5 New School Artists On the Impact of Their Favorite Classic Rap Songs

5 New School Artists On the Impact of Their Favorite Classic Rap Songs

“Hip-hop is anything you want it to be.”

On August 11, 1973, hip-hop was born at a party thrown by DJ Kool Herc at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx. Forty-five years later, hip-hop is the most ubiquitous cultural entity in America — everyone’s a rapper, everyone wants to be part of The Culture.

Although hip-hop has ballooned into a massive, sometimes misused and often innovated upon, entity, we’re still able to trace the genre’s lineage with relative ease. Speaking with five new school artists — tobi lou, Jack Harlow, Phora, femdot and Mr Eazi — DJBooth had each act break down the importance and impact of their favorite classic rap song.

Hip-hop may be young, but the genre’s influence exists outside of Western time. Listening to these new school artists wax poetic about songs that changed their lives, despite dropping before they were born, is a reminder that hip-hop is bigger than what any one person could have imagined. As Chicago rapper tobi lou points out: “Hip-hop is anything you want it to be. That’s the beauty of hip-hop: you can make it anything you want it to be, and it’s not on some corny shit.”

Below you will find our interviews with five young artists. While their song selections varied, there was one common thread tying all of the answers together: undeniable passion. From Tupac and A Tribe Called Quest to Kanye West, when it comes to hip-hop, we undoubtedly love this shit.

TOBI LOU

What’s your favorite classic hip-hop track?

I was thinking of an old one, but I’m gonna pick another moment because this moment showed me how big hip-hop can be, and it’s gonna be ‘Heard Em Say’ by Kanye West.

When did you first hear it?

Probably in my bedroom. I was in my room, it was the summer, school was out and it had leaked before Late Registration. A preview or something had leaked, and I remember hearing it, then putting it on a CD or something, and then just sitting in my room all day and listening to it. The way the drums came in, the hard-ass drums, and those soft-ass keys… It just kind of melted me.

What makes it your favorite?

For a while, I had liked a lot of music, and one of my favorite bands was Maroon 5, but I always had to hide it from my friends… I thought Adam Levine just had a crazy voice; I love their music. So I’m just living life, thinking I have to keep this shit separate; I’ve gotta hide this part of me from people… All of a sudden, what happens? Kanye’s coming off College Dropout, and boom! What do I have? I have a hip-hop-ass track with Kanye West and Adam Levine. Those are literally my two favorite worlds joined together. It showed me how big hip-hop can be, and how it can encompass everything.

That helped me understand that hip-hop is anything you want it to be. That’s the beauty of hip-hop: you can make it anything you want it to be, and it’s not on some corny shit. To this day, that just laid the ground for a lot of future, ‘Think outside the box, doing anything you want with hip-hop’ shit.

How did it influence your rap style?

Man, first of all, I’m in love with drums. He just had the drums going first and I like to pair hard drums with pretty-sounding shit. That track alone was the very foundation for what I do. I’ll hear a beautiful melody, like an Adele-type piano ballad, and then I’ll throw some hard-ass drums on that track. Then there’s the whole, just from what Kanye was talking about… Talking about jobs, he’s covering shit and I’m like ‘Damn,’ he’s letting it out. He’s the voice. It just showed me what I like about music.

Which one of your songs do you hope becomes a classic?

‘Solange.’ It has a lot of the components that I fell in love with through Kanye. To be honest, I learned how to rap through Kanye. I learned how to talk about shit through Kanye. I learned how to be funny and relatable through Kanye. That track, it has the hard drums, the pretty melodies, and I’m saying the real shit that pertains to my world. I hope that one makes it through to be a track that some rapper is talking about on the phone 10 years from now.

JACK HARLOW

What’s your favorite classic hip-hop track?

There’s a song by A Tribe Called Quest called ’1nce Again.’

When did you first hear it?

My mom played it for me. She played Tribe for me in general, but that’s when I first heard it. The vibe just caught me.

What makes it your favorite?

Beat’s crazy… The bounce… The way these dudes were just talking on the beat. It’s just so pure and it was so minimal.

How did it influence your rap style?

I’ve always liked minimal beats. For me, when the production’s minimal but still hard, the artist really has to bring it. Whether he’s bringing lyrics, charisma, whatever, they have to bring it. They gotta go crazy. If the beat’s minimal, you can’t really be that minimal, unless you come with some perfectly profound lyrics. These guys were just talking, there’s a lot of call and response. The shit is tight and pure, and it was so early.

What does the song mean to you now?

It’s nostalgic, even though I wasn’t even alive when it dropped. It’s nostalgic just to hear it, it feels like the beginning of something. I love that song.

It feels like the music can almost bend time.

Yeah, I guess you’re right. I don’t wanna speak for other genres, but hip-hop’s evolved so much that it’s always interesting to go back. Forty-five years isn’t that long. That’s a while, I guess, but it really ain’t. It’s still young.

Which one of your songs do you hope becomes a classic?

I hope all my songs become classics, but I don’t feel like I put anything out that yet that… Well, I got one song. It’s called ‘Eastern Parkway.’ It’s the intro to my last ‘tape, and that’s my favorite song that I’ve ever written. I hope kids from my city hear that in 40 years and it resonates with them. That would me a lot to me because I feel like I was talking about some stuff that in 40 years, kids would be feeling. You just talk about timeless subjects and things kids go through, hopefully, they can relate to in 30 to 40 years. Just like artists were making stuff when they were my age 40 years ago, and when I hear it I’m like, ‘Yo! This is real.’

PHORA

What’s your favorite classic hip-hop track?

It was between a few Tupac songs, but it would definitely be: Tupac’s ‘Dear Mama.’

When did you first hear it?

Honestly, I was so, so, so young, I was too young to remember. All I remember was, I was sitting in my living room and I heard this song and the substance and the content really hit me.

Have you listened to it consistently since then?

Yeah, of course!

Having grown with the track, what does the song mean to you now?

It means the same thing, it’s kind of a specific song. It’s really talking about the struggles that he has with his mom and the ups and downs of that relationship between a boy and his mom. I guess the difference from when I first heard it, I was so young and didn’t understand a lot of the things that he was talking about… As I got older and real life started to come in and things started to happen, I got distant from my mom. I listen to it now, and I relate to it a lot more.

Has the song helped you understand your relationship with your family?

Yeah, 100 percent! I can relate to a lot of things, [laughs] especially these days.

On the technical side, what makes it your favorite?

It has a lot of feelings of nostalgia. I’ve been in a lot of situations where that song would come on and really make me stop what I’m doing and think about that. My mom is one of the most important people in my life. It’s a lot of things: nostalgia, making me stop and reminisce, and think about my mom. Especially when I don’t have a lot of time to talk to her, it just reminds me of her.

Did it influence your rap style?

Of course. When I heard the song and when I listened to it throughout the years, it has always reminded me that this is the kind of music that will last for decades, if not centuries. You know: music that has substance, music that people can relate to, music that has meaning. Every album that I’ve recorded, I’ve revisited that song and it always reminds me: ‘Yo! Music has to mean something.’ That’s what’s really gonna last.

Which one of your songs do you hope becomes a classic?

I’d say a song of mine I put in 2016 called ‘Sinner.’

FEMDOT

What’s your favorite classic hip-hop track?

‘Dead Presidents II’ [by JAY-Z].

When did you first hear it?

2001.

How did it influence your rap style?

His writing ability, and the little inflections JAY-Z does. Even how he does it with his syllables… Any time I’m trying a new inflection or try a new flow out, I kinda go back to Reasonable Doubt, and my introduction to Reasonable Doubt was ‘Dead Presidents II.’ That album itself is my blueprint for what I look for in albums, but I wouldn’t have discovered the album without that song.

What does the song mean to you now?

Honestly, I still get super excited any time I see the video or I hear it out, or I see them perform it live… Even now, it still gives me chills. Years later, I still find stuff that I have not found. I know the album front-to-back, and I still find different meanings in songs after hearing them. It just further proves that you can make timeless music, also because it’s not rushed. He put the album out in his late 20s. Now, we’re in a time where a lot of people tend to establish themselves younger.

Careerwise, your time is your time. So there’s no need to rush. Plus, just watching the change from him, before that when he was rapping and doing the real rapid flow and it wasn’t getting him anywhere… To watch him perfect his craft and put out an album like that only further shows that even with any success I have now, I can go through a major transition and become such a better rapper. So, it means the world to me. That album is my hip-hop Bible.

Which one of your songs do you hope becomes a classic?

‘Soul.’

MR EAZI

What’s your favorite classic hip-hop track?

I did not grow up listening to hip-hop per se, the first-ever rap song that hit me was Ja Rule featuring Ashanti: ‘Always On Time.’

When did you first hear it?

I cannot exactly recall the first time, but I think it was on local TV back home in Nigeria.

How did it influence your style?

I am not a rapper, but musically it just made me appreciate rap music and would help me in the future on music arrangement, understanding the power of the hook.

What does the song mean to you now?

It is vibes.

Which one of your songs do you hope becomes a classic?

‘Skintight.’

[fbcomments num="5" width="100%" count="off" countmsg="kommentarer" url="http://read.tidal.com/article/mr-eazi-femdot-hip-hop-birthday"]