meta-scriptLighters Up! 10 Essential Reggae Hip-Hop Fusions | GRAMMY.com
nas and damien marley perform live
Nas and Damian Marley perform during the 2011 Good Vibrations music festival in Australia

Photo: Marc Grimwade/WireImage

list

Lighters Up! 10 Essential Reggae Hip-Hop Fusions

Rap and reggae took divergent paths from their shared sound system roots, yet have fused throughout the decades. Read on for 10 songs that showcase the connection between hip-hop and reggae, and listen to GRAMMY.com's playlist.

GRAMMYs/Jun 14, 2023 - 03:53 pm

When 12-year-old Clive Campbell, a.k.a. DJ Kool Herc, migrated with his family from Kingston, Jamaica to the Bronx in 1967, he brought with him a love of his island’s music and an understanding of the best way to experience that music: at a sound system dance. 

The Jamaican sound system began quite humbly with a single turntable and a hand-built amplifier in the late 1940s, then expanded to include two turntables, a crossfader mixer, massive assemblages of speakers, a selector who chooses the records and an emcee that hypes up the crowd with rhymes. As the popularity of sound system dances expanded, the selectors’ need for exclusive music to attract large crowds and trump their opponents in heated clashes gave birth to Jamaica’s prolific recording industry, as well as the development of ska, rocksteady and reggae music.

In New York Herc experimented with audio equipment purchased by his father in an attempt to maximize their sound. Playing records in between the band’s sets, Herc noticed dancers were most responsive to the songs’ instrumental breaks. In a technique he called the merry-go-round, Herc utilized two turntables and a mixer to alternate between dual copies of the same record to prolong the instrumental grooves. 

On Aug. 11, 1973, Herc’s sister Cindy held a back-to-school jam in the recreation room of their Bronx apartment building at 1560 Sedgewick Ave.; Cindy charged a modest admission to raise funds to buy new clothes. Herc played the music and his good friend, Bronx native Coke La Rock, took up the mic to shout out his friends and catchy rhythmic slogans over the records’ instrumental breaks — just like Jamaican emcees or deejays had done on Kingston’s sound systems in the previous decade. 

Word of the party, and Herc’s groundbreaking techniques spread quickly. Soon, others began imitating what Herc and Coke La Rock were doing, adding their own flourishes, which ushered in a new musical movement. Hip-hop wouldn’t have developed as it did without Herc’s pioneering efforts, or the adaptations he made to the Jamaican sound system template.

From their shared sound system roots, rap and reggae, took divergent paths. Fifty years after hip-hop’s birth, it’s one of the most streamed genres in the world; reggae has yet to attain commercial recognition commensurate with its widespread influence (notwithstanding Bob Marley’s global acclaim). Nonetheless, ongoing hip-hop and reggae conversations on record have yielded some great moments in popular music.

Whether its rappers chatting Jamaican Patois, dancehall deejays spitting bars with "Yankee" inflections or American and Jamaican artists collaborations, the connection between hip-hop and reggae runs deep. Click on the Amazon Music playlist above, visit the Recording Academy’s SpotifyPandora, and Apple Music pages, and read on for a chronological look at 10 songs that have brought together hip-hop and reggae. 

 The Fat Boys - "Hardcore Reggae" (1985)

"Hardcore Reggae" is a lighthearted yet sincere tribute to reggae and one of the earliest reggae/rap fusions by Brooklyn’s Fat Boys, Prince Markie Dee, Buff Love and (the sole surviving member) Kool Rock-Ski.  Taken from their 1985 album The Fat Boys are Back "Hardcore Reggae" reached No. 52 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop chart.

Over a bass-heavy reggae rhythm, the Fat Boys shout out a litany of reggae artists including Bob Marley (who died in 1981) and Peter Tosh, who was fatally shot two years after this song’s release. The song’s video features the Fat Boys starring in a western The Good, The Fat and the Hungry that also includes New York based reggae greats the late Denroy Morgan, (father of the sibling reggae band Morgan Heritage) Sammy Dread, Welton Irie and Mikey Jarrett. 

Buff Love captures the essence of 1980s dancehall toasting (rolling ad libbed syllables, punctuated by shouts of "right" and/or "ribit") and concludes the homage to Jamaican music with the simple rhyme, "the people is fresh/ the music is ok/ we rapping to the beat called hardcore reggae."  

Shinehead - "Who The Cap Fit" (1986)

Any list of hip-hop/reggae songs would be incomplete without Shinehead, a pioneer in blending the genres. Born in England, raised in Jamaica and living in the Bronx for many years, Shinehead’s impressive roster of reggae-rap mashups throughout the 1980s and 1990s undoubtedly inspired many Jamaican deejays forays into rapping and rappers attempts at reggae. 

Bronx rapper KRS-One introduced many hip-hop heads to dancehall with the classic diss track "The Bridge Is Over" (which featured Jamaican-accented delivery and a rhythmic interpolation of Super Cat’s 1984 dancehall hit "Boops") — but the legendary artist said he was influenced by Shinehead. 

Over the bassline taken from an early digital dancehall riddim called Tempo, Shinehead uses the hook from Bob Marley’s 1974 track "Who The Cap Fit" to address everything from "political chess games and bureaucratic red tape/worldwide genocide all the things we hate," to "terrorism, racism and all sorts of schisms/not enough work and overcrowded in prisons." There are American emcees who deejay and Jamaicans that rap, but few can vacillate between vocal styles with the astonishing skill Shinehead possesses.

Super Cat and Heavy D - "Dem No Worry We" (1992)

The 1990s were a significant decade for dancehall’s breakthrough beyond the Caribbean diaspora. Several Jamaican artists were signed to major labels, and hip-hop collaborations and remixes became essential tools in marketing the music in America and expanding the popularity of Jamaican hits. 

Jamaican rapper Heavy D had already released three platinum selling albums by 1992, so his collaboration with Super Cat undoubtedly brought greater attention to the Jamaican dancehall "don dada" who had recently signed to Columbia Records. 

Heavy D listened to Jamaican deejays toasting in Patois before he moved to New York and started rapping, so there’s a natural chemistry between Heavy and Cat as they trade playful Patois boasts that are crowned by Heavy’s barrage of mesmerizing, scatted improvisations. Essentially a dancehall party record, "Dem No Worry We" stands as one of the era’s very best. 

Ini Kamoze - "Here Comes the Hotstepper" (1994)

Producer Salaam Remi, who excelled in fusing hip-hop breakbeats with dancehall’s syncopated rhythmic patterns, remixed several hit songs for reggae stars including Shabba Ranks ("Twice My Age") and Super Cat ("Ghetto Red Hot"); his most successful, a remix of sing-jay Ini Kamoze’s "Here Comes the Hotstepper," topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in December 1994. 

Remi chops up an eclectic range of samples into an irresistible hip-hop pulse that’s dominated by the drum and funky bassline from Taana Gardner’s 1981 dance/R&B hit single "Heartbeat." Kamoze, the self-proclaimed "lyrical gangster," lays down a swaggering Jamaican accented rap. As "Here Comes the Hotstepper" ascended to No. 1 in the U.S. (and several other countries) a bidding war ensued and Kamoze signed to Elektra Records. Disillusioned with the lack of remuneration, he walked away from that deal after releasing just one album. 

In 2022, videos posted on TikTok with the hashtags #hotstepper and #herecomesthehotstepper featuring people dancing to the song earned millions of views and "Here Comes the Hotstepper" entered the R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Song Sales chart, nearly 30 years after its initial release.

Foxy Brown feat. Spragga Benz - "Oh Yeah"  (2001)

From the "most critically acclaimed rap bitch in the game," Brooklyn’s Foxy Brown asserts her supremacy in the male dominated rap world and dares "one of y'all rappin' chicks" to mention her name. 

Teaming up with her then-boyfriend Jamaica’s Spragga Benz on this 2001 rap reggae nugget, the intro to "Oh Yeah" samples Toots Hibbert’s classic "54-46 Was My Number" and Bob Marley’s "Punky Reggae Party." A booming bassline underscores each of Foxy’s tough edged rhymes as she reps for the streets: "I respect the rap game, but I don't f with rap bitches, I'm speakin’ from my heart/It's not that I'm too good, I'm just hood."

Spragga punctuates Foxy’s lines with the resounding, catchy chorus, "oh yo yo yo" as heard in the live versions of Bob Marley’s "Get Up Stand Up," which the reggae icon co-wrote with fellow original Wailer Peter Tosh.

Damian Marley & Nas - "Strong Will Continue" (2010)

Several tracks on Damian Marley and NasDistant Relatives a sprawling musical odyssey that explores the genres’ shared African ancestry beyond their sound system roots merit ranking on a best of reggae/hip-hop list, but the motivational "Strong Will Continue" has a slight edge. 

The track begins with a stark, rhythmic pulse akin to a heartbeat, building to a soldierly cadence overlaid with strings, keys and other flourishes. Damian’s emphatic vocals then offer persuasive encouragement: "When the Armageddon start get dread/a lot of weak heart go weep and moan/only the strong will continue, do you have it in you/‘cause we’ve got a journey to go." Throughout, their incisive lyrics and distinctive blistering vocals consistently complement one another but Nas asserts his dominance on the song’s final verse. 

Shifting from generally inspirational lyrics to musings on his own life (including his acrimonious, costly divorce from singer Kelis), the Queensbridge rapper wonders if Kelis cheated on him, complains about the monthly alimony payments and fears his life has "taken a turn to the Louis XIII life, twisted and mangled sort of Bruce Lee life." It’s a riveting passage and the music returns to a heartbeat that sparsely frames Nas’ astounding flow.

Snoop Lion feat. Mavado & Popcaan - "Lighters Up" (2013)

Snoop Dogg's Rasta guise, Snoop Lion, generated understandable skepticism when he announced his reggae project Reincarnated. He earned outright ridicule after proclaiming that he was Bob Marley incarnate. Just before the album’s release, Bunny Wailer, then the only surviving member of the original Wailers and prominently featured in the Reincarnated documentary, "excommunicated" Snoop from Rastafari, citing "fraudulent use of Rastafari personalities and symbolism."

Despite the surrounding mayhem, Reincarnated is a solid pop reggae effort. One of its best tracks is the catchy hip-hop jam "Lighters Up," featuring the innovative brass embellishments of Jamaica’s Tivoli Gardens Drum Corp, with dancehall artists Mavado and Popcaan each taking a verse. Their presence on the track is significant, and belies a complicated history. 

Popcaan was a protégé of now incarcerated dancehall superstar Vybz Kartel who was in a bitter feud with Mavado. Their dispute initially played out on an exchange of diss tracks, then escalated into violence between the respective artists’ camps and their fans, which eventually warranted intervention by Jamaica’s prime minister. Despite Mavado’s words on the first verse "Link up with me, all enemies" and Popcaan proclaiming "unity is the strength" on the third, the two Jamaican artists don’t acknowledge each other (or their battle) within the song’s lyrics or video. The dancehall artists’ icy exchanges thawed somewhat the following year and Mavado was featured on the remix of Popcaan’s "Everything Nice." However that truce was short-lived and the feud, which accelerated again in early 2016, continues today. 

Kendrick Lamar feat. Agent Sasco - "The Blacker the Berry" (2015)

"The Blacker the Berry" is Kendrick Lamar’s remarkable, complex expression of outrage towards racist white America and his own hypocrisy for crying over the death of Trayvon Martin then gangbanging and killing a man "blacker than me." 

Kendrick angrily poses profound societal questions over a track that’s an impeccable blend of hip-hop, rock and soul with a jazzy outro. Jamaica’s Agent Sasco considered among dancehall’s most astute lyricists underscores Kendrick’s sentiments with his raspy, thunderous, Patois-tinged vocal hook, providing a historical context that resonates whether you’re from the Caribbean or America: "I said they treat me like a slave, cah' me Black, woi, we feel a whole heap of pain, cah' we Black… imagine now, big gold chains full of rocks/How you no see the whip, left scars pon' me back/ But now we have a big whip parked pon' the block."

Kabaka Pyramid -"Kabaka vs Pyramid" (2016)

Kabaka Pyramid’s hip-hop influences run as deep as his reggae/dancehall inspirations. Prior to making his name as a reggae sing-jay, the 2023 GRAMMY winner pursued a career as a rapper. His ability to easily shift between rapped verses and Patois-chanted lyrics with optimal dexterity is highlighted on the clever "Kabaka vs. Pyramid," a battle track from his 2016 Accurate mixtape, produced by Major Lazer’s Walshy Fire.

In this skirmish, Kabaka is the Jamaican deejay and Pyramid is his hip-hop alter ego. Over the beat from the Notorious B.I.G.’s classic "Gimme The Loot" (where Biggie rapped in two voices, as himself and his younger self) each persona makes their case for vocal preeminence: Pyramid tells Kabaka "you realize your whole style is rap, posing as a reggae artist, hiding the fact." Kabaka retorts, "you only vex because when me deejay mi badda dan any flippin’ rapper ‘pon the planet where mi stand upon." 

Who won the battle? That’s hard to say, "but we the same person so pull it up and replay." 

Runkus - "Taxi: Zion" (2022)

The current generation of young Jamaican music makers have transformed decades of hip-hop/reggae blends, collabs and samples into innovative, genre-less sonics. An outstanding example from that progressive soundscape is "Taxi: Zion," by Jamaican sing-jay/songwriter/musician/producer Runkus. 

Produced by British radio host Toddla T, "Taxi: Zion" is a heartfelt tribute to Runkus’ close friend, aspiring artist France Nooks, who was fatally stabbed by a taxi driver (Nooks’ voice is sampled on the track). Fluidly crisscrossing a six-minute kaleidoscopic collage of boom bap hip-hop, pulsing reggae basslines, sleek R&B and crackling dancehall beats, Runkus raps, sings and deejays with dizzying speed, asking Nooks about reggae heroes in heaven ("do you see Garnet in garments of Silk sing by the fireplace?") offers complicated considerations on seeking revenge ("we used to walk with patience now we walk with a slug") and doubting his convictions ("I lost my faith the day you met your fate"). The song is the impressive result of tradition meeting revolutionary ideas, which parallels the creation of reggae and hip-hop.

How 'The Harder They Come' Brought Reggae To The World: A Song By Song Soundtrack Breakdown

LL Cool J

Credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images

list

Celebrate 40 Years Of Def Jam With 15 Albums That Show Its Influence & Legacy

From the Beastie Boys' seminal 'License To Ill' and Jay-Z's 'Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life,' celebrate Def Jam with 15 of the label's essential albums.

GRAMMYs/Jun 24, 2024 - 01:31 pm

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Def Jam Recordings, the New York label that made history in hip-hop, R&B, pop, and even thrash metal since its founding, and continues to do so today.

A label that began out of an NYU dorm room in 1984 quickly became an artistic (and business) powerhouse. Early acts like LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy were raw, adventurous, and risk-taking. Def Jam's roster opened new pathways in a still-young genre, seemingly every few months. 

After that initial explosion, the label experienced a brief lull in the early 1990s when one label founder departed and the other expanded into fashion and comedy. Def Jam came roaring back beginning in 1994, and by 1998 the label was home to some of the most popular and influential artists in the game — including burgeoning megastars DMX and Jay-Z. To this day, Def Jam maintains a roster of both commercially successful and critically beloved artists in hip-hop, R&B, and pop.

To commemorate the anniversary of the label that gave us, well, pretty much everyone, here’s a list of 15 of Def Jam’s essential releases. While Def Jam brought audiences plenty of singles, EPs and remixes, this list primarily focuses on albums. Each project has a mix of artistic merit, popularity, influence and longevity, originality, and played a key role in the story of Def Jam as a whole. Think of it as a chronological run through the key albums that built one of the most lasting labels in modern music. 

And finally: it must be said that in recent years, a dark shadow has begun to loom over Def Jam’s legacy. Label co-founder Russell Simmons been accused over the past seven years of numerous instances of sexual assault, dating back decades. In spite of these accusations, the label (in which Simmons hasn’t been involved for a quarter-century) remains on top, safeguarding its valuable archive while looking forward to another four decade run as fruitful as the first one.

T La Rock & Jazzy Jay - "It’s Yours" (1984)

The one single on this list is also the first piece of music ever released with the now-famous Def Jam logo. "It’s Yours" was a single produced by Def Jam co-founder Rick Rubin — his very first hip-hop production. Instrumentally, it was perhaps only comparable to Larry Smith and Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons’ contemporaneous work with Run-D.M.C. Both "It’s Yours" and D.M.C.’s early work were severely stripped-down, consisting of a few drum sounds, an instrumental stab, and some scratches. 

Lyrically, though, "It’s Yours" is worlds apart from "Sucker M.C.’s" — or pretty much anything else going on in hip-hop at the time. T La Rock, the brother of Treacherous Three member Special K, came from a family of educators, and he put every ounce of his erudition into the track. It begins, "Commentating, illustrating/ Description giving, adjective expert" and goes from there.

LL Cool J - 'Radio' (1985)

In the early 1980s, the state of the hip-hop album was very grim. Only a few existed, and they almost exclusively consisted of a few singles mixed with often-confusing filler. Two things changed that. First, Run-D.M.C.’s 1984 self-titled debut, which GRAMMY.com examined in depth a few months ago. Second was LL Cool J’s debut album Radio, the very first full-length album Def Jam ever released.

In many ways, Radio kicked off hip-hop’s Golden Age. The record shows LL, then still in his teens, as a versatile artist who can be boastful, funny, aggressive, lyrical. The album shows many different sides of his personality, and helped set the template for what a rap album could be.

Read more: 20 Iconic Hip-Hop Style Moments: From Run-D.M.C. To Runways

Beastie Boys - 'Licensed to Ill' (1986)

The Beasties would release more complex and enlightened albums than Licensed to Ill, and one of the members would eventually apologize for some of its lyrics. But there’s no denying that it was a smash hit. It was the first rap album to ever top the Billboard 200, got the group onstage with Madonna, and would eventually sell over 10 million copies

Was some of that success due to their race? Sure. They were a credible group, signed to a hot rap label, at a time when it was still novel for white people to be performers in hip-hop. And yet, that’s not the whole story.

Licensed to Ill is a catchy, unique, energetic album, and the group members show undeniable chemistry. To this day, shout-filled, guitar-heavy anthems like "No Sleep till Brooklyn" and the ubiquitous "Fight for Your Right" can still get the party started.

Read more: The Beastie Boys Provide A License To Party

Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back' (1988)

There’s not too much you can say about this album that hasn’t already been said in the years of books, conferences, academic papers, and deluxe re-issues. It has ended up at or near the top of many all-time best lists. Its abrasive, collage-like approach to composition was never equalled (and, in light of current laws and practices around sampling, can never even be approached). The comic stylings of Flavor Flav bring just the right amount of levity to balance Chuck D’s takes on life-and-death issues. 

Decades after its release, the album still sounds urgent. And sadly, in an America still roiled with tensions over race, incarceration, drugs, and the media, its concerns remain as relevant as ever.

Read more: 5 Things We Learned At "An Evening With Chuck D" At The GRAMMY Museum

Slick Rick - 'The Great Adventures of Slick Rick' (1988)

Slick Rick is the ultimate rap storyteller, and his debut album is the best example of his artistry. "I wrote them like an essay," Rick once said of creating the batch of songs that make up Great Adventures. He also compared it to doing stand-up. So you have exactly what those two reference points imply: stories that are well-constructed, and also frequently riotously funny.

Rick is the master of the telling detail (remember "Dave, the dope fiend shooting dope/ Who don’t know the meaning of water nor soap" from "Children’s Story"?), the humorous twist, the morality tale, the bedtime story, the character voice. His influence lives on in perhaps his most devoted protege, Ghostface Killah, as well as in any rapper who has tried to craft a song with a beginning, middle, and end.

Learn more: Essential Hip-Hop Releases From The 1980s: Slick Rick, RUN-D.M.C., De La Soul & More

Warren G - 'Regulate… G Funk Era'(1994)

A bit of an edge case here, as technically the record was put out by Violator Records and Rush Associated Labels, the latter of which was a sort of umbrella organization Def Jam ran in the mid-1990s. Many albums that could have made this list, including projects by Redman, Onyx, Domino, and Nice & Smooth, were released under the RAL banner. But Warren G’s debut, a giant hit in an era where Def Jam really needed it, became inextricably associated with the label, to the point where an article about the album on Universal Music’s website mentions Def Jam five times in the first two paragraphs.

Regulate is a pop-savvy take on the G-funk sound that was then ascendant. It was a huge success in a year that saw the introduction of tons of amazing rappers into the game. And Warren G being associated with Def Jam meant that the East Coast-centric label had expanded its geographic footprint. 

Read more: Warren G Revisits 'Regulate: The G-Funk Era': How The 1994 Album Paved The Way For West Coast Hip-Hop's Dominance

Foxy Brown - 'Ill Na Na' (1996)

Def Jam wasn’t always a friendly place for female artists (despite many of the most important employees being women, including one-time president Nana Ashhurst). In fact, the label didn’t release a rap album by a woman until Nikki D’s Daddy’s Little Girl in 1991. So Foxy Brown’s impact — on Def Jam and on the rap world as a whole — cannot be overstated. Ill Na Na was an album that changed everything for female rappers. It had songs for the clubs, the block, and the radio. Foxy’s sexuality, versatility, and first-class rhyming would have an influence on countless rappers, most famously her number one fan Nicki Minaj, who has been effusively praising Foxy for more than a decade.

Read more: Ladies First: 10 Essential Albums By Female Rappers

DMX - 'It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot' (1998)

No less an authority than Nas referred to 1998 as "The year DMX took over the world." It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot is how he did it. The album set fire to Bad Boy’s so-called "shiny suit era" by embodying its polar opposite: a dark, grimy vision full of gothic synths; raspy, full-throated lyrics; and, sometimes, actual barks. Without DMX, there’s no NYC street rap return: no G-Unit mixtape run, no Diplomats.

The record is consistent and captivating from start to finish, and its thematic centerpiece comes, appropriately, about halfway through with "Damien," which reminds all of us that the most difficult battles we fight are the ones with ourselves.

Jay-Z - 'Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life' (1998)

Jay-Z has made more critically beloved albums than Vol. 2 (Reasonable Doubt and The Blueprint both fall in that category). He has made albums with bigger hits (The Blueprint 3 had a No. 1 hit with "Empire State of Mind"). But he has never made a more important LP.

Vol. 2 was the album that made Jay a superstar. Its Annie-sampling title track (produced by the late 45 King) sent him to the stratosphere — a process he actually documented on his follow-up album. But the record wasn’t just a commercial novelty. It showed Jay at the absolute top of his game: cocky, funny, and brilliant. Case in point: his novel approach to storytelling in "Coming of Age (Da Sequel)," where all the important action takes place in just a few seconds, inside the characters’ heads.

Read more: Songbook: How Jay-Z Created The 'Blueprint' For Rap's Greatest Of All Time

Ludacris - 'Word of Mouf' (2001)

Around the turn of the millennium, Def Jam had its sights set on conquering new territory. Specifically, the South. So they set up Def Jam South and hired Scarface to head it up. The entity’s biggest success came from an Atlanta DJ who went by Chris Luva Luva on the air, but began rapping as Ludacris.

Word of Mouf was Luda’s second album, but it was the one that really cemented his stardom with songs like "Rollout (My Business)," "Area Codes," and the immortal "Move Bitch" (the last of which has had an artist-approved second life as a protest chant). The album proved that the South was here to stay, and that Def Jam would have a role in determining its hip-hop future.

Learn more: A Guide To Southern Hip-Hop: Definitive Releases, Artists & Subgenres From The Dirty South

Scarface - 'The Fix' (2002)

Speaking of Scarface and Def Jam South, Face had no intention of dropping music while running the label. But, in his telling, Def Jam exec Lyor Cohen insisted on it, paying handsomely for the privilege.

"There were so many things working in my favor on that album," Scarface wrote in his memoir Diary of a Madman. "For the first time, I was working on an album for a label that believed in me 100 percent and didn’t want anything from me except for me to make the dopest album I could possibly make. And they went out of their way to make that possible."

Def Jam’s history of putting out classics inspired Face on The Fix, he writes in that book. And in the end, the album stands up there with any of them. It is one of only a small handful of rap records to earn a perfect five-mic rating from The Source, and it belongs in that rarified air with projects like Illmatic and Aquemini

Kanye West - 'The College Dropout' (2004)

Yes, today Kanye West is the worst: a Hitler-loving, Trump-supporting, paranoid, antichoice, antisemite who stands accused of sexual harrassment. But two decades ago, the world met a Mr. West who at least seemed very different. 

The College Dropout presented an artist who was already extremely well-known as a beatmaker. But Kanye’s carefully crafted persona as the bridge between mainstream rap and the underground — "First n— with a Benz and a backpack," as he put it — meant that he appealed to pretty much everyone. The College Dropout wasn't West at the top of his rap game, but it did show his skill at developing song concepts, at beats, and at creating an artistic vision so powerful, and so relatable, that it captivated an entire generation.

Cam’ron - 'Purple Haze' (2004)

It’s impossible to talk about Def Jam without discussing Roc-A-Fella. Jay-Z’s label hooked up with Def Jam in 1997, and had a years-long hot streak with artists like Kanye, Beanie Sigel, Freeway, the Young Gunz, and of course Cam’ron’s Diplomats crew — Cam, Juelz Santana, and the overall group all released projects there.

Purple Haze came at the very tail end of Roc-a-fella’s golden age. It has Cam at the absolute peak of his absurdist rhyming powers, keeping computers ‘puting and knocking out eight-syllable multis about Paris Hilton like it was nothing. During the Purple Haze era, it was Cam’s world, and we were all just lucky to be living in it.

Rihanna - 'Good Girl Gone Bad' (2007)

Rihanna’s first two projects were full of Caribbean sounds and ballads. But when her third album came along, she needed a change. Riri wanted to go "uptempo," and history shows that was the right choice. Good Girl Gone Bad began the singer’s transformation into the megastar we know today. It spawned five singles and two separate quickie tie-in albums (Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded and Good Girl Gone Bad: The Remixes).

"Umbrella" was the way forward. Rihanna had a No. 1 record prior, but she’d never made a sensation like this. The song (with a guest verse by then-Def Jam president Jay-Z) not only made it to the top slot, it also won a GRAMMY and was undeniably the song of the summer. The album also contained the sensation "Don’t Stop the Music," a track that kickstarted the EDM/pop hybrid that dominated the late aughts. Without Good Girl Gone Bad, it’s safe to say we’d be living in a very different, Fenty-less world.

Read more: Songbook: The Ultimate Guide To Rihanna's Reign, From Her Record-Breaking Hits To Unforgettable Collabs

Frank Ocean - 'Channel Orange' (2012)

One could fill a whole blurb about Channel Orange simply by quoting the extreme praise it received. "A singular achievement in popular culture." "Landed with the crash and curiousness of a meteor." Two days after its release, Pitchfork was already saying that it "feels like a classic."

And yet, somehow even that kind of acclaim doesn’t do the album justice. You really had to be there when it came out, when Frank looked into his soul and, in doing so, connected deeply with so many listeners

Read more: Frank Ocean Essentials: 10 Songs That Embody The Elusive Icon's R&B Genius

"Channel Orange is the most concentrated version of 2012 in 2012 so far," wrote Sasha Frere-Jones at the time, in one of the most dead-on statements about the album. It expressed the contradictions we all lived in. Its fragmentation mirrored the social media that was beginning to take over all of our lives. Ocean left bits of his biography scattered throughout the album, but they almost didn’t matter. He was speaking for all of us, in the way only great artists can. 

A Guide To New York Hip-Hop: Unpacking The Sound Of Rap's Birthplace From The Bronx To Staten Island

PRIDE & Black Music Month: Celebrating LGBTQIA+ & Black Voices

Crowd dancing at GRAMMY Museum's Hip-Hop Block Party
Attendees dance on the Ray Charles Terrace at the GRAMMY Museum

Photo: Randy Shropshire

list

7 Ways The GRAMMY Museum’s Hip-Hop Block Party Celebrated Culture & Community

On June 6, the GRAMMY Museum honored Black Music Month with a vibrant, museum-wide soirée featuring dancers, musicians, and a fashion show.

GRAMMYs/Jun 11, 2024 - 01:32 pm

Most days of the week, the GRAMMY Museum closes at 6 p.m. But on Thursday, June 6, its doors were open well into the night. As some people filtered through them, others clustered around two rollerskate-clad dancers who synchronized to Aaliyah’s "Try Again" on the sidewalk outside the museum at L.A. Live. 

This was Richard "Swoop" Whitebear, the professional who choreographed the mononymous singer’s "Try Again" music video, and Alicia Reason, a skate coach and performing artist operating at the intersection of professional dance and roller skating. Their fluid movements drew a crowd outside the GRAMMY Museum’s inaugural Hip-Hop Block Party. 

The after-hours soiree, which ran to 11:30 p.m., is one of the larger events that the five-story archive of GRAMMY Award history and winners has ever hosted. Although the Hip-Hop Block Party honored Black Music Month, observed each June, its concept can be traced back to October 2023, when the museum launched "Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit" in celebration of the genre’s 50th anniversary. 

"The idea for [the party] came from the energy of the exhibit, which celebrates five decades of hip-hop. I was lucky to be a part of curating the exhibit and hosting its opening night, and that experience fueled my passion for continuing to share the story of hip-hop and its journey across cultures," says Schyler O’Neal, the Museum’s Manager of Education & Community Engagement. 

A grant from L.A.’s Department of Cultural Affairs enabled O’Neal and colleagues to coordinate the one-night-only affair, billed as an opportunity to "experience the pulse of hip-hop culture like never before." Across nine interdisciplinary art demos, activations, and pop-ups encompassing mediums ranging from photography to live music and dance, the GRAMMY Museum made good on this promise while providing a platform to compelling California-grown creatives. 

"Our goal was to shine a spotlight on local talent across the hip-hop spectrum: DJs, MCs, dancers, fashionistas, and photographers. We brought together an awesome lineup to represent the culture," O’Neal tells GRAMMY.com.  

Many spirited, community-building moments colored the evening. Read on for a snapshot of some of its most memorable.  

Uraelb Pays Homage To Hip-Hop’s Past, Celebrates Its Present & Embodies Its Future 

"I’m setting the tone at 8 pm," Uraelb proclaimed in an Instagram post ahead of the Hip-Hop Block Party. That’s precisely what the L.A. native did when he took the stage at the Clive Davis Theater for the evening’s first vocal performance. Flanked by a drummer, bassist, pianist and two supporting vocalists, UrealB opened with a performance of his original song, "Brace Face."  

He created a culture of artist participation by encouraging the crowd to smile and later, to sing along to his buttery-smooth rendition of OutKast’s "So Fresh, So Clean." From there, UraelB’s "homage to hip-hop" crossed coasts and generations, culminating in a pumped-up cover of Kendrick Lamar’s "King Kunta."  

"If I leave you with anything, I want to leave you with a deep appreciation for hip-hop," he said before closing with another one of his own productions, "Groovy." 

Uraelb first performed at the GRAMMY Museum as part of its educational program INDUSTRY SESSIONS. "[Uraelb] made such an impression during that class that we said, ‘we’ve gotta have him come perform at one of our events,’" O’Neal said just before the activation started.

Over the years, INDUSTRY SESSIONS — open to creatives 18 years and older — and the GRAMMY Museum’s other music education programs, have attracted a host of talent, including Giveon and Billie Eilish.  

Larry "Ruin" Combs Krumps to MJ’s "They Don’t Care About Us" 

To celebrate hip-hop’s history and culture is to appreciate dance’s inextricability from the music — and vice versa. On the Ray Charles Terrace, professional krumper Larry "Ruin" Combs nodded to South Central L.A., where krumping was born, in an impassioned performance to Michael Jackson’s "They Don’t Care About Us." 

A powerful medium of self-expression, krumping is a street dance that evolved from clowning, another style of dance with roots in African and Caribbean culture. Krumping is characterized by sharp, quick, and vigorous movements, like chest pops, stomps, and arm swings, used to convey emotion. Krumpers have historically turned to the art form to release negative or charged emotions and to navigate difficult experiences and circumstances.

Hence the title of the dance special that Combs is crafting, "The ‘e’ in ‘Krump’ is silent." 

"A lot of what Krump presents is very emotional; you see it, you don’t hear it," a nearly breathless Combs told the event co-host Leslie "Big Lez" Segar. "That’s what the format of the show is going to be like — various types of music that tug at your emotions, from good to bad."

While additional details about the forthcoming special are limited, those interested can follow Combs — who has notably performed on "America’s Got Talent" and the season finale of "So You Think You Can Dance." 

Cross Colours & Black Design Collective Dress For Success 

The GRAMMY Museum's attention to curating an event that celebrated the whole of hip-hop culture was especially apparent in the block party’s inclusion of a fashion show.

Cross Colours — a clothing brand launched in 1989 by Carl Jones, who studied fashion at the Otis Parson School of Design and Trade Technical College in L.A. — dressed local models from the Black Design Collective, a group of accomplished fashion industry professionals of color. The collective's goals include amplifying the influence of and creating opportunities for a global community of Black apparel, accessory and costume designers. 

Their partnership paved the way to a striking fashion show, during which more than five models circled the museum’s third floor, donning a variety of garments ranging from T-shirts with brightly-hued graphic designs to overalls.

NANA Shows Off His Lyrical Muscle — And A Different Strain Of Hip-Hop 

Crenshaw resident NANA contrasted the polished, funk-soul of Uraelb’s activation with a squeaky-clean spitting session. And while the storyteller’s quick tongue and lyrical muscle translated to a well-practiced performance that would have made anyone in attendance think he rehearsed for days pre-show, NANA had only 24 hours’ notice.  

As host O’Neal told it during a brief Q&A at the event, his request for NANA to take the stage at the block party ("I need your energy there!" he recalled telling NANA) came while the rapper was in the middle of a studio session. About a day later, NANA was holding a microphone in the Clive Davis Theater. 

NANA, who credited Nas, Jay-Z, Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, and Snoop Dogg among those on his "long list" of inspirations, is notably featured in the "Rap City Experience" section of the GRAMMY Museum’s "Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit," to which he contributed freestyles. 

Five Decades Of Hip-Hop Are On Display  

What’s better than a birthday cake? Try a 5,000-square-foot exhibit that traces hip-hop from its humble beginnings in the Bronx and New York City to the GRAMMY stage. On Oct. 7, 2023, the GRAMMY Museum opened "Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit," in honor of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary. Offering a focused, expansive (and tactile) look at the genre’s history and profound influence, the exhibit features a "sonic playground" complete with five interactive stations for DJing, rapping, and sampling.  

A retrospective educational journey, "Hip-Hop America" canvasses hip-hop scenes, sounds, and fashion across generations. Take, for example, the Notorious B.I.G.’s iconic red leather pea jacket, displayed in the same showcase as Migos’ embroidered blazers. The must-see exhibit exploring hip-hop’s long, rich, and still evolving history runs through Sept. 4. 

Learn more: Inside The GRAMMY Museum’s New Exhibit, "Hip-Hop America": From Dapper Dan To Tupac’s Notes

Hip-Hop Universal Provides A Formidable Finale 

Segar and Swoop, who worked with O’Neal to curate the evening’s dance performances, assembled what can only be described as a mic drop of a finale to the block party’s activations: Hip Hop Universal. The ensemble of five professional dancers and choreographers included Swoop, Robert "Rautu" Harris, Leon "No Realer" Spann, Marlyn Ortiz, and Ronnie "Futuristic Astaire" Willis.  

Some of their individual choreography and dance credits include an array of megastars, from Madonna, Taylor Swift, and Usher, to Britney Spears, Dr. Dre, and the Backstreet Boys. Over the course of their collaborative performance, which alternated between group dances and solos, Hip-Hop Universal made minutes feel like seconds — a testament to their rapturous synergy and individual expertise. 

Unity On The Dancefloor

At the heart of hip-hop — a genre in which artists pride themselves on representing their cities, perhaps more so than in any other genre of music — is community. That sense of community was apparent even through the schedule of programming. Activations occurred one at a time, in succession. This structure created a sense of togetherness; attendees collectively enjoyed a given activation and made their way to the next one together.  

The spirit of community imbued both the block party’s schedule and the content of its activations, but it was perhaps most visible on The Ray Charles Terrace. There, near the end of the evening, as the crowd awaited the final activation (and even afterwards), nearly all in attendance could be found dancing in the crisp, open air to beats spun by DJ R-Tistic. 

"This is our first time doing this, and I think we gotta keep doing this," O’Neal remarked on the mic. The crowd’s response — a resounding cacophony of affirmative cheers and applause — was answer enough.

"Everyone, from the talent to the staff to the hundreds of guests, [were] getting down together with the electric slide. That's what it was all about: bringing folks together for a good time," he concluded.

Inside The GRAMMY Museum’s New Exhibit, "Hip-Hop America": From Dapper Dan To Tupac’s Notes 

Rapper Warren G (Warren Griffin III) appears in a portrait taken on June 27, 1995 in Madison Square Park New York City.
Warren G

Photo: Al Pereira

list

Warren G Revisits 'Regulate: The G-Funk Era': How The 1994 Album Paved The Way For West Coast Hip-Hop's Dominance

Long Beach's Warren G has consistently carried the flag of g-funk, from 1994 to present. The GRAMMY nominee revisits his classic album, which offered a different perspective on Southern California life.

GRAMMYs/Jun 7, 2024 - 02:03 pm

In the canon of West Coast hip-hop, Warren G’s debut album, Regulate: The G-Funk Era is considered one of the greatest.

Released on June 7, 1994, the album remains a perfect snapshot of the g-funk era, the popular subgenre of gangsta rap that was all the rage in the early- to mid '90s. "I created the genre, but I was introduced to it by Above the Law," Warren G tells GRAMMY.com. 

Headlining that album is of course, Warren G and Nate Dogg’s iconic track "Regulate," tapping that four-bar sample from Doobie Brother Michael McDonald’s "I Keep on Forgettin’." But the album features a number of other hits including "This D.J." and "So Many Ways," a remix version later appearing on the Bad Boys soundtrack.  

"Regulate" the single first arrived on the star-studded soundtrack for Above the Rim, released via Death Row Records in the spring of 1994, and sold over 2 million domestic copies in the year of its release. Then a few months later, Warren reintroduced "Regulate" on his inaugural album. The 12-track Regulate: The G-Funk Era provided a full vision of The Regulator's uber smooth brand of g-funk which rang out from the 213 all around the world.  

Thanks to pioneers like Above the Law, Dr. Dre, DJ Quik, and Warren G, g-funk (or gangsta funk) became the definitive sound of West Coast hip-hop. Regulate: The G-Funk Era was so impactful that it was even nominated for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group at the 1995 GRAMMYs.

Like Dre's The Chronic, many continue to be drawn to Regulate’s depiction of Southern California life, replete with endless sunshine and maxed-out cars blasting pioneer speakers. Regulate is also the story of Warren G, a personal album which gives love to the community and people he came up with ("I played ball through the halls of CIS / With Snoop Dogg's big brother, call him Dirty Left," he raps on "This D.J.", referencing College Intermediate School in Long Beach ).

With Regulate, self-described "outlaw" Warren G made a platform for himself and some of his disciples. Album features the Twinz, an LBC duo consisting of twin brothers Deon and Dewayne Williams, and the Dove Shack, whose summer anthem "This is the Shack" (later reprised on the group’s own album with the same title a year later),  took the West Coast hip-hop world by storm. Though the great crooner Nate Dogg died more than a decade ago, 213, the Long Beach collective of Warren G, Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg lives on. Warren and Snoop just released the single "Cali 2 Canada," in advance of an upcoming tour. 

Regulate was Warren G's first release after effectively being exiled from Death Row Records, where his halfbrother and mentor Dr. Dre, not to mention Long Beach pals Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg thrived. Warren signed with Def Jam Records in 1994,  and his debut release helped save the label from serious debt: Regulate: The G-Funk Era sold 3 million copies in the U.S. and debuted at No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Top 200 albums chart.  

As we look back on 30 years since Regulate the G-Funk Era, GRAMMY.com connected with Warren G himself to look back on five ways the album paved the way for west coast hip-hop today.  

It Solidified Long Beach As A Hip-Hop Mecca 

Warren G isn’t the first Long Beach rapper who made waves during this era. There’s Snoop, of course, as well as Missouri-born, Long-Beach raised Domino. But Regulate: The G-Funk  Era feels like a whole album about place, giving love to the LBC on every track with people and places like 21 and Lewis, King’s Park, the Voltron Crew, and Cal State Long Beach as Warren shouts them out on tracks like "Regulate" and "This D.J."

Warren acknowledges that there were the realities of the streets, but also plenty of fun to be had growing up, too, including listening to old records for hours together with his father. "Coming up in Long Beach was fun. We had a lot of sports. Lot of neighborhood activities as far as King’s Park," Warren G tells GRAMMY.com. "It was fun. It was dangerous. It was cool. It was my home."

Voltron Crew is Warren’s group of friends he used to sell candy with while having rap battles. Warren impressed the crew by rapping the lyrics to some of Dre's yet-to-be-released material, including "Cabbage Patch." "'Damn Warren, you’re harder than a motherf—a,'" he recalled his friends saying with a laugh.

And then there’s Warren’s beloved VIP Records on Pacific Coast Highway which Warren calls an LBC "landmark." He and his friends would walk down there after school to listen to music as one DJ after another queued up inside of the institution to spin. "It was just fun for us to be able to see that and listen to good music at the same time," Warren adds.

It Made Nate Dogg A Star 

The late great Nate Dogg was already on the rise on the West Coast with early vocals on Dre’s "Deeez Nuuuts," Mista Grimm ft. Warren G’s "Indo Smoke," and Snoop’s "Ain’t No Fun." But the titular track "Regulate" made him soar. While Nate is given a featured credit, he’s lockstep with Warren during the entire song, matching Warren’s lyricism with his own hybrid style of singing and rapping that had never been seen in hip-hop before and hasn’t been seen since. 

Back in those days, hip-hop often didn’t really promote its hookmen and women — much less feature them prominently in their music videos. (Consider Nate’s Bay Area contemporary Mike Marshall, who sings the hook on Luniz’s classic "I Got 5 On It," but unfortunately isn’t remembered beyond West Coast hip-hop diehards.) But Nate made himself seen and heard on "Regulate."

It’s no coincidence he went on to become the go-to hook singer in California and beyond, working with everyone from Tupac and Ludacris, to French hip-hop group Psy 4 de la Rime. Nate Dogg passed away in 2011 at age 41.

It Presented A Different Version Of West Coast Gangsta Rap 

When compared to some of his contemporaries, Regulate: The G-Funk Era focused less on hardcore themes in favor of keeping things light and smooth. Even "Regulate" itself — which is about Nate and Warren dealing with a carjacking on a cool and clear California night — the Mississippi-born crooner who grew up in a Gospel choir always had a way of keeping things mellow. 

Regulate: The G-Funk Era also speaks to the turbulent climate of ‘90s inner-city Los Angeles. While Dre’s The Chronic might be more overt about it, Warren goes there too on songs like on the album’s third single, "Do You See,"  whose beat mashes up Mtume’s "Juicy Fruit" and Junior’s "Mama Used to Say." Much of that song, Warren G says, is personal.

"I just talked about everything I was going through, ya know, Snoop being in jail," he recounts. "Mista Grimm is my dog. But he was doing things that just wasn’t cool…But I forgave him for all of that still. Even though I talked about it in the song. I forgave him 'cause that was my dog. He’s still my dog."  

"Do You See" speaks about realities beyond the LBC, too. It opens with a sample from Gil Scott-Heron’s 1976 fiery spoken word piece  "Bicentennial Blues": "The blues has always been totally American… as American as apple pie… the question is why?...Well, America provided the atmosphere."

"I had listened to that particular [song] and everything he said was what I was going through. It blew me away," Warren says. 

It Introduced Us The Dove Shack, Twinz & Jah Skillz 

After not being able to get footing in Death Row, Warren G struck out on his own. He built his own roster of lesser-known talent on G-Funk Music, under the parent label Def Jam Recordings, and brought in Dove Shack (C-Knight, Bo-Roc and 2Scoops), the Twinz, and Jah Skillz, part of the larger female group Da 5 Footaz —who all got the G-Child cosign. Each artist debuted on Regulate: The g-funk Era, with summertime anthem "This is The Shack," an album standout.

Many of Warren G's guest features went on to have their own careers. Dove Shack member C-Knight recently passed away and Bo-Roc, a crooner in his own right, went on to work with other West Coast legends like Richie Rich, Daz Dillinger, and Foesum. Twinz, meanwhile, turned bass-heavy feature "Recognize" into the full-fledged Conversation in 1995, a g-funk album that gave us one of Warren G’s greatest beats, "Journey Wit Me," featuring Bo-Roc. 

As for Jah Skillz, she’s front and center for the entirety of "Super Soul Sis," and wastes not a single word. Da 5 Footaz went on to appear on the Jason’s Lyric and Set It Off soundtracks. 

It Gave G-funk Its Timeless Credo 

A few people are credited for launching g-funk, but Warren G’s timeless credo: "g-funk, where rhythm is life and life is rhythm," in the waning moments of "Regulate" and "And Ya Don’t Stop"  remains a classic to this day.

On his 1997 sophomore album Take a Look Over Your Shoulder and 1999's I Want It All, Warren G always shouted out gangsta funk. He also stayed true to the sound that spread west coast hip-hop worldwide: By 2001, a couple of years after the g-funk era fully ended, Warren defiantly proclaimed that "g-funk is Here to Stay" on Return of the Regulator.  

In 2015, he even put out an EP, Regulate... G-Funk Era, Part II, featuring unreleased music with his longtime partner Nate. From 1994 through 2024, Warren has consistently carried the flag of g-funk, the original west coast sound that he helped cement with Regulate The g-funk Era, 30 years ago.

A Guide To Southern California Hip-Hop: Definitive Releases, Artists & Subgenres From L.A. & Beyond 

Metro Boomin Performs at Future & Friends' One Big Party Tour in 2023
Metro Boomin performs during Future & Friends' One Big Party Tour in 2023

Photo: Prince Williams/Wireimage 

list

Metro Boomin's Essential Songs: 10 Must-Know Tracks, From "Creepin" To "Like That"

The 2024 GRAMMY nominee for Producer Of The Year is one of hip-hop's most in-demand minds. Between his collab albums with Future and some highly debated beefs with rap's biggest stars, it's the perfect time to revisit the Metro-verse.

GRAMMYs/Jun 4, 2024 - 01:38 pm

Metro Boomin has spent more than a decade redefining rap music. The gloomy, 808-induced trap beats that flood radio airwaves and blare from nightclub speakers are a symbol of his influence. But now, the Atlanta-based superproducer is on one of his biggest musical runs to date.  

In April, Metro released the second of two joint albums with Future, hinted at a third release this year, sold out a concert at the Kundalini Grand Pyramids in Egypt, and clinched the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 with "Like That" featuring Kendrick Lamar. He also delivered a first-of-its-kind instrumental diss aimed at Drake called "BBL Drizzy," accusing the Toronto rapper of going under the knife.  

The diss was in response to Drake’s "Push Ups" and subsequent disses toward Kendrick Lamar. "Metro shut your hoe ass up and make some drums" he rapped. The verbal blow inspired Metro to release the hilarious instrumental, which he encouraged fans to rap on for a chance to win a free beat.  

Months before the feud, Metro celebrated two nominations for Best Rap Album and Producer of the Year, Non-Classical at the 66th GRAMMY Awards. While he didn’t take home a coveted golden gramophone, the momentum has elevated his career to new heights.  

Before the St. Louis-bred producer kicks off the We Trust You tour with Future on July 30, revisit 10 of Metro Boomin's biggest releases.  

"Karate Chop" (2013) 

A 19-year-old Metro crafted his first charting single right before making a life-changing move to Atlanta. With piercing synths and bubbly arpeggios, the song was the lead single for Future’s highly anticipated sophomore album, Honest. 

But Metro, a freshman at Morehouse College at the time, wasn’t sold on its success. "I never really like it," Metro told XXL. "Then every time people would come into the studio, he would always play the record and I was like, ‘Why are you so stuck on this s—? We have way harder records.’"  

But after cranking out a new mix on the original track, "Karate Chop" went on to become his first placement on a major label album. The remix with Lil Wayne further elevated the record and, by virtue, Metro’s profile as a musical craftsman.  

"Jumpman" (2015) 

 Metro mastered the late-summer anthem in 2015 with "Jumpman." The song was the most notable hit from Drake and Future’s collaborative mixtape, What a Time to Be Alive, and went on to shut down bustling nightclubs and obscure strip joints. And while the record didn’t perform as well as other songs on this list, it secured Future his first Top 20 hit.  

The song — which features Metro’s signature bass and a screeching raven sound effect — also saw a streaming boost after an Apple Music commercial featuring Taylor Swift rapping to the song. According to Adweek, the campaign helped generate a 431 percent increase in global sales 

 What makes "Jumpman" even more special is that a collab between Future, Metro, and Drake may never happen again. Reportedly, the duo is at odds with Drake because the OVO artist decided to link with 21 Savage on Her Loss instead of doing a follow-up project with Future.  

"Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" (2016) 

"Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" is the song that set Kanye West’s album, Life of Pablo, ablaze. Opening with a clip of gospel musician and singer T.L. Barrett’s Father I Stretch My Hands,” Metro’s signature producer tag kicks the record into full gear. The pulsating synthesizers and bouncy percussion match West’s raunchy and sexually explicit lyrics.  

Metro’s production received significant praise, with several publications pointing to his contributions on end-of-year listings. And in the eight years since its release, "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" has been certified six times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, making it one of Ye’s most-sold records of all time. 

"Congratulations" (2016) 

After the success of "White Iverson," a young Post Malone was on the hunt for the hottest producers in the rap game. He managed to land Metro, who worked with fellow producers Frank Dukes and the prolific Louis Bell on the triumphant trap record "Congratulations."  

On a 2022 episode of the podcast "Full Send," Metro revealed that the celebratory song was made after watching the world’s greatest athletes eclipse historic feats of their own. "I remember the Olympics was on TV, and just how the music was sounding, it sounded like some champion s—," he said.  

"Congratulations" marked Post Malone’s second Top 20 hit following his debut, "White Iverson." The song was certified diamond after totaling more than 11 million combined sales. Today, it remains one of Metro’s biggest achievements.

"Bad and Boujee" (2017) 

Fueled by virality and a shoutout from Donald Glover at the 2017 Golden Globes, the Migos and Lil Uzi Vert’s "Bad and Boujee" landed Metro Boomin his first No. 1 Billboard hit as a producer.  

The song has every element Metro fans have grown to love: moody keys, hard-hitting bass, and plenty of room for the artists’ adlibs to pierce through the track.  

Two months before its eventual ascension, the song had a steep hill to climb atop the Billboard charts. But Metro’s production and the chemistry between Quavo, Offset, and Uzi helped the record shoot up to its rightful place. It continues to garner praise In the years since its 2016 release, too. It was ranked No. 451 on Rolling Stone’s "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list 

"Mask Off" (2017) 

When "Mask Off" dropped in 2017, it scorched the Billboard charts. Hip-hop was flirting with flutes (as heard on songs like Drake’s "Portland" and Kodak Black’s "Tunnel Vision" — another Metro-produced beat) — but "Mask Off" stands out as the biggest song of the short-lived era.  

Metro infused jazz-like undertones to perfectly meld the flute lick into the dark and mystic beat. The record led to the remix with Kendrick Lamar, with his verse breathing new life into the already-seismic hit. It’s now certified nine times platinum.  

Years after the song’s release, Future said "Mask Off" initially put radio programmers in disarray. In his East Atlanta rapper’s Apple Music documentary The WIZRD, he revealed that the song dropped before Carlton WIlliams’ "Prison Song" sample was officially cleared. "Out of all the songs, ‘Mask Off’ wasn’t even legit," he said. "The s— was on the radio, they’re thinking it’s not a sample, but it got so big they were like, ‘It’s a sample.’" 

"Heartless" (2019) 

The Weeknd's "Heartless" is a pop and electro-clash classic that fires on all cylinders. The visuals are atmospheric, the lyrics are ultra-stimulating, and the production — partly handled by Metro — makes for a lasting club banger.  

The leading single for The Weeknd’s fourth studio album, After Hours, topped the Billboard charts. It marked the Toronto-born crooner’s fourth No. 1 hit and unveiled the depths of Metro’s musical arsenal.  

Metro produced four tracks on After Hours: "Faith," "Escape from L.A.," "Until I Bleed Out" and "Heartless." On the latter and in his other collaborations with The Weeknd, James Blake, and Solange, Metro’s creative sorcery was tested. He proved, once again, that he could generate a hit outside the confines of trap music.  

"Creepin" (2022)

After a solid outing on his first album Not All Heroes Wear Capes, Metro returned with another series of hard-hitting records. His second solo venture, Heroes & Villains, featured John Legend, Don Tolliver, Travis Scott, and other premiere artists. But the biggest song to come out of the star-studded lineup was "Creepin’" featuring 21 Savage and The Weeknd 

The only single to Metro’s second solo album struck sonic gold. The Weeknd’s flowy vocals overlay the silky and harmonic record, which transitions to a more trap-induced beat once 21 Savage’s verse kicks in. The remake of Mario Winans’ "I Don’t Wanna Know" was a notable departure from Metro’s past singles, which heavily lean on his trap roots. But it still managed to connect with his audience – and even beyond it. "Creepin" peaked at No. 3 on Billboard, which was Metro’s highest-charting solo record up until that point.

Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (2023) 

Following the success of "Creepin’" and his other smash singles, Metro extended his creative powers to the film world. He was given the green light to executive produce the soundtrack for Sony’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. 

Metro Boomin told Indie Wire that he crafted songs from rough animations and selected scenes "just to get in the world and the story of Miles [Morales] and what he’s going through," He even exchanged phone calls and texts with the film’s composer Daniel Pemberton to ensure the soundtrack and score were on the same accord.  

From the classical serenade "Am I Dreaming" to the Latin swing of "Silk & Cologne" and the Timbaland-stomping "Nas Morales," the result was an equally transformative musical experience. Each record ranged in musicality and tone while beautifully complementing the vibrant animated superhero flick.

"Like That" (2024) 

"Like That" is easily one of the best beats in Metro’s catalog, and may end up being one of the most memorable. Samples from Rodney O & Joe Cooley’s "Everlasting Bass" and Eazy-E’s 1989 classic "Eazy-Duz-It" shaped the bouncy trap beat, sinister synths, and spine-chilling baseline. But Kendrick Lamar’s verse turned it into a heat-seeking missile.  

With the song’s thunderous bass and rapid hi-hats in the background, Kendrick dissed J. Cole and Drake for their recent claims of rap supremacy, particularly on 2023’s "First Person Shooter." The lyrical nuke sparked the Civil War-style rap feud, which led to a seven-song exchange between Kendrick and Drake.  

The initial musical blow made the genre stand still. It also led to the massive success of the record, which notched Future and Metro another No. 1 hit song. It also helped the pair’s album, We Don’t Trust You, claim the top spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart.  

Inside The Metro-Verse: How Metro Boomin Went From Behind-The-Scenes Mastermind To Rap's Most In-Demand Producer