A few weeks ago, Carrie Armstrong (a fellow Huffington Post UK blogger) and I started swapping the occasional link to a hip-hop video, and since we're both huge fans of the genre we thought we should put a mixtape together of the best tunes that we knew. The theme of this mixtape is "feel-good", and we've selected five tracks each: I have taken the liberty of dividing it into two parts, the North Side (Carrie) and the South Side (me), since Carrie hails from Newcastle and I'm from just outside London. So here you go: we hope you like it. (If you're on Spotify, the playlist is here: spoti.fi/1164Mhn )
NORTH SIDE, tracks 1-5 (Carrie's Selection):
When I was in high school I had a boyfriend called Jamie Murray. We would sit and listen to this on repeat for hours, whilst mentally taking over the world. When I hear this I am transported back to my St Benet Biscop School Uniform, Jamie by my side, sneaking cigarettes out his bedroom window (sorry Mrs Murray).
Do I speak French? Do I heck-as-like. But when I listen to MC Solaar in general, and "Noveau Western" in particular, I feel like God is kissing me right on the face.
This song is joy to me. What more can I say?
Oh Carrie now that's naughty-sticking a Neo Soul artist in there like that-did you think no one would notice? I know, I know but he is a genius. And look Method Man & Redman came out to play too and they went to hip hop school so it's fine. Fact Alert; did you know Q-Tip was supposed to be the contributing artist, but his verse didn't mesh well so he was replaced by Method Man & Redman. Now I love Q-Tip but their gritty sound makes this track as far as I'm concerned.
In what must be the most randomly specific case of body dysmorphia ever recorded, I spent many of my formative years believing I was Erykah Badu. I'm not though. She is. I checked. Nevertheless I love this song. Every time I hear this I feel like my ears are taking a warm bubble bath. Bliss.
SOUTH SIDE, tracks 6-10 (Musa's Selection):
Luniz - "I Got 5 On It"
This tune...yes, I know it's an ode to smoking weed but it's a lot more than that; well, to me anyway. I went on a school trip to Russia in 1996, and during the overnight sleeper between Moscow and St. Petersburg I had this on constant repeat. There was something about the combination of listening to drugged-out funk while peering out at icy lakes and snow-coated fields that was as peaceful an experience as I can remember.
Q-Tip - "Let's Ride"
From the opening drum kick this track is a winner. Guaranteed to prompt head-nodding swagger every time I hear it. Q-Tip, as the title suggests, cruising in his vehicle, and boasting about it. The man who made smugness an art form.
The Roots - "What They Do"
Everything about this is correct. It's the only one of these five songs I've named that makes me slightly wistful, as it reminds me of the first few times I visited North America, and on each occasion it was warm and welcoming. This was, in my view, the best-produced tune on the best Roots album - about the closest thing that hip-hop has produced to an imploring lullaby. Beautiful and soothing.
Outkast - "So Fresh, So Clean"
This piece of music is spectacularly pleased with itself. Always puts me in the best of moods whenever it's on. "Ain't nobody dope as me/I'm just so fresh and clean." Big Boi and Andre 3000 at their peak, in perfect sync. What's not to love?
Busta Rhymes and Zhane - "It's A Party"
Definitely the most unsung dancefloor-filler I have ever heard. Bouce, swing and understated attitude. A houseparty essential, the first hint on Busta's debut LP of the pop route he would so successfully take. As they say, "Tuuuuuuuune."