10 Bad Rap Songs on Classic Rap Albums
Not every album in the Hip-Hop Canon can be Illmatic, Nas’ landmark 1994 debut that contains nary a wasted second. Sometimes, a generation-defining LP includes a dud that doesn’t hold its own with the rest of the material. And yet, these corny cuts are rarely called out, coasting through time, claiming to be a part of greatness. So it's time to trim the fat off some of hip-hop’s most iconic releases, and we're doing it because it’s always important to reevaluate cultural landmarks and the prevailing music gospel. Nah, let’s be real — we know you're not loading up a whole album on Spotify so it’s just our way to help you achieve maximum music inhalation. In no particular order, here are 10 bad rap songs, a.k.a. the fatal flaws, on 10 legendary rap albums.*
*Quick note: This being a discussion of rap albums, we must first address the skits issue. To put it simply, skits don't count. All skits are mad skippable, but they are not songs.
1. Outkast ft. Masada and Witchdoctor - "Mamacita" from Aquemini
Outkast's third LP takes listeners on a winding journey, the likes of which Southern rap (and rap in general) had never seen. It gave us the magnetic pop of “Rosa Parks,” the hyper flows of “Skew It on the Bar-B,” and a double dose of “Da Art of Storytellin.’” It introduced us to words like SpottieOttieDopaliscious and Chonkyfire, and featured Raekwon, Cee Lo, and George Clinton. It’s a masterpiece — it just would’ve been more of a masterpiece without the thud of "Mamacita." Despite some typically proficient verses from André 3000 and Big Boi, the song is dragged down by a boring beat and an unbearable hollered chorus, making it impossible to endure the full 5:35 running time.
2. Eminem ft. D12 - "Under the Influence" from The Marshall Mathers LP
The Marshall Mathers LP is nearly unassailable, until you get to track 17, the lone blemish on this unrelenting classic. “Under the Influence” has a hook that's lazier than "Cum on Everybody," but the worst offense is that Em's cookie-cutter horrorcore verse is followed by four minutes of D12 bluster. If it ain't "Purple Pills," we don't need to hear from those dudes. The song turned out to be an unfortunate preview of the obnoxious yuk-yuk, accent-heavy mess that was Relapse.
3. Jay Z - “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” from Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life
Chill for a sec. Yes, this song was a game-changer. It was a landmark moment for rap’s crossover into pop domination. But does anyone actually still like it? Wanting to hear “Hard Knock Life” is like wanting to hear “Sweet Caroline”: The track has become the rap equivalent of a drunk sorority girl at the jukebox. For real, see how long you can tolerate that grating kids’ hook, and then think about how much more you’ll have to hear this song now that a Hova-produced Annie remake is on the way.
4. The Notorious B.I.G. - “Playa Hater” from Life After Death
Biggie’s two albums are lyrical workouts and portentous classics, so the guy deserved to blow off some steam on the occasional playful cut. But “Playa Hater” is a drawn-out joke that milks every drop from what would’ve been a not-even-that-funny 45-second interlude featuring a faux-crooning B.I.G. The song’s only saving grace is Diddy’s maybe-even-worse singing, and only because it would sort of work in today’s Pharrell phalsetto landscape.
5. Dr. Dre ft. RBX, Emmage, Ruben, Dat Nigga Daz, The Lady of Rage, and Jewell - "The Roach (The Chronic Outro)" from The Chronic
The Chronic would be perfect if it didn’t end in such imperfect fashion. The penultimate track is a glorified sketch with RBX laying down an endless string of Isaac Hayes-style sweet nothings about weed, to the point of near-completion, over some Parliament samples. NEXT.
6. DMX - “How's It Goin' Down” from It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot
DMX’s debut is an unflinching cyclone of pop psychosis — basically an album-length snarl of bloodlust and vengeance. An entire song in which the “I will murder and pillage everything in my sight” character is trying to bone? We’re not here for that.
7. Kanye West ft. Mos Def - "Drunk and Hot Girls" from Graduation
Not only did Kanye try to flip a '70s krautrock sample here, but he chose Can's "Sing Swan Song," which stands out as an oddity in an exceedingly odd genre. So the mere chutzpah is commendable. While the stillness in the original evoked an unsettling beauty, the Graduation cut is straight-up clunky, the beat stretched into a 5:13 snore that's somehow even longer than the original. Props to Kanye for being even more indulgent than a German prog band?
8. Beastie Boys - “Ricky's Theme” from Ill Communication
On their fourth LP, Beastie Boys fully indulged their love for cheesy lounge funk. Instrumental tangents became their version of skits over the years, and of the three or four funk jams on this album, none was more of a yawn than “Ricky’s Theme.” We don’t ever want to meet the Ricky fellow who inspired this motionless, flaccid track, but we do want to know how such a herb was one of the Beasties’ boys.
9. 50 Cent ft. Tony Yayo - “Like My Style” from Get Rich or Die Tryin’
Several of the songs on this list are failures that failed valiantly, by taking sonic and thematic risks. But when an otherwise flawless album sneaks in an utterly forgettable song? An unforgivable sin. Can anyone remember “Like My Style?” There’s a stale Timbaland-style beat and 50 is in higher-voiced-bragging-goof mode. We think? It all gets completely subsumed by the rest of the album, so nobody can ever really be sure.
10. Outkast ft. Norah Jones - “Take Off Your Cool” from Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
We begin where we started, with Outkast. You could argue the double album doesn't belong here because it isn’t a rap album, or that it isn’t legendary, to which we’d say: It’s Outkast, and it sold 11 million copies. Anyway, of all the loopy-ass curveballs and aimless mewling on André 3000’s half of the release, “Take Off Your Cool” is the least excusable, because it’s so damn boring. Dré recruits then-Starbucks-wave queen Norah Jones to hooklessly croon with him over some John Mayer-on-Clonazepam acoustic strums, and it is the most ordinary thing Three Stacks has ever done. We’ve been secretly worried about his prospective solo album ever since.