Michael Franti/ Beatnigs/Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprosy/Spearhead

I had the whole Ben Folds/Ben Harper thing, but I actually think Ben Harper and Michael Franti are the same person. Maybe that’s why Franti changes group names so often—to throw people off his/Ben’s trail.

Michael Franti AllMusic page

Beatnigs AllMusic page

Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprosy AllMusic page

Spearhead AllMusic page

Big Daddy Kane/Kool Moe Dee/Kurtis Blow

A while back, our weekly alternative paper described a shop that was closing downtown as “the O.G. of local collectives.” Further proof that white people should never try to come up with clever uses for the term “O.G.” I would call this list a tribute to some actual O.G.s, but these guys are so O, they were around before the Gs took over rap. I guess that makes them pre-O.G.s?

Big Daddy Kane AllMusic page

Kool Moe Dee AllMusic page

Kurtis Blow AllMusic page

Wu-Tang Clan


Why rap groups are awesome: Because they come up with album titles like Enter the Wu-Tang … the 36 Chambers. What does that even mean?

Wu-Tang Clan AllMusic page


In the true spirit of 2Pac, this list should contain one song that was released when he was alive, and nine “never before heard” tracks that were found in “the vaults” after his death. Although of course he isn’t dead. He and Elvis are alive and sharing a secret penthouse in Las Vegas. Which is a more disturbing image than seeing him onstage as a hologram.

2Pac AllMusic page

Too $hort

In the late 1970s, Oakland’s biggest musical export was the Pointer Sisters. By the late 80s, it was Too $hort (plus MC Hammer, but we’re trying to forget that). That difference tells you pretty much all you need to know about the changes in the city over those 10 years.

Too $hort AllMusic page

Tommy Boy

So not two days ago I was thinking, “I need to figure out a way to get Digital Underground on a list. They are too awesome to ignore.” And lo and behold, here’s what I had scheduled for the day. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the awesomeness that was Tommy Boy.

Rap AllMusic page

Sugar Hill

Round about 1979, on a family visit, my cousin Chris couldn’t wait to play “the best song he ever heard” for my older sister and me. The song was “Rapper’s Delight.” My sister and I, having just spent a summer singing along to “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me Lucille,” couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Who knew a white kid from Connecticut would turn out to be so ahead of the musical curve?

Old-School Rap AllMusic page

SoCal Rap

When Larry (Lawrence) and I were roommates, we used to call “Next Episode” the drive-by song. Or maybe it was “That Was a Good Day.” Actually, you could call pretty much any song on this list the drive-by song.

West Coast Rap AllMusic page


Yes, kids, people used to write rap songs about shoes. And you know what? Those songs were awesome. Rap used to be a lot of fun.

Run-D.M.C. AllMusic page


I used to hate the Roots, then I heard Game Theory, and now I love them. But … Jay Leno? Seriously?

Roots AllMusic page