Culture Music

MixedByAli Talks Music and Business Ventures in A Conversation With ONE37pm

MixedByAli is one of the top engineers in the music industry with a loaded resume including work with Kendrick Lamar, the late great Nipsey Hussle, Snoop Dogg, and more. The six-time Grammy nominee and three-time Grammy winner has no intentions of slowing down and caught up with ONE37pm’s Mike Boyd to talk music, entrepreneurship, and more.

Boyd: I wanted to first talk about you working on ‘What It Feels Like’ from Nipsey and Jay-Z. What was that process like for you?

MixedByAli: Just a full circle moment for me honestly with me doing the work on Victory Lap, and even before that, the relationship Nipsey and I had organically outside the music. It felt good to hear his voice again and continue his legacy. It’s an incredible record—Jay killed it! The soundtrack was amazing. Personally, it was a moment for me with Nip leaving untimely, and to be able to sonically get into it, and give this back to the world.

Boyd: Talk to us about the art of engineering and the process because I know you are working on special songs all the time—maybe not as special as ‘What It Feels Like’ but I feel like you are popping up in all the song credits! What’s that like?

MixedByAli: First of all, it’s just a blessing to be able to have that type of reaction. I’ve always been one of those people that have severe ADHD and didn’t know how to stay still. As a kid, I liked to take things apart and put them back together, and as I grew, I liked how I could do that with music. Something that was never there before is recorded through a microphone, and then it’s timeless at that point. The fact that I can add my two cents to it gives me that same feeling. I can break something apart and put it back together.

Boyd: I’ve been in the studio with you and I notice you use all of the studio tools in the room.

MixedByAli: They’re in the room, so why not use them?! All the gear I need to succeed is behind me, so why not get to it and include that in my workflow? That is one of the major reasons why my music has been the way it is—the analog sound that these tools can offer. That instantly is going to sound better than mixing the song through a computer. It’s a part of my process. If I could put an SSL board on my back, I would!

Boyd: I know you have a daughter and she has a consignment boutique—talk to us about instilling business ideas and work ethic within young children.

MixedByAli: It just goes back to me being a kid. I was always interested in business and infatuated with making money. I realized I needed to show that to my own daughter, and now she won’t even need my help in the future. She’s three-years-old, but she’s excited to do some work! The company is called Aria’s Clubhouse, and it’s to help mothers get clothes for their kids during Covid times where they may not have jobs.

Boyd: You mentioned you’re at the Bishop headquarters—I wanted to talk to you about your entrepreneurship. Tell us why you started your company EngineEars and what it means to you.

MixedByAli: The whole reason why I started EngineEars is that I was a diamond in the ruff—nobody wanted to give me that chance when I was coming up. I had to fight and work for everything I had. I always promised myself that I would give back. It started with a simple Instagram, and through that, the community started moving faster. From there I said let’s take it a step further and create something more tangible. 

I started a workshop, and from that we had organic conversations with the audience. We posted those videos, and we had people all over the world saying to come to their countries and do workshops. So we started an engineering world tour. I realized through conversations that we were all having the same problems, so I wanted to create something that would disrupt the business model. EngineEars provides upcoming engineers with the tools to build their business. I want to create a legacy that my family can be proud of through actions and not words.

Be sure to follow MixedByAli for his latest releases and business updates on both his Instagram and Twitter.

Culture Music

The 35 Best Jay-Z Lyrics of All-Time

Hov, Hova, Young Hov, Jigga Man, or Jay-Z, whatever you know him as, there is no denying that Shawn Carter is one of the most legendary and influential rappers of all-time.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Jay-Z escaped a life of poverty, crime, and violence to become not just a leader in music but also culture, business, and more. He has cemented his place amongst the all-time greats in music and is responsible for some of the best songs in hip-hop history.

He has dropped 13 solo albums throughout his career, along with five collaborative albums, multiple live albums, and more. While it is nearly impossible to pick what his best lyrics are, we did our best. Here are our picks for Jay-Z’s 35 best lyrics.

1. I sell ice in the winter, I sell fire in hell/I am a hustler, baby, I’ll sell water to a whale -‘U Don’t Know’
“U Don’t Know”

2. We used to fight for building blocks/Now we fight for blocks with buildings that make a killin’/The closest of friends when we first started/But grew apart as the money grew and soon grew black-hearted

3. Momma ain’t raised no fool/Put me anywhere on God’s green earth, I’ll triple my worth.
“U Don’t Know”

4. Financial freedom my only hope/Fuck livin’ rich and dyin’ broke/I bought some artwork for one million/Two years later, that shit worth two million/Few years later, that shit worth eight million/I can’t wait to give this shit to my children/Y’all think it’s bougie, I’m like, it’s fine/But I’m tryin’ to give you a million dollars worth of game for $9.99
“The Story of O.J.”

5. Look, if I shoot you, I’m brainless/But if you shoot me, then you’re famous
“Streets Is Watching”

6. Nine-to-five is how you survive, I ain’t tryna survive/I’m tryna live it to the limit and love it a lot/Life ills poisoned my body, I used to say fuck mic skills/I never prayed to God, I prayed to Gotti/That’s right, it’s wicked – that’s life, I live it/Ain’t askin’ for forgiveness for my sins, ends

7. Allow me to re-introduce myself/My name is Hov, OH, H-to-the-O-V/I used to move snowflakes by the O-Z/I guess even back then you can call me/CEO of the R-O-C, Hov!/Fresh out the fryin’ pan into the fire/I be the music biz number one supplier/Flyer than a piece of paper bearin’ my name/Got the hottest chick in the game wearin’ my chain, that’s right, Hov
“Public Service Announcement”

8. Shit, I’m a man with pride, you don’t do shit like that/You don’t just pick up and leave and leave me sick like that/You don’t throw away what we had, just like that/I was just fuckin’ them girls, I was gon’ get right back/They say you can’t turn a bad girl good/But once a good girl’s gone bad, she’s gone forever/I’ll mourn forever/Shit, I’ve got to live with the fact I did you wrong forever
“Song Cry”

9. I’m so far ahead of my time, I’m ’bout to start another life/Look behind you, I’m ’bout to pass you twice
“Hovi Baby”

10. The year is ’94, in my trunk is raw/In my rearview mirror is the motherfuckin’ law/Got two choices, y’all: pull over the car or/Bounce on the devil, put the pedal to the floor/And I ain’t tryin’ to see no highway chase with Jake/Plus I got a few dollars, I can fight the case/So I pull over to the side of the road/I heard, “Son, do you know why I’m stopping you for?”/‘Cause I’m young and I’m black and my hat’s real low?/Do I look like a mind reader, sir? I don’t know
“99 Problems”

11. I’m not a biter, I’m a writer for myself and others/I say a B.I.G. verse, I’m only biggin’ up my brother/Biggin’ up my borough, I’m big enough to do it
“What More Can I Say”

12. Today I got my thoroughest girl with me/I’m mashin’ the gas, she’s grabbin’ the wheel, it’s trippy/How hard she rides with me, the new Bobby and Whitney/Only time we don’t speak is during Sex and the City/She gets Carrie fever, but soon as the show’s over/She’s right back to being my soldier/‘Cause mami’s a rider and I’m a roller/Put us together, how they gon’ stop both us?
“’03 Bonnie and Clyde”

13. I’m wondering if a thug’s prayers reach/Is Pious pious ’cause God loves pious?/Socrates asked, whose bias do y’all seek?
“No Church In The Wild”

14. First of all, I wanna thank my connect/The most important person, with all due respect/Thanks to the duffle bag, the brown paper bag/The Nike shoe box for holding all this cash/Boys in blue who put greed before the badge/The first pusher who ever made the stash
“Roc Boys (And The Winner Is…)

15. Yea, yea I’m out that Brooklyn, now I’m down in Tribeca Right next to DeNiro, but I’ll be hood forever
-“Empire State of Mind”

16. At your wake as I peek in, look in your casket Feelin’ sarcastic, ‘Look at him, still sleepin’
“22 Twos”

17. He told 12, “Gimme 12” He told them to go to hell about me
“Drug Dealers Anonymous”

18. Nah, I’m a poster for what happened seein’ your moms Doin’ five dollars worth of work just to get a dime So pardon my disposition Why should I listen to a system that never listened to me?
“Get By (Remix)”

19. People lined up to see the Titanic sinkin’ Instead we rose up from the ash like a phoenix If you’re waitin’ for the end of the Dynasty sign It would seem like forever is a mighty long time
“Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)”

20. Look, I’m on my grind, cousin, ain’t got time for frontin’ Sensitive thugs, y’all all need hugs Damn, little mans, I’m just tryin’ do me If the record’s two mil I’m just tryin’ move three
“Heart of the City”

21. From frustrated youths stuck in they ways Just read a magazine that fucked up my day How you rate music that thugs with nothin relate to it? I helped them see they way through it—NOT YOU.

22. I’d rather die enormous than live dormant, that’s how we on it.
“Can I Live?”

23. Word life, I dabbled in crazy weight Without rap, I was crazy straight Partner, I’m still spendin money from ’88
“Dead Presidents II”

24. And I got a question: Are you forgiving guys who live just like me? We’ll never know One day I prayed to you and said if I ever blow, I’d let ’em know The stakes, and exactly what takes place in the ghetto Promise fulfilled, still I feel my job ain’t done
“Where I’m From”

25. I got dreams of holding a nine milla to Bob’s killer Asking him “why?” as my eyes fill up These days I can’t wake up with a dry pillow Gone but not forgotten, homes I still feel ya So, curse the day that birthed the bastard Who caused your church mass, reverse the crash Reverse the blast then reverse the car Reverse the day and there you are, Bobalob Lord forgive him, we all have sinned But Bob’s a good dude, please let him in And if you feel in my heart that I long for revenge Please blame it on the son of the morning, thanks again

26. Strive for what you believe in, set goals and you can achieve them

27 Can’t be scared to fail, searching for perfection
“On to the Next One”

28. Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week
“Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)”

29. In order to survive, gotta learn to live with regrets

30. Nobody built like you, you design yourself
“A Dream”

31. A loss ain’t a loss, it’s a lesson

32. Fuck perception, go with what makes sense
“Moment of Clarity”

33. Whoever said illegal was the easy way out / Couldn’t understand the mechanics and the workings of the underworld, granted

34. I stepped it up another level, meditated like a Buddhist/Recruited lieutenants with ludicrous dreams of gettin’ cream/‘Let’s do this,’ it gets tedious/So I keep one eye open like CBS—you see me stressed, right?
“Can I Live”

35. “One day you’re up, next day you’re down / Long as you stay the same, it’ll come back around”

Culture Music

The Definitive List of the Top 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All-Time

The debate surrounding the greatest Hip-Hop songs of all time comes around every so often, so of course, we had to get in on it as well. Of course, these types of lists can be subjective; sometimes it can depend on the era you grew up in, where you lived (East vs West Coast for example), or even your overall preference for certain artists. Whatever the case may be, there are definitely some songs that everybody universally agrees should be on the all-time list. In no particular order, these are our top 50.

1. “Tha Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

Released in 1996 as a dedication to the memory of Bone’s friend Wallace Laird III, “Tha Crossroads” was a hit worldwide reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The poignant hit ended up winning the group a Grammy in 1997, and would later go on to rank number 33 on VH1’s Greatest Songs of Hip-Hop list.

2. “Juicy” by The Notorious B.I.G

Released as the first single off his debut album Ready to Die, “Juicy” is considered to be one of the greatest Hip-Hop songs of all time. Produced by Trackmasters, and Diddy (then known as Puffy), the song went on to reach number one on the rap charts and was certified gold. “Juicy” is instantly recognizable from the first beat and has become a classic worldwide. You should know already, but if you don’t, now you do.

3. “It Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube

Released in 1993, the song was the second single from Ice Cube’s third album The Predator. With a sample of the Isley Brother’s “Footsteps in the Dark,” the song peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 R&B/Hip-Hop song’s chart, and number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100.

For years many have wondered if the actual day in the song really occurred. However, after a lot of speculation, Ice Cube later stated in an interview that the day described in the song was fictional, and rather centered around what he personally perceived as being the perfect day. “Good Day” was later ranked at 28 on VH1’s 100 greatest Hip-Hop songs making it one of Cube’s most successful songs to date.

4. “Ms. Jackson” by OutKast

Centered around Andre 3000’s then relationship with Erykah Badu, “Ms. Jackson” was initially created on an acoustic guitar mix that 3000 was working on at the time. The song was released on October 17, 2000, as the second single from OutKast’s fourth album, Stankonia, helping to revive the album’s performance after their first single ‘B.O.B’ underperformed commercially. “Ms. Jackson” later went on to win a Grammy and has since become a staple in the group’s catalog.

5. “C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)” by Wu-Tang Clan

Next Up is the Mighty Wu-Tang. “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” is the third single from their debut studio album Enter The Wu-Tang. The Song was recorded in 1991 and focused on the early life of members Raekwon and Inspectah Deck while growing up in New York City. Despite not performing well commercially, “C.R.E.A.M” has since gone on to be recognized as one of the greatest Hip-Hop songs of all time with a gold certification.

6. “Dear Mama” by 2Pac

Written as a tribute to his mother Afeni Shakur, “Dear Mama” dives into Shakur’s childhood struggles of poverty and watching his mom battle addiction. Through the song, however, the rapper makes it clear that nothing trumps the love and respect he has for his mother giving listeners goosebumps. “Dear Mama” reached number one on the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart and was later certified platinum.

7. “Shook Ones (Part II)” by Mobb Deep

A sequel to Mobb Deep’s promotional single “Shook Ones” (which was released in 1994), “Part II” focuses on inner-city kids involved in street violence while battling financial troubles. The song was later sampled by Mariah Carey for her song “The Roof (Back In Time)”, and is now known as one of the best Hip-Hop songs ever.

8. “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy

Regarded as one of Public Enemy’s best songs, “Fight The Power” focuses on racial tensions and civil unrest. While touring Italy, lead MC Chuck D was inspired to write the hit after being asked by Spike Lee to do a song for his classic film Do The Right Thing. “Fight The Power” was named the best song of 1989 and was later ranked number 288 on the RIAA’s Songs of the Century List. Not bad for a song that came out in 1989.

9. “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five.

This heavily sampled Hip-Hop classic was released in 1982 as a single on the group’s first album also titled The Message. The song is widely regarded as being the first rap song to focus on social issues and has even inspired artists like Phil Collins to create more songs with powerful and challenging themes. “The Message” peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.

10. “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg

It’s Like This and Like That (you know the rest). This legendary track by Snoop and Dre was one of the many iconic hits these two would make together. Released in the Fall of 1992, the song reached number one on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart, and made it onto Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.

11. “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang

Taking it back to 1979, we’ve got one of the “O.G” rap records “Rappers Delight.” This song has been credited by many as introducing rap music on a worldwide level and brought awareness to world issues. “Rapper’s Delight” was voted number two on VH1’s 100 Greatest Hip-Hop songs list, and was recorded all in one take.

12. “They Reminisce Over You” by Pete Rock C.L. Smooth.

Let’s take a minute to “reminisce” over “T.R.O.Y.” Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth dropped this legendary classic in 1992. The song peaked at number one on the Hot Rap charts and was written as a tribute to Pete Rock’s friend who had recently passed away.

13. “Get Low” by Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz

Alright, stay with us here.

This track had us running from the window to the wall when it first dropped in 2003 and ended up becoming one of the songs of the summer a few months later. “Get Low” was also the world’s first introduction to “Crunk” music on a national level, and wound up reaching the Top 5 on the U.S. charts.

14. “U.N.I.T.Y.” by Queen Latifah

The 90’s version of “Respect”  by Aretha Franklin, Queen Latifah shook the world up when she dropped this track in 1993. The song addressed issues of various forms of harassment against women in Hip-Hop culture and went on to win a Grammy in 1995 for Best Solo Rap Performance.

15. “Rosa Parks” by OutKast

Released in October of 1998 as the first single from their album Aquemini, “Rosa Parks” is yet another fan favorite in the OutKast catalog. The song was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement hero Rosa Parks and was the most successful single off the album.

16. “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar

Recently named the best song of the 2010s by Pitchfork in 2019, “Alright” served as an upbeat song to bring hope in trying times. The single focused on themes of social justice and remains just as relevant in 2020 as it was in 2015.

17. “Doo Wop (That Thing)” by Lauryn Hill

It was 1998 when Lauryn Hill told us that we “couldn’t win if we weren’t right within” in her song “Doo Wop (That Thing).” “Doo Wop” debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and definitely had us “reading the room.” Over twenty years later, this hit still gets people out of their seats.

18. “Lose Yourself” by Eminem

Very few songs have hit our cores the way “Lose Yourself” did. Considered to be one of Eminem’s best songs, the record is the first Hip-Hop song to ever receive an Academy Award. “Lose Yourself” was number one pretty much everywhere in the world, and is still featured in movies, commercials, etc.

19. “Can’t Knock The Hustle” by Jay-Z

This classic gave us absolutely no reason to doubt. Featuring Mary J. Blige, this record introduced us to the legend now known as Jay-Z. While the song wasn’t a big hit commercially at the time of its release, it has since become a Hip-Hop classic and a staple in Jay’s catalog.

20. “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio

It was 1995 when Coolio dropped one of the biggest hits of the ’90s. “Gangsta’s Paradise” has sold over six million copies worldwide making it one of the biggest selling singles of all time.

21. “Who Shot Ya” by Biggie

The backstory behind this record and the chain of events that followed afterward is a whole story within itself as “Who Shot Ya” kicked off one of the most notable rap beefs of all-time with Tupac. Nevertheless, the instrument section in this track alone is iconic, and “Who Shot Ya” has made every all-time list since being released.

22. “All I Need” by Method Man featuring Mary J. Blige

Method Man and Mary J gave us everything we needed on this Bad Boy remix from 1994. The song won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a duo or group and was later featured in the film 8 Mile.

23. “I Got 5 On It” by The Luniz

Released in 1995 as the lead single from their debut album Operation Stackola, ‘I Got 5 On It’ was an instant banger. The song was certified platinum by the RIAA, and has sold over a million copies to date (which is definitely worth more than five dollars).

24. “Work It” by Missy Elliot

Missy Elliot put that thang down, flipped it, and reversed it on this legendary track from 2002. Produced by Timbaland, the song hit number two on the Billboard charts and continues to make its rounds on social media to this day.

25. “Still Not A Player” by Big Pun

In this hit from 1998, Punisher let us know that he didn’t want to be a player anymore, and went straight into the top ten. In the years since, this classic has been sampled quite a bit, most notably by Ariana Grande in her 2013 hit “The Way.’

26. “Hip-Hop Hooray” by Naughty by Nature

You can’t talk Hip-Hop, without bringing up this hit. Released in 1992, “Hip-Hop Hooray” shot straight to the top of the charts spending a week at number one, and can be heard at least once in every major sports stadium and arena per game. To date, the song has sold over a million copies in the U.S alone.

27. “Ante Up” by M.O.P

Ladies and gentlemen, we present one of the most hype songs of all time. Yet another Hip-Hop staple that can be found at major sporting events (who wouldn’t want this to be their theme song?), “Ante Up’ has also been featured in various different films, and reached number 7 on the U.K. singles chart.

28. “Flava In Ya Ear” by Craig Mack

Released in 1994, it was the remix of this track that sent “Flava In Ya Ear” to iconic Hip-Hop status. The remix featured Busta Rhymes, Biggie, LL Cool J, and Rampage, and is also heavily remembered for its video. The single eventually would up reaching number nine on the Billboard Hot 100.

29. “La Di Da Di” by Doug E. Fresh featuring Slick Rick

This 1985 classic is also one of the defining moments in Hip-Hop history. The single features Slick Rick rapping over a simple beatbox from Doug E. Fresh and has become one of the most heavily sampled songs in history. Sometimes simplicity really is the key.

30. “Keep Ya Head Up” by Tupac

In a song that still rings true today, it was 1993 when Tupac told us that things would get a little easier if we kept our heads up. This record ended up becoming another big hit for Pac, and a fan favorite in his massive catalog.

31. “Ready or Not” by The Fugees

This 1996 hit by the Fugees was released as a single off of their second album The Score. While underperforming commercially in the U.S. at the time, the song was very successful overseas. In the years since however, “Ready or Not” has been given its proper due, and is still performed today.

32. “Lost Ones” by Lauryn Hill

Speaking of Lauryn Hill, it was 1998 when she gave us this classic off of her album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. While not an official single, the song is recognized as being one of the most dynamic and powerful on the album.

33. “N.Y. State of Mind” by Nas

Taken from his legendary debut album Illmatic, this song is Nas at his absolute pinnacle. The hit features Nas talking about his rap skills, as well as the dangers of living in the Queensbridge section of New York City. In the years since, the single has gone on to be featured in Rolling Stone’s 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time list. 

34. “In Da Club” by 50 Cent

This 2003 smash had the shorties in the club on their birthdays. Released as the first single from his debut album Get Rich or Die Trying, “In Da Club” quickly reached number one, and wound up being nominated for two Grammys.

35. “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)” by Missy Elliott, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Queen Latifah, Angie Martinez

The Hip-Hop version of Kool & The Gang’s 1979 hit “Ladies Night,” this remix features an All-Star female rap cast. The remix became a big hit in the U.S. reaching number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number 2 on the Rap Songs chart.

36. “Get Money” by Junior M.A.F.I.A.

The ’90s featured the dominance of Hip-Hop group Junior M.A.F.I.A., and “Get Money” is considered to be one of their most popular hits. Lil’ Kim and Biggie also hopped on the track, and “Get Money” became a huge success selling over a million copies.

37. “Crush on You” by Lil Kim feat Lil Crease

It was 1997 when Lil’ Kim dropped her fan-favorite “Crush On You.” The song features Junior M.A.F.I.A member Lil’ Cease, as well as Biggie on the hook. The music video for “Crush on You” also previewed what was to come in terms of Lil’ Kim’s creativity and legendary looks in her videos.

38. “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” by Busta Rhymes

This 1997 monster hit by Busta Rhymes went on to become one of the biggest songs of that year. The song has what’s considered to be one of the greatest beats of all time, and the success was further propelled by the music video. The single even ended up scoring a Grammy nomination.

39. “B.O.B” by Outkast

This song is proof that you can make an all-time record without it necessarily being a huge hit number wise. In terms of commercial success, “B.O.B” wasn’t a huge success, but has since gone on to be recognized as one of the greatest Hip-Hop songs of all time.

40. “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa

If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably heard “Push It” at some point in your life. Released in 1987, these ladies dropped a fire single that ended up experiencing multiple rounds of success. “Push It” is also known for its iconic dance routine, and has been certified Platinum by the RIAA. 

41. ””It’s All About The Benjamins” by Puff Daddy and the Family

Released in August 1997, “Benjamins” featured an All-Star line up of Diddy, The Notorious B.I.G, Lil Kim, and Missy Elliot on the vocals. The song reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and had us all feeling like we were ballers and shot-callers. In 2008, “Benjamins” was ranked number 32 on VH1’s ‘100 Greatest Songs of Hip-Hop’ list.

42. “California Love” by Tupac feat Dr. Dre

This comeback single from Tupac is one of his most well-known songs. Released at the end of 1995, the record ended becoming one of the best selling singles of 1996. “California Love” has been featured numerous times in pop culture, and ended up getting Tupac two posthumous Grammy nominations.

43. “The Rain” by Missy Elliot

Released in 1997 as the lead single off her album Supa Dupa Fly, “The Rain” began dominating airplay towards the late summer. The music video further elevated the success of the single, which ended up reaching number four on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop song chart.

43. “International Players Anthem” by UGK feat. Outkast

Ladies and gentlemen, we present the song that’s considered to be one of the Hip-Hop Bibles. Released in 2007, critics labeled “International Players Anthem” as being one of the best hits of that year, and the song reached number ten on the Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart.

45. “Ruff Ryders Anthem” by DMX

It was 1998 when DMX told us to stop, drop, shut ’em down, and open up shop. This single from X is one of his personal favorites and was recently featured on his Verzuz matchup with Snoop Dogg. The video currently has 129 million views on YouTube.

46. “Tennessee” by Arrested Development

Written by member Speech after the deaths of his grandmother and brother, Arrested Development released this Hip-Hop staple in March of 1992. “Tennessee” samples Prince’s “Alphabet St.,” and reached number six in the U.S., later winning a Grammy.

47. “O.P.P.” by Naughty By Nature

Released in 1991, this song had everybody asking if they were “Down With O.P.P.” in the early ’90s. This single is known as being one of the first Hip-Hop songs to crossover into the Pop scene. “O.P.P.” went onto reach number six on the Billboard Hot 100.

48. “Forgot About Dre” by Dr. Dre feat Eminem

This classic was released in early 2000 off of Dre’s album entitled 2000. The song addresses Dre’s haters with Eminem flying in for backup. The single-ended up winning a Grammy, and twenty years later we definitely haven’t forgotten about this hit from Dre.

49. “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puffy feat Faith Evans and 112

Written as a tribute to the late Notorious B.I.G., Puff dropped this poignant hit in 1997. The song samples the 1980’s hit “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, and spent eleven weeks at number one. With over five million copies sold worldwide, “I’ll Be Missing You” is one of the best selling singles of all time.

50. “Hit Em Up” by Tupac

So you remember earlier when we mentioned that Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya” started a long chain of events with Tupac? Well, this song was Tupac’s response. “Hit Em Up” is widely regarded as one of the best diss tracks ever recorded, and set the tone for future diss records to come.

So there you have it. Of course, there’s plenty of honorable mentions (and room for debate), but these songs are what we consider to be the Top 50 greatest Hip-Hop songs of all time. Stay tuned because we definitely may have to do a follow up very soon. For now, though, take a minute to enjoy these throwbacks.

Culture Music

Everything You Need to Know About D Smoke

Over their time on-air, The X-Factor, American Idol, and other music competition shows of that sort have featured rappers in spirts with varying degrees of success, but the full extent of Hip-Hop hasn’t truly been felt in that space until Netflix’s Rhythm + Flow. The show was the first competition of its kind to be centered around Hip-Hop and due to its platform, it didn’t need to be censored on the same level that something on television would. The genre and culture have always been rebellious and authentic, so that was necessary. Rather than tying the winner up in a recording contract with hidden clauses, instead, they won $250k. Plus, Cardi B, Chance The Rapper, and T.I. were judges, with guest judges in the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Royce 5’9, and the late great Nipsey Hussle. It was perfect.

The first season of the show took place last year and after weeks of grueling competition, Inglewood, California’s D Smoke was crowned as the winner. If you’re just taking notice and need to get up to speed on things, here’s everything you need to know about him.

He’s part of a talented family with a musical history
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Though he was relatively unknown to even hardcore Hip-Hop fans before the show, D Smoke does have some ties in music dating back to the mid-2000s.

After graduating from UCLA, in 2006, D Smoke started a group called WoodWorks with his brothers and his cousin Tiffany Gouché. They boast writing credits on songs from The Pussycat Dolls, Jaheim, and Ginuwine, some of the biggest acts from that era. One of D Smoke’s brothers in the group? SiR, who you might know as a member of TDE, the label which is also home to Kendrick Lamar, SZA, and more. The brothers collaborated on ‘You Ain’t Ready’ from SiR’s 2015 Seven Sundays album and the rest of the family has since collaborated multiple times in their newfound success.

Post-show success
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Since the show, D Smoke has chosen to stay independent and has released everything under his own WoodWorks Records. Despite that, he’s dabbled with some big names in Hip-Hop, including fellow Cali native The Game, who he collaborated on the rapper’s Born 2 Rap album. The song was ‘Cross On Jesus Back,’ which Smoke also helped produce, along with Mike Zombie, who you might recognize as the producer of Drake’s ‘Started From The Bottom.’

As well as featuring on other artists’ songs, D Smoke has, of course, also put out projects of his own. The day after the show ended, he put out a project called Inglewood High, capitalizing on the popularity he had gained overnight. The name of the project refers not only to where he went to school, but where he taught years later. D Smoke taught Spanish and music theory there for years, and he talks about many of his experiences from there on the project. The EP was a perfect introduction for fans and set up his next release nicely.

In February of this year, the rapper put out Black Habits, his second studio album following 2006’s Producer Of The Year. The 14-year gap was unique and cemented how, despite Smoke’s popularity growing overnight, he was far from an overnight success. To further signify this, as well as his family in SiR, Jackie Gouché, and Davion Farris, the LP features Jill Scott, Snoop Dogg, Dreamville’s Ari Lennox, and more. If up until that point, D Smoke felt like a product of Rhythm + Flow, with this album, he broke into his own as a rapper to watch.

What the future holds
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As of now, D Smoke is undoubtedly working hard at something, but there are no musical projects that we’re aware of and are actively anticipating. But if the rapper’s 2019 and 2020 have been any indication of his future, then he has some great things coming. Back in March, Netflix confirmed that there would indeed be a second season of Rhythm + Flow judged by Chance, Tip, and Cardi once again. Perhaps the pandemic has delayed things, but we should get the show next year regardless.

Whoever wins will have a lot to live up to with D Smoke’s continuing success. No pressure!

Culture Music

Nas’ “King’s Disease” is the Perfect Late Summer Anthem

The Year is 1994. The City is Crown Heights, and a young man by the name of Nasir Jones has just released his debut studio album ‘Illmatic’. An Instant Hip Hop classic, it was clear very early on that “Nas” was going to be a force to reckon with in the music industry for a long time. Now here we are in the year 2020. An unusual year that has seen us craving music and entertainment much more than what we are typically used to, and yet again Nas has managed to surprise us. On August 21st, 26 years after his debut, Nas dropped his twelfth studio album entitled ‘King’s Disease.’ For those that don’t know, King’s Disease refers to Gout. A nasty infection that comes from excessively eating foods that are rich. When you think of Nas’s catalogue, nasty, rich, and infectious are exactly the words that come to mind.

While ‘King’s Disease’ is definitely modern in its approach, Nas doesn’t stray away from the sound and lyrical content that’s made him Rap Royalty. With witty puns and word play along with top notch production from Hit-Boy, and features from A$AP Ferg, Big Sean, and Lil Durk to name a few, critics are already calling it one of the best albums of the year. As usual, Nas also stands alone on tracks such as ‘27 Summers’ and ‘Blue Benz.’ Another unique feature of the album is the length of the tracks. Many of the songs are about two minutes long, and the album itself is only 38 minutes all together. Short and Sweet, but gets the job done. 

As we round out the summer, ‘Kings Disease’ is the perfect anthem for those I-75 drives, or late night rides out around the city, and Nas once again drops an album that shifts the industry, while still remaining culturally relevant after 30 years in the game.

Culture Music

2020 Hip Hop Albums: Your Guide to The Most Hyped Releases

2020 is shaping up to be a massive year for hip hop. With projects from Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Wayne already in the bank, and albums from Playboi Carti, Future, Kid Cudi (and tons more) still on the horizon, rap fans have a lot on their plates for 2020. We compiled a list of the most hyped releases of the year—including those still TBD—so you don’t have to. Check it out below. 

What dropped so far:
January: ‘Funeral’ – Lil Wayne

Release Date: January 31, 2020

Coming off his wildly successful 2018 Tha Carter V, Lil Wayne’s next project (and thirteenth studio album) was bound for greatness. And, despite mixed reviews (mixed to positive), Funeral lives up to the hype. 

The Hollygrove rapper traditionally uses Tha Carter series titles for his most prepared, focused albums, while other projects have been arenas for experimentation and lower pressure releases. Many of the reviews of Funeral have emphasized its pseudo-mixtape sound. Rather than acting as a totally cohesive project, Wayne put together a more disparate 24 song album featuring a slew of different sounds and styles. As with many of Wayne’s projects, this album finds its footing most clearly in the moments when he dives into the more technical aspects of his lyricism. As with all of Wayne’s projects, the album is certainly worth a listen. Whether or not it lived up to the hype is up to you.

January: ‘Untrapped’ – Yo Gotti

Release Date: January 31, 2020

Yo Gotti’s tenth studio album debuted at the end of January (on the same day as Funeral) and was immediately met with positive reviews. Untrapped chronicles the Memphis rapper’s mentality and commitment to the hustle, all delivered over a wide array of beats, from soulful sleepers to up-beat dance hits. And although Gotti’s enough on his own, the project includes features from a swath of superstars including Lil Uzi Vert, Megan Thee Stallion, a Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and more.

February: ‘My Turn’ – Lil Baby

Release Date: February 28, 2020

My Turn dropped at the end of February and quickly became Lil Baby’s first Billboard number one album. Although the excessive length of the rapper’s sophomore studio album received some criticism, the project features some of Baby’s hottest tracks yet. With features from the likes of Gunna, Future, Lil Wayne and Young Thug, My Turn is a welcome addition to Lil Baby’s quickly burgeoning discography. 

March: ‘Eternal Atake’ – Lil Uzi Vert

Release Date: March 6, 2020

I don’t need to tell y’all about Eternal Atake. Widely considered to be the most hyped release of the year, Lil Uzi Vert’s second studio album was a monumental milestone in the Philly rapper’s career. Since the release of the album’s lead single, “Futsal Shuffle 2020” back in December 2019, fans have been clamoring for more futuristic sounds from Uzi Vert. This album was unbelievably hyped, and somehow, against all odds, has lived up to the massive expectations set by the rapper’s record and persona. 

Critics almost unanimously agree that this is Uzi Vert’s best project yet, and the reverberations of the album’s futuristic sound are already seeping into hip hop globally. I don’t need to tell you more about this one, just go listen for yourself.

March: ‘Suga’ – Megan Thee Stallion,

Release Date: March 6, 2020

This project isn’t technically an album (it’s an EP), but the “Hot Girl Summer” rapper has actually never released a true studio album. Her 2019 project Fever was a mixtape, and her other projects have all been extended plays. Despite its meager 24 minute runtime, Suga includes plenty of hits (like “Savage”) and certainly gives Megan fans something to chew on while we continue to await her first-ever true studio album.

March: ‘3.15.20’ – Childish Gambino

Release Date: March 15, 2020

3.15.20 is Donald Glover’s (AKA Childish Gambino’s) first musical release since his game-changing single “This Is America” debuted in 2018 (although it is not featured on the album). The prolific singer/writer/rapper/comedian’s follow up to his critically acclaimed 2016 album Awaken, My Love! was surprise-released on on March 15th before becoming widely available on March 22nd under the title, 3.15.2020. 

The album (and its associated visuals) emphasize minimalism. With no identifiable cover art, album title or song titles, the project’s release was certainly unorthodox. It’s a complicated, weaving opus that unfolds over the course of the album’s 58-minute runtime. The album was met with widespread acclaim, but you’ll have to listen for yourself to determine your take.


Release Date: March 27, 2020

PartyNextDoor, who rose to fame as the first artist signed to Drake’s OVO label in 2013, released his third studio album PARTYMOBILE at the end of March. With features from Drake himself, Rihanna and Bad Bunny, the album is jam-packed with bangers reminiscent of some of the singer’s biggest hits of all from projects like PARTYNEXTDOOR and PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO. Although the album drags at times, if you loved the Canadian singer’s earlier work, there are certainly tracks you’ll love on PARTYMOBILE.

April: ‘Pray for Paris’ – Westside Gunn

Release Date: April 17, 2020

This album is fire. There’s very little else to say. Featuring verses from stars like Joey Badass, Freddie Gibbs and Tyler, the Creator, this project gets better upon every listen. With Gunn’s trademark raspy flows overlaid on a series of soulful, leaned back beats, this album is shaping up to be one of the best of the year. The Buffalo rapper is still expected to release a project with Madlib at some point later this year, but we have something truly incredible to focus on while we wait.

April: ‘BLAME IT ON BABY’ – DaBaby

Release Date: April 17, 2020

The third studio album from Charlotte, NC rapper DaBaby dropped on April 17. With a short 33 minute runtime and features from the likes of Future, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, and Megan Thee Stallion, the project delivers a lot of what fans have come to expect from DaBaby. Although the album was critiqued a bit for its similarity to previous DaBaby projects, there are certainly a multitude of tracks on there for fans to get into. 

May: ‘Dark Lane Demo Tapes’ – Drake

Release Date: May 1, 2020

With the release of Dark Lane Demo Tapes on May 1st, Drake gave his fans something to tide them over until the release of his still-awaited sixth studio album, set to release this summer. The mixtape, which includes features from the likes of Young Thug, Future and Playboi Carti, is a departure from some of the Toronto rapper’s previous albums. It’s less of an entirely cohesive project, with more influence from the UK and Brooklyn drill scenes than any of his previous work. Nonetheless, it’s a super interesting project, and definitely worth listening to—especially for those who have longed for Drake to venture into uncharted territory. If one thing is for sure, we’re excited for his upcoming studio album. 

May: ‘High Off Life’ – Future

Release Date: May 15, 2020

When “Life is Good” featuring Drake released back in January, it was initially thought to be the lead single off of a joint mixtape between the two rappers. However, Future later confirmed that the song would actually be the title track off of his upcoming 8th studio album. The title was changed from Life is Good to High Off Life, and the project was released on May 15th. In an interview with XXL from before the album’s release, Future revealed, “It’s about life and being good and just enjoying life. So many tragedies and catastrophes and everything is going on in the world. And you want to enjoy life, as long as you have it. Waking up, breathing, well, you want to be able to soak it all up and be appreciative of every moment on this earth, every moment that you’re living.” With features from Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert, Travis Scott and more, the album is absolutely worth a listen for anyone into hip hop in 2020. 

What we’re most excited for:

There are an unbelievable number of anticipated projects coming out throughout the rest of 2020. From Cardi B to Frank Ocean, we compiled a list of the rumored releases below. Although a lot of these albums don’t yet have a release date (or title for that matter), we’re remaining hopeful that we’ll have a ton to listen to for the rest of 2020. See the full list of coming releases below:

Drake, TBD

Release Date: TBD

Drake already dropped ‘Dark Lane Demo Tapes,’ but claims there’s still another project on the way. It’s rumored to release this summer, but there’s still no specific release date or title available. Based on the bangers off of ‘DLDT’ and his long record of hit-heavy studio albums, it’s safe to say we’re in for something pretty great from the Toronto superstar. 

J Cole, The Fall Off

Release Date: TBD

J. Cole’s sixth studio album has been long-awaited, and although there’s no release date yet, the project is titled The Fall Off. It’s rumored to release in 2020 and will be the rapper’s first release since his 2018 project KOD

Kid Cudi, Entergalactic

Release Date: TBD

Since Cudi’s 2018 release of the joint critically acclaimed project KIDS SEE GHOSTS with Kanye West, the Man on the Moon rapper/singer has been quiet. But hopefully, we’ll be getting something big from the king before the year ends. 

Kanye West, Jesus is King 2

Release Date: TBD

Of course, we have to take all release announcements from Kanye with a grain of salt. Jesus is King 2 was originally rumored to come out immediately following the original Jesus is King, but it now looks like it’ll come out sometime in 2020. There still aren’t a lot of details surrounding the elusive project, but it seems it will probably follow in the footsteps of West’s previous album, emphasizing the rapper’s spirituality through a gospel-inspired sound. 

Frank Ocean, TBD

Release Date: TBD

Let’s just say we’ve been hurt before by a rumored Frank Ocean release (Blonde’s release got pushed back too many times to count). With any luck though, the king of contemporary R&B will deliver us a project sometime before the dawn of 2021. Fingers crossed. 

Rihanna, R9

Release Date: TBD

There’s obviously not a lot to say about this one. When Rihanna drops an album, it’s a hit. There’s no way around it. The singer has been focused on her humanitarian efforts as of late though, so the release may be pushed back. All we can do is hope. 

Westside Gunn and Madlib, TBD

Release Date: TBD

Westside Gunn is a ONE37pm favorite, and when you pair him with arguably the greatest hip hop producer of the 21st century, well then you’ve got yourself a hyped album. Gunn confirmed this collab on his IG back in December 2019, but there are still very few details floating around. We can’t wait to see what they cook up. 

Everything else set to release:

Cardi B, TBD 

Release Date: TBD

Migos, Culture III

Release Date: TBD

Young Thug, Punk

Release Date: TBD

Playboi Carti, Whole Lotta Red

Release Date: TBD

Kendrick Lamar, TBD

Release Date: TBD

Meek Mill, TBD

Release Date: TBD

Pusha T, TBD

Release Date: TBD

A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Artist 2.0

Release Date: TBD

Lil Yachty, Lil Boat 3

Release Date: TBD

JuiceWrld, TBD

Release Date: TBD

Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 4

Release Date: TBD

Noname, Factory Baby

Release Date: TBD

Tierra Whack, TBD

Release Date: TBD


Release Date: TBD

The Weeknd, TBD

Release Date: TBD

Rico Nasty, Nightmare Vacation

Release Date: TBD

Black Star, TBD

Release Date: TBD

Ski Mask The Slump God, TBD

Release Date: TBD

Big Sean, TBD

Release Date: TBD

DJ Khaled, TBD

Release Date: TBD

Vince Staples, TBD

Release Date: TBD

Culture Music

The History of Hip Hop Fashion from 2000 to 2020

The blurring between “hip-hop fashion” and high fashion has been a decades long process, ultimately culminating with Louis Vuitton’s appointment of Virgil Abloh as the house’s menswear Artistic Director in 2018. This move was so monumental because as the first African American artistic director of a major fashion house, Abloh and his collections have demonstrated the breakdown of the binary between “high” and “low” fashion. As is the case with art, this distinction is unproductive, serving only to hierarchize fashion rather than encourage people to wear whatever they want. 

Nonetheless, I take issue with Abloh’s recent assertion that “streetwear is dead.” Wearing brands that you love or saw skaters wear, pieces you saw rappers don or cool things you saw people repping on the street is certainly not dead. How could it be? But the concept of “streetwear” as a standalone genre of dress, unrelated to high fashion (whatever that means), is certainly dying. 

The evolution of hip-hop style, especially from the year 2000 to today, is a good indicator of this dissolution of the high fashion/low fashion binary. What we once deemed “streetwear” in, say, 2005, has now become fodder for the design of fashion houses globally. Since the year 2000 and the forthcoming influence of Kanye West, the ubiquity of certain brands/trends/silhouettes have ebbed and flowed constantly, demonstrating the cyclical nature of hip-hop fashion. 

As a note, this history is by no means entirely comprehensive. When we track the “history” of hip-hop fashion, we aim to identify trends and moments throughout the timeline, rather than truly define the history completely. There are many rappers not mentioned who had a massive impact on trends, and similarly some whose influence may be overstated. 

The Early 2000s: Nigo and Pharrell

I won’t pretend to be able to lecture about the origin of hip-hop as a music style in the late 70s and early 80s. That said, I believe the birth of the modern rapper/designer crossover is traceable to the turn of the millenium. When rappers began developing careers as designers (rather than just influencers and curators), it opened the doors of what it could mean to be a hip-hop star. Although RUN-DMC had certainly escalated the cultural capital of the Adidas brand in the 1980s, when Nigo and Pharrell first collaborated on Billionaire Boys Club, they set the pace for rappers who wanted to dive into the fashion world. And especially considering the longstanding animosity between the high fashion world and rappers (an animosity steeped in racism and a latching on to the aforementioned high/low art binary), the move began to change the game for rapper-creators.

There are many brands that come to mind in a discussion of the hip-hop fashion landscape of the early 2000s. The running thread through all of these brands is the founder of A Bathing Ape (BAPE), Nigo, whose influence on the era’s style cannot be understated. The influence of 90s Japanese street style generally is widespread in modern hip-hop fashion. The now defunct Fruits magazine was a landmark publication in the history of street style. 

Nigo began BAPE in 1993 but began his symbiotic relationship with American hip-hop fashion in the early 2000s. With the help of rapper/singer/style icon Pharrell, the duo teamed up to create the label Billionaire Boys Club (BBC), which debuted in Pharrell’s “Frontin’” music video in 2003.

Johnny Nunez / Getty Images

This video solidified a growing conflation between hip-hop culture and skate culture. Though skate culture had long been a predominantly white, California-led subculture of the surf lifestyle, the proliferation of street skating throughout the 90s began to link the two initially disparate scenes. The “Frontin” video features skaters repping BBC, interspersed with shots of Jay-Z spitting. In this moment, Pharrell—and his partnership with Nigo—helped bring together elements of hip-hop fashion with aspects of street skating trends, unifying them under the burgeoning umbrella known as streetwear

Pharrell went on to expand his designer repertoire, adding the label ICE CREAM to his portfolio. The label focused on skate style, and released multiple skate-focused collections. In their myriad of projects, Nigo and Pharrell had teamed up to create a growing kind of street style, one which drew inspiration from the likes of Mark Gonzales as much as it did from Jay-Z.

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The Mid 2000s: Kanye and the Pink Polo
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Of course, the most-referenced example of the crossover between hip-hop and high fashion is Kanye West. With his donning of a pink polo in 2004, West began to destabilize notions of masculinity in hip-hop fashion, encouraging rappers/singers/producers to loosen their grasp on long held concepts of what rappers needed to look like. Between his pink polos, slitted glasses and Polo sweaters, Kanye demonstrated the wide range of outfit possibilities for artists.

Mychal Watts / Getty Images
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Although his style would evolve, sometimes including vivid color and other times maintaining a stark commitment to monochrome, the precedent was set. Rappers no longer needed to merely regurgitate elements of street style emphasizing staunch notions of masculinity; The possibilities of what rappers could wear were becoming endless.

The Late 2000s

In the late 2000s, Kanye had opened doors for other rappers/artists to expand their style horizon. With the emergence of style icons like Kid Cudi, coupled with the expanding eccentric dress of early-2000s southern-rap icon Andre 3000, hip-hop fashion was beginning to solidify around only one rule: There are no rules. 

One of the most important moments of this era took shape in the form of West’s collaboration with longstanding fashion house Louis Vuitton (LV). Long before Virgil Abloh would take the reins of the massive house, the man with the pink polo collaborated with LV on the Don, now one of the most iconic sneakers of the 21st century. This sneaker debuted the same year as Kanye’s first Nike collaboration, the Air Yeezy 1, but the LV collab signaled a bridging of the previously disparate world’s of hip-hop and high fashion. Where the Nike collab echoed some of the longstanding collaborations between rappers and athletic brands (like RUN-DMC and Adidas), the LV collab set a new bar for what was accessible to rappers.

Oliver Morris / Getty Images

In this era, Kanye began to turn to the world of high-fashion in his personal dress, famously adopting some more upscale looks for events he attended throughout 2009 and 2010.

Michel Dufour / Getty Images

The turn of the decade also saw an influx of new silhouettes into the spotlight. Rappers like Lil Wayne and Wiz Khalifa notably began wearing skinny jeans around the turn of the decade; The transition from baggier silhouettes towards skinny jeans was ongoing in this moment. This transition is one of the most momentous in fashion generally between the 2000s and the 2010s, and these two rappers (as well as many others) foreshadowed this growing evolution. The turn back towards baggy pants would not truly begin again until the late 2010s.

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The Early 2010s: The Skatewear Revival and Integration of High Fashion

The early 2010s once again saw a revival of the conflation between skatewear and hip-hop style. With the debut of Odd Future and Tyler the Creator’s 2011 project, Goblin, the weirdo/shock-value-oriented genre of music, style and performance was emerging as a centerpiece of hip-hop fashion writ large. In the aftermath of Kanye’s heralding of high fashion, this era clapped back against these notions, instead opting for a totally and completely individualistic style, not subscribed to any former “rules.” In their donning of ridiculously colorful articles, Odd Future and its members began to recreate what cohesive style was. 

With Tyler’s five-panel hats (which became a staple of the era), shorts and flashy shoes (often skate shoes, rather than basketball shoes), he cemented a new style for youth getting into hip-hop. In this same era, artists like Chance the Rapper and other up-and-comers were similarly subscribing to a colorful, not-cohesive way of dressing. There was a sort of immaturity to the style; It was not based on any previous trends.

Roger Kisby / Getty Images

Simultaneously, older rappers of the moment (Kanye, Pusha T and Kendrick Lamar, for instance), were sporting a monochrome kind of dress. This is the era of Kanye’s Yeezus, which is arguably one of the most important albums stylistically and visually of the whole decade. With its silvery cover reminiscent of MF Doom and Madlib’s Madvillainy, this aesthetic emphasized cohesion, industrial visuals and, often, darkness.

Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images

These two genres of aesthetic, in direct conversation with each other, were part of what made the era so interesting. While many California-based hip-hop stars were embracing mismatched pastel colors and unorthodox silhouettes, some of the already established icons were beginning to develop a more muted style. These two seemingly disparate styles found their footing together in 2015 with West’s release of Yeezy Season 1, which emphasized monochromatic, drapey, fabric-centric pieces interspersed with increasingly informal fits, silhouettes and shapes.

2015 to Now

In the earlier part of the decade, rappers like A$AP ROCKY (and the whole A$AP CREW) began to name-drop high fashion brands in their music. Though huge names like Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton had long been dropped in flex-tracks, the A$AP crew popularized some designers that had previously been unassociated with hip-hop fashion. With songs like “RAF” and lines like, “I spent $20,000 with my partners in Bahamas/Another $20,000 on Rick Owens out in Barney’s” (from “Excuse Me”), Rocky increased the social capital of these brands in the hip-hop space. 

Raf Simons and Rick Owens’ collections were also becoming increasingly street-style focused. Although their runway lines continued to have an experimental quality, their footwear began to seep onto street style moodboards globally. With his adidas collab, Raf established himself as one of the preeminent sneaker designers in hip-hop fashion.

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As A$AP Rocky and others began to make their personal style (and their looks) an integral part of their artist brand, more rappers continued to enter the game emphasizing their individual style. The XXL Freshman class of 2016 included a myriad of rappers who are still some of the biggest in the game. Between Lil Uzi Vert, 21 Savage, Lil Yachty, Denzel Curry and Kodak Black, this list sparked a new era of cultural icons. From Yachty’s multicolored grills to Uzi Vert’s face tattoos/piercings, the group continued to fortify a growing individualism in hip-hop fashion.

As rappers continue to dress more and more uniquely, it becomes more and more difficult to find a unifying thread throughout all of their style. Of course, assessing the style of the previous decades also benefits from hindsight, and thus it is a bit too early to determine the defining trends of the past few years.

That said, between 2015 and 2020, rappers have continued to integrate designer pieces into their style, continuing to blur the line between streetwear and high fashion. When Virgil Abloh declared that streetwear was dead, I don’t think he meant “streetwear” generally was dead. Rather, it meant that our conception of streetwear being separate from the artform of fashion is dying. The distinction is dying, but the practice of streetwear is very much alive.

Hip-Hop Fashion in 2020

What’s to come in 2020? It’s hard to know. Silhouettes are beginning to veer away from skinny bottoms paired with large tops towards an overall wider shape. Nonetheless, the individualism of hip-hop stars’ outfits these days makes it difficult to make sweeping statements. Rappers will continue to wear new things, old things and whatever they want. That’s what makes hip-hop fashion so cool.

Culture Music

The History of ’80s Hip-Hop Fashion

When someone says the word “hip-hop,” even its most avid followers and those you’d describe as the hip-hop community will think of music. That’s only natural. Since the culture’s supposed inception on Aug. 11, 1973, rap music has by far been its most popular and lucrative export. The biggest names in hip-hop are all from music: Jay-Z, Eminem, Kanye West. But hip-hop influences the world in many more subtle ways, like fashion throughout the last few decades. When we think of hip-hop fashion today we might just think of some high fashion brands and designer wear, but the 1980s saw a more eclectic range of brands that got hip-hop’s support. Looking back, it was an incredibly important decade that shaped the rest of the culture for decades to come.

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Just as it is today, sneaker culture was also incredibly important back then. The Air Jordan brand was established in 1984, and the Jordan 1 was released in 1985. Even today, the Jordan 1 is an iconic sneaker and one of the most popular of all time. When the 1 drops, you can bet that the resale value will be high. In the ‘80s, Jordan also released the underwhelming 2, the iconic 3 and classic 4. With that being said, Air Jordan and even Nike were nowhere near as dominant as a force in sneaker culture as it is today.

Back then, Reebok, Fila, Adidas, and Puma were all on-trend. In the mid-’80s, Run-DMC recorded and released “My Adidas” after company executives watched them perform at Madison Square Garden—Adidas executive Angelo Anastasio gave them a $1 million endorsement deal. If that number seems ridiculous to you, Angelo Anastasio had revealed that in the four years after signing the deal, the group generated over $100 million in sales. This gave the company a huge boost over Nike, whose growth was exponential at the time.

One of the biggest names in sneakers in the ‘80s was TROOP. The original founder, Teddy Held, had expressed his joy in seeing LL Cool J wear his TROOP sneakers and said that moment was when he felt accepted. However just as quickly as the brand rose to prominence, it fell to pieces. At its height, a rumor spread that TROOP was run by the KKK and stood for “To Rule Over Oppressed People.” This was not true, but MC Shan ran with it. “Puma’s the brand ’cause the Klan make TROOPs,” he rapped on his 1988 single “I Pioneered This.” In a 2004 interview, Eminem told XXL that everyone he knew threw out their TROOP sneakers after that song dropped. The brand started and finished at the hands of hip-hop.

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When you think of bucket hats today, ScHoolboy Q may be the first rapper who comes to mind. But back in the 1980s, LL Cool J was the man in many hats, one of them his Kangol bucket. Though he wasn’t the first rapper to do it, he was one of the biggest. On the back cover of his 1985 album Radio, he wore a pair of Bred 1s and a red Kangol bucket. The style then got upgraded to appear on the front cover of his 1987 album Bigger and Deffer and it is considered his most iconic style choice from any era. The MC helped usher Kangol into not only Black America but also mainstream America.

As well as clothing, ‘80s hip-hop artists also donned incredible jewelry. As the culture grew in prominence and size, so did the chains. Rappers often wore colossal gold ropes, gold rings, and gold watches, long before Trinidad James was ever a thing. On the cover of their classic album Paid in Full, Eric B and Rakim wore jewelry that Ben Baller estimated to be worth a total of $200,000, which is closer to half a million dollars in 2020 money. Rappers would compete with each other to see who had the flashiest, most expensive pieces and fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi took note. Studying a decade of hip-hop fashion, in 1991 he incorporated similar accessories to his New York Fashion Week runway show for a look that Women’s Wear Daily called “homeboy chic.” Over their black garments, models were luxurious gold. It was hip-hop.

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Of course, when you talk about high fashion and hip-hop in the 1980s, Dapper Dan has to get a mention. The legendary fashion designer would cut up genuine handbags from Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Fendi and piece them back together to create one-of-a-kind, custom streetwear pieces. Run-DMC, Mike Tyson, the late Jam Master Jay and more were seen in Dan’s clothing in the ‘80s. Unfortunately, regardless of how fly it looked, the use of their logos was illegal and as his clothing store in Harlem became more and more popular, the brands cracked down and sued the designer. Although this forced him to put his services on hold, the influence was already set in stone. In fact, a few years ago for their Resort 2017 Collection, Gucci put a model in a coat that was nearly identical to one Dapper Dan created in the ‘80s. Whether or not it was intentional, it said a lot about what Dan meant to fashion. In response to the inevitable criticism they faced, Gucci announced that they were going to collaborate with Dan long term. Decades later, it was a win for the designer and a win for hip-hop.

Perhaps some extravagant things come to mind when you think of ‘80s hip-hop fashion, but it should never be forgotten how bold the era was and how impactful it was on the decades of culture that have followed it. So much so that no matter how far hip-hop fashion goes, it will reflect the 1980s.


Culture Music

G Herbo Has a Message for All Music Fans in His Upcoming Project

When conversations of who the hottest young lyricist in the game is right now are being discussed, you automatically have to know that G Herbo’s name is going to be mentioned. “SwerVo,” as his die-hard fans call him, has been making street bangers ever since his classic debut Welcome to Fazoland in 2014.

Fast-forward to 2020, and Herbo’s career has elevated to higher heights, and he is now ready to introduce a new side of him that no one has experienced. G Herbo just released his fifth studio project titled PTSD.

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PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health condition that often triggers terrifying flashbacks due to events that a person experienced or witnessed in the past. Herbo discussed living with PTSD in one of our latest “11 Takes” visual series. From witnessing violence and drug addiction in his neighborhood in the streets of Chicago, Herbo decided to use this project as an outlet to open up to fans about his condition, allowing them to walk in his shoes and get introduced to the world in his eyes.

The album will feature some of hip-hop’s biggest names such as A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, Lil Durk, 21 Savage, Lil Uzi Vert, and Juice WRLD.

PTSD is available for streaming on all platforms. 

Culture Music

10 Female Rappers Who Changed the Hip-Hop Game

The contributions of women in hip-hop have been extraordinary—they have broken gender and race barriers, shed light on some of our most poignant yet underrepresented people through visionary storytelling and have continued to force music and culture to evolve and transform.  

Trying to find space in a true boys’ club and integral to a group in which they are still undervalued and marginalized, these ten women have forged the path for women emcees like Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion and Nicki Minaj. They have created some of the most truthful pieces of art about their lives, their loves and their struggles, forcing the world to recognize them as multifaceted creatives.

Their stories haven’t always been pretty, but they’ve never been here for that anyway. 

1. Cindy Campbell
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Hip-hop is said to have originated on Aug. 11, 1973, in a rec room of an apartment building in the Bronx. In an effort to make money, a teenage Cindy Campbell decided to throw a party. She reserved the recreation room for $25 and asked her brother, Kool Herc, to DJ the event. She used index cards to create invitations: “.25 for the ladies and .50 for the fellas.” That night, she not only became the first party promoter but is also credited for starting hip-hop. 

2. Sylvia Robinson
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Sylvia “The Mother of Hip-Hop” Robinson was a multi-hyphenate before multi-hyphenates existed. The singer-musician-producer-Sugar Hill Records founder convinced Tina Turner to record the hit song, “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine.” She also played guitar on the recording, where she went uncredited, which led to Ike Turner getting the accolades. She produced the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” which went on the serve as a template for rap songs, and pushed for the recording and release of “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Robinson was such a force that she even inspired a powerful female television character: “Cookie Lyon” on Empire.

3. MC Lyte
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No list of hip-hop pioneers is complete without Lana Michelle Moorer, better known as MC Lyte. She came on the scene in 1988 at age 17, when she was featured on the remix of Sinéad O’Connor’s “I Want Your (Hands on Me).” That same year, she released her first album, Lyte as a Rock, the first solo rapper to release her own full-length album. Although MC Lyte has been open about the difficulty in establishing herself as a woman in hip-hop culture, no one could deny her talent; in 1993, she was the first female MC nominated for a Grammy for her single, “Ruffneck.”

4. Salt-N-Pepa
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Some will say it’s not about who did it first, it’s about who did it best,” but what happens when that’s one and the same? Legendary group Salt-N-Pepa (with DJ Spinderella) were the first women to win a Grammy for Best Performance By Duo or Group in 1995, and they remain one of the best-selling rap acts of all time. They were the first female rap group to achieve gold and platinum status with their hit debut album in 1986, Hot, Cool & Vicious while their fourth release, Very Necessary, sold seven million albums, making it not only one of the best-selling rap albums, like, ever, but making Salt-N-Pepa the first female rap act to have multi-platinum selling albums. If that wasn’t enough barriers to break, they are also heavily credited for ushering in a wave of hip-hop feminism that we hear today.

5. Queen Latifah
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Before she was the leading lady of movies like Just Wright and Last Holiday (which, if you know me personally, you know is my favorite movie), and even before she was playing Khadijah James on the beloved sitcom Living Single, Dana Elaine Owens was paving the way for all the rappers-turned-quadruple threats of today. She started off beat-boxing for hip-hop group Ladies Fresh before she started rapping herself; it didn’t take long for Queen Latifah to make a name for herself, thanks to her willingness to explore issues that affected women and members of the Black community. Her song “U.N.I.T.Y” addressed the way hip-hop culture treated women, along with verbal and domestic violence, which won the Queen a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1995.

6. Roxanne Shanté
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In the mid-1980s, a series of rap battle tracks had hit the streets. Known as the Roxanne Wars, 30 to 100 artists responded with their own stories and spin on the tale. The origin of the Roxanne Wars, however, was the song “Roxanne Roxanne” by the hip-hop group UTFO. The song was about a woman who wasn’t interested in their advances; around the same time, UTFO had to cancel a show appearance. Upset at the cancellation, 14-year-old Lolita Shanté Gooden changed her rap name to Roxanne Shante and recorded “Roxanne’s Revenge,” making her one of the first and youngest female battle rappers.

7. Foxy Brown
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When 15-year-old Inga DeCarlo Fung Marchand won a talent contest in Brooklyn, she had no idea about the impression she made on the production duo Trackmasters, in the audience while working on LL Cool J’s album, Mr. Smith. Not too long after they invited Marchand, otherwise known as Foxy Brown, to rap over “I Shot Ya,” Def Jam signed Foxy. Her age and her provocative and distinct style of rapping landed her a spot on the Bad Boy remix of “No One Else” with Lil’ Kim, Da Brat and Total. Foxy Brown’s debut album, Ill Na Na, secured her position in hip-hop notoriety, as it was full of “radio-friendly jams, club bangers and street anthems.”

8. Missy Elliot
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Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot has reinvented herself time and time again. From song to music video to album, each of her creative endeavors has broken molds and led the way for the female artists who have come after her. She’s sold over 30 million records, has won five Grammys and last year, Missy made history when she became the first female hip-hop artist and third rapper ever to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Fearless with her vision for herself and her music, Missy is responsible for some of the most iconic videos from the past decade: “Pass that Dutch,” “Supa Dupa Fly,” “Work It,” “Get Your Freak On,” “Hot Boyz” and “Sock It to Me.” Missy’s devotion to her craft and originality also allow her to continue trailblazing in other arenas: Earlier this month, it was announced that she had signed onto play a role in the new Cinderella musical.

9. Lauryn Hill
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Sometimes an album is so powerful, so impactful—and so strongly received that it secures an artist’s place in hip-hop history—that said artist only needs to make one. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is one of those albums. Lauryn Noelle Hill was in high school when friend Pras Michel asked her to join a musical group; friend Wyclef Jean joined shortly after— and The Fugees were born. After three years, however, the group broke up, and Hill went on to record her debut album, which showcased her incredible talents and made her the face of neo-soul. The rawness of her lyrics speaking on “themes like love, motherhood, spirituality,” felt fresh and were articulated in a way that wasn’t common at the time; the 1998 album debuted at number one on the Billboard charts and went on to win five Grammys.

10. Erykah Badu
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It seems like Erykah Badu’s biggest superpower is truly knowing herself: from her headwraps, to her incense, to her tea, Badu comes across as a woman cloaked in her own wholeness. Her smoky blues-meets-soul voice is what drove her first album, 1997’s Baduizm, to triple platinum and won her the title of “first woman of neo-soul.” The three-time Grammy-winning artist continues to influence a new generation of music, with her ability to reinvent herself and branch out with new, creative endeavors such as acting, DJing and being the face for a Tom Ford fragrance. As if that wasn’t enough, Badu recently announced that she would be releasing incense that smells like her vagina.