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As you’re probably aware, this Sunday is hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur’s birthday. But you might not know it also happens to be Father’s Day, the day of the year we set aside to give our Dads thanks for all the great Dad-stuff that they’ve done for us. While the hip-hop canon has largely dealt with overcoming the hardships of an absent father, there’s been plenty of tracks giving props to the ones who stuck around and raised their kids right as well. It is for all the Dads out there that we give props with our Father’s Day playlist.
Ed O.G. and the Bulldogs
“Be A Father To Your Child,” 1991
Hip-hop’s first quintessential cut for fathers was Boston MC Ed O.G. and the Bulldogs’ “Be A Father To Your Child.” Ed explains not only proper respect for mothers, but the why and how of the importance of being there for one’s children. By both breaking down missteps of trying to buy a kids’ love (“It’s not your presents, it’s the presence and the essence”) and urging both a level of empathy and understanding, it’s one of early ’90s rap’s most powerful parental plays.
“Biological Didn’t Bother,” 1994
Along with a superstar basketball, acting and video game career, one can’t forget Shaq’s time spent kicking the truth in the booth. His biggest non-Fu-Schnickens hit was probably 1994’s “Biological Didn’t Bother,” a tribute to Phil, the man who raised him when his biological father wasn’t around. It’s a genuinely touching tribute that breaks down how much impact a father figure could have on a child. It’s notable that Shaq has so much fatherly love for Phil, that he’s willing to find a way to rhyme “Want” and “Front.” That’s love.
“Just the Two of Us,” 1997
Before he was starring in poorly received M. Night Shyamalan movies with his other son Jaden, Will penned this ode to his oldest son Trey. At the absolute height of Big Willie Style-mania, the former Fresh Prince conveys the tenants of this “Very sensitive subject” with the thoughtful “Just the Two of Us.” A monster hit, the song’s aged surprisingly well (“101 Dalmations on your CD-ROM” aside), in both the first verse describing the impact of first having a child has on your life as well as the third verse’s fatherly wisdom. The song was later immortalized in the good Austin Powers sequel.
“Poppa Was a Player,” 1999
An outtake from Nas’ third album, 1999’s i am…, “Poppa Was a Player” describes his relationship with his father, jazz musician Olu Dara. It’s a unique take on the father-son relationship when the man of the house is a traveling musician, both showing their unique bond as well as the specific lessons Nas learned. The parental dynamic has always been an interesting topic in Nas’ catalog, most notably heard in his collaboration with his father “Bridging the Gap” and his acclaimed own parenting song “Daughters.”
See also: Five Great Nas Songs You May Have Missed
On the sadder side of fatherly tributes is Atmosphere’s heartbreaking 2008 track “Yesterday.” Here, after a case of mistaken identity, rapper Slug reflects on what his father meant to him and how his death ultimately affected him. A genuinely moving and fitting tribute, the upbeat melody gives the sad subject matter a tone of knowing the relationships we’ve had in our lives that are no longer should be remembered for the happiness they brought. Also worth checking out in a similar vein is Nyle’s “Hey Pop.”
Illogic and Blockhead
“Last Breath (Family Fabric), 2013
This year, Columbus MC Illogic teamed up with producer Blockhead for their Capture the Sun album, whose closing sequence featured the heartfelt “Last Breath (Family Fabric).” A tribute to the people that raised him, “Last Breath” expresses gratitude for Illogic’s mother, step-father who raised him and biological father who unfortunately passed on early in his life. It’s a wonderful tribute to the solid family life that loving parents can provide.