I decided to write this article a few months ago but never got around to it until recently. It wasn’t until last weekend, when I scrolled through Dave Tate’s hip hop training mix on his iPod, that I realized this article was a necessity. Too many people are listening to, and worse yet, training to bad hip hop.
Before I get into my recommendations of hip hop to train to I must first tell you why I feel I am qualified to write such an article. Afterall, if I saw a hip hop article written by some thirty year old white dude who trains athletes for a living I would be quite skeptical myself.
The year was 1985 and like most kids from Jersey I listened to a lot of Bruce Springsteen. Normally I listened to my mom and dad’s tapes but Born in the USA was the first tape that was ever mine. Around this time I was also introduced to The Who by some of my older cousins as well as U2 and Tom Petty. This was what I listened to all the time. That is until I got my first taste of hip hop. It was the Sugar Hill Gang, the Fat Boys, Slick Rick and Dougie Fresh. I played the tapes for some of my buddies and they were hooked instantly. Everyday at lunch we would do one of two things; play football or throw down the cardboard and have break dancing battles.
My love for hip hop did not turn to obsession until 1988. That was my freshman year of high school and it was also the year when two of the best, most controversial and most influential albums in hip hop history were released. The first was It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back by Public Enemy. The social impact of that album had never previously been matched. Chuck D’s unmistakeably powerful voice over Terminator X’s violent, angry beats with the trademark siren created a noise that changed the face of hip hop forever. The second landmark album that was released that year was Straight Outta Compton by NWA. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy E, and MC Ren took gangsta rap to a new level and caused so much controversy that they recieved numerous threats from the government. To this day these two albums remain amongst the greatest of all time.
Throughout high school I was one of the few white kids I knew who listened to hip hop. Back then it wasn’t like it is now where everyone and their grandmother listens to Outkast on a regular basis. Like Eminem said, “hip hop is universal now, it’s so commercial now.” But it wasn’t always that way.
When I went off to college the first two friends I made who remain my brothers to this day, were black and Hispanic. Since they knew more people than I did I always hung with their crew. Strange as it sounds now I barely hung out with any white people or listened to anything but hip hop for the next few years.
Of course, in time I came back to Bruce and The Who, and now listen to a wider variety of music than almost anyone I know. However, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t listen to hip hop, and it’s been that way since ’85. With that said, let’s get to the music.
Public Enemy– There is not much more that can be said about one of the most legendary groups in hip hop. The PE sound is unmistakeable and always makes you stand up and take notice.
- Public Enemy # 1- The biggest hit from their 1987 debut, which created the buzz that would last for several years to come.
- Bring Tha Noize- The song that put PE on the map with the unforgettable sound of Chuck D’s booming voice shouting out the opening line, “Bass, how low can you go…”
- Bring Tha Noize Remix featuring Anthrax- An already great song becomes even better with Anthrax turning up the beat a notch.
- Terminator X To the Edge of Panic- The classic PE sound, with sirens blaring and Chuck D ripping rhymes over the Bomb Squads flawless production and Terminator X’s turntable wizadry.
- Rebel Without A Pause- More of the trademark PE sound from It Takes A Nation on Millions, including the unmistakeable sirens and Chuck D rhyming with purposeful anger.
- Brothers Gonna Work It Out- Chucks much anticipated response to police brutality against a large group of black teenagers in Virginia Beach. This is always in high rotation on my training mixes.
- Welcome to the Terrordome- PE stirred up an endless amount of controversy with the release of this 1994 single and made a hell of a song to get angry and lift heavy weights to in the process.
- Straight Outta Compton- The song that started it all and changed hip hop forever. Although the video was played less than a handful of times on MTV, the image of Ice Cube busting through the Compton sign and shouting out the opening verse will be etched in hardcore hip hop fans memories forever.
- Fuck Tha Police- At the time, the most controversial song in the history of hip hop.
- 100 Miles N Runnin- The group’s first hit song without Ice Cube.
- Chin Check- After the death of Eazy E and the succesful solo careers of Dr. Dre and Ice Cube no one ever thought they would hear from NWA again. On the Next Friday soundtrack the group reunited and added Snoop Dogg to the mix to produce this comeback hit.
- Holler if Ya Hear Me- No hip hop list would be complete without including the late Tupac Shakur and this was one of his angriest tracks.
- Survival of the Fittest- A very dark gloomy beat from one of New York’s biggest underground stars.
- Shook Ones Part II- Recognized as one of the greatest hip hop songs ever, this is definitely a great one to train to. For those unfamiliar with this song, it is what Eminem was listening to in his headphones at the beginning of 8 Mile.
- This Means War- Busta’s angry raps over Ironman by Black Sabbath makes for an outstanding song to train to.
- What’s My Name
- Make A Move
D12– Eminem’s crew came upon the scene a few years ago but it wasn’t until their 2004 album, D12 World, that they truly established themselves as major players. D12 World was a strong contender for hip hop album of the year and featured several great songs to train to including the following:
- Git Up
- American Psycho II
- Keep Talkin
- How Come
Eminem– Although he is recognized by many as a pop rapper, Eminem is one of the best lyricists in hip hop history and can battle with the best of them. When he is angry, there is no one better on the mic.
- Lose Yourself- The 8 Mile Classic that everyone on the planet has listened to at least a dozen times.
- Rabbit Run- This is an example of Eminem at his best, flowing seemlessly without taking a breath for minutes on end.
- Nail In the Coffin- This is an unreleased song directed at The Source’s owner Benzino. To hear him rip the mans heart out on wax is awe inspiring.
- The Source- This is another unreleased dis directed at Benzino and is yet another example of how good Eminem can be when he is mad and has a point to make. Do yourselves a favor and download these tracks.
- If I Get Locked Up- This is a non album track which was done with Dr. Dre and Funk Master Flex. The beat itself gets you fired up.
- Till I Collapse
- What You Say
- The Way I Am Remix featuring Marilyn Manson
Eric B. & Rakim
- Follow the Leader- For years, Rakim was known as the greatest rapper in the game. Although there have been many contenders for the thrown over recent years, Rakim has still laid down some of the best vocals in the history of the game over Eric B’s grimey beats. Follow the Leader is a classic from one of the greatest duos in hip hop history.
- Know the Ledge- This was the the theme song to Tupac Shakur’s first movie, Juice.
- Headbanger- Although they have produced some of the greatest party songs in hip hop history, EPMD can still get angry on occasion and their best example of this came on this 1992 track featuring Redman and K-Solo.
House of Pain
- Shamrocks & Shenanigans Remix- Sometime between The Beastie Boys debut and the time Eminem took over hip hop there was another white rap group known as House of Pain. This song was from their debut album and the remix features an angry guitar riff which fits perfectly with Everlast’s gravely vocals.
- The Nigga Ya Love To Hate- The opening track of Ice Cube’s debut solo album let everyone know from the get go that he was not fooling around.
- Hello- Reunited with Dr. Dre, Cube let’s everyone know that, “I started this gangsta shit.”
Wu Tang Clan
- Aint Nothin Ta Fuck Wit- Shaolins finest produced one of the most highly revered albums in hip hop history with 1992’s Enter The 36 Chambers. Although nearly every track is a classic, this would probably be the best one to train to.
- Da Art Of Storytellin Part II- Long before they started making pop hits like Hey Ya, the boys from Atlanta made tons of hardcore underground hits. The distortion of the vocals is what makes this song.
Naughty By Nature
- Uptown Anthem- Like EPMD, Naughty was always famous for their party jams. However, when Treach was given a rugged beat and decided to get angry, great things could happen. This song is one such example.
- Aint Goin Out
- Serial Killa- Lately Snoop has become a pop rapper who makes love songs but there was a time back in ’92 and ’93 when Snoop was as hardcore as a rapper gets. This song from his debut classic, Doggystyle, featuring Tha Dogg Pound is a far cry from Drop It Like It’s Hot but is great for moving some heavy iron.
Jay Z Featuring Linkin Park– The jigga man was known for years as one of the best rappers in the game and made one party hit after another. To this day it’s impossible to go into a New York club and not hear at least two dozen Jay Z songs in one night. However, when he decided to team up with Linkin Park last year he produced some of the greatest hip hop training songs ever.
- 99 Problems- The original, featuring Rick Rubins production is also a great song but adding Linkin Park makes this one of the best songs of the year to train to.
- Faint/Jigga What
- Numb/ Encore
- King of Rock- It would be sacreligious to leave Run DMC off this list. Long before Limp Bizkit and Rage Against the Machine started making rock/rap a popular entity, Run DMC was combining the two genres on a regular basis. They started the trend twenty years before it became popular and Public Enemy took it to another level. On King of Rock, Run DMC prove why they are the legends they are.
There are probably several songs that have been left off the list as an oversight but I think that what I have provided covers a pretty wide spectrum of hardcore hip hop. Now you have the list and there are no excuses. Start buying and downloading these songs today. If I scroll through Dave’s or anyone elses iPod again and see Nelly on the training mix I will officially lose my mind.
Please leave your comments below.