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.”