Hop Saved My Life”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPiKKfcjI-4&ob=av2e “Dumb it Down”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1Et1siZhTk&feature=channel and “Little Weapon”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ra9DVewxdo

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