Whether you're oblivious to hip hop, or you're interested in the roots of today's rap, you should check out these five old-school tracks recommended by Grammy-nominated producer Drew Drucker, who told Civilized that he would play these tunes if he ever had to teach young rappers why they need to respect their hip-hop elders.
"When you listen to all those songs -- especially Dr. Dre's music -- the overall quality control is just next level. There's no mediocre parts of the songs. And that's what's sorta lacking more so than creativity and talent from the young dudes. It's the quality control. If they just spent a bit more time perfecting everything, then I think the songs would have longstanding impact. A lot of the newer music just comes and goes quick. The impact is high energy, but the quality and the longterm effect isn't there."
But each one of these songs is arguably a rap classic.
1. Ice Cube, 'It Was a Good Day'
Ice Cube nuanced his gangsta rap image in this 1992 hit by reflecting on the things he'd be grateful for -- like a day where he could drive around Los Angeles without worrying about getting hassled by the police, held up by carjackers or gunned down by rival gangs.
But those are nothing but pipe dreams, he suggests at the end of the track when calling himself and DJ Pooh back to reality. "Wait a minute, Pooh," Cube said as the music cuts out. "Stop this shit. What the fuck am I thinking about?"
2. Mos Def, 'Ms. Fat Booty'
Brooklyn rapper Mos Def broke into the hop hop scene in 1999 with 'Ms. Fat Booty,' which features Mos dishing on his love life while Aretha Franklin belts out a sample from the rare 1965 single 'One Step Ahead.'
3. A Tribe Called Quest, 'Electric Relaxation'
Drucker's third pick is a nod to A Tribe Called Quest -- the rap collective from Queens whose 1994 single 'Electric Relaxation' became the theme song for the 90s sitcom 'The Wayans Bros.'
4. Gang Starr, 'Above the Clouds'
On 'Above the Clouds,' the Brooklyn rap duo Gang Starr (MC Guru and DJ Premier) teamed up with Inspectah Deck of Wu-Tang fame and former President John F. Kennedy, whose 1963 speech on space exploration is sampled alongside 'Two-Piece Flower' by British jazzman John Dankworth.
5. Dr. Dre, 'Still D.R.E.'
Never count Dr. Dre out. That's the hard lesson learned by critics who assumed the reclusive rapper's lyrical well had dried up after releasing the landmark stoner rap album 'The Chronic' in 1992. But the long-awaited follow-up album 2001 (released in 1999) proved detractors wrong as Dre shot up the charts again with tracks featuring Snoop Dogg as well as a newcomer called Eminem.