Hook ‘Em

"If you know like I know..."

Hip hop lost one of its greats yesterday.  Nate Dogg (born Nathaniel Dwayne Hale) passed away due to congestive heart failure.  He’d experienced health problems for quite a while, but I, like many, hoped that he would recover.  It is very unfortunate for any man to pass away at a mere 41 years of age.  It’s too soon and too sudden.  Nate left us being known, above anything, for revolutionizing the art of that all important element of hip hop: The Hook.  Most of us probably wouldn’t have known (or cared about) one syllable of “Regulate,” were it not for Nate’s smooth West Coast vibe and vocals.  He was the best to ever do it.  This morning, Russ Parr played an excellent mix of songs featuring Nate (where I discovered that I subconsciously know EVERY WORD of Luda’s “Area Codes”), which had me glued to the radio for a good 20 minutes hoping for more.

In honor of him, it’s fitting that today’s post highlight my ten favorite hooks in hip hop.

10. Whatta Man – Salt N Pepa ft. En Vogue

Any 90s girl worth her salt (no pun intended) loved SNP, and this song was the anthem for every one of us.  If we didn’t have a man like that, we were actively campaigning.  The women were fierce, the men were fine (and the video had Tupac, but I digress).  En Vogue’s harmony was the icing on the cake.  Seventeen years later, the hook is still so great, it makes me ignore that lyric about Arnold Schwartzenegger. How were they to know he would become a blobby and disgusting?

9.  Ms. Fat Booty – Mos Def

I have a special place in my heart for Mos.  He’s endearing in concert to the point that you don’t mind when he’s late.  (He’s always late.)  This song is an automatic crowd mover, in large part due to the ill bass line and the sampling of Aretha’s “One Step Ahead.”  Fun Fact:  With it’s groovy sample of an old school gem, most people want to give production credit to Kanye West. Not so, loves. It was in fact produced by Ayatolla.

8.  Cherchez La Ghost – Ghostface Killah ft. Goldie & U-God

If you pay attention to the URL, you may have guessed that I am most undoubtedly a GFK fan.  This song took a page from Tina Turner’s playbook.  “We’re gonna take the beginning of this song and do it easy.  Then we’re gonna do the finish…ROUGH.”  A few of my friends and I have a running joke about the fact that what Ghost speaks isn’t quite English, but he does it in a way that is ingenious.  The sweetness, almost understated tone of the hook sets it up perfectly.

7.  Beautiful – Snoop Dogg ft. Pharrell

When you discuss hip hop, it’s hard to ignore the Neptunes.  When you discuss hooks, it’s hard to ignore Pharrell.  The way this song comes together makes it catchy, enjoyable and timeless.

6.  You Got Me – The Roots ft. Erykah Badu

Love them. Love her. The song is mellow. Everything that needs to be said between two people who are apart manages to be covered in that hook.  “Baby, don’t worry. You know that you got me.”  If that’s not enough, Dave Chappelle’s Block Park gifted us with this live rendition, with the soul shaking vocals of Jill Scott added to the mix:

Magnificent.

5. I’ll Bee Dat – Redman

Oh Reggie Noble, how I love thee. Aside from the fact that this song contains a personal motto of mine (“If you gotta be a monkey, be a gorilla”) and one of my favorite declarations (“Watch how you sniff, son, I’m highly octane!”), this hook gives me life on the regular.  I pull out my meanest of mean mugs when this gets played.  As an added bonus, and because I love you, I threw in the hilarious (albeit edited) video.

4.  U-N-I-T-Y – Queen Latifah

“Who you callin a bitch?!” This time period in hip hop had a little bit of everything, but there were tons of great songs empowering us, not only as black men and women, but as humans.  The Queen was great for coming up with songs meant to empower, or even bridge the divide.  This is not only one of my favorite hooks, it’s probably one of my favorite songs.  “You gotta let ’em know, you ain’t a bitch or a ho!”

3.  Guerilla Monsoon Rap – Talib Kweli ft. Black Thought, Pharoahe Monch & Kanye West

Unlike Ms. Fat Booty, this song, which samples The Chi-Lites “I Never Had It So Good (And Felt So Bad)” was produced by Kanye West, who gets feature credit without spitting so much as a syllable.  However, what he did with the beat was undeniable.  I feel like I’m at a concert every time I hear this hook.  I would give a whole damn lot to actually see this performed live.

2.  B.O.B. – Outkast

*runs through house knocking all my stuff down*  *getting pissed because I have to clean it up*  Seriously? This needs to be explained?

1. Next Episode – Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg, Kurupt and Nate Dogg

Of course.  This was one of Nate’s shorter appearances, and one might argue this was more of a verse than a hook, but find someone who doesn’t feel that Nate’s “Hold up…waaaaaaaait” doesn’t make this song.  It really typifies what Nate did for your track.  Even if it was “okay,” he had what it took to put you on.  Though I know he will be missed as a father, friend and brother, he will most definitely be remembered and missed for revolutionizing the game.

**Bonus

How could I not?

What are your favorites?

First Impressions

As discussed ad nauseum on this blog, music is everything in my world.  I wake up, go to bed, and dream about music.  I am a grown woman that still sings into her hairbrush and, when my ankle is not impaired, will still do the dance routines to every Janet Jackson video from the 80s and 80s – albeit more out of breath.  There are several components that make a song great, but one surefire way is to make the opening GREAT.  So today, I will give you five songs (and a bonus) that had me hooked within the first five seconds and made me love them.

5. “Ambitions as a Rider” by Tupac – It starts with this almost unassuming husky whisper, “I won’t deny it…”  That could go anywhere.  “…I’m a straight rider, you don’t wanna fuck with me.”  Piano, bass, lyrics, boom.  Love it.  This intro is what catapulted “All Eyes on Me” into the position of instant classic amongst Tupac lovers, even prior to ‘Pac’s death.

4.  “Stronger” by Kanye West – The first two words in this song tell it all: “WORK IT!”  As irritating as autotune has become, it was perfect for this hook.  The bass comes in, and you’re sold.  At least I am…and that’s what matters here, right?  It matters not to me what Kanye does or doesn’t write.  He has a talent for knowing what a song will require, and his delivery is virtually always on point.  This song gets me so amped.  I was on one of my famous road trips, when this came on, and it gave me energy for another hour on the road.  True story.

3.  “Freaky Thangs” by LUDA! (I have to say it that way) ft. Twista & Jagged Edge – I’m a sucker for that Spanish guitar sound.  Faizon Love provides a rather entertaining intro, leading into vocals by Jagged Edge.  LUDA! and Twista proceed to spit all sorts of filth and flarn in true rapid fire fashion.  This song almost makes me want to perfect my pole skills.  Did I say perfect.  I meant develop.  On second thought, considering how accident prone I am, it may be advisable that I leave that to the professionals.  It’s definitely a head nodder.

2. “Somebody to Love” by Queen – Sometimes it’s the simplest thing; Freddie Mercury’s typically powerful voice starting with the soft plea, “Can,” and the choir follows up with, “AN-Y-BO-DYYYYYYYYYYYYY.” The damn song can end right there.  Right there, the song is the shit.  Mercury’s vocals were ridiculous, and he always fits into the category of my top ten favorite singers.  Possibly even my top five.  The passion carried throughout this song, from beginning to end, gives me that little tight feeling, not so much on the verge of tears, but quite possibly being on the verge of the verge.  His death was a huge loss to music.

In the battle of Prince vs. MJ, I NEVER chose sides, and I will not do it here.  When you look at the catalogs of both performers, the question of their songs being at the top was not “If,” but rather, “Which?”  So, without further ado, the number 1s:

1.  “Kiss” by Do I Even Have to Utter His Name? – Funky Guitar riff followed by an unmistakable groan.  No one does anything like Prince, and that includes seizing your instant attention.  Now, I don’t worship at the alter of Prince as some of my comrades do, but I respect game, and the brother has it in spades.  This song has the fun and sass to make you pull your granny on the dance floor when it comes on at a family function, and just enough sexiness to get you to grind on a sexy somebody if it comes on at a party.  Everything stops for me when this song comes on.  Every time.  He takes that saying your mother used to make you feel simple (“Act your age, not your shoe size”) and geniusified it.  Yes, “geniusified” is a word, as is “geniusify,” and “geniusification.”  Deal with it.

1.  “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” by The King of Pop Michael J. Jackson* -*bass* You know I was…I was wondering if you know, you could keep on…”  What?! Mike got SEXY ON YOU FOOLS!  Everything about this song, even with that bass line and Mike whispering at the intro, lets you know that you should be prepared to get bucked up, because it’s going down.  I’m listening to the song as I type this, and my fingers are working overtime.  The song gets me that excited.  A song like this lets us know that Mike was giving us his all, and in retrospect, quite possibly not keeping enough for himself.  I think that’s why as his fans, many of us take the loss of him so personally.

*Okay, maybe my alliance DOES lean on the side of Michael, but that is no shade against Prince.