The 10 best rap songs about death focus on its many forms. Be it gangsters who murder to advance their careers, revenge killings, killing for the joy of it, thoughts on the nature of death itself, or dedications to dead loved ones, this list covers all the bases.
- “Just to Get a Rep” – GangStarr. A classic in its own right, GangStarr’s signature tune is about the lengths some people will go to get ahead in the game. It ends with the most striking lines in the song: “But shorty said, ‘Now’/ Pulled the trigger and stepped/ It was nothing/ He did it just to get a rep.”
- “I Seen a Man Die” – Scarface. A moody, atmospheric treatise on humanity and death, it remains one of Scarface’s most well-known songs 16 years after its release. “I watch him die and when he dies let us celebrate/ You took his life, but his memory you'll never take/ You'll be headed to another place/ And the life you used to live will reflect in your mother's face.”
- “Who Shot Ya?” – Notorious B.I.G. The hip-hop rumor mill will claim this is a diss at 2Pac after he was shot in the lobby of Biggie’s recording studio. Biggie claimed otherwise, of course. Whether directed at 2Pac or his enemies, there’s no denying Biggie’s intention. “You’ll die slow but calm/ Recognize my face/ So there won’t be no mistake.”
- “Murder Ink” – Dr. Dre (featuring Hitman & Ms. Roq). Sampling that freaky theme music from the movie Halloween, the irony here is that Dr. Dre doesn’t appear on this dark, sinister track. But that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best rap songs about death as Hitman opines: “As I dig into my tragic bag, take out the HK/ Twist on the silencer, insert the thirty-shot mag/ Bullet stuck to his brain like a mack/ Skull in fragments, I leave the cleanup to Dragnet.”
- “How I Could Just Kill A Man” – Cypress Hill. The most party-oriented of the rap songs about death, it’s so much fun you can sing along without feeling guilty. “I got the clearance/ To run the interference/ Into your satellite/ Shinin’ a battle light/ Swing out the gat/ And I know that will gat ya’ right.”
- “Stan” – Eminem. Eminem shone a spotlight on the personality cult that can push fans to do crazy things. One of the most profound rap songs about death in the last decade. “You coulda’ rescued me from drowning/ Now it's too late/ I'm on a 1000 downers now/ I'm drowsy.”
- “T.R.O.Y. (They Reminisce Over You)” – Pete Rock & CL Smooth. Inspired by the passing of a friend by the same name. Unlike many of the best rap songs about death, “T.R.O.Y.” is a breezy tune focusing on the good times shared with their departed pal. “How did you and I meet?/ In front of Big Lou's, fighting in the street/ But only you saw what took many time to see/ I dedicate this to you for believing in me.”
- “Tha Crossroads” – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. The death of mentor and producer Eazy-E prompted the group to record “Tha Crossroads” in honor of all the loved ones no longer with them. “It's steadily creeping up on the family/ Exactly how many days we got lasting/ While you laughing we're passing, passing away.”
- “Hit ‘Em Up” – 2Pac. 2Pac’s retort to Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya?”, this song is pure venom from start to finish. And like real venom, it aims to kill. The most ferocious rap song about death that you can find short of horrorcore. The chorus says it all: “Grab your glocks when you see 2Pac/ Call the cops when you see 2Pac/ Who shot me/ But your punks didn't finish/ Now you 'bout to feel the wrath of a menace.”
- “The Message” – Dr. Dre. Dedicated to Dre’s deceased brother Tyree. There are so many good lines to quote that excluding any of them is a crime, but Dre sums up the track best with these poignant lines: “I’m feelin’ like my whole world is blinded/ Wonderin’ why/ Cryin’, pourin’ out my heart/ Pourin’ out liquor behind it.”
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