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:
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.
How could I not?
What are your favorites?