Since its inception, hip-hop has always placed significance on the album intro, more so than any other genre of music. Setting the tone for your album, it’s up to the artist to capture the attention of the listeners convincing you that they’ve put a tremendous amount of work into their latest project. Within the last 10 years in hip-hop, we’ve seen a plethora of artists take a different approach on starting their albums; from aggressive lyrical onslaughts, to somber melodic tunes that are easy for the listener to remember. The intro is of the utmost importance and these are the ten best of the last 10 years
10. Drake- Tuscan Leather. Album Nothing Was the Same. Released 2013
On his highly anticipated third album, Drake decides to anoint listeners with nearly 6 minutes of rhymes to showcase his growth and gain more respect as a lyricist. Different from his former album openers, which are usually more somber and melodic reflective pieces, “Tuscan Leather” has an unforgiving Drake who talks about being the alpha of the rap game and how everything goes through him (“I just set the bar, niggas fall under it like a limbo.”). Keeping listeners entertained, Canadian producer 40 constructs an instrumental that switches 3 times as Drake begins to rap more and more aggressively.
9. Rick Ross- I’m Not a Star. Album Teflon Don. Released 2010
Maybach Music pioneer Rick Ross was on top of the hip-hop world with the release of his highly anticipated fourth studio album Teflon Don. “I’m Not a Star” set the tone for the album captivating the infamous trap sound that MMG stans have come to love. The track oozes with style, as THE BAWSE transforms from a hood favorite who can occasionally rhyme to one of the most vivid and descriptive rappers in the game (“If I’d die today, remember me like John Lennon, Buried in Louie, I’m talkin’ all brown linen”). Although the title reeks with irony, the Miami rapper rhymes about drug dealing, money, and women with so much delivery accompanied by well placed adlibs making for one of the strongest tracks on his most critically acclaimed album.
8. Kid Cudi- In My Dreams. Album Man on the Moon (The End of Day). Released 2009
Double O representer Kid Cudi penned the ultimate beginning to his short musical narrative with the intro track “In My Dreams.” Instead of rapping aggressively Cudi chooses to seduce listeners with sweet melody laced with lyrics where Cudi explains what he hopes to accomplish with this album. The former G.O.O.D. Music superstar floats throughout the song creating undoubtedly one of the more unique intro of the last 10 years. Long time Kid Cudi producer Emile helps Cudi find his signature sound, which fans have continued to love through his impactful career.
7. Chief Keef- Love Sosa. Album Finally Rich. Released 2012
The combination between the rapper Chief Keef and producer Young Chop was a win every time in 2012, but none of their collaborations were as infectious as the anthem Love Sosa. The Chicago teenager’s brash introduction to the world through guerrilla style video shook the norm in hip-hop, and Keef’s advanced understanding of how to use your voice on a quasi melodic rap track made one of the best intros in recent memory. The song features Keef practicing rebellion: flaunting his cars, bands in his pockets, and the fact that he could possibly have sex with your mother, all making for a repetitive chaotic masterpiece.
6. Meek Mill- Dreams and Nightmares Intro. Album Dreams and Nightmares. Released 2012
Philly underdog Meek Mill may have delivered a lack luster major label debut, but the intro to his album set the bar for introduction records for all newcomers into rap music to follow. A beautiful piano guides Meek into reminiscing about what it was like to be a young and rough Philadelphian with nappy braids to becoming a superstar doing songs with icons such as Mariah Carey. Suddenly the song takes a turn for what Meek does better than any rapper in the game, YELL! Meek aggressively raps about the street life and how he is still that same troublemaker from Philly.
5. 50 Cent- What Up Gangsta. Album Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Released 2003
Never before had we seen a rap villain like Queens rapper 50 Cent. Antagonizing every rapper that gets in his way, he dropped the instant classic Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and gave us one the hardest intros ever to a gangsta rap album. “What Up Gangsta” provided visual after visual of what a gangsta from Southside Jamaica Queens would do (“I’m not the type to get knocked for D.W.I I’m the type that’ll kill your connect when the coke price rise”). Fiddy spews his lyrics out with so much conviction that listeners have no choice to take his words as facts due to the aggressive tone in which he delivers.
4. The Throne- No Church in the Wild. Album Watch the Throne. Released 2011
The two biggest titans in hip-hop, Jay-Z and Kanye West, teamed up for one of the most anticipated albums in rap history. Taking a slightly different approach, The Throne chose to open their album with a concept record discussing a heavier topic that challenges listeners philosophies on what is right in the world. Jay’s approach focuses on questioning religion in search of true enlightenment (Church), while Kanye touches on some of the evils that are brought upon by the secular world (The Wild). Frank Ocean accentuates the track by delivering one of the most memorable hooks on a hip-hop record in recent memory.
3. The Game- Westside Story. Album The Documentary. Released 2005
In 2005 G-Unit revealed to the world its menace to society by dropping The Documentary by The Game. “Westside Story” featured Game spitting 3 verses of straight imagery of what its like to grow up in the streets of Los Angeles (Low Riders, Gangs, Guns, Drugs, and Converses with fat laces), particularly Compton. The track is backed by a Dr. Dre instrumental that captures fun-loving Southern California bounce and gangsta music altogether.
2. Lil Wayne- Tha Mobb. Album Tha Carter II. Released 2005
Louisiananimal Lil Wayne found himself at the pinnacle of the rap game with the release of Tha Carter II. “Tha Mobb” features Wayne with no glitz, glam, or autotune, just 6 minutes of bone shattering bars that remind you of his New Orleans street affiliation. In search of a hero after Jay-Z faux pas retirement, Lil Wayne saw the opportunity for taking the crown as “best rapper alive” and ran with it. “Tha Mobb” is undoubtedly one of the tracks that cemented Wayne’s legacy as one of the best to ever do it.
1. Kanye West- Good Morning. Album Graduation. Released 2007
Upon challenging traditional mainstream hip-hop, Chicago rapper Kanye West delivers his most potent and memorable intro in his amazing catalog. Keeping with his school related themes that he presented to us with his first albums, Kanye articulates that he’s smarter and richer than his contemporaries who chose the college route instead of truly following their dreams. “They tell you read this, eat this” Kanye preaches to young adults who are all in search of themselves hoping to one day be as successful as the G.O.O.D. Music founder who delivers 3 verses with pure conviction. Graduation may in fact be the height of Kanye’s arrogance and the intro track features so much confidence and inspiration that is equally distributed throughout the entire album