We've had just about three decades of great Texas rap music from Port Arthur to Dallas to Austin to make us forget that for some reason Vanilla Ice is the highest-selling rapper from the state. Thanks to tracks like "One Day" by UGK or "Sittin Sidewayz" by Paul Wall, that embarrassing fact doesn't have to matter. Remember, "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta" by the Geto Boys came from the Lone Star State, as did the recent hit "Mamacita" by Travis Scott featuring Rich Gang. Point is, there's been a lot of great rap music out of Texas in its history, so we decided to compile a list of the 50 greatest rap songs to come out of Greatest State in the Nation.
50. K. Vation ft. Devy Stonez and Brandon Fxrd - "Truth"
Three Iras cohorts jump on one song and give it their every ounce of energy. The beat is plain bottled aggression. Each time this song plays it has to grow on you. One of the best rap records of 2015, in Dallas, the state of Texas or otherwise. HDB
49. Honey the Hippie - "Faded"
This is almost not a rap song and just pure spoken word, but really what's the difference? Also, Honey is spitting the truth. HDB
48. Terrence Spectacle - "Futon"
Terrance Spectacle thinks outside of the box. "Futon" is almost a phantasm, a dreamlike song, and those are best without the confines of a box. Not easily understood, nor appreciated, but a true delight. HDB
47. Bobby Sessions - "Black America"
"Black America" came at the height of social unrest — and of course, we're still there. But when this released on MLK day this year, it was a particularly powerful song. Not to mention, the beat is insanity. HDB
46. Fat Tony ft Kool AD, Despot. - "Hood Party"
Fat Tony is a smart ass black boy. He's got flows and styles for days. This one here is the hipster Pitchfork wave featuring none other than Despot and Kool AD. The video is a party in each of these guys' cities of choice. Brilliant. HDB
45. RiFF RAFF - "How to Be the Man"
RiFF RAFF is a punk. He's not a big fan of us either. But this song is great. Real Recognize real.
44. Mr. Lucci- "Mr. Diabolical"
Dallas hip hop has always been slightly behind the curve, and while Mr Lucci was making excellent music for a 17-year old at the turn of the century, it felt a little out of step with what was going on everywhere else. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t great; it was just a very unique moment. JPF
43. Mr. Pookie- "Crook for Life"
Maybe the most popular and ubiquitous song to come out of Dallas during the great rise of the South in the late '90s and turn of the century. It was impossible to turn on Dallas radio and not hear this song four times an hour. JPF
42. Sam Lao - "Pilgrims"
"Pilgrims" isn't long, and that's really for the better. Sam Lao gets in and gets out with some fierce bars on a chaotic beat. When chaos is organized, it's typically as swift as this. HDB
41. Le$ ft. Paul Wall and Slim Thug - "Steak and Shrimp"
Even a cool three decades into Texas rap, two truths remain unshakable: 1) We will always need car music to drive real slow to and 2) we will always needs cookout music to BBQ real slow to. These are both vital ingredients of Texas rap. HDB
40. Mike Jones - "Mr. Jones"
He's kind of the most grating dude to come out of that whole era. This song is more important than genuinely good.
39. Kevin Abstract - "Drugs"
Kevin Abstract is the type of organically weird and creative artist that a lot of contemporary rappers tend to fake. Take "Drugs" and you'll find a fresh sound with some obvious influences, but something new nonetheless. An obvious heir to the late aughts work of Kanye and Kid Cudi. HDB
38. Damaged Good$ (DMG$) - "HOODRAT $HIT"
For a short time everyone in Dallas thought DMG$ were going to be the breakout group from the area. It didn’t quite happen, but man the material this duo put out is still breathtaking in its ambition so many years later. JPF
37. Maxo Kream - "Whitney Houston"
Not a fan of the use of "faggot," but the song is what you would call a banger. I'm also not sure Maxo Kream takes more than about two breaths on this song. HDB
36. The Outfit, TX - "Private Dancer"
From the Dallas-bred and Houston-educated rap group comes an early fan favorite of theirs, "Private Dancer." It comes from their 2012 release Starships & Rockets (Cooly Fooly Space Age Funk) and promises all the space-aged funk that's advertised, with the assistance of a private dancer dressed in all purple. HDB
35. Travis Scott ft. Young Thung, Rich Homie Quan - "Mamacita"
Last year was a monumental year for Travis Scott and his mixtape, Days Before Radio, was a blog-rap fan smash. He found his niche as an artist, which is his own take on hell. Here is a slow dance in a burning room and bass rattling song with two other stars from 2014, Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug, who will always be remembered as the magical duo that gave us Rich Gang. HDB
34. Chingo Bling - "They Can't Deport Us All"
This is what happens when a dude with an agenda and a marketing degree looks at Weird Al and decides to have as much fun as possible at the expense of people oppressing his people. It’s glorious. JPF
33. FAT PAT - "Tops Drop"
The synth intro to this H-town track is iconic for all the right reasons: It’s a slow burn into a hard bump and an endless thump. It’s for car rides and lit blunts, and sometimes that’s as Texas as you can get. JPF
32. BIG HAWK - "Chillin' With My Broad"
There are a lot of oddly romantic and cool songs in the history of Texas rap. JPF
31. South Park Mexican - "I Must Be High"
South Park Mexican is a troubling artist, but he’s the most successful Latin rapper in the history of Texas. This tack is the best off his national breakthrough The 3rd Wish: To Rock The World, which peaked at No. 50 on the Billboard Hot Rap Tracks list, and it’s SPM to a T. It’s got a slow, methodical beat that allows SPM to showcase his lackadaisical flow and delves into the life of a man who needs to stay in a haze to function in a world out to get him. Many can relate to the plight, which is why so many are willing to forgive SPM’s transgressions. JPF
30. Chamilionare - "Ridin'"
Another track that's kind of more important than good, or did Weird Al absolutely ruin this song forever? HDB
29. A.Dd+ - "Can’t Come Down"
"Can't Come Down" came at a time when A.Dd+ was having a bit of a sea change from being a duo that would more or less bring a party along with some smart rhymes. Here Paris Pershun and Slim Gravy trade some truly melancholy bars about hopelessness that the paltry jobs climate can bring and a certain green substance that at least soothes the pain. If only it wasn't tougher to get a job while high. It's like, why do I need ID to get ID? If I had ID I wouldn't need ID. HDB
28. UGK - "Pocket Full of Stones"
It's always nice to get a reminder of just how do-it-yourself experiment rap music has been and always will be. "Pocket Full of Stones" is the epitome of early independent and underground Texas rap. There are two classes of people who enjoy this song dearly: The ones who revel in the aforementioned facts of independence and those who look through all of that surface and crack a smirk at the unrestrained soul. HDB
27. Scarface ft. Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel - "Guess Who's Back"
Scarface, Jazy- Z and Beanie Sigel together is already a dream come true, but also get this—production from Kanye West. It honestly doesn't get much better than that. Except it does, for a song that isn't eligible for this countdown because it's billed as Jay Z featuring. HDB
26. -topic ft. Paris P - "Rainy Day in Dallas"
-topic, one of the city of Dallas' great wordsmith's, created a song that you can reliably chill to every single time it begins to rain. -topic tackles some of his greatest attributes here: evocative, earnest, melancholy, sharp tongued. Paris P from A.Dd+ effectively brings some heat to the table as well in a pensive verse. HDB
25. Lil' Troy - "Wanna Be a Baller"
Not only did this track break into the Billboard Top 100, but it also gave us the immortal line “Switch from Motorola to a Prime Co. phone.” That lead to confused listeners of Boom 94.5 googling, “What the hell is a Prime Co. phone?” JPF
24. Z-Ro - "One Deep"
Z-Ro is the Drake of Texas. He's actually kind of more emotional, but because it's conceivable that Z-Ro may have psychically hurt someone he gets a bit of a pass. The point isn't that putting your feelings out their isn't bad and you're a proper idiot if you think so, but that Z-Ro is very good at it. He's your more grimy alternative to the dude with his head in the clouds. HDB
23. Big Tuck Ft. Tum Tum and Slim Thug - "Tussle"
I believe this song is about getting into fisticuffs, right? HDB
22. Lil Flip - "Way We Ball"
Not sure how one can be an Underground Legend as a freshly minted 21-year-old with one independent album out, then a major release on a major label. But "Way We Ball" was the lead single from the Underground Legend album and was chock full of a shrill children's chorus and limping beats. It breathes youth and schoolyard chants in its brash glory. HDB
21. Paul Wall Ft. Big Pokey - "Sittin' Sidewayz"
This is most people's public introduction to Paul Wall, who has proceeded to create a career off of basically the same verse anagrammed and repositioned to maybe be a little different verse for the next time around. But this is Paul Wall at peak Paul Wall — his smoothest, most relaxed and coolest. It was his time to shine. HDB
20. Lil' Keke ft. Paul Wall, Bun B - "Chunk Up the Deuce"
Okay, perhaps this is peak Paul Wall. Who knows completely. The beat here, with higher octave piano licks, is a layer of menacing over what's more or less another in a long line of pride anthems to come from the Lone Star State. The premise of the song, "to chunk up the deuce for the North and the South," would like a lot of things be corny if it weren't for perfect execution. HDB
19.Slim Thug - "Like a Boss"
Slim Thug's album, Already Platinum, didn't even go platinum, which is funny. What isn't funny is the energy on this song. The boisterous horns make it a clear contender for HBCU crowd hype song. This is the Neptunes at their absolute prime, the work of true bosses. HDB
18. Scarface - "On My Block"
Scarface, one of the greatest rappers ever, takes you through just how it was growing up on his block in the south side of Houston. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't perfect. But it was precocious in its own right and well worth being the wistful feeling in the song. HDB
17. Trae ft. Z-Ro - "No Help"
Trae and Z-Ro make the most depressing music known to man, but also a little uplifting too because it's relatable. When they get together it's like Morrissey with a pint of lean dressed in an XXL shirt from Foot Locker. It's quite dramatic to bump your chest saying that you need absolutely no help, because you can do bad all on your own. But who hasn't had that moment, when you needed to blast this at 3:00 a.m. when the only thing up is self loathing? HDB
16. DJ DMD ft. Lil' Keke and Fat Pat - "25 Lighters"
There's Kendrick, Big K.R.I.T., Z-Ro and I'm sure even more who have taken the phrase, "25 lighters on my dresser, yes sir," and thrown it into one of their songs. The phrase traces back, in record, to 8 Ball and MJG. But this is perhaps the most fun iteration of it in its early days. It's funky and a bit of a dark horse that can shut down the right party when unexpected. HDB
15. Big Tuck - "T.U.C.K."
One of the many instances in which a Southern rapper proves himself way more clever than what was once expected of a Southern rapper by the general public above the Mason-Dixon. Case in point: chew on the mic like a mic buffet. HDB
14. Bun B ft. Pimp C, Z-Ro, Young Jeezy and Jay-Z - "Get Throwed"
Jay Z's was an early adopter when it came to collaborating with the South. Before New York became enamored in our style, slang and sensibilities, Jay-Z was on tracks with Juvenile, Silkk the Shocker and of course UGK. "Get Throwed" comes a bit after the hearts and minds of the country were won, but this song is a fiesta and round table of Southern greats with amazing bars throughout. But Jay Z too? Well, that's because he's kind of got dual citizenship. HDB
13. Dorrough - "Ice Cream Paint Job"
"Ice Cream Paint Job" is both a product of America's most brilliant creations and a disgusting blemish. The latter is the overwrought custom cars that got extremely gauche in the wake of "Pimp My Ride." Nobody needs seven plasma screens in the passenger side armrest. The other product, the one we can get behind, is a slab, which just has to look good and bang loud music. Your requirements don't involve cotton candy machines in the trunk, no. Just this:
- Fresh paint job?
- Fresh inside?
- Is the outside frame and the trunk wide?
- Are the rims big? Do it ride good?
If you've answered yes to the above, you've got a slab and may lean back, right hand on the pinewood and drive two miles per hour. HDB
12. Chalie Boy - "I Look Good"
This is an impenetrable song that is a low-key self-esteem booster. This should be played in therapy sessions across the nation. Even if you're wearing Starbury's and looking decidedly not good, this song makes you feel like Tommy Ton is dying to snap you at New York Fashion week, you draped up and dripped out maniac. HDB
11. Lil Keke - "Southside"
Out of all the dance-rap songs, this might be the only truly bearable one. Also, the Southside isn't some goofy dance that requires a week of one hour rehearsals before homeroom like all the shit kids are doing today. "Southside" was a shockingly mild mainstream hit when it dropped, peaking at No. 55 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. HDB
10. Blue, the Misfit - “No Care in the World”
Blue, the Misfit’s year was supposed to happen in 2014. After nearly a decade creating music, he’d surely put in those 10,000 hours that Mr. Gladwell speaks of. Alas, it wasn’t as gargantuan as it could’ve or perhaps should have been. The momentum dissipates and must be refocused on a new project. A particularly lasting effect that came of Blue, the Misfit’s debut solo album, Child In The Wild, was a genuinely great Dallas rap song. We’re guided through a debaucherous night about town, as he and his team paint the city a deep shade of red. It’s hard to come across a song that accurately depicts the decadence of the millennial generation’s brand of 20-something after-dark festivities while also keenly and slyly pointing to how hollow it all is, as the eerie production does so well. But ultimately, who gives a fuck? Pour up a cup of that turn up; you’re only young once. HDB
9. Devin the Dude - "Doobie Ashtray"
Bro do you even smoke? Fuck yes you do, because you went to college and you know there's not a track that better sums up the plight of the modern day smoker like Devin the Dude's digression on a world where everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. Namely, your supply is out. Life hits you in a lot of weird ways, like when the party ends and there's nothing left to help you end the night, and that sucks. Sometimes you need to sample Miriam Makeba to let the world know how bad things are. JPF
8. DSR - "Throwback"
They used to say the South couldn’t really rap. That we weren’t talking about anything. But suffice to say, the spirit of hip hop in its stage of infancy lived on in the South long after it was since abandoned for a new “lyrical” or “pop” flair in the “mecca.” A prime example of rap music staying true to its early days through the South is the Dirty South Rydaz’s throwback freestyle, which was just true. No real “substance” but a smattering of braggadocio, flamboyance and keen wordplay. HDB
7. Mike Jones Ft. Paul Wall, Slim Thug - “Still Tippin”
At the turn of the century, the Third Coast rose up, and for a brief time conquered the world of hip-hop with it's swampy beats, endless swag and cartoonish performers. “Still Tippin” features three of that period’s biggest success stories: Slim Thug would go on to be one of the elder statesmen of the scene, while Mike Jones would become one of the Internet's first big music sensations and Paul Wall would go on to be that guy everyone pretended to like. This is them at the peak of their powers, and it's a banger that makes you nostalgic for the world before people brought in indie artists to produce their tracks. JPF
6. DJ Screw - “June 27th”
The freestyle that created a genre and started a musical revolution. 35 minutes of freestyle for a friend's birthday over a patented Screw mix was a come-to-Jesus moment for the music of Houston. It's the moment everyone said, “Fuck it, Jolly Ranchers, Sprite and cough syrup is a great fucking idea. Let's do this shit.” And then they did, because this shit was so unlike anything anyone outside of the Screwed Up Clicks crew had heard before. We lost DJ Screw far too soon at the age of 29, but he did give us almost 300 mixtapes, and none were more important than No. 12. There's a reason June 27th is considered a holiday in Screwston; take a listen and you'll know why. JPF
5. UGK - “One Day”
I'm not sure there's a rap group from the South that has ever used soul samples as perfectly as UGK did in their early days. At the start of "One Day," we get a wailing Ron Isley, on full emotional display and a slow, mopey bassline to set the tone. There's a lot of material for such on the sampled record, an epic over eight minutes long called "Ain't I Been Good to You." The verses are completely unafraid of being a confessional and sharing a breadth of emotion. 3-2 lead's it off with a short verse about a shaky relationship with his mother because he sold drugs to survive. UGK follows up with a lush portrait of death, decay and the prison industrial complex in the American ghetto, where your life can just hinge on a dice game or your livelihood can always rest with an overzealous justice system. UGK is the master teacher here, low key helping us all stay a little more woke. HDB
4. Geto Boys - “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta”
Listen, we're not going to discuss that certain Mike Judge movie from the '90s that used this song perfectly in a montage. We're instead going to concentrate on the straight political fire spit by J. Prince on George H.W. Bush. In the height of the Geto Boys' popularity the group put out a best of album with a track that features the head of Rap-A-Lot records eviscerating the sitting president for his actions during the Gulf War. It's a brutal take down of presidential privilege and the real-life consequences of politics. W. got off easy with the Kanye line; H.W. got straight bunker bustered in this song. JPF
3. Z-Ro - “Mo City Don”
Let the truth be told: Z-Ro pulled a vintage Lil Wayne here and took another person’s beat and completely annihilated it. In this case, we’re not talking about anybody, we’re talking about Erik B and Rakim. If you cannot rap, verbatim, the first 10 bars or so of the “Mo City Don” freestyle you aren’t allowed to be a Texan. Or at least a card-carrying Texan who is mildly interested in rap music. No. If you don’t know what know what the trunk is full of, if you aren’t aware of what Z-Ro has never been, if you aren't privvy of what he blows on, you should be exiled to Oklahoma. HDB
2. Geto Boys - “Mind Playing Tricks On Me”
Listen, man, this track is just so fucking good. It's endlessly quotable, the hook sampled from an Issac Hayes track is instantly recognizable and Bushwick Bill's closing verse is a thing of beauty that perfectly sums up what it's like to have your world crowded by things that aren't there. It's perfect. There's no other way to describe it. It's the perfect rack that's maybe one of the most important pieces of music ever created. It belongs in a museum, it's that damn important. JPF
1. UGK ft. Outkast - “Int'l Players Anthem”
This song is so perfect and amazing that any couple that doesn't play this at least once during their wedding, well, I hope their marriage fails, crashes, burns and implodes. “Int'l Players Anthem” is nothing less than a power circle. This is exactly what you should expect when three of the greatest Southern — ahem, excuse me — greatest raps groups of all time jump on a single track together. DJ Paul and Juicy J of Three 6 Mafia produced the song, drawing a sample from Willie Hutch, the oft-overlooked soul singer who was born in Los Angeles but raised in Dallas. Hutch, a Booker T. High School grad, gave the world a beauty in “I Choose You,” which is chopped up and sped up to lay a gospel and triumphant foundation for the track. Though we’ll always instantly clamor over Andre 3000’s legendary verse from the moment he enters with the old-manish bars (“So, I typed a text to a girl I used to see”), every single verse is littered with old Southern-fried genius aphorisms on life and general player shit. Where else are you gonna get the wisdom that top-notch hoes get the most and not the lesser? Whose gonna make sure you're aware that Paul McCartney's lawyer's couldn't stop the slaughter of the pockets, the other side had a leg up? But ultimately, this is a beautiful songs despite some of the ugliness within it. It resembles a real relationship, and maybe our prevailing goal. Woody Allen says we're in it for the eggs. But the Bun B philosophy has its strong points as well: You know the game and how it goes; we're trying to get chose. HDB
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.