Top 10 Hip Hop game changers
Top 10 Hip Hop game changers

Top 10 Hip Hop game changers
Top 10 Hip Hop game changers

Will not be Televised: a top 10 Hip Hop Game Changers

Jeru The Damaja live in Manchester

legendary Brooklyn rapper and veteran of hip hop’s early 1990s golden age – is in Manchester for a highly anticipated show at Antwerp Mansion on Saturday December 10th.


To celebrate his arrival, ten essential tracks that shook up the genre:

1. A Tribe Called Quest – Check the Rhime

1991’s The Low-End Theory was the album where Tribe’s Phife found his voice – a raspy, belligerent delivery that provided the perfect counterpoint to Q-Tip’s laidback drawl.

The interplay between the two never sounded better than on Check the Rhime, which introduced Tip’s famous “industry rule no. 4,080: record company people are shadyyy” to the rap lexicon.

2. Jeru the Damaja – Come Clean

After debuting with a guest spot on Gang Starr’s classic 1992 album Daily Operation, Jeru gave the world a full introduction to his “freaky, freaky, freaky, freaky flow” on this street smash the following year.

The Brooklyn rapper’s debut album The Sun Rises in the East showcased DJ Premier at the peak of his production powers and Come Clean was the pick of the bunch, with Jeru laying down the gauntlet to fake thugs over a crazy dripping water sample that nobody saw coming.

3. Pete Rock and CL Smooth ”“ They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)

An era-defining record loved dearly by those nostalgic for hip-hop’s former glories, the song glides by on a blissful beat from Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s three-verse meditation on family and mortality.

The 1992 track was inspired by the death of a close friend and its signature sax loop became the duo’s calling card, crowning Rock as one of hip-hop’s most celebrated beat-makers.


4. Nas ”“ The World is Yours

No one was quite prepared for the narrative intricacy Nas would unleash when Illmatic dropped in April 1994. Almost every track on the album was an instant classic, but The World is Yours just edges out the rest as a perfect example of the Queensbridge rapper’s blistering technique.

Pete Rock was on the boards for this one, with Q-Tip providing the remix. The Scarface-inspired cut also laid the foundations for the all-compassing beef between Nas and Jay-Z, who famously sampled the track for his debut single Dead Presidents in 1996.

5. Mobb Deep – Shook Ones (Part II)

From one Queensbridge rap institution to another. Mobb Deep came up alongside Nas and made their own indelible mark on the rap game in 1995 with The Infamous, an album of threatening drums, haunting piano loops and generally hard-as-fuck lyricism.

Nothing beats the straight-up menace of first single Shook Ones (Part II), with Prodigy’s flawless opening verse setting a new benchmark for sheer brutality and quotable threats.

6. Wu-Tang Clan – Protect Ya Neck

Over in Staten Island, the Wu-Tang Clan had already laid waste to the competition when this devastating posse cut emerged in 1992.

The track saw eight of the nine original members come correct (even U-God, sort of) over RZA’s trademark drums and chopped up kung-fu samples, establishing Wu-Tang as a true force to be reckoned with.


7. Dr Dre feat Snoop Doggy Dogg ”“ Nuthin but a ‘G’ Thang

The definitive track from the west coast’s first truly groundbreaking rap album. The Chronic, Dre’s solo debut following his departure from NWA, saw him offer a lush and languid alternative to New York’s traditional boom-bap with the patented ‘G-funk’ sound.

Dre applied the same level of studio perfectionism as Pete Rock, but instead of digging for samples he built up textured tracks with live instruments. His effortless chemistry on the mic with Snoop, who launched his own career off the back of The Chronic, took Q-Tip and Phife’s conversational ease to Compton.


8. Roots Manuva – Witness (1 hope)

It may only have charted at number 45, but Witness remains UK hip-hop’s biggest claim to a genuine hit.

This 2001 song was a watershed moment for both the man born Rodney Smith and British rap in general, a once-in-a-lifetime combination of futuristic beat-making, winning charisma and lyrics about cheese on toast.


9. Clipse – Grindin’

The Neptunes were on their grind since the mid-90s with hits for Jay-Z, Mase and Noreaga, but the production team teamed up with Clipse (brothers Malice and Pusha T) to really put Virginia Beach on the map in 2002.

Grindin’ saw Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo perfect the sparse and detached production style that became their hallmark, while Clipse carved out their own niche in an already crowded drug-rap genre with verses that were simply more cold-hearted and bluntly acquisitive than the rest (“I move ‘caine like a cripple”).


Clipse – Grindin by XlyS

10. Kanye West – Through the Wire

Kanye West was primarily known as Roc-A-Fella’s star producer when this track, a tale of his involvement in a near-fatal car accident and subsequent recovery, was released in 2003.

Through the Wire not only introduced the world to an artist who would go on to become one of hip-hop’s biggest stars, it opened a door that a host of self-conscious, fame-conflicted rappers with feelings and stuff would later run through (Drake, Kid Cudi etc).



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  2. How can you talk about Hip Hop game changers without mentioning Public Enemy or De La Soul? In their own ways they completely turned Hip Hop around and were the links from the earlier underground days of the scene to explosion in the late 80’s early 90’s. Totally different styles and messages but without them Hip Hop could have died.

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