Even if you are a jewel thief, it is never wise to mess with a man whose name is Sgt. Larvell Jones.
5. Jay-Z ft. Nas-“Success”
These two. Thing is, this song shouldn't be this high on my Best Of list. Say these guys hadn't spent a decade trying to fuck each other's baby mama's, Sean Carter and Nasir Jones probably would've recorded at least a half-dozen songs better than “Success.” But at least they finally managed to get it right. Granted, neither Jay nor Nas turns in their best performance, but just hearing two of the best rappers of their generation go at it on the same track is something special in its own right–particularly when backed by seraphic church organs angling towards the sky and slow regal drums. It doesn't matter that Jay-Z's does a lazy flip of an old Eminem verse. It doesn't matter that Nas tells people for the 34th time that he has the blood of a king (Hopefully, this one). It's still a success.
4. Ghostface Killah ft. Method Man and Raekwon-“Yolanda's House”
It's probably cliche by now to point out how much of Ghost's brilliance stems from his attention to detail. In theory, “Yolanda's House” has no right to be this great. Starks has written dozens of heist stories over the years, but somehow he's able to make each one unique, letting it breathe in its own distinct world of blood, smoke and banana nutraments.
On “Yolanda's House,” Ironman's on the run from the cops again. His watch is cracked, his Nikes are scuffed, his body is scratched from fleeing through bushes and backyards . He's tired, out of breath, stoned. The sirens wail behind him. His heart bulges out of his chest, paranoid thoughts dart through his dazed mind. He thinks about quitting slanging, but knows he can't. He needs the money. Out of options, he yells to God to strike him if he doesn't like him. But of course, God likes him. It's Ghostface after all. He's the honest man living outside the law.
Miraculously, he ducks into a safe house, explains his situation, and convinces a sympathetic woman to cook him fries, fish sticks and biscuits, all while still applying her lipstick. Satiated, belly fat, he slices open a blunt and stuffs it full of weed. They smoke. One thing leads to another, Ghost is about get some “head wop” and more, when suddenly, the hiss and static of walkie talkies bleeds through the thin project walls. The cops are rumbling up the stairwell. Frantically, Ghost ducks into the next room, hiding behind a wall, spying Method Man, about to fuck the fish-stick cooker's sister. Raw. And all this happens in just one minute.
3. UGK ft. Outkast-“Int'l Players Anthem”
This video has everything. Jokes about Rowdy Roddy Piper. Appearances from Bishop Magic Don Juan in a lime green hat. A wedding reception that looks even more fun than the Gimme-A-Keg-Of-Beer party in Teen Wolf. And of course, a great song behind it. But more than just being a pimped-out wedding fantasia, “Int'l Players Anthem” manages to capture the different sides of the male psyche. At one end, Andre plays the hopeless romantic, walking down the alter in a kilt, convinced that his bliss won't be ephemeral. At the other extreme, an ice-draped Bun B and Pimp call other guys fairies and brag about driving Bentleys and wearing Russian Sable. The concept of settling down with one woman is unthinkable.
Big Boi plays the centrist, the pragmatic voice of reason. He's not necessarily opposed to marriage, he's just picky and wants to make sure he isn't being played. Andre would call him jaded. Big Boi laughs and tells Andre to ask Paul McCartney about true love. Usually, posse cuts are just exercises for rappers to spit their most ferocious battle raps, but on this one, UGK and Outkast take it the next level, creating an an instant classic, complete in both its concept and execution.
2. El-P-“Poisenville Kids No Wins/Reprise (This Must Be Our Time)
In Poisenville, the kids walk on floors made of broken glass and sawdust. They wear silver-colored rags and eat tomatoes the size of human heads. The sun never shines and they only serve cold brackish coffee. In school, the machines drone on with all the right answers and when they return home the children watch only reality shows and ultra-violent cartoons. Garbage lines the streets. Bombs explode on the front pages of poorly reported newspapers. The entire congress consists of aging actors, and bad ones at that. It's the last chapter in El-P's tar-black dystopia, the world's gone awry and all anyone can do is laugh.
1. Outkast-“Da Art of Storytellin' Pt. 4”
“Da’ Art of Storytellin’” is a challenge to all-comers, a dare to the rap world to see if anyone stronger has emerged since Andre got bored with hip-hop sometime around the millennium. It’s that all-too-rare, adrenaline-racing, boombox monstrosity that whip-saws you to attention and makes you remember why you loved hip-hop so much in the first place. In an ideal rap world, this song would get at the very least as much burn on car stereos as “Soulja Girl” (notice, Andre’s bumping 100 Miles And Running). The sort of thing you’d hope would shift some teenage rapper’s paradigm from the obscene commercialism of the newest school, to the line of storytellers descended from Slick Rick and Kool G Rap, This should be required rewind listening for all aspiring rappers. Fuck being a motivational speaker, an actor, or a “brand,” rappers should want to tell stories, not be them.