We Need to Talk About Butt-Rap
Hip-hop has finally, officially snatched the throne from rock to become America's most popular music genre, and it's been thrilling to watch. Rap is absolutely leading the charge in cultural influence, style, and sonic innovation, and the genre's growth and evolution in the last five years has been staggering. For God's sake, we live in a world where Young Thug, Migos, and Chance the Rapper exist!
Alas, when the tide rises, a bunch of trash gets swept up and floats to the top. Rock fans know the trend all too well: In the wake of grunge, hordes of testosterone-fueled, soul-patched goons piggybacked their way to the summit, leading to an entire category of Lowest Common Denominator bloat known as butt-rock. Everyone from Shinedown to Imagine Dragons cashed in on the mainstream's hunger for riffs by churning out simplistic, generic, faux-aggro schlock. And now with its ascension to the top, hip-hop is threatened by this same toxic combination. That's why we need to talk about butt-rap.
Hip-hop's butt counterpart has nothing to do with booty rap or butts, though they're not mutually exclusive. What we talk about when we talk about butt-rap, usually, is thunderous but ultimately unexciting beats (akin to butt-rock's reliance on remedial power chord progressions), as well as lackluster lyricism and a steadfast commitment to clichéd, often party-centric themes. The butt-rap canon extends for years, but Lex Luger, Young Chop, and Rick Ross are good reference points for its current trap-by-numbers iteration: dick-swinging rhymes over roided-out 808s, spectral horror-movie organs, and strobing electronics. Basically what Tyler, the Creator parodied here.
So it's time to call out butt-rap, to fell these hulking beasts like so many giants at the Wall on Game of Thrones. Here are 30 quintessential butt-rap tracks, which you can stream as a playlist on Spotify below.
1. Rick Ross ft. Styles P - "B.M.F."
Much of the butt-rap canon is celebrated, since it's still a relatively new phenomenon compared to the decades that sex-starved ramanah aficionados have been farting out journal entries over distorted guitars (remember, Nickelback was respected at first). That's why "B.M.F." is seen as the most important song of Rozay's career, and it is also one of the purest butt-rap songs ever made.
2. Puff Daddy ft. Meek Mill - "I Want The Love"
From "Hate Me Now" to "Nobody," Diddy has tried to show he can be the intimidator, even though he will always be remembered as the "uh-huh, yeeeah" dude rocking a shiny suit in the late '90s. "I Want The Love" along with prior single "Big Homie" represents his biggest attempt at macho stunting, and it is pure, unfiltered butt-rap.
3. Wiz Khalifa - "We Dem Boyz"
Wiz Khalifa's wack skills on the mic basically guarantee he fits into the butt-rap canon. He explored some interesting sonic territory on O.N.I.F.C., but when he's churning out stuff like "Taylor Gang" or "We Dem Boyz," he's one of the butt kings.
4. Stitches - "Brick in Yo Face"
Butt-rap game Riff Raff.
5. Waka Flocka Flame ft. Trouble and Wooh Da Kid - "Fuck Shit"
Like Stitches, but real.
6. Eminem - "Not Afraid"
Nearly all of Recovery's generic, stern-faced posturing could be included in this conversation.
7. Migos - "Hannah Montana"
Migos have — purposely or not — completely shifted how rappers spit in 2014, so the fact that they've moved the needle made us reluctant to include them here. Their music is almost like the platonic ideal of butt-rap, though, and if nothing else, it should be included to show what well-executed butt-rap sounds like.
8. Chief Keef ft. Cdai - "Sucka"
"Cue up the 'drill beat' preset."
9. French Montana - "Ain't Worried About Nothin'"
The greatest trick the butt-rapper ever pulled was convincing the world the hook did exist.
10. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - "And We Danced"
The frat house: where butt music goes to thrive.
11. Drama - "Left, Right, Left"
If it got you and your boys fired up before JV football games in 2000, it was probably butt-rap.
12. Big Sean - "FFOE"
Those triumphant Swizz Beatz synth horns were played out by Ruff Ryders Vol. 2, dog.
13. Chinx Drugz - "Knew Dat"
If it sounds like "Carol of the Bells" is playing under all that bass, it's probably butt-rap.
14. Ice Cube ft. Mr. Short Khop - "Pushin' Weight"
True story: When this came out, I was 14 and had just started lifting weights for football. When Cube said "I push rhymes like weight," I thought he was bragging about how much he could bench. Turns out, the only way this song could be butt-rappier is if it were about banging out reps.
15. DJ Snake and Lil Jon - "Turn Down For What"
Lil Jon is butt-rap's Jonathan Davis: a dreadlocked neanderthal whose impact cannot be denied.
16. DMX - "Party Up (Up in Here)"
A career built on barking out gritty street rap (and literal barking) seems like it'd be a butt-rap gold mine. So it's kind of stunning that DMX's peak butt moment came in the form of a clubby party anthem.
17. Nelly ft. Paul Wall, Ali and Gipp - "Grillz"
The path to Katy Perry wearing a grill begins here.
18. Master P ft. Fiend, Silkk The Shocker, Mia X and Mystikal - "Make Em Say Uhh!"
The entirety of the gold-plated No Limit era could be included in this conversation.
19. 504 Boyz - "Wobble Wobble"
This one is butt-rap and butt rap. Also, see No. 18.
20. Master P ft. Snoop Dogg and Silkk the Shocker - "Thug Girl"
Again invoking the No Limit corollary. But we'll stop with this one.
21. LL Cool J - "Deepest Bluest (Shark's Fin)"
Nothing sadder than a music legend resorting to butt tactics.
22. Puff Daddy ft. Jimmy Page - "Come With Me"
One of many nadirs of the rap-rock movement.
23. Swizz Beatz ft. Ludacris & Chris Brown - "Everyday Birthday"
Luda more or less turned proto-butt-rap into high art in the '90s. Now? This.
24. Yung Simmie – "Full Metal Freestyle"
It's not until you experience butt-rap without charisma that you realize how personality-driven this stuff is.
25. Big Tymers - "Get Your Roll On"
There's rappity rap, then there's butt-rappity rap. Where do you think "God damn motherfucker / She's a good dick-sucker" lands on the spectrum?
26. Mims - "This is Why I'm Hot"
This verbal fart of a hook makes French's "Ain't Worried About Nothin'" one seem like math-rock.
27. Rick Ross - "Drug Dealer's Dream"
Almost everything he's done after "B.M.F." is just cut-rate "B.M.F."
28. Pitbull ft. Lil Jon - "Culo"
You didn't really think we'd get through this whole thing without mentioning rap's reigning cheesedick, did you?
29. Shop Boyz - "Party Like a Rock Star"
To be butt-rap wasn't enough. In 2007, something called Shop Boyz decided to get butt-rock involved, too, with cookie-cutter riffs and the "totally dude!" rallying cry of a thousand meatheads.
30. Q-Tip ft. Korn - "End of Time"
If No. 29 showed what happened when rap dipped a toe into the butt-rock waters, this forgotten turd marks that apocalyptic moment when butt-rock and butt-rap crossed streams. Nothing was the same.
The full playlist: