Top Ten Favorite Songs of All Time!
In the spirit of the holidays, I thought I would note a few of my favorite things. When I create lists like this it also helps me understand myself, and helps those who are interested understand me as well. We use the phrase “I love this song” relatively loosely. I can honestly say that I love these songs. They are my favorite because of how they are made and my favorite because of how I feel when listening to them.
“Patterns” by Ahmad Jamal
Poetic, warm, hectic while still calm, ethereal while still coming off as pensive, this is my jam. Ahmad Jamal was clearly comfortable with his art and wasn’t afraid to have concentrated fun.
“Respiration” by Black Star
To have Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, and Hi-Tek on the boards all on the same track was like seeing the Avengers work… only the Conscious Boom Bap version. This joint has my favorite performance from Talib, one of the best hip-hop choruses crafted, a recklessly flipped music sample, and a sample from the hip-hop touchstone “Style Wars”. It knocks, it grooves, it pushes your thinking. Quintessential hip-hop.
“Resolution” by John Coltrane
I’ll never forget the first time I heard this song. I was 15, and remember being stunned, thinking “Jazz can make you feel like this?” To this day I still feel captured in the cosmos of my own existence the second that horn sets off a Big Bang of sorts after that humble bass riff.
“As” by Stevie Wonder
This song to me represents consummate songwriting. Engaging repetition, engaging structure changes, sound changes, and climaxes, all while delivering my absolute favorite lyricism from Stevie. Stevie always had the ability to get deep with his lyrics with an accessible delivery style. I feel like if everybody adopted what that song says into their minds and hearts, the world would be a different place.
“Protect Ya Neck (The Jump Off)” by Wu-Tang Clan
Now if you want the world to be righteously thugged out, you play this song instead! Wu-Tang has had an undeniable influence on me, and to most people’s surprise this is my favorite song by them, and one of my favorite songs in general. Everything from the Asian-originated string sample and the mega dusty break loop screams “this is my song.” I feel like it’s arguably their best collaborative work (aside from “Da Mystery of Cheesboxin’) where almost all of them are on the track. They all contribute the best examples of their energy and dexterity.
“Follow the Leader” by Eric B. & Rakim
If there is ever a Rakim tribute concert, and this song is on the setlist, they better let me perform it! I feel like this song is the Adam of all “I’ll beat you down with conceptual metaphysical trash talk” hip-hop bangers. He makes you simulate astroplaning, gives you history, and leaves you with questions that you still think about (“In this journey, your the journal I’m the journalist/ Am I Eternal, or an Eternalist?”). In my opinion, this is Rakim at his most mastered, most original, and most lyrical. This is saying a lot, as he is labeled the best rapper of all time by many, including XXL.
“Encourage Yourself” by Donald Lawrence
I haven’t ranked the songs 1-10, but it is safe to say that this song would be number one for me. There is a frequent adage in hip-hop that refers to hip-hop saving lives. I personally believe hip-hop can assist you, support you, and add culture to your life, but can’t save you. I believe Jesus Christ can save you (even when I struggle with consistency). Believing this isn’t and hasn’t been easy. In comes “Encourage Yourself” by Donald Lawrence. All the previous songs have been able to give me energy, make me laugh, and make me focus when I’m in a storm, but this song here straight up restores me and cleanses my spirit. The song powerfully builds up, is founded on scripture, and most importantly, is NOT artificially emotional (I can be a bit cynical when it comes to the gospel music industry). I am so grateful to God for this song.
“The Sixth Sense” by Common
I’ve searched my mind well, and I believe that it is fair to say that this song, more than any, evolved a hip-hop journey that can’t stop, won’t stop. I had never heard a rap song with obvious spirituality to it prior to this, and it is still a standout Common joint. It shows me, and continues to show me the vain of rap music I’d like to represent. ”I just want to innovate, and stimulate minds/ Travel the world, and penetrate the times…” It was sensitive, it was hard, it was honest, and it was lyrical.
“Prophets of Rage” by Public Enemy
“White Guy: You’re quite hostile….”
“Black Guy: I gotta right to be hostile my people been persecuted!”
Man, once beat that drops I’m ready to start the revolution. PE is the best rap group of all time. PERIOD! This song, like most PE songs, masterfully creates an energy and emotion of where we were, where we are, where we should go, and where we could be as a people. I love this song as a student, I love this song as a Black person, I love this song as a change agent, I love this song as a lyricist (people FREQUENTLY sleep on Chuck D’s content, delivery, and ORIGINAL structure), and I love this song as a wannabe producer!
“Alright” by Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar’s album To Pimp a Butterfly is an innovation influenced by many of the rappers and the songs that I have listed so far. The song “Alright” ended up being our generation’s “Fight the Power” in terms of its ability to rally and cause collective resonance with oppressed peoples. However, the significant difference between the two is that “Fight The Power” has the primary objective of making you feel like “We can do this-I can do this,” and “Alright” has the primary objective of making you feel like “I can do this-We can do this.” Deeply personal and deeply collective, It’s the only favorite on this list made in recent years! Not an easy feat for a recovering nostalgist like myself!
Debates, thoughts, agreements? Let’s talk! Not troll. Peace and Progress!
- “I Gave You Power” by Nas
- “Hip-Hop” by Mos Def
- “Gangster and a Gentleman” by Styles P
- “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park)” by Nas
- “Apache” by The Incredible Bongo Band
- “Groove Line” by Heatwave