By Lindsay Zoladz

Dear listeners,

Last week, the Times published a sprawling interactive package called 50 Rappers, 50 Stories, celebrating the upcoming 50th anniversary of hip-hop.* The day it ran, I set aside about 10 minutes to start browsing during lunch; the next thing I knew, more than an hour and a half had passed. It’s one of those kinds of projects.

My colleagues spoke with — you guessed it — 50 different rappers about their careers and relationships with hip-hop, and the result is a mosaic of varied voices and narratives that run parallel and intersect in unexpected ways (like the Cash Money poet Lil Wayne and the New York provocateur Azealia Banks both identifying as theater kids). LL Cool J talks about meeting Paul Simon for the first time (“I’m gonna be honest with you, I didn’t even know who Paul Simon was, bro”); 50 Cent takes style inspiration from Juvenile (“Get me some baby oil!”); Cardi B cites the precise moment she traded in Barney the Dinosaur for Missy Elliott. Trust me, it’s all a delight.

My fellow pop music critic Jon Caramanica and culture reporter Joe Coscarelli helmed the editorial end of this ambitious project and did many of the interviews themselves. They also created a comprehensive, roughly chronological 50-track playlist featuring all the artists they chatted with, and I can’t recommend that enough.

But I thought it would be fun to have them put together a separate one for The Amplifier, featuring some deep cuts and personal favorites. The result is a playlist encompassing a variety of eras and regions, featuring plenty of marquee names (Cam’ron, Outkast) alongside entries from some of the more outré corners of hip-hop (Lil B, Trippie Redd). Consider this the remix.

In his introductory essay for the project, Caramanica writes that hip-hop “is far too vast to be contained under one tent, or limited to one narrative. The genre is gargantuan, nonlinear and unruly.”

“So,” he continues, “when trying to catalog hip-hop in full, it’s only reasonable to lean into the cacophony.” Which is how I’d instruct you to listen to this playlist.

Listen along on Spotify as you read.

1. Goodie Mob featuring Outkast: “Black Ice (Sky High)” (1998)

Later alluded to in Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky,” this moody single about life’s hidden slippery spots from the second Goodie Mob album, “Still Standing,” is a showcase for Big Gipp’s hook writing and worn wisdom, with two acrobatic verses from his Dungeon Family kin — Big Boi and Andre 3000 of Outkast — that previewed the assured flamboyance of their third album, “Aquemini.” (Listen on YouTube) JOE COSCARELLI

2. E-40: “Practice Lookin’ Hard” (1993)

E-40 has been twisting words for well over three decades, with a dizzying approach to rhyme construction that plays with pitch and pace as much as language. This is a fairly linear storytelling rap, but his approach is frisky and surprising, with lyrics that creep up on you quickly or move at a deliberately slow pace. Also, this is likely the only hip-hop song in history to mention the card game whist. (Listen on YouTube) JON CARAMANICA

3. dead prez: “Tallahassee Days” (2003)

Recalling the fading of his adolescence in dead-end Florida, stic of the revolutionary-minded duo dead prez paints his artistic and outlaw provenance as one and the same — “kill or be killed” desperation, because “a job is a joke” — on this quick track from “Turn Off the Radio: The Mixtape, Vol. 2: Get Free or Die Tryin’.” “Whoever said life is beautiful lied,” he raps. (Listen on YouTube) COSCARELLI

4. Cam’ron featuring UGK, Juelz Santana, Ludacris and Trina: “What Means the World to You (Remix)” (2000)

This remix of a classic Cam’ron song has it all: one of the jauntiest beats in hip-hop history, Cam’ron’s dazzling interior rhyme schemes and naughty appearances from two other rappers in this package, Bun B and Trina. (Listen on YouTube) CARAMANICA

5. Lil B and Soulja Boy Tell Em: “Cooking Dance” (2010)

Pairing two early YouTube savants at the height of their anything-goes, post-CD but pre-streaming powers, this 2010 track from the “Pretty Boy Millionaires” mixtape immortalized the Based God’s signature kitchen movements via his free-associative Dada flow, in which Lil B is both “feeling like Fabio” and ad-libbing at will: “Cook! Steak! Chef! Pots! Chef! Pots! Chef! Cook!” (Listen on YouTube) COSCARELLI

6. Paul Wall & Chamillionaire: “N Luv Wit My Money” (2002)

One of the standout tracks from “Get Ya Mind Correct,” the 2002 collaborative album between the Houston rappers Paul Wall and Chamillionaire, “N Luv Wit My Money” is a lightly comic, utterly serious ode to flashy wealth. Wall was still rapping aggressively here, before he fully found his slow flow: “I love my car like it was my girlfriend: I like to caress the grain/Fondled the wheel and I got aroused/I swung in the ditch and I wrecked the frame.” (Listen on YouTube) CARAMANICA

7. Azealia Banks: “Anna Wintour” (2018)

As Banks told me, she is often derided for failing to deliver on her early hip-hop promise by pivoting to house music, “‘a.k.a white people music.’ I’m like, honey, no. House music is Black music. Everything I do is in the spirit of hip-hop.” On this 2018 one-off single, a vogue track named for the Vogue editor, Banks threads the two sounds seamlessly. (Listen on YouTube) COSCARELLI

8. Trippie Redd featuring 6ix9ine: “Poles1469” (2017)

Trippie Redd and 6ix9ine have been at odds for years now, but here’s an early collaboration from simpler times full of the elegiac melodies that have made Trippie Redd the stalwart veteran of the SoundCloud rap movement. This is a sweet, dreamy song about the stuff of nightmares, playful in a way that suggests no consequences lurk around the corner. (Listen on YouTube) CARAMANICA

9. Roc Marciano: “Wheat 40’s” (2020)

A cascade of sly punchlines, wordplay and unlikely juxtaposition (“I need therapy and a speedboat”), this song from the 2020 album “Mt. Marci” demonstrates Marciano’s economy of language and easy evocation, all while maintaining his character’s Mafioso frigidity: “Ma, I’m just a hooligan/I make this kind of rap cool again/She say I’m way cooler than Max Julian/You ain’t gotta ask who he is, we the loopiest/My character in the movie script is truly at the nucleus.” (Listen on YouTube) COSCARELLI

10. Ice Spice: “No Clarity” (2021)

It’s been less than two years since the Bronx rapper Ice Spice released this lite-drill revision of Zedd’s EDM anthem “Clarity.” All the elements for success were already there — the patient rapping, the raw emotional content, the as-if kiss-offs. Here, a tragedy in three acts: “You woulda thought that I missed you/But you was a thot, it’s a issue/Your bro was the one that I went to.” (Listen on YouTube) CARAMANICA

What the world means to me,


*As Caramanica notes in his essay, “As for the 50th anniversary, well, it is a framing of convenience. The date refers to Aug. 11, 1973, when DJ Kool Herc — in the rec room of the apartment building at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx — reportedly first mixed two copies of the same album into one seamless breakbeat. That is, of course, one way to think about hip-hop’s big-bang moment, but by no means the only one.”

The Amplifier Playlist

Listen on Spotify. We update this playlist with each new newsletter.

“50 Rappers, 50 Stories (Remix)” track list
Track 1: Goodie Mob featuring Outkast, “Black Ice (Sky High)”
Track 2: E-40, “Practice Lookin’ Hard”
Track 3: dead prez, “Tallahassee Days”
Track 4: Cam’ron featuring UGK, Juelz Santana, Ludacris and Trina, “What Means the World to You (Remix)”
Track 5: Lil B and Soulja Boy Tell ’Em, “Cooking Dance”
Track 6: Paul Wall & Chamillionaire, “N Luv Wit My Money”
Track 7: Azealia Banks, “Anna Wintour”
Track 8: Trippie Redd featuring 6ix9ine, “Poles1469”
Track 9: Roc Marciano, “Wheat 40’s”
Track 10: Ice Spice, “No Clarity”

Bonus Tracks

Sinead O’Connor forever. “O’Connor was never quiet about her pain,” Amanda Petrusich writes, bracingly, for The New Yorker, “even when it would have been easier to swallow or evade it — in fact, being unapologetic about the crippling weight of certain sorrows was the defining characteristic of her work.”

In the aftermath of O’Connor’s death, a number of beautiful tributes have been published considering many different angles of her prismatic legacy. Our own Jon Caramanica wrote about her most infamous and misunderstood act of protest (she “was daring the cameras, and the viewers, to look away; no one did”), while Una Mullally explored O’Connor’s relationship to Ireland and Vanessa Friedman considered the resonant rebellion of O’Connor’s shaved head.

If a playlist is what you’re looking for, Jon Pareles has you covered with his reflection on 10 of O’Connor’s most powerful songs.

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