Happy 75th Birthday Queensbridge: The 75 Greatest QB Rap Songs

nas QB

Words by Paul Meara (@PaulMeara)

Queensbridge Houses was infamous long before any hip-hop gatekeeper donned it such. The harrowing hallways of North America’s largest housing projects were a refuge for drug dealers, stick up kids and mob figures long before Marley and Shan touched a 4-track or mic and broadcasted about it. Opening in 1939, The Bridge has a long history of housing the hard-stricken. Those who famously made it out did it either with a basketball or a microphone.

There’s no doubt the crack epidemic affected the surroundings of those who would choose music. Pioneering clique The Juice Crew’s earlier rhymes didn’t typically assume the gangster element but those who spawned from them couldn’t help but represent what they saw. The youngest member of the 80s mega posse began to take it exclusively to the streets. Intelligent Hoodlum, and his debut self-titled LP, was one of the first in a long succession during the 1990s to represent QB’s dark street vibes while incorporating a wiser message. And this trend continued with nearly everyone who followed. Nas would be next. Up to that point in Hip-Hop’s history, nobody had ever come across an 18-year-old with such a firm command of the English language and rhymes imparted with a wisdom beyond his years. Mobb Deep would release their peak project at the tender age of 19 soon after. Tragedy Khadafi disciples Capone-N-Noreaga would keep the fire burning two years later with another Big Apple classic. No other neighborhood in hip-hop music’s history released more quality in a shorter amount of time. It was legendary and heavily influential in not only New York’s rap makeup, but also the genre’s.

In honor of Queensbridge’s 75th year in existence (and Nas’ recent release of Time is Illmatic), Nah Right has compiled and ranked as many songs. The greatest QB hip-hop cuts of all time. You know, the joints that scream grimy. The ones that take you straight to 41st and Vernon. The jawns that helped shape the legacy of Queensbridge and were important in its musical vibrancy. This list isn’t the greatest songs from artists who happen to be from QB. Nah. This is that diggin’ though crates for unreleased white labels shit. That dun lingo laced crack that brought you straight across the 59th Street Bridge into the valley of tough cats and rhymes just as thoro. Or as Mobb Deep would call it “Hell on Earth.”

Lakey

75. Nas feat. Lakey The Kid – “Revolutionary Warfare”

Release Year: 2002

Album: God’s Son

Spending most of the 1990s in prison, Lakey The Kid, like Cormega, missed his opportunity to capitalize on Queensbridge’s peak popularity period. Lake would never achieve the fame or critical acclaim some of his other QB contemporaries would, however his appearance on “Revolutionary Warfare” showed that he could at least spit and was more than a name shouted out on Illmatic. The song would also be the only musical collaboration between Nas and Lakey on a project put out by either artist exclusively. After the God’s Son song was released Lakey’s relationship with Nas deteriorated.

Nature

74. Nature feat. Nas & Noreaga – “Triple Threat”

Release Year: 1998

Album: N/A

Some of Nature’s best bars reveal themselves on “Triple Threat.” The nearly three-and-a-half minute long jawn is basically a three-way cypher between the Queensbridge heavyweights as they trade abbreviated verses filled with classic uncut raw. The jury is still out as to whose song this is. It originally found itself on a Nature 12” and appears on The Nature Files Vol. 1, which is the closest confirmation of the song actually landing on a project though it was years later.

Bars-N-Hooks

73. Bars-N-Hooks feat. Mobb Deep – “World Premiere”

Release Year: 2006

Album: The Most Notorious

Bars-N-Hooks’ discography is slim to say the least. The amount of memorable songs they produced is even slimmer. “World Premiere” is a bright spot and a standout joint in their career. Both Mr. Bars and Mike Delorean lay down thoro verses in a song featuring both Prodigy and Havoc. The menacing four-verse cut is one of the better ones that still held its Queenbridge roots during a time Mobb Deep signed to G-Unit, Nas was claiming “Hip Hop Is Dead” and Capone-N-Noreaga were on hiatus.

nas bravehearts

72. Bravehearts feat. Nas – “Oochie Wally”

Release Year: 2000

Album: Nas & Ill Will Records Presents QB’s Finest

Jay Z landed a Nas jab on “The Takeover” referring to his verse on “Oochie Wally” and how he had the “worst flow on the whole fucking song.” If you listen to Arabian themed hit (obviously aimed to be the commercial joint on the album) it doesn’t seem like Nas’ intent was to recreate a verse from Illmatic. The song lives as one of the most ignorant in QB history and one that made the Bravehearts nationally famous… for a minute.

Trag 3

71. Tragedy Khadafi feat. Havoc – “Funk Mode (Large Pro Remix)”

Release Year: 1993

Album: N/A

The original version of “Funk Mode” made its debut on Tragedy Khadafi’s second solo LP, Tragedy: Saga of a Hoodlum. The Large Professor remix was subsequently released via a 12” soon after and featured QB companion Havoc. It’s one of the earliest Tragedy Khadafi collaborations with not only the Mobb Deep producer but anyone outside of the Juice Crew, Iron Sheiks or Super Kids. Hav’s verse appears on a record that was released just months after the Mobb’s debut Juvenile Hell album. Just listen to his voice!

HNIC

70. Prodigy feat. Cormega – “Three”

Release Year: 2000

Album: H.N.I.C.

In the first ever collaboration involving strictly Prodigy and Cormega, “Three” easily stands out as one of the stronger joints on P’s debut solo effort. Cormega acknowledged his appearances on Murda Muzik and H.N.I.C. helped keep his name relevant in between making headlines and claims Mobb Deep was one of the only groups supporting him at the time. The third go around of Mega’s career came a year later when he released his official debut with The Realness.

Big-Noyd-Episodes-Of-A-Hustla

69. Big Noyd feat. Prodigy – “Episodes of a Hustla”

Release Year: 1996

Album: Episodes of a Hustla

The title track to Big Noyd’s Episodes of a Hustla sounds like something that was stolen out of a Hell On Earth studio session. Featuring his traditional Mobb Deep compadres (Hav on the boards and P slanging bars) the song captures some of Noyd’s best lyrics and is accompanied by comparably thoro instrumentals. If Big Noyd’s contribution to hip-hop could be summed up in one song–this would be the one.

Loyalty

68. Screwball feat. Cormega – “Loyalty”

Release Year: 2001

Album: Loyalty

Loyalty is at a premium in the rap business and Screwball made a song about it. Grabbing someone who always raps about the trials and tribulations of street loyalty himself in Cormega, the Queensbridge quartet traded heavily reflective verses in the almost seven minute posse cut. Mega’s verse on the song is one of his best guest ventures and added to his outreach in the early 2000s.

PHD_without_warning

67. PHD – “Without Warning”

Release Year: 1991

Album: Without Warning

PHD, a group consisting of DJ Hot Day and Blaq Poet, only lasted one album. And while it saw little acclaim, Without Warning was regarded as more important to Queensbridge than hip-hop itself. It was one of the earliest times Cormega (known as MC Cor at the time) touched wax and featured an early version of Screwball before there was such a thing. Oh, and the heavy artillery featured on the album artwork fully exemplified the LP’s tough manner. It’s pure gunfire.

On the Real

66. Screwball feat. Cormega & Havoc – “On The Real”

Release Year: 2000

Album: Y2K: The Album

This monster Queensbridge cut further solidified Screwball’s early legacy as a group and carried its weight on their debut album. Featuring Cormega and Havoc, the song is QB to the death and once again showcases the talents of Blaq Poet and Kamikaze specifically. The original version didn’t feature Havoc and Poet and instead included Nas. Original or remake, the song is fire.

Littles

65. Mobb Deep feat. Littles – “Nothing Like Home”

Release Year: 2001

Album: Infamy

“Nothing Like Home” reminisces the good ‘ol days of Queensbridge within the confines of Mobb Deep’s Infamy album–one that many Mobb fans were disappointed with. While songs like “Hey Luv (Anything)” took the more commercial/R&B smash route, “Nothing Like Home” was a continuation from what was built on Murda Muzik. QB’s own Littles makes a rare appearance on the track, further reinforcing Mobb Deep’s roots.

Intelligent Hoodlum

64. Tragedy Khadafi – “Back to Reality”

Release Year: 1990

Album: Intelligent Hoodlum

The second single from Intelligent Hoodlum’s self-titled LP, “Back to Reality” served as a more commercial-friendly drop compared to his more politically potent jawn “Black & Proud.” And frankly, most of Intelligent Hoodlum. The song reminisces Trag’s adolescent years and his dreams of making it in hip-hop. In 1990, Tragedy Khadafi would make it on his own and release his debut album under the watchful eye of Marley Marl and Large Professor.

Mobb 4

63. Mobb Deep – “Where Ya Heart At”

Release Year: 1999

Album: Murda Muzik

One of the more slept on songs from Murda Muzik, “Where Ya Heart At” paints pictures that don’t miss a step sonically or lyrically from preceding and more critically acclaimed drops. Like “Shook Ones Pt. II” and “Survival of the Fittest” the song calls into the question the readiness and decision-making of one living on the fence of a dark street life–something Mobb Deep and particularly Prodigy became infamous (pun intended) for doing.

Killa Sha

62. Killa Sha – “Come On”

Release Year: 2007

Album: God Walk On Water

Killa Sha’s legacy in Queensbridge is one that is/was well respected. Passing away in 2010, Sha Lumi’s catalog wouldn’t have the opportunity to become as great as his street legacy. “Come On” gave fans a taste of what could have been had Sha been able to finish the in progress album with Large Professor. Regardless, the track is fire and one that stands out in the QB great’s abbreviated solo legacy.

IM3

61. Infamous Mobb – “Capital Q”

Release Year: 2007

Album: Reality Rap

Infamous Mobb was perhaps more memorable from their cameos in Mobb Deep videos, shoutouts in their songs, and outside of the studio tales. Every now and again they would release a fire track though. “Capital Q” is one of those bangers. The intro joint from their 2007 album Reality Rap, “Capital Q” encompasses the thoro lifestyle Godfather Pt. III, Twin Gambino and Ty Nitty came up under. E Blaze kills the beat on this one too.

Mega 1

60. Cormega – “Rap’s A Hustle”

Release Year: 2001

Album: The Realness

It took Cormega until 2001 to release his debut album The Realness and it was worth the wait. Never receiving the praise of an Illmatic or The Infamous, the album still ranks as a Queensbridge classic and has the tracks to back it up. “Rap’s A Hustle” is perhaps one of Mega’s most timeless songs and one that represents his relationship with hip-hop via a metaphor, similar to Nas’ “I Gave You Power.”

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59. Nature feat. Nas – “The Ultimate High”

Release Year: 2000

Album: For All Seasons

Nas is pegged as the only feature on Nature’s debut album For All Seasons and perhaps for good reason. After The Firm fiasco Nature, like Cormega released their debut LPs in the early 2000s and needed to showcase that they could create a solo release. “The Ultimate High” was perhaps Nature’s best song on the album as he and Nas traded verses during a more progressive time in QB’s history.

Mobb 1

58. Mobb Deep – “Trife Life”

Release Year: 1995

Album: The Infamous

If there was ever a song that was the epitome of describing the hellish trials and tribulations of living in Queensbridge projects during the 90s, “Trife Life” is it. Prodigy’s harrowing recalls of mistrust and cold-blooded retaliation was relatable to so many at the time. Havoc’s accompanying piano loops and hollow snares provide a full Picasso of the duo’s vivid storytelling in the song.

Nas 1

57. Nas – “Street Dreams”

Release Year: 1996

Album: It Was Written

The second single off of Nas’ second LP, “Street Dreams,” like many other Esco songs at the time described the harsh realities and ambitions of street life. The joint is also a play off of the Eurythmics single “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and samples the 1983 song as well. “Street Dreams,” among other tracks on It Was Written, showcased Nas’ transition from the purely stripped down nature of his debut LP to the more commercial appeal his second effort parlayed.

Nas P

56. Nas feat. Prodigy – “Self Conscious”

Release Year: 2000

Album: Nas & Ill Will Records Presents QB’s Finest

The catalog of Nas collaborations with Mobb Deep is deep but the list of Nas collabo joints with just Prodigy isn’t as lengthy. Prodigy takes on a very unique persona in the song where he goes back and fourth with himself. He speaks for both his conscious and subconscious, hence the name of the song. Nas also delivers a verse where he makes note of past transgressions and applies his already acquired street knowledge to possible future situations. It’s quite a unique concept and one that made the track a standout on the otherwise disappointing QB’s Finest collaborative album.

Usual Suspects

55. Big Noyd feat. Prodigy – “Usual Suspect (Stretch Armstrong Remix)”

Release Year: 1996

Album: Episodes of a Hustla

Sampling Isaac Hayes’ “Medley: Ike’s Rap III/Your Love Is So Doggone Good” legendary New York radio DJ Stretch Armstrong created a joint slightly out of pocket sonically for Big Noyd and Mobb Deep at the time. Cormega would subsequently use the Hayes’ sample for his introspective song about Nas with “Love In Love Out.” In Stretch’s flipping, Noyd and P reminisce about Queensbridge in a similar way to “Give Up The Goods (Just Step).” This was also around the time when Stretch moved his focus from the underground to take on the grit of QB rap. This is one of his more notable direct involvements on wax.

Mega 4

54. Cormega – “The Legacy”

Release Year: 2002

Album: The True Meaning

If you weren’t in Queensbridge during the 1980s, “The Legacy” caught you up on what happened. One of Cormega’s more underrated songs, The True Meaning track reminisces the early days of QB hip-hop–a time period Mega would experience as a teenager. The first six-and-a-half bars set the tone for the song perfectly: “It was ’85 / Queensbridge was crazy live / Smitty was an icon / His son had an MB5 / Shan was the man on the rap tip / Marley on the beats, Big Wag on the crack tip / Shit was sweet.”

CNN 2

53. Capone-N-Noreaga feat. Foxy Brown – “Bang Bang”

Release Year: 2000

Album: The Reunion

There are few CNN songs rawer and more aggressive than “Bang Bang.” And while most rappers bring a female onto a song to lighten it up or create a commercial smash, that’s not the case with this one. It took three years for Capone-N-Noreaga to follow up The War Report. The Reunion isn’t nearly as acclaimed but songs like “Bang Bang” brought back a lot of the street soldier movement that oozed from songs previous to the millennial LP.

Infamy

52. Mobb Deep feat. Big Noyd & Vita – “The Learning (Burn)”

Release Year: 2001

Album: Infamy

“You let me get my hands on you so I’m takin advantage / 
And that shit that you pulled ain’t do me no damage
 / You don’t know me, but we bout to change that shit.” Those three bars, amongst the rest of Prodigy’s verse was his perceived rap response to Jay Z’s infamous first verse from “The Takeover.” Jigga took shots at both Nas and the Mobb on the track considered to be one of the greatest beef cuts ever. Prodigy also retaliated on “Crawlin” and got even more specific about how empty and unwarranted Jay’s claims were. “The Learning (Burn)” also features a raw verse from Big Noyd, keeping QB’s strong-arm steady into the 2000s.

tragedy khadafi

51. Tragedy Khadafi – “Black & Proud”

Release Year: 1990

Album: Intelligent Hoodlum

The first single from Intelligent Hoodlum’s debut album, “Black & Proud” took on the same Black Nationalist mantra most of the songs of the LP did. Marley Marl later remixed the song, which put it on higher notice. Everyone from Marcus Garvey to the Ku Klux Klan were mentioned in the quick firing, lyrical masterpiece. Interestingly, Cormega would later incorporate the same ESG sample used in “Black & Proud” into his 2004 song “Hoody” from Legal Hustle: Vol 1.

QB

50. Mobb Deep feat. Big Noyd – “The Bridge ‘94”

Release Year: 1994/2014

Album: The Infamous Mobb Deep (previously unreleased)

It wasn’t until March of this year that the world had public access to the CDQ version of this song. If you’re like us, we had the bootlegged version either from a mixtape/CD from back in the day or had ripped it from YouTube as soon as it was posted. While “The Bridge ‘94” didn’t make The Infamous album and didn’t technically land on an LP until April’s The Infamous Mobb Deep, it’s no less classic. The vintage track is Mobb Deep’s version of MC Shan/The Juice Crew’s “The Bridge” and is an update for the 1990s. It’s hard to think of this song as a new version of anything as it sounds like anything but.

Mega 2

49. Cormega – “American Beauty”

Release Year: 2001

Album: The Realness

When people think Cormega dolo, they think “American Beauty.” Similar to “Rap’s A Hustle,” The Realness cut is a story told by Mega in which he describes hip-hop’s history through his eyes via the life of a fictitious woman. “She met a lame with a drug dealer name / He had it locked for a while, then his whole style changed” (he’s taking a shot at Nas­ who would field fire through out Cormega’s first two solo efforts).

Thug Matrix 2

48. Tragedy Khadafi feat. Havoc – “What’s Poppin?”

Release Year: 2003

Album: Thug Matrix 2 / Free Agents: Tha Murder Mixtape

There is some discrepancy as to whose song this actually is. Even though it is widely regarded as a Tragedy Khadafi joint (appears on Thug Matrix 2) it was previously released in 2003 on Mobb Deep’s bonus version of their Free Agents: Tha Murder Mixtape. Regardless, the song is fire and perhaps the greatest ever lyrical collaboration between Hav and Trag. Remember, Tragedy gave Havoc his rap name in the same sort of mentoring relationship Trag had with Marley.

Mobb Cormega

47. Mobb Deep feat. Cormega – “What’s Ya Poison”

Release Year: 1999

Album: Murda Muzik

The collaborative catalog between Mobb Deep and Cormega is extensive and even though the two camps had recorded songs prior to it, “What’s Ya Poison” would be the first official song the two would release. The song, featuring trademark Havoc piano loops and a raw bass-slaps, was a standout on 1999’s Murda Music and would subsequently launch Cormega back into the public spotlight. With The Testament’s shelving in 1995 and a Firm fiasco looming, Cormega would have to go back to the drawing board on creating a new solo album. “What’s Ya Poison” and other featured tracks that came soon after with the Mobb kept his buzz around for his 2001 debut, The Realness.

Nas 3

46. Nas – “Destroy And Rebuild”

Release Year: 2001

Album: Stillmatic

Queensbridge hip-hop’s modern day formation isn’t nearly what it was 20 years ago. After 2002, QB’s influence on the culture started to wan and a lot of that may have had to do with the neighborhood’s infighting. “Destroy And Rebuild” represented a lot of that. Nas goes at Cormega, Prodigy and Nature, respectively in the shots fired joint. Mega would later respond on numerous tracks including “Love In Love Out” from the 2002 LP The True Meaning. Mobb Deep and Nas’ relationship was soured for years to come thereafter, same with Nature. All camps would eventually reconcile. It’s too bad all involved weren’t working with each other during their relationship hiatus instead of holding grudges.

Trag 2

45. Tragedy Khadafi feat. Capone-N-Noreaga – “Thug Paradise”

Release Year: 1997

Album: Nothing to Lose (soundtrack)

A classic 25 to Life cut, “Thug Paradise” oozed the conspiracy theory-ridden hard body lyrics that consumed the more underground side of Queensbridge during the mid to late 1990s. The joint that initially made the A side of the unofficial Thug Paradise / True Confessions 12” (later available on the Nothing to Lose soundtrack) was perhaps a precursor to what would eventually become The War Report. This song easily fits in with that album.

Mobb 9

44. Mobb Deep feat. Big Noyd – “Give Up The Goods (Just Step)”

Release Year: 1995

Album: The Infamous

Big Noyd is to Mobb Deep what AZ was to Nas–the homie that was always around in their heyday, spitting bars that were always a perfect accompaniment. Noyd received a record deal in 1995, subsequently becoming Episodes of A Hustla; none of which may have happened if it wasn’t for “Give Up The Goods (Just Step).” Years after leaving Tommy Boy, Noyd relayed that the first two bars from his verse on The Infamous track got him the $300,000 deal. “Yo, it’s the R-A-double-P-E-R N-O-Y-D / Niggas can’t fuck with me!”

Noyd 1

43. Big Noyd feat. Prodigy – “Recognize & Realize”

Release Year: 1996

Album: Episodes of a Hustla

While Big Noyd’s verses always held their own, even amongst some of Mobb Deep’s most critically acclaimed releases, his solo career didn’t see as much success. Releasing only one album in the 90s, Noyd became more known for his work with the Mobb than his own material but there were some bright spots. “Recognize & Realize” was one of them. Featuring Prodigy, the first single from Big Noyd’s 1996 debut Episodes of a Hustla was a classic cut and further showed that Noyd could hang with some of his more decorated contemporaries.

Mobb Deep Infamous

42. Mobb Deep feat. Cormega – “Crime Connection”

Release Year: 1996

Album: N/A

Cormega was released from prison in 1995 and “Crime Connection” was one of the first songs he would subsequently record. The joint would show the world Mega still had it back in 1996. He has rumored that the song was supposed to make Mobb Deep’s Hell On Earth album and would’ve been the first time people would hear him post-incarceration. The song also successfully samples the 1974 film The Godfather’s main theme song–something that has been tried by other rap camps to less than successful avail.

Mega 6

41. Cormega feat. Mobb Deep – “Killaz Theme”

Release Year: 2002/2005

Album: Hustler/Rapper / The Testament

The instrumentals provided by Havoc set up this classic QB cut for the trio to destroy. And they do. “Killaz Theme” is also one of the earlier joints Cormega did with Mobb Deep along with “Angel Dust” and “Crime Connection.” The song was unreleased for the longest as it didn’t officially make an LP until the 2005 release of The Testament. Previously, it found its way onto Mega’s Hustler/Rapper mixtape. Regardless of when it officially dropped, the song is quintessential blood-soaked New York hard body. Cormega and Mobb Deep rhyme amazing indeed.

y2k

40. Screwball feat. Big Noyd – “No Exceptions”

Release Year: 2000

Album: Y2K: The Album

The rugged, raw and raspy voices of Screwball were on full display via their Y2K: The Album cut “No Exceptions.” Featuring Queensbridge companion Big Noyd, the track makes notice that if you’re in the way of the QB quartet you will be dealt with, no exceptions. “Screwball and the Mobb so sick / We repin’ QB son, they wouldn’t understand it.”

Super Kids 2

39. The Super Kids – “The Tragedy (Don’t Do It)”

Release Year: 1986

Album: N/A

Tragedy Khadafi released his Tragedy Khadafi: The Story of Queensbridge documentary a few years ago pretty much telling the story of his life through QB’s history. It’s a nice piece but if you don’t have an hour and a half to spare, “The Tragedy (Don’t Do It)” suffices as the abbreviated and much earlier version of how the Intelligent Hoodlum got his latter-day rap name. The Super Kids, a group composed of Trag and DJ Hot Day (and also sometimes featured Killa Sha and Craig G) would be a collective precursor that showcased some of what was to come in Queensbridge. Of the limited 12” vinyls that would come from the camp “The Tragedy (Don’t Do It)” was one of the more memorable. You could tell even back in ’86 that Marley was working with something special.

CNN 1

38. Capone-N-Noreaga feat. Tragedy Khadafi & Havoc – “Parole Violators”

Release Year: 1997

Album: The War Report

Tragedy Khadafi made it a habit to be on every CNN song he could and for good reason. The Havoc-produced “Parole Violators” was another fantastic example of a well-oiled 25-To-Life crew as it provided that eerie QB grime few other songs could relay. The song was also one of the standouts on duo’s most critically acclaimed LP, The War Report.

arrest-the-president

37. Tragedy Khadafi – “Arrest the President”

Release Year: 1990

Album: Intelligent Hoodlum

“Arrest the President, he’s the criminal.” Those are the spoken words of conspiracy rap pioneer Intelligent Hoodlum. This was before Tragedy Khadafi and right after he was released from prison. It was there where he spent hours, days, months and years reading about Black Nationalist leaders who predated his rhymes and some even, his birth. The song was also a rebirth of blaxploitation hip-hop that had begun before the 1970s hit (see: The Last Poets).

Bravehears and Nas

36. Bravehearts feat. Nas – “Eat These Bullets”

Release Year: N/A

Album: Operation Desert Storm

DJ Clue’s Operation Desert Storm scooped up many unreleased tracks from the 90s and gave fans not digging through white labels a chance to hear numerous unofficial jawns for the first time. “Eat These Bullets” could be considered the street counter for “Oochie Wally,” the track Bravehearts are most known for. It was also probably meant to make a Bravehearts debut LP but the lyrics were a little too grimy. Wiz and Jungle trade bars before Nas comes through and smashes the mic on the song’s final verse.

Nas 6

35. Nas – “Represent”

Release Year: 1994

Album: Illmatic

Similar to “One Love,” “Represent” puts on for Queensbridge and shouts out many who would continue on the neighborhood’s legacy. L.E.S., Cormega, Lakey the Kid and DJ Premier all catch a mention on the song. And while all are not from QB, each has made their musical contribution to the area furthering the cause. Nas also shouts his friend and former DJ Ill Will in the song who died previous to Illmatic’s release, a legend on his own accord.

Mega 3

34. Cormega feat. Mike Delorean – “Fuck Nas & Nature”

Release Year: 1997

Album: N/A

Fresh off of his release from The Firm, Cormega took aim at those responsible for his short-lived exile from the rap biz. Featuring Bars-N-Hooks’ Mike Delorean, who also had an axe to grind for whatever reason, “Fuck Nas & Nature” is the musical of what happened behind closed doors. Cormega claims in the song and in subsequent interviews that he swung on Nature even though the real assault should’ve been placed on Steve Stoute who offered him either a production deal or an exit from the group.

Poet

33. PHD feat. Cormega – “Set it Off”

Release Year: 1991

Album: Without Warning

Many first heard Cormega on white labels that floated around during the mid to late 90s. Commercially, Mega was officially introduced on Mobb Deep’s “What’s Ya Poison.” But none of those instances were the first time we heard him on wax. Instead it was all the way back in ’91, pre-jail and on PHD’s only collaborative album Without Warning. “Set it Off” introduced Mega as that high-pitched dude who was nice from around the way. “Mega is scientist, metaphor analyst / Predator, I set it off like a terrorist / I accelerate like a four wheeler / And Hot Day supplies the bass like a drug dealer.” Damn.

Allumaniti

32. Iron Sheiks – “True Confessions”

Release Year: 1997

Album: N/A

Both “True Confessions” and “Allumaniti” appeared on the same white label 12” and both were classics. “True Confessions” successfully implements Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much” as the instrumentals become the perfect accompaniment to Tragedy Khadafi and Iman THUG’s continued conspiracy rap assault. “I overthrow the jakes just to feed blacks / Clapping C.O.’s busting P.O.’s in their kneecaps.” Yeah, they weren’t playing either.

Nas 7

31. Nas – “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”

Release Year: 1994

Album: Illmatic

The follow up to Nas’ first single from Illmatic, “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” gives hip-hop fans some of Nasir’s best bars. To compare anyone to Rakim at the time was crazy talk and depending on one’s preference it may still be. In 1994, Nas and Illmatic threatened Ra’s legacy as one of the smoothest and you’ve got to think back then that was a sensitive topic, especially in New York. Regardless, you can tell Nas took inspiration from The God in the song. Just listen to “Don’t Sweat the Technique.”

Against all odds

30. Tragedy Khadafi – “Blood Type”

Release Year: 1998/2001

Album: Against All Odds

“Blood Type” officially appeared on Tragedy Khadafi’s third album Against All Odds but was recorded well before the LP’s 2001 release. As N.O.R.E. gained more fame toward the end of the millennium and slowly disassociating himself from the 25 to Life movement (partially because Capone was serving a jail stint), Tragedy fired back in response. Trag accuses Noreaga of stealing his flow and questions whether he was the thoro dude he claimed to be. If Prodigy’s infamous story is true about N.O.R.E. being jumped with Trag and Capone just watching, maybe he had reason to depart. All is speculation as Tragedy and Noreaga have made up since.

Big Mama

29. Roxanne Shanté – “Big Mama”

Release Year: 1992

Album: The Bitch is Back

“I gave birth to most of them emcees.” The song is called “Big Mama” ‘cause Roxanne Shanté mothers a few rappers in this attack track. Attempting to hop back into the hip-hop scene after a period of inactivity, the QB emcee wastes no time in taking shots at her female rap peers. First up was Queen Latifah: “And all ya’ll hoes are phony / Try to get flipped, I’mma rip you and your girl Monie.” MC Lyte, Isis, Salt-N-Pepa and Yo-Yo also felt the brunt of Shanté’s lyrical bat. “Bring any ho, and I’ll wreck her / I rip the nicest, from Isis down to Salt-N-Pepa / And now you know that I’m the star of the show, ho / While I get dough, you’re fiving up the Yo-Yo.” Ouch.

Mobb 5

28. Mobb Deep feat. Kool G Rap – “The Realest”

Release Year: 1999

Album: Murda Muzik

The chilling and depressing synths that open “The Realest” alone are enough to place this song on the list. In Alchemist’s first ever collaboration track with Mobb Deep (budding a catalog that became long and critically acclaimed) the Murda Muzik jawn catches all three artists during high points in their careers. Prodigy’s most acclaimed bars and Mobb Deep’s highest level of fame came during the late. Kool G Rap was also hot off of 4,5,6, released just a few years prior. Lyrically, “The Realest” paints pictures all too familiar with both Mobb Deep and G Rap fans. The vivid descriptions of situations in pocket with each camp’s street constituents was accompanied by an appropriate hook making the song an easy standout on Mobb Deep’s fourth studio LP.

Mega 5

27. Cormega feat. Prodigy – “Thun & Kicko”

Release Year: 2001

Album: The Realness

The Realness would be the first official opportunity Cormega had on wax to take a shot at Nas after he was replaced by Nature during The Firm fiasco. Prodigy and his “Yous a notebook crook, with loose leaf beef” line also didn’t have kind words for Esco on the song. Remember, “Thun & Kicko” preceded Nas’ “Destroy & Rebuild,” which came out later that year and took straight aim at both P and Mega. It also bucked shots at Nature. 2001 was more than just a pivotal year in the so-called “Battle of New York,” it was, for a while, a battle between QB and Nas.

Go Queensbridge

26. The Super Kids – “Go Queensbridge”

Release Year: 1985

Album: N/A

Mobb Deep created “Cop Hell” at the ripe age of 16 and released Juvenile Hell at 17. Nas wrote Illmatic when he was 18. Each is impressive as young bloods in the hood were able to portray harsh street situations poetically at such a young age. Tragedy Khadafi may take the cake though as he was able to drop “Go Queensbridge” at the near ridiculous age of 14. “You ignorant fool could never put me in fear / ‘Cause I write like Mark Twain, recite like Shakespeare.” Yeah, this kid had it.

Ether

25. Nas – “Ether”

Release Year: 2001

Album: Stillmatic

“Ether” is perhaps most known as Nas’ infamous response to Jay Z’s diss record “The Takeover.” But there was more going on than just a Jay Z/Nas beef. An underlying element of the so-called “King of New York” battle was it was also a bout between Brooklyn and Queensbridge. Remember, Jay took aim at Mobb Deep in “The Takeover” and Nas mentions Roc-A-Fella on the Stillmatic single. Even Brooklyn’s own Memphis Bleek later admitted Nas bodied his team on the record.

Mobb 3

24. Nas feat. Mobb Deep – “Live Nigga Rap”

Release Year: 1996

Album: It Was Written

Prodigy delivers one of his best guest verses ever on the It Was Written jawn as Havoc double-timed the assault by lying down appropriately dirty background instrumentals. The song also marks the first time the Mobb was featured on a Nas release (not the first collaboration as Nas found his way onto The Infamous, released a year earlier). If there was ever a crossroads joint that showcased both QB camps during their creative height–“Live Nigga Rap” was that record.

Mobb Deep Hell on Earth

23. Mobb Deep – “Hell On Earth (Front Lines)”

Release Year: 1996

Album: Hell On Earth

The backend and final 38 bars Prodigy lays down on “Hell On Earth (Front Lines)” are some of his greatest ever. The second single released via Mobb Deep’s critically acclaimed third album doesn’t miss a beat and could easily blend into their monster second effort, released a year earlier. The duo goes back-and-fourth trading cerebral verses as Havoc shouts out many of Mobb Deep’s QB companions at the end of his lyrical contribution, including members of Infamous Mobb and Twin Scarface, who died in a car accident earlier that year.

fayban

22. Screwball – “F.A.Y.B.A.N.”

Release Year: 2000

Album: Y2K: The Album

It’s pretty simple and Screwball just came out and said it: Fuck all ya’ll bitch ass niggas. Hip-hop fans would have to wait until the new millennium to hear Blaq Poet and DJ Premier finally link up on a track. It was well worth it too. Poet absolutely bodies the song from his group’s second LP and further cements Screwball’s legacy among the great groups in Queensbridge’s storied history.

Sheiks

21. Iron Sheiks – “Allumaniti”

Release Year: 1997

Album: N/A

The Nina Simone sample in this song alone is enough to make any Queensbridge fan melt. Its seductive nature distracts from the fact that this political rap masterpiece drops numerous conspiracy jewels including Trag’s warning of government and technology’s control of a human’s mind and body. “We’re like Neanderthals trapped in ice to be precise / Microchip in your body like Blood of Christ… 1999 null refined / Internet web control your hole mind / My third eye shine insight to lead the blind.” This is that Intelligent Hoodlum/classic Trag, 25 to Life shit.

The Testament

20. Cormega – “The Testament”

Release Year: 2002/2005

Album: Hustler/Rapper / The Testament

Had The Testament officially released when it was recorded (shortly after Cormega was released from prison in 1995) it would have been his Illmatic. Remember, at that point he was just a name shouted out on Nas’ songs “One Love” and “Represent,” unless you really do the knowledge and remember hearing him in the late 80s/early 90s via Blaq Poet and DJ Hot Day mixtapes. “The Testament” was the title track of Mega’s slated debut and showcased he was much more than a name. He was a real voice and a thoro emcee. By the time 1997/98 hit, Mobb Deep was doing way more for Cormega than Nas, Def Jam and Steve Stoute were.

Symphony

19. Marley Marl feat. Craig G, Masta Ace, Kool G Rap & Big Daddy Kane – “The Symphony”

Release Year: 1988

Album: In Control Vol. 1

Marley Marl’s 1988 cut “The Symphony” was loaded with Queens shot-callers. Sampling Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle” the track successfully incorporated numerous memorable verses and bars–particularly Kane’s line, “Put a quarter in your ass ’cause you played yourself.” The song would also be Masta Ace’s first ever appearance on wax. It was one of the first posse cuts in hip-hop music history and interestingly, Ace made claim that MC Shan was absent from “The Symphony” because he felt the other emcees slated to be on it were too new and didn’t have any previous work out. Shan probably wishes he would’ve hopped on it in retrospect.

CNN illegal life

18. Capone-N-Noreaga feat. Havoc & Tragedy Khadafi – “Illegal Life”

Release Year: 1996

Album: The War Report

Havoc provides a heronic instrumental and hollow hook to The War Report’s first single. “Illegal Life” sets up Queensbridge fans in 1996 for the classic jawn that would become Capone-N-Noreaga’s breakout debut album. It’s hard to choose a song more fitting to introduce CNN and the subsequent 25 to Life movement that accompanied.

Mobb 6

17. Mobb Deep – “Survival of the Fittest”

Release Year: 1995

Album: The Infamous

A seminal song on Mobb Deep’s mind-torturous and downright grimy sophomore album, “Survival of the Fittest” played sidekick to one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time in “Shook Ones Pt. II.” Havoc spits one of his best verses ever on The Infamous’ second single. The video is also a classic as Nas, Puff Daddy and Infamous Mobb all make cameo appearances. Trust us, it was much more than the instrumentals from the first rap battle in 8 Mile.

Nas 2

16. Nas – “I Gave You Power”

Release Year: 1996

Album: It Was Written

In the purely metaphorical and dope “Gave You Power” Nas assumes the role of a gun. The Queensbridge don relays the journey and fly-on-the-wall experiences a gun goes through in the hood and during the process, the It Was Written classic displayed Nas’ knack for superlative story telling and ingenuity in creating song concepts. The cut would also be the only DJ Premier-assisted track that would make Esco’s second LP after calling on him three times for Illmatic.

Nas 4

15. Nas – “The World is Yours”

Release Year: 1994

Album: Illmatic

When any rapper tells youngins from the streets that the world is theirs it’s empowering. When Nas does it, it threatens the status quo. The fourth single off of Illmatic, “The World is Yours” relays a message that few rappers before him had been able to deliver to the masses. The joint partially gets its name from the motto embedded in Tony Montana’s mansion in the movie Scarface. It’s no secret where Nas Escobar got much of his Mafioso rap influence.

Shan 1

14. MC Shan – “I Pioneered This”

Release Year: 1988

Album: Born To Be Wild

As one of the earlier members from the Juice Crew to gain national acclaim, MC Shan literally did help pioneer the success of not only the Queensbridge crew but the notorious neighborhood as well. As the opening track of Shan’s second LP, Born To Be Wild, “I Pioneered This” also served as proof that QB could stand just as strong as the South Bronx. It also broke Shan’s silence regarding the infamous New York borough battle between Juice Crew and Boogie Down Productions.

Rae Nas Mobb

13. Mobb Deep feat. Nas & Raekwon – “Eye for an Eye (Your Beef is Mines)”

Release Year: 1995

Album: The Infamous

The greatest collaboration track that would grace The Infamous album, “Eye for an Eye (Your Beef is Mines)” had Queensbridge fans pre-album itching to hear it. The track features Havoc’s classic hollowed drums and is accompanied by three near perfect verses from the East Coast’s premier gutter-gripers. Raekwon’s appearance on the track comes just months before he would release Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, lacing 16 bars highly comparable to what fans later heard on his debut classic. Nas’ famous Escobar alias would also be introduced for the first time on the song.

Nas 8

12. Nas – “NY State of Mind”

Release Year: 1994

Album: Illmatic

“NY State of Mind” is an undisputed classic and similar to other songs by Escobar at the time, it describes the fucked up situations that those from QB go through. Supposedly inspired by Kool G Rap’s “Streets of New York,” “NY State of Mind” is also timeless, a fact verified by some of today’s hot button social issues. Just listen to some of the bars. “And be prosperous, though we live dangerous / Cops could just arrest me, blaming us, we’re held like hostages.”

Roxanne

11. Roxanne Shanté – “Roxanne’s Revenge”

Release Year: 1984

Album: N/A

“Roxanne’s Revenge” would be the official response to the Untouchable Force Organization record “Roxanne, Roxanne.” And it would be nasty. “Roxanne, Roxanne” portrays a woman who rejects members of UTFO and is not impressed with their standing in the rap game. Shanté decided to fight back with the Marley Marl-produced track literally assuming the role of the woman in UTFO’s own song, going at each member. The joint, coupled with “The Real Roxanne” would lift Shanté to a much higher platform in the hip-hop world and have her become one of the more notable female emcees of the 1980s.

Shan Down By Law

10. MC Shan – “Kill That Noise”

Release Year: 1987

Album: Down by Law

MC Shan was to the Juice Crew what KRS-One was to Boogie Down Productions–the barking dog of the crew ready to defend his turf. In 1986, KRS released “South Bronx” in retaliation to MC Shan’s “The Bridge” and “Kill That Noise” was his response to that. The three tracks would be the start of the infamous “Bridge Wars” and kindled the first widely known beef in hip-hop music.

CNN 3

9. Capone-N-Noreaga feat. Mobb Deep & Tragedy Khadafi – “LA, LA (Marley Marl Kuwait Mix)”

Release Year: 1997

Album: The War Report

When Snoop Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound came through and knocked the buildings over (according to Jay Z and via the actual diss track and video for “NY, NY” in which they actually kick buildings over in New York) The Big Apple was quiet, except for one band of retaliators. No one felt more disrespected than Tragedy Khadafi and as a result he scooped up some of Queensbridge’s finest to fire back. And they came with the guns. N.O.R.E. shoots first, setting up for Havoc, Capone, and Tragedy, respectively to destroy. Oh, and Prodigy on the hook was perfect.

Mobb 2

8. Mobb Deep – “Quiet Storm”

Release Year: 1999

Album: Murda Muzik

Aside from being one of Mobb Deep’s greatest commercial smashes on their most commercially successful album, “Quiet Storm” holds a lot of Queensbridge credit. It is claimed to be the first ever song to introduce the “dun language” as an actual thing. The song also successfully merges the Mobb’s traditional dark/stripped down beat manner and a more catchy/commercial-friendly feel­–a credit to Havoc. “Quiet Storm” incorporates Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel’s “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” into the beat, an impressive feat as few in rap history have been able to sample old school hip-hop in a favorable manner.

Illmatic

7. Nas – “Halftime”

Release Year: 1992

Album: Illmatic

“Halftime” was the first single off of Illmatic and the beginning of Nas’ lyrical assault on the solo tip. “Live at the Barbeque” had given hip-hop fans a taste of Nasty Nas, “Halftime” was the appetizer and Illmatic was the entrée. Previously, few had been able to create the pure, uncut braggadocios greatness Nas brought on the song. Similarly, few have been able recreate it.

Marley Marl's In Control Volume 1

6. Marley Marl feat. Tragedy Khadafi – “Live Motivator”

Release Year: 1988

Album: In Control Vol. 1

Hearing a teenage version of Tragedy Khadafi is always a treat for Queensbridge fans. For one, even his earliest raps were smooth, sharp and intelligent and proved Marley had something special. Youthful Trag was also a precursor of what was to come in QB from talent even younger than he was. Nas, Mobb Deep and Capone-N-Noreaga all were influenced by the budding OG. He was Nas before Nas existed.

One Love

5. Nas – “One Love”

Release Year: 1994

Album: Illmatic

While “One Love” contains some of Nas’ smoothest verses, it’s who and what mentioned in those bars that is even more notable. Many didn’t know who Cormega was before he was shouted out the song. Fewer outside of The Bridge knew who Lake was (mentioned as Lake Luciano in the pivotal joint). Nas brought you to 41st and Vernon on Illmatic and “One Love” was a major contributor to that. “What up with Cormega, did you see him, are y’all together?”

CNN Calm Down

4. Capone-N-Noreaga feat. Nas & Tragedy Khadafi – “Calm Down”

Release Year: 1997

Album: N/A (Intended for The War Report)

Few songs sound more Queensbridge than “Calm Down.” Period. Three eras of QB meet on the classic cut that surprisingly never made an album, thus making this song the only (outside of “Da Bridge 2001”) to ever feature both Nas and Tragedy. The Intelligent Hoodlum represented QB’s first generation of crime-ridden street rap. Nas followed. One may find it surprising why the catalog of collaborations between the two is short but it only adds to the track’s intrigue. Or maybe it was Nas’ hook singing that did that.

25 to life

3. Capone-N-Noreaga feat. Tragedy Khadafi – “T.O.N.Y. (Top of New York)”

Release Year: 1996

Album: The War Report

“T-O-N-Y, INVADE N-Y!” If you were in New York in 1997, there was no escaping this mammoth Queensbridge anthem. “T.O.N.Y. (Top of New York)” moved Capone-N-Noreaga from the blocks of 41 Side & Vernon and relative NY fame to the national spotlight. CNN’s most notable song ever not only moved them to the forefront of everyone’s attention but also helped create shine on their 25-To-Life movement. Tragedy struck absolute gold with this song and album, pretty ironic since he didn’t quite understand N.O.R.E.’s rhyme style initially.

Juice Crew

2. MC Shan – “The Bridge”

Release Year: 1985

Album: Down by Law

“The Bridge” did more than become the defining theme song of Queensbridge. It started the “Bridge Wars,” hip-hop music’s first ever nationally recognized beef. The song spawned a Boogie Down Productions response and the hip-hop classic “South Bronx.” The joint has been recreated numerous times since its release including the monster collaborative version “The Bridge 2001,” which featured Cormega, Capone, Tragedy Khadafi, Nas, Marley Marl, Nature and Mobb Deep, among others. “The Bridge” was the start, the first big hit in Queensbridge and a defining song in of one of hip-hop’s richest neighborhood legacies.

Shook Ones

1. Mobb Deep – “Shook Ones Pt. II”

Release Year: 1994

Album: The Infamous

What is there to say about “Shook Ones Pt. II” that hasn’t already been said? Havoc masterfully slows down the piano loopings of Herbie Hancock’s “Jessica,” creating an eerie background to the greatest song to ever echo from the 41st Side and Vernon. Prodigy’s opening verse is one of hip-hop music’s greatest ever as he places you amidst the hallways of Queensbridge Houses on a cold, dark January night in 1994. From “Rock you in your face, stab ya brain with ya nosebone” to “Ya crew’s featherweight / My gunshots will make you levitate” there is no shortage of quotables from the Mobb’s primary emcee. The hook is the perfect epitome of the song, the album, the group and Queensbridge hip-hop as a whole during that time, the decades prior and proceeding. The video for “Shook Ones Pt. II” only added to the jawn’s harrowing credibility. Everything from the homicide it portrayed to the Hennessy jerseys that P and Hav rocked, nothing lacked in visual form. No matter what anyone thinks about Mobb Deep, especially regarding their later years, “Shook Ones Pt. II” is undeniable.

Photos via UpNorthTrips, AritstTopia, Metrolyrics, Egotripland, Dustygroove, Vice

Videos via YouTube

Artwork via Discogs

Related: A Look Inside Nas: Time Is Illmatic | Nas – Time Is Illmatic (Theatrical Trailer)

Previously: Diamond D Recalls Fat Joe & Lord Finesse’s Early Days, Says He was Stunned when Big L Passed

Catch up on all NahRight interviews and features HERE.


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