The last few days I’ve been listening pretty much exclusively to my running playlists and Beyonce (more on that to come). But one of my favorite playlists is my Rap & Hip-Hop running playlist. There are definitely days I want to indulge in guilty pleasures or an eclectic mix of music, but more often than not this is the playlist that keeps me the most pumped up. I’ve found that a lot of people who put together hip-hop playlists for running focus on the obvious radio rap (Kanye, T.I.). There’s nothing wrong with that (although there might be something wrong with the amount of Black Eyed Peas that shows up on those playlists), but I tend to favor a bit more variety. Besides, Kanye makes appearances on my other playlists, so I like to dial him down here. I’ve also left off any songs that I previously posted on other playlists.
I know rap and hip-hop isn’t everyone’s thing. To that I say, you’re just not listening to the right songs and artists, because I really believe there is something for everyone. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you listen exclusively to country and obscure modern operas. If that’s the case, probably just stop reading now.
I’ll throw my usual disclaimer on this playlist by noting that not all of these songs are the *best* that rap & hip-hop have to offer. They will, however, get your ass running. It is a longer playlist, so feel free to pick and choose the songs that work best for you.
Rap & Hip-Hop
- D-Block – Mighty, Mighty D-Block : There’s nothing like a good chant set to some militaristic drumming to get you feeling ready to run. Again, this is near the beginning because it’s the type of song I like to listen to while I jog over to the track.
- 50 Cent – In Da Club : Because no playlist is complete without a song that could be played on repeat at a frat party. Or maybe that’s just me.
- Beastie Boys – Intergalactic : I’m not the biggest Beastie Boys fan (I can appreciate Paul’s Boutique without loving everything about it), but I do love running to this song, and it’s a good way to mix up the style of a playlist.
- Outkast – B.O.B. : Outkast has several songs that could have made this list, but B.O.B. has a higher BPM and a go-go-go feel to it that makes it perfect for picking up the pace.
- Dr. Dre – Forgot About Dre (Feat. Eminem) : There’s a lot of Dre that’s good to run too, but this is another one of those shoulder wiggling songs that makes me look really stupid while I’m running and ensures that I’m having a great time. Plus I always like a little “I’m way better than you” when I’m running.
- Brand Nubian – Concerto in X Minor : From the first “We got a really big show” to the last “I’m outta here” you can’t not love this song. Or you can and you’re just the worst. This is one of those songs I love listening to every single time, and the lyrics are just spot on. The funky jazzy vibe is just an added bonus.
- Big Boi – Daddy Fat Sax : This whole album was pretty much my jam for an entire summer (Tangerine & Shutterbug got a lot of play time), but Daddy Fat Sax in particular has that sassy beat that’s great to run to. It’s shorter as well, and helps to keep song length varied and interesting.
- Gang Star – Check the Technique : I love California Soul (particularly the Marlena Shaw version), so Premier sampling it had me on board from the start. Plus maybe you’ll remember to have good running technique? Okay that’s a stretch, I know, it’s just a really good song.
- The Roots – Here I Come : You will be pumped up by this song. The Roots will set your feet on fire and get you moving. If they don’t, you and I need to have a very serious talk.
- Killer Mike & Big Boi – ADIDAS : So maybe they’re not dreaming about sports, but tell me that beat doesn’t make you want to smile while you run. Awkward smile-dance-running is my specialty.
- Young Jeezy – Crazy World : Okay let’s just agree that Young Jeezy has a silly sounding voice. But then again so do a lot of people (I’m looking at you Bjork), and none of them have made anything this fun to run to.
- Ludacris – Move Bitch : In the 7th grade when I still thought I was a badass (I got over that quickly), I was feuding with another equally badass 7th grader, and this song kind of became my anthem, as songs so often do in 7th grade. In the intervening years I’ve become considerably more self-aware, but I haven’t abandoned this as an awesome pump up and get mad song.
- Jay-Z – Moment of Clarity : At this point if you’re trying to be in the zone it doesn’t get much better than this. Some of his more popular songs might be a little more MTV generation approved (Izzo, something from the abominable Blueprint 3), but in my opinion Moment of Clarity is one of the best running or workout songs ever. (Also worth considering: Lucifer)
- Ghostface Killah – Apollo Kids (Feat. Raekwon) : For a while I had a bunch of Raekwon on my running playlist, but he was recently ousted because honestly a lot of the songs just weren’t that fun for me to run to. As a way of killing two birds with one stone I added this into my rotation, because it’s got two people I love and also includes the line “Ayo this rap is like ziti.” Say what, Ghostface?
- Freeway – Freeway’s Beard : It’s a song about His. Own. Beard. Can you get any better than that? “Plenty beards Em could’ve jumped up in and vanished / but he picked mine, best beard on the planet.”
- T.I. – Respect This Hustle : There’s a reason T.I. makes it onto a lot of running playlists: it just works. But I like a good spelling lesson, therefore I give you the song that demands respect while giving a school-worthy lesson on hustling.
- Andre Nickatina – Ayo for Yayo : While I don’t condone getting drugged up before a run, I do condone listening to this song on repeat. And mouthing along while you run, ensuring that everyone at the track/gym/running route will stare at you.
- Dilated Peoples – This Way : If you hadn’t noticed by now I love the Save the Best For Last mentality when it comes to running playlists. This is a bit of a staple on some running playlists, and for good reason. Motivational? Catchy? Unexpected use of a piano? Yes, yes, and yes.
- Wu Tang Clan – Protect Ya Neck
- Talib Kweli – Ms. Hill
- The Roots – Adrenaline!
- CunninLynguists – 616 Rewind
- Kid Cudi – cudderisback
- The Knux – Bang Bang
- Bun B – Damn I’m Cold
- Jean Grae – Fall Back
- Lil’ Wayne – Got Money
- Rick Ross – Push It
- The Roots – The Seed (2.0)
Good Cool Down/Stretching Songs (or warm up):
- Lil’ Wayne – Let The Beat Build
- The Roots – The Fire : In the interest of diversity I tried to keep each artist to a minimum, but I don’t really think you can ever have too much Questo. I leave you with, “You don’t say good luck, you say don’t give up, it’s the fire inside ya.” Preach.
I don’t know why this playlist is so much longer than my other ones (and this is after I left some songs off), but it’s certainly fun to run to. Even if you’re just looking for a good rap/hip-hop playlist that’s on the upbeat side I recommend taking a listen. I know this list skews towards less music from the last few years, and I don’t think has anything from the last year, so is there anything more recent I’m missing? Other suggestions for good rap and hip-hop to run to?