As I get older, I find myself clinging onto my youth. Sure, I’m not ancient by any means (though sometimes I wonder), but I can see my collegiate years slipping further and further away from recent times, sigh! 2004 was my senior year of high school/freshman year of college. It was a huge music year across numerous genres. To illustrate how stacked 2004 was in regards to urban music specifically, there were four albums nominated against each other (Alicia Keys December 2003 effort The Diary of Alicia Keys, Usher’s Confessions, Kanye West’s debut The College Dropout, and Ray Charles’ victorious, posthumously releasedduets album Genius Loves Company). This particular decade’s old retrospective playlist will only focus on rap tracks that remind me of my youthful, less responsible days as an outgoing senior/ naïve undergraduate. Party on snitches!
“Drop It Like It’s Hot”
Snoop Dogg ft. Pharrell Williams
R&G: Rhythm & Gangsta
Hook: “When the pimp’s in the crib, ma (drop it like it’s hot, drop it like it’s hot, drop it like it’s hot)…and if a n***a get an attitude (pop it like it’s hot, pop it like it’s hot, pop it like it’s hot / I got the Rollie on my arm and I’m pouring Chandon / and I roll the best weed cause I got it going on”
Hit-making lyric(s): “Snoooooooooooooop!”
“Drop It Like It’s Hot” was one of the most addictive songs from 2004 – PERIOD! With a killer minimalist beat and sporting ‘swag’ all over it (before ‘swag’ became overused that is), Snoop Dogg and Skateboard P (Pharrell) were rocking it out.
The College Dropout
Hook: “(Jesus walks) / God show me the way because the Devil trying to break me down / (Jesus walks with me) / The only thing that I pray is that my feet don’t fail me now… I want to talk to God but I’m afraid because we ain’t spoke in so long”
Hit-making lyrics: “You know what the Midwest is? Young and restless / where restless (n***as) might snatch your necklace / and next these (n***as) might jack your Lexus / somebody tell these (n***as) who Kanye West is”
Let’s cut to the chase – unless you’re Lecrae (or some of his contemporaries to be fair) or a Jesus piece (referencing the jewelry), Jesus and rap typically have little to do with each other. In 2004, however, Kanye West made walking with Jesus, cool – really cool. It wasn’t a gospel song mind you, but some sort of spirit was there. Amen!
“Ch-Check It Out”
To the 5 Boroughs
Hook: “Check-ch-check-check-check-ch-check it out… let’s turn this motherf**king party out”
Hit-making lyrics: “Cause I work magic like a magician / I add up, the mathematician / I’m a bank cashier, engineer / I wear cotton and I don’t wear sheer…”
Sure “Ch-Check It Out” was considered old school when album To the 5 Boroughs dropped in 2004, but it also sounded unlike anything else that was occurring in rap music at the time. Not an anachronism but also not the trend at the time, “Ch-Check It Out” could be considered one of the Beastie Boys’ final hits as a trio (MCA aka Adam Yaunch died in 2012).
Trick Daddy ft. Lil Jon & Twista
Thug Matrimony: Married to the Streets
Hook: “Let’s go! (Let’s go!) / if you want it you can get it let me know (let me know) / I’m ‘bout to f*ck a n***a up / let’s go (Let’s go!)”
Hit-making lyrics: “See, once that Hennessy into me / the whole industry is my enemy (my enemy) / if you ain’t no kin to me or friend to me / b*tch, don’t pretend to be”
If you were to ask the new generation about Trick Daddy today, they likely wouldn’t have a clue who he is. But ten years ago, Daddy had a huge hit with “Let’s Go”, enlisting the help of equally hot MCs Lil Jon (who released his own huge album Crunk Juice) and Twista (Kamikaze). Listen to it ten years later, and “Let’s Go” is still fresh to death! “Let’s Go!”
Hook: “Come along, follow me, as I lead through the darkness / as I provide just enough spark that we need / to proceed, carry on, give me hope / give me strength, come with me, and I won’t steer you wrong… we gon’ mosh through the marsh, take us right through the doors”
Hit-making lyrics: “They tell us no we say yeah, they tell us stop we say go / Rebel with a rebel yell, raise hell, we gon’ let ‘em know / Stomp, push shove, mush, f*ck Bush / until they bring our troops home c’mon”
Eminem’s Encore album was stacked with hits (“Like Toy Soldiers”, “Mockingbird”, “Just Lose It” and “A** Like That”), but the best song was the least commercial but most meaningful, “Mosh”. A political protest track, Eminem certainly had some strong words towards former president George W. Bush, including a lovely f-bomb. For many (or at least Democrats and some moderates), Eminem’s song echoed the sentiments others were feeling, particularly in election year 2004.
“Number One Spot”
The Red Light District
Hook: “Whoa! Don’t slip up or get got (why not man?) / I’m comin’ for that number one spot (alright) / rappers swearin’ they on top (nuh uh, uh uh) / but I’m comin’ for they number one spot (Alright man)…”
Hit-making lyrics: “Causin’ lyrical disasters, it’s the master / Make music for Mini-Me’s, models, and Fat Bastards / these women trying to et me out my Pelle Pelle / They strip off they clothes and tell me, ‘Get in my belly!’”
Let’s keep it short and sweet – only a select few could ride a Quincy Jones sample (“Soul Bossa Nova”) and rap about Austin Powers, specifically Fat Bastard. Ludacris gets it done on one of the catchiest singles of 2004, regardless of genre.
Twista ft. Jamie Foxx & Kanye West
Hook: “She said she want some Marvin Gaye / some Luther Vandross / A little Anita / Will definitely set this party off right / She said she want some Ready For the World, some New Edition / Some Minnie Riperton will definitely set this party off right”
Hit-making lyrics: (Twista) “Put my Earth in the Wind smokin’ Fire / Let me get your sheets wet listening to Keith Sweat / Put you in a daze with Maze / Fulfilling our every temptation, slow-jamming, having deep sex / you Ready for the World, girl?”
Everyone loves a song about ‘making love’. “Slow Jamz” sets up the mood/vibe for the fire that’s about to go down, citing every R&B and soul artist who have ever released a slow-jam meant to encourage sex. Compared to the ‘sex-rap’ of today, “Slow Jamz” is much kinder and gentler. Twista and company don’t have to rely on f-bombs to describe the experience.
“Bring ‘Em Out”
Hook: “I Got the crowd yellin’ (Bring ‘em out, bring ‘em out) / Aye, all my hot girls yellin’ (bring ‘em out, bring ‘em out) / Aye, all the Dope Boyz yellin’ (bring ‘em out, bring ‘em out) / Aye, from the back they yellin’ (Bring ‘em out, bring ‘em out)”
Hit-making lyrics: “Mic check 1-2 1-2, you wanna beef with the king what is you gon’ do / will you show up on the scene with 2 guns drew / or you and ya firend and play a little two on two…”
Today, it seems every rapper is cocky and confident – I mean really! Now whether all of them have the goods to back up that confidence is another story. In 2004, as he was truly rising to the top, T.I. had the goods to back up his confidence. “Bring ‘Em Out” definitely finds T.I. full of himself, but at least he spits dope rhymes: “Got a tool and a vest I can get some respect / I’mma make it hard for a sucka n***a to flex / show ‘em this ain’t the squad for a n***a to test / Pimp my nuts too large and we way too fresh…”
Lil Wayne ft. Mannie Fresh
Hook: “Go DJ, cause that’s my DJ / say go DJ, cause that’s my DJ”
Hit-making lyrics: “Murder 101, the hottest n***a under the sun / I came from under the Tommy busting a tommy / come from under your garments, your chest and your arm hit / Pow! One to the head, now you know he dead” (Lil Wayne, verse one)
When “Go DJ” dropped, Lil Wayne hadn’t reached his mega stardom yet. Even so, the infectious “Go DJ” seemed like a foreshadowing to what would come with Tha Carter II and Weezy’s mega Tha Carter III. Consider “Go DJ” to be the warm-up for “Fireman” and “A Milli”.
Ja Rule ft. Ashanti & R. Kelly
Hook: “If it wasn’t for the money, cars, and movie stars and jewels / and all these things I got / I wonder, hey / Would you still want me (want you) / Would you still be calling me (still calling you) / You be loving me? (I’ll be loving you)” (R. Kelly & Ashanti)
Hit-making lyrics: “Cuz this is how I’m livin and y’all women know the secrets / of how to get it and keep it / how to prey on my weakness / cuaz the power of P-*-*-S-Y…”
By this time, Ja Rule’s fame was waning. Even so, “Wonderful” would give Rule one last hit. No, “Wonderful” wasn’t nearly as big as many of the joints on this list, but its luxurious rap sound was appealing. I mean, if it has R. Kelly on it there has to be something there, right? Maybe what’s most intriguing about “Wonderful” is the questions it asked about legitimate relationships versus status, etc.