Living in modern times, using “now” language and understanding culture the way we do, most people take Hip Hop for granted. After all, the urban art form has been around thirty plus years and over the last two decades it’s saturated itself into the mainstream cultural landscape. However there was a time, before Jigga, before Puffy, long before Lil Wayne or Kanye West, where Hip Hop was seen as a flash in the pan.
Record labels, living high in their pre-internet “King Maker” era, would pick up a rapper, make one record or, even worse, one single and then drop them. If that wasn’t the case, then the constant onslaught of new talent in the burgeoning Hip Hop scene swallowed up a lot of rappers and regulated some Hip Hop pioneers to the title One Hit Wonder. There’s no shame in that game, especially given that some of these singles or “one hitters” have lodged themselves firmly into the annals of Hip Hop legend. I decided to compile ten that I thought kicked a lot of ass. These aren’t all of them, these are just Ten Kick Ass Hip Hop One Hit Wonders.
10. Gangsta Bitch
Album: Apache Ain’t Shit (1992)
Right around the time NWA was making noise with both the terms Gangsta and Bitch, New Jersey rapper Apache had already combined those elements into a monster single. This is a love song. Kind of. It’s a song where Apache pours out his heart to the violent, mean spirited, forty drinking, fist fighting, gun toting, girl of his dreams. This was a huge jam in 1992 and I remember lots of girls trying to mimic the Gangsta Bitch style. Sadly, Apache passed away in 2010 of undisclosed causes.
09. Rappin’ Duke
Artist: Shawn Brown (Posing as John Wayne)
Album: Rappin’ Duke single (1983)
When Hip Hop first came to the attention of the masses it was seen as a fad, even a joke. In that spirit we got parody raps like Rodney Dangerfield’s “Rappin’ Rodney” or the so-bad-it-burns-like-acid “Dragnet Rap” from the Tom Hanks, Dan Akroyd movie version of the old series. Sometimes though, sometimes you got a gem. Cue Rappin’ Duke, a record that simply presents king macho cowboy John Wayne getting hype with his flow. Want to know how much love this song gets? Biggie Smalls referenced it in his song “Juicy”.
08. Cool Like That
Artist: Digable Planets
Album:Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space) (1923)
In the early nineties, thanks largely to the Tribe Vibe (De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, Tribe Called Quest, etc) Hip Hop gained a serious intelligence and love of jazz break beats. One of the best cuts of that phase was this laid back, weed smoking classic from Digable Planets. Not only was the beat and trumpet line sick, but Digable Planets’ flow was completely unique. Sadly band drama caused them to break up (the reunited but without Ladybug) and Hip Hop fell victim to the boring and stupid “Money, cars hoes,” era. While Digable Planets may not have survived, they are still one of the seeds that helped the underground Hip Hop scene grow.
07. Going Way Back
Artist: Just Ice
Album: Kool & Deadly (1987)
Few who were around for the golden age of Hip Hop (1986-1994) can forget Just Ice. His first album, Back To The Old School, dropped on the scene like a ton of bricks. Nobody rhymed like Just Ice, nobody put beats together like Kurtis Mantronik and nobody had so many styles brewed together into one vibe. In 1987 Mantronik stepped away from his and Just Ice’s label Sleeping Bag Records. BDP’s KRS-One stepped in and helped produce Just’s second recordKool & Deadly The first single “Going Way Back” was a reggae tinged jam where Just Ice gave a much needed history lesson. The song was not Just Ice’s last hurrah, but it was his only real hit.
06. Fuck Compton
Artist: Tim Dog
Album: Penicillin On Wax (1991)
In the early nineties you couldn’t spit without hearing something about NWA or the West Coast rappers. New York was in the dark, and it would take such legendary albums as Biggie Small’s Ready To Die and Wu Tang’s Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers) to return the focus to the East Coast. One man who tried to crush the upstarts was Tim Dog, a Bronx rapper who could be the toughest sonofabitch in rap. Tim released “Fuck Compton” in 1991 and then proceeded to tour California. Tim Dog released a slew of other albums, including two with Kool Keith, but they never hit like “Fuck Compton”
05. Da Butt
Artist: EU (Experience Unlimited)
Album: School Daze Soundtrack (1988)
You may have had the worst day of your life. Lost your job, girlfriend left you, rent is due, dog died, what have you. If you put on E.U.’s “Da Butt” you will instantly be in a good mood. Okay, so it’s not rap, but it is a song that became part of Hip Hop’ lineage, especially being included in the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s School Daze. EU had been kicking around since the seventies, bringing their go-go beat jams to colleges across the nation. Since “Da Butt” they’ve continued to record but none of what followed could match the power or success of “Da Butt”.
04. I Got It Made
Artist: Special Ed
Album: Youngest In Charge (1989)
When this single dropped, it slapped everybody across the face. “Hitman” Howie Tee created a song with an unforgettable bass line, a sparse beat, and the oddly laid back flow of Special Ed. The song was a massive hit for Ed but was the last one he’d turn out. Youngest In Charge produced another single titled “I’m The Magnificent” but it didn’t register like “I Got It Made”. Special Ed still rhymes and produces albums.
03. Pee Wee’s Dance
Artist: Joeski Love
Album: Pee Wee’s Dance Single (1986)
In 1985 Pee Wee Herman and director Tim Burton released a film that was about as good as movies get. The pop culture fallout of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure was undeniable and part of that was rapper Joeski Love’s “Pee Wee’s Dance”. Not only was the joint fun, it used the Tequila refrain very effectively. Look closely in the video and you’ll see Ice T dancing and Mark Holton (Francis in the film) as the science teacher. An interesting note, Joeski Love never saw Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. He had a friend describe the movie to him and that was his inspiration for writing the song.
02. Strong Island
Artist: JVC Force
Album: Doin’ Damage (1987)
New York repped the five boroughs but few thought to bring in Long Island. Enter the JVC Force, a three-man crew that featured two very distinct rappers in AJ Rok and B-Luv. AJ Rok had a harsh voice, while B-Luv’s delivery was smoother, more akin to latter day rap sensation Mase. The group released the album Doin’ Damage but none of the other songs on the record could hold a candle to the kinetic energy of “Strong Island”.
01. Small Time Hustler
Artist: The Dismasters
Album: Small Time Hustler Single (1987)
Taking a sample from Lightnin’ Rod’s street life opus HustlersConvention, The Dismasters orchestrated one of the best Hip Hop songs ever. Raven T & Lord Mike Ski use their shout-rap flow to pen acerbic slaps at everything from fake thugs to free basing hookers. Some fans will say that “Act Like You Know”, which attempted to diss Run DMC, KRS-One and Kool DJ Red Alert, is their finest moment and they’d be wrong. Nothing comes close to the weird siren sound laid over a bass that instantly makes ass shaking a must. Twenty-five years later this is still considered a classic one hit wonder.
Those are ten incredibly awesome Hip Hop jams but they are far from the only one hit wonders in the genre. Which ones would you add?