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What Went Right With Presents… The Top 15 Hip-Hop Blues Songs

The Top 15 Hip-Hop Blues Songs illustrated by a blue boom box

Blues music is music that’s filled with emotion, it is music that deeply moves the listener by expressing all the anguish and heartbreak of life. In his 1974 album Winter In America, Gil Scott-Heron wrote a song called “H2OGate Blues” and although the track comments on the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam war, it also humourously explains what “The Blues” is:

“So, there are six cardinal colours: yellow, red, orange, green, blue, and purple and there are 3,000 shades. And if you take these 3,000 shades and divide them by 6, you will come up with 500. Meaning there are at least 500 shades of the blues. For example, there is the I-ain’t-got-me-no-money blues, there is the I-ain’t-got-me-no-woman blues”

Therefore any music that laments about what you haven’t got, what you had but lost, what you want but can’t get is basically “Blues Music”. There’s many sub-genres which have branched out from Blues such as Blues Rock, Country Blues, and Rhythm & Blues but the one sub-genre that is often overlooked is Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop music has over the years been responsible for numerous tracks that express hardship and struggle, and yet it is frequently omitted and rarely mentioned when speaking about “The Blues”. So here’s a list of what I like to call “Blues Rap” or Hip-Hop Blues songs. The lyrics speak for themselves…

15

“Sleep For Dinner”

By Lords Of The Underground

Not all Hip-Hop Blues songs have to sound gloomy, in fact Lords Of The Underground‘s “Sleep For Dinner” is quite humourous despite the topic. The production may be upbeat but the title and subject are definitely blue. Lyrics include…

You know my name, they call me Mr. Funke
But back when I was young, they could’ve called me Mr. Hungry
‘Cause there were many days when we had nothing to eat
(So what did you do?) What could I do? I went to sleep
My family’s financial status was kinda funny
(Tell the truth, nigga) Okay, we didn’t have no money
My mom’s raised me well even though times were bad
She taught me to survive and be glad with what I had
But God forbid you did something wrong as a child, you wasn’t gonna eat for a while…
…I could remember one day when my teacher caught me cheating
(Ooh) For dinner I had a beating
She said I couldn’t eat but, yo, that wasn’t what made me crazy
Seemed like every time I couldn’t eat she’s serving something tasty

14

“Sports, Drugs, & Entertainment”

By Cam’Ron

Cam’Ron’s title track from his 2000 album is all about getting into the drug game instead of getting into college. The song opens with a reference to Naughty By Nature’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” (also in this list) and lyrics include…

“Some get a little, some get none
Shit, I was part of the some get none
The ball, run for run, play the slums for crumbs
Wired, real tired, till my lungs are done
After all, I was nice in ball
But I’d come to practice weed-scented
Report card like the speed limit; 55-55 expellable”

13

“Slippin’”

By DMX

Opening with a Nietzsche quote, DMX’s Slippin’ is a sombre song about his life. The track features a great downbeat chorus (“I’m slipping, I’m falling, I can’t get up) and lyrics include…

“Group homes and institutions prepared my ass for jail
They put me in a situation forcing me to be a man
When I was just learning to stand without a helping hand
Damn, was it my fault, something I did
To make a father leave his first kid at seven doing my first bid”

12

“The Corner, The Streets”

By Lord Jamar

From Lord Jamar’s 5% Album, this track contains a disheartening second verse about a drug-addicted prostitute. Lyrics include…

“She used to be a dime piece, back in ’82
She was the shit, then she got strung out on the shit
Now her beauty’s drained, from the cocaine
Her once delicate speech is now profane”

11

“Silent Screams”

By Moorish Delta 7

Moorish Delta 7 (an underground Hip-Hop group from Birmingham) made a uniquely British Blues track with “Silent Screams”.  With lines like “I’m hungry and my electric’s in emergency credit” and “getting verbal abuse from my new deal advisor” this is a downbeat UK rap track like no other. The chorus also stands out…

“We wrap it in cellophane, sell it to a fiend
Get the green, hear my silent screams
Surrounded by the violent things, hard to live life clean
Please listen to my silent screams”

10

“Po’ (Uh Huh)”

By Phokuss

This 2005 song by Phokuss is a Blues Hip-Hop track that encompasses hating work, hating your boss, hating your co-workers, along with an assortment of other money problems. The chorus is very memorable and there’s lots of comedic lines including the lyric “Hang-me-downs went around so long I got them back…

9

“My Time To Go”

By Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz

This track isn’t on Spotify or YouTube, but Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz’ “My Time To Go” is one of the stand-out songs on their one and only album Make It Reign. The song appears in this YouTube video at 59:44 and you can hear Peter Gunz’ sarcastic lines ironically thanking God for nothing. This whole verse is simply brilliant…

“Kneeling on my knees, just thanking Jesus
For stuff that I received when I wasn’t receiving
It’s like:
Thanks for the lights that ain’t on
Thanks for the food that’s gone
And my stomach’s tight empty
Thanks for the clothes that ya sent me
They tight and kids laugh, so I be cutting school, alight?
I wanna thank you for my brother smoking crack
I also wanna thank you for my cousin getting shot in his back
I wanna thank you for my friends that’s gone
I mean they all under thirty right, but life goes on
I wanna thank you for my mom’s being sad
Thanks for the house with the swimming pool I never had
I wanna thank you for my Uncle Bill, smart enough to get his PhD
He got HIV
I wanna thank you for my pops, what a joke
Work hard all of his life and got nothing to show
I wanna thank you for the lives that you moved
I also wanna thank you for the cancer that you gave E-Smooth
And I’m sorry my belief is low, can you tell me where to go;
Heaven or hell, eleven to twelve
And I’m ready when you ready, just tell me don’t breath
Will you forgive me ’cause I didn’t believe?”

8

“Dear Mama”

By 2Pac

Tupac’s ode to his mother is a bittersweet song, and arguably his best track. His delivery transforms simple lines into indelible classics (“And even as a crack fiend Mama, You always was a black queen Mama. I finally understand, For a woman it ain’t easy trying to raise a man”). Other lyrics include…

“Now, ain’t nobody tell us it was fair
No love from my daddy, ‘cause the coward wasn’t there
He passed away and I didn’t cry, ‘cause my anger
Wouldn’t let me feel for a stranger
They say I’m wrong and I’m heartless, but all along
I was looking for a father, he was gone
I hung around with the thugs
And even though they sold drugs
They showed a young brother love”

7

“Manchild”

By Shyheim & Tekitha

This title track from Shyheim’s third album features Tekitha on the hook. The song is about Shyheim being the son of an addict and struggling with issues associated with that life. Lyrics include…

“My aunt died from AIDS, I watched her deteriorate
She told me fucking with drugs was her biggest mistake
Put my moms on to it, sticking needles in her veins
Being sons of addicts drove me and Cane insane
We packed bags at Pathmark, we both humped Tamika
We used to go to the pool, just to steal kids’ sneakers
Rocked cut-off beepers, wore old clothes for Easter
Shit was so real, we had to split a slice of pizza”

6

“Life Story”

By Black Rob

Black Rob’s “Life Story” is exactly that, his life story. The story is bleak and emotional outlining Rob’s childhood and family circumstances. Laid over sombre production, the lyrics include…

“Never had a dime, my life of crime
Had to be when I was nine, mom’s drunk off wine
Running with all kinds, her mind stayed in the stupor
Till the point she paid no mind to the super
Stay mad but stay fronting with smiles
Stomach stayed on the growl eating once in a while
First day of school never had nothing in style
Mister Colondre stressing, I ain’t come in a while”

5

“Everyday”

By G-Dep

G. Dep’s “Everyday” is a Blues Rap track that outlines struggling with little to no money but the lyrics sometimes include some dark humour…

“I walk down the block with my stomach in knots
Spent time hustling, running from cops
Broke as a joke, no ends at all
Can’t play ball and my Timbs is small
Can’t buy trees with government cheese
I rather be where its breeze, niggas bubbling keys
My moms got two jobs one on her knees
And writing letters to the governor “Please call off the dees”
My baby mother with another brother with cash
They drive by roll down the window and laugh
I solve all my problems with indo and hash
Bought my daughter a Nintendo now she calling him dad”

4

“The Message”

By Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five

This is the original Blues Hip-Hop track by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five. Some of the lyrics are recycled from the group’s 1979 song “Superrappin’” but the way in which Rahiem delivers Melle Mel’s verse, it’s simply unforgettable. Lyrics include…

“Got sent up for a eight-year bid
Now your manhood is took and you’re a Maytag
Spend the next two years as a undercover fag
Being used and abused to serve like hell
Till one day you was found hung dead in the cell
It was plain to see that your life was lost
You was cold and your body swung back and forth
But now your eyes sing the sad, sad song
Of how you lived so fast and died so young”

3

“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”

By Naughty By Nature

Naughty By Nature were originally known as The Ghetto Bastards and aptly, Treach includes some classic lines here which mention growing up without a father (“Some get a little and some get none, Some catch a bad one and some leave the job half done. I was one who never had and always mad, Never knew my dad, mother-fuck the fag”). The song interpolates Bob Marley’s song of the same name and when speaking about the media telling him to say “something positive” Treach memorably raps…

“I ain’t have jack but a black hat and knapsack
War scars, stolen cars, and a blackjack
Drop that, and now you want me to rap and give?
Say something positive?
Well positive ain’t where I live
I live right around the corner from West Hell
Two blocks from South Shit and once in a jail cell”

2

“All That I Got Is You”

By Ghostface Killah & Mary J. Blige

Ghostface Killah’s “All That I Got Is You” is the most unique song on his debut album. Featuring Mary J. Blige’s R&B vocals and containing only one verse laid over a piano and violin, the track is a Blues Hip-Hop classic. Lyrics include…

“Fifteen of us in a three bedroom apartment
Roaches everywhere, cousins and aunts was there
Four in the bed, two at the foot, two at the head
I didn’t like to sleep with Jon-Jon he peed the bed
Seven o’clock, plucking roaches out the cereal box
Some shared the same spoon, watching Saturday cartoons
Sugar water was our thing, every meal was no frill
In the summer, free lunch held us down like steel
And there was days I had to go to Tech’s house with a note
Stating, ‘Gloria, can I borrow some food I’m dead broke’
So embarrassing I couldn’t stand to knock on they door
My friends might be laughing, I spent stamps in stores”

1

“Where Was Heaven?”

By Wu-Syndicate

Myalansky’s lyrics coupled with DJ Devastator’s emotive production just makes for a flawless Blue Hip-Hop song. This combination created a perfect track, lyrically and sonically. Lyrics include…

“In my mind I see flashbacks, I had no fancy clothes
Skinny, ugly, knotty head nigga crying with a snotty nose
Even though my father neglect, he pay the child support
Hadn’t seen him all these years, I hug his ass in court
Always saying I’m coming to get you and I be waiting too
Holiday and birthday presents was never coming through”

With a large portion of contemporary Hip-Hop musicians coming from middle-class families and therefore living relatively comfortable lives, Blues Rap is now a forgotten and lost art. Despite living in a time of mass inequality and injustice, many rappers today are more concerned with being upwardly mobile, choosing to rap about fashion labels and prescription pills rather than real issues such as poverty and social justice. Climbing the class ladder however, has left a gaping hole in the Hip-Hop genre. Unfortunately, rappers striving for green has replaced…

Feeling Blue.

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7 replies »

  1. Check out the tracks “Doin’ Bad” by K-Rino , “Smith Haven Mall” by R.A. The Rugged Man and “Growing Pains” by Viro The Virus (Rest In Paradise) . Also two more recent blues rap tracks are “Tough Skin” by K-Rino & DLP and “Obi Wan” by Apathy .

  2. Another recent one would be “$ad” by Esham , too . That song even has some trap / mainstream hip hop elements and is a far better alternative than the bland mainstream drivel that Kendrick Lamar , Donald Glover , Kanye West , Kid Cudi or Drake put out .

  3. Another interesting thing I noticed is that there are two former Bad Boy artists on this list . Diddy had some talent there when he had Black Rob , Shyne , Loon , G. Dep , Aasim , Craig Mack (Rest In Paradise) , 8Ball and MJG , The Lox and King Los all signed on during various points in the label’s history . Did the mothafucko have to drop every single one of those acts without giving them ample promotion and marketing ? I mean Seannie Combs must be a very shallow guy . And we all know why he’s kept Cassie Ventura on the label for nearly thirteen years now .

  4. I can’t remember vividly . I was quite young when Bad Boy was a legitimate label with lyrical and credible emcees . I imagine you are older than me and I suppose you witnessed Diddy transform Biggie from a raw lyricist on the street corner to a shiny suit wearing , expensive vodka drinking club kingpin and Diddy’s under promotion of the very talented Craig Mack ( Rest In Paradise to Biggie and Craig ) . Also were Shyne , G. Dep , Loon and Black Rob already dropped by Diddy before their legal issues ? Do you think that their association with Diddy may have caused them to take on a “criminal lifestyle” . I guess G. Dep came from extreme poverty and did bad things as a youth . But , what are your thoughts on the controversial lives of Black Rob , Loon and Shyne (including the New Year’s Eve night club incident) ?

    • This is way off topic but fuck it.

      Bad Boy started off a little more balanced, even Biggie’s first album contained “Warning”, “Juicy”, and “Suicidal Thoughts” to balance out the “One More Chance” and “Big Poppa” type tracks. Ready To Die was extremely overrated but alongside Craig Mack’s Project: Funk Da World which wasn’t Mafioso/Gangsta-ish, the label was hedging its bets with slightly different sounds. With Mack only going gold but Biggie going multi-platinum, Puff’s mind was made: “players” make more money.

      Puffy’s ego grew with each Platinum album and by the time Ma$e’s album dropped, then the L.O.X.’s, pretty much everybody had shiny suits on, fish-eye videos with Rolls Royces, it was like a factory churning out the same shit over and over. Rod Stewart interpolations, Eurythmics samples, Sting interpolations – it was like pick a white 80s track, sample or copy it, wear shiny foil, flash your Rolex, brag about how much money you have and boom you have a hit (and don’t forget to let Puffy say “yeah yeah yeah yeah” in your song to get royalties and let him upstage you in your music video).

      G. Depp before and after:

      Mase before and after:

      Puffy was good at finding talent (at least back in the day) Biggie, Jadakiss, Sheek were great lyricists, Black Rob and G. Dep had street credibility but they all ended up making the same music because of Puff. It’s a shame, he should have just been a talent scout instead of all-powerful founder. The way he treated Shyne after the nightclub incident was fucked up, even Nas rapped “I don’t like the way P. Diddy did Shyne with different lawyers”. It just showed that after working tirelessly for Puffy, you were expendable and of no value if it meant saving his own arse.

      When L.O.X. left Bad Boy and joined Ruff Ryders they wrote “We Are The Streets” and they addressed some of the Bad Boy shit (Shiny suits, money issues, Biggie’s death, Jennifer Lopez etc.)

  5. On the topic of blues rap —- Hopsin had a great track on his last album “No Shame” . It’s called “Marcus’ Gospel” . Renowned gospel singer Michael Speaks does the chorus .

    ” I done lost myself again ,
    I done lost myself in sin ,
    I’ve been burned by selfish men ,
    I’ve been died but held it in ,
    I do not want hell to win ,
    Life’s cold, I done felt the wind ,
    Could it be any clearer ?
    When I look in the mirror ,
    I just see a jackass with a tail to pin ,
    Me and my family ain’t close ,
    So I got some fame and went ghost ,
    I am not paintin’ a hoax ,
    You can hear the pain in my flows ,
    They say that life has it’s ups and downs ,
    But why do I stay in the lows ?
    I don’t like Marcus , I don’t like Hopsin ,
    I am ashamed of them both ,
    You see , all that I have is my money ,
    I had no idea that this was coming ,
    I fell into the stereotype of a rapper ,
    I’m how they package it dummy ,
    This is my reality I embrace ,
    I look back and I can see my mistakes ,
    I just wish that I could rewind the days ,
    I honestly don’t want to be out of place ,
    I guess we gotta face ,
    All these issues like this as a human sometimes ,
    Yes , I am losin’ my mind ,
    If you ever come to that conclusion , it’s fine
    Don’t ignore all of the proof and the signs ,
    I made my bed , I’ma lay in it ,
    The thought is as soothin’ as wine ,
    Now all I need is a suit and a tie , I still think that I tried …

    ( Chorus : Michael Speaks )
    In my darkest times ,
    I have failed to see ,
    Sunny days are waiting ,
    I’m in need of some company ,
    God , please help this pain ,
    ‘Cause I don’t wanna ever see ,
    This lonely road again ,
    (This lonely road again) …

    Take it away , I want the peace , I want the happiness ,
    I took a blindfolded shot , thought it was accurate ,
    But in my heart I know I never asked for this ,
    See , this life I’m in , I made career out of it , that’s miraculous ,
    Who knew I’d break a few bones when I tackled it ?
    It’s been years and I still can’t adapt to it ,
    I cannot predict what my next chapter is ,
    There’s a hearse speedin’ fast through the ashes and
    I feel like I lay flat in the back of it
    There’s no love in my eyes , so look up in the sky
    Bring me back like you did Lazarus
    I can hear the devil whispering , “Come play!”
    Injecting me softly with numb pain ,
    Til’ my fingers are covered in blood stains ,
    It’s torturing not seeing my son Zade ,
    But one day , that will all change ,
    When the fog strays , it’s a lost page ,
    That had blown away into empty hallways ,
    In the land where wild dogs play ,
    When you’re confined in a small space ,
    You will know that that’s enough to cause rage ,
    I’ma kick until the fuckin’ walls break ,
    I don’t know what made me walk straight
    Into this fire , my soul is burnin’ quick ,
    I’ve been told this isn’t permanent ,
    Growin’ up , my father made a lot of mistakes ,
    I do not know why I didn’t learn from his ,
    Can you direct me to where the furnace is ?
    I need to do away with pain that’s lurkin’ and
    Maybe figure out what my new purpose is ,
    All these bad vibes are so discouraging … “

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