The 8 Best Rap Songs About Other Rappers
Few rappers are lucky enough to receive tribute while they’re alive (funerary rap is a saddeningly large subgenre). Since tribute songs to living rappers are rare (humility and deference do not a rap star make), here are rappers who have bent the knee out of respect and conviviality, from the indelibly great to the MC Paul Barman.
Kanye West, Big Brother
West began producing for Beyoncé’s husband and other Roc-A-Fella Records artists in 2000. By the time “Big Brother” was released in 2007, West and Jay Z’s relationship had grown more complex. Despite a few hints at past difficulties between the two, “Big Brother” is an almost entirely glowing tribute to Jay Z, and an apology for letting his ego get too big. West goes so far as to describe Jay Z as “a giant,” “A[n] idol in my eyes, a God in the game,” and most importantly, his brother.
J. Cole, “Let Nas Down”
The story goes something like this: Nas heard J. Cole’s “Work Out” and rightfully derided it to Cole’s mentor, No I.D., as a soulless pop song. No I.D. relayed the information to Cole, who decided to make amends with his hero by writing “Let Nas Down,” an extended apology and explanation for his actions. In the midst of prostrating himself at the feet of Nas, J. Cole makes a salient point: Nas committed the same, pop-friendly sin when he made the laughable “You Owe Me.”
The D.O.C., “The D.O.C. and the Doctor”
Before The D.O.C.’s larynx was crushed in a near-fatal car accident, he was on the path to superstardom. His 1989 debut, No One Can Do It Better, is widely recognized as a classic, with production duties handled almost exclusively by his mentor Dr. Dre.
On “The D.O.C. and the Doctor,” The D.O.C. takes time between brags about his lyrical prowess to embiggen Dr. Dre’s reputation not as a rapper, but an engineer and producer.
Dr. Dre feat. Eminem and Xzibit, “What’s The Difference”
Dr. Dre used the song to speak cryptically about his relationship with former bandmate DJ Yella, and to publicly clarify his friendships with (at the time) frequent ghostwriter The D.O.C. and the deceased Eazy-E. Dr. Dre pledges his loyalty to The D.O.C. despite the latter’s struggles with alcohol and depression, and says that, beef aside, he misses Eazy-E.
MC Paul Barman, “RZA View”
“RZA View” is a starry-eyed review of RZA’s career outside of the Wu-Tang Clan. It’s also probably the only rap song to make reference to Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev.
2Pac, “Old School”
2Pac’s place in the West Coast versus East Coast rivalry was always a bit awkward–he was raised in New York, and moved to Baltimore for the final three years of high school. Long before the incredibly incendiary “Hit ‘Em Up,” 2Pac recorded “Old School,” a paean to New York City rap music featuring a Grand Puba sample, and shoutouts to everyone from Grandmaster Caz (rapper, DJ, and writer of “Rapper’s Delight”) to the potholes in De La Soul’s lawn.
Chuck Inglish feat. Grey Sweatpants, “2003”
While most of the other rappers on this list were deifying other artists or comparing themselves to said deities, Chuck Inglish and Grey Sweatpants’ “2003” celebrates some of the more humble figures in rap history. J-Kwon, Tony Yayo (and his prison stint!), Murphy Lee, DJ Webstar, and former 106 & Park hosts AJ and Free all receive shoutouts. Did anyone really think wearing a “Free Yayo” t-shirt was a good idea?
Future, “Jordan Diddy”
The conceit of “Jordan Diddy” is fairly obvious: Future is akin to both Michael Jordan and Puff Daddy (then known simply/stupidly as “Diddy”). The comparison is flattering–like Puff Daddy, Future claims to be making movies, hanging out with Shyne (a dubious proposition), and step out with women who look like Jennifer Lopez.
Bonus Beats: A Few Odes To The DJ
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, “The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff”
A Tribe Called Quest, “Mr. Muhammad”
Public Enemy, “Terminator X To The Edge of Panic”
Run DMC, “Jam Master Jay”
World Class Wreckin Cru, “Surgery”
Beastie Boys, “Three MCs And One DJ”
LL Cool J, “Go Cut Creator Go”