Rakim, Ms Dynamite & More Name Their Favourite Hip-Hop Tracks Ever

What’s the greatest rap track of all time? With the latest issue of NME celebrating 40 years since hip-hop began (11 August), we asked some of the game’s biggest names, from Rakim to Roots Manuva, for their favourites…

“I would have to say ‘The Message’. I’m a big fan of Melle Mel. Cats like him taught me to rhyme when I was coming up. Him and Crandmaster Caz and Kool Moe Dee – they were my three MCs. Listening to them and watching their moves is how I learned how to do what I do.”

Roots Manuva
“’Bring The Noise’ by Public Enemy because it’s a 50 year, five-minute lesson in black music culture. You can hear everything in this record – you can hear drum ‘n’ bass, you can hear soul. You can hear techno. You can hear it all.”

Cookie Pryce (Cookie Crew)
“Oh, anything by Black Moon. How about ‘I Got Cha Opin’? I loved that whole crew – Cocoa Brovaz, Heltah Skeltah… I really identified with that whole style of rap and what they were about. You know what? I just thought they were fucking cool. I. Was. Obsessed.”

Buckshot (Black Moon)
“Ouch! Oh my god. What’s the greatest track of all time? That’s hard to say. My joint was ‘Don’t Sweat The Technique’ by Eric B & Rakim. That was shit was bananas.”

Ms Dynamite
“The first thing that comes to mind is Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’. That was the age and era where I was starting to write raps with my brother and find my own flow. I was heavily, heavily influenced at a very young age by Public Enemy.

Talib Kweli
“I don’t if it’s ‘the greatest’, but my favourite hip-hop track of all time is ‘Follow The Leader’ by Eric B and Rakim. In terms of lyrics and energy it’s one of the best of all time.”

Sporting Life
”I’d have to say [Jay-Z’s] ‘Takeover’. [‘The Blueprint’] was all a ridiculously classic album. The beat, even still to this day, there’s no beat that sounds like that and at the time there was no beat that sounds like that. He was dissing one of the top rappers of all time successfully and spitting ill at the same time. I feel like all those things combined, you got a good vote. ‘The ‘Takeover’ is kind of like the audio equivalent to like Vince Carter dunking in the slamdunk and putting his elbow in the rim. It’s a good litmus test to see how a person’s taste is as far as hip-hop goes, that’s all. It’s straight out of Kanye West’s mind, the beat.”

DJ Shadow
“The most important, game-changing rap track ever released was probably ‘The Message’ [by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five]. For me, it was the first hip-hop track I heard that didn’t sound like disco. It was made differently, the lyrics were different from anything that had come before, and you can still listen to it today – it’s still relevant.”

Bubba Sparxxx
“You could ask me that question tomorrow and I’d give you a different answer. Today, I’ll say Outkast’s ‘Elevators (Me & You)’ from their second album, ‘ATLiens’. First of all, because it has the most incredible snare I’ve ever heard – it’s so original, like a ping-pong ball going back and forth across a table being hit by a paddle. And the reason why that song impacted on me so heavily was that there was so much anticipation in Georgia, where I’m from, surrounding Outkast putting out their second album. Then it surpassed our expectations. And I’m not taking anything away from what Big Boi did on that song, but Andre’s last verse on ‘Elevators’ is literally my favourite verse in hip-hop history. I was falling in love with hip-hop at that time. That’s when I realised that I had to not only be a hip-hop consumer, I had to be a participant.”

Mark Ronson
“I’d have to say ‘They Reminisce Over You’ by Pete Rock & CL Smooth. It’s just such a beautifully put-together record; such a sad, melancholy track. There’s a lot of nostalgia tied up in it for me: I remember being 14 or 15 and hearing it for the first time and being just blown away.”