The best hip-hop songs from around the world.


I love you, Dizzee Rascal (2003)
Whether or not grime is hip-hop is an ongoing debate, but no one can argue that Dizzee Rascal brought the uniquely English genre to the world stage. The pace and flow of Dizzee’s hit is proto-grime, all aggressive jungle and garage beats over fast rhymes that still sound smooth at 140bpm. I Luv U didn’t start grime, but it catapulted it into the public consciousness.

Soweto, Professional Boy (2005)
There are rappers who put entire cities on the map. Think Meek Mill and Philadelphia or Drake and Toronto. Soweto’s Pro Kid was another of these, popularizing a regional hip-hop style born and raised in the famed Johannesburg suburb. Soweto has all the triumphant swagger of Jay-Z or Rick Ross rhyming over a classic Just Blaze beat, but Pro Kid also brought a distinctive vocabulary of Sowetan slang and vernacular to the table, creating something sublime in the process.

How to Rap About Africa, Black Vulcanite (2016)
In 2005, Kenyan author and journalist Binyavanga Wainaina wrote a satirical essay titled How to write about Africa. It became a critical landmark, satirizing those who would come to the continent and follow a tired formula that highlighted stereotypical narratives about poverty, genocide and corruption. A decade later, Namibian group Black Vulcanite set Wainaina’s rehearsal to music, giving it a seething beat that takes cues from iconic producers like DJ Premier and Madlib. The resulting song, How to Rap About Africa, is less ironic and more caustically critical, taking the anti-establishment fire of Public Enemy and Dead Prez into a whole new era and geography.

Secondary Town, Stogie T (2016)
South Africa’s hip-hop scene is one of the most mature in the world and has produced some of the most artistically talented MCs this side of Queens. But even in that crowded field, the Stogie T stands out. The 38-year-old MC showcased his chops on the Sway in the Morning radio show, freestyling flawlessly to Nas’s NY State of Mind beat. It was a star-making moment, but Stogie T has been rhyming since the turn of the millennium, including the standout song Sub City from his 2016 self-titled album.

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