A mainstay on Detroit’s hip-hop circuit for years, Guilty Simpson caught his big break when the late great J Dilla began working with him in the early ’00s. The burly street narrator’s effectively balanced grimy and underground aesthetics ever since – finding a frequent creative foil in Madlib, and like-minded collaborators in Black Milk and Sean Price in the super-trio Random Axe. Simpson’s latest finds him returning to his Motor City roots with Dice Game (Mello Music Group), a collaborative LP with fellow ‘D’ rep, producer Apollo Brown very much informed by his graduation “from the ranks of hopeless.” Asked to share some insight into the recordings that shaped his life, Guilty reveals thug life’s soundtrack can be both rugged and relaxed.
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1. Bob James - "Far From Turtle" (Warner Bros., 1990)
Guilty Simpson: My favorite song ever, honestly. I first heard this when I was younger and my mother played it often. I like that it’s a jazz song with no vocals, just instruments. Being that I’m a hip-hop artist, many would think I’d prefer something different, but this is the best to me. The mood of the song always puts me in deep thought. The piano and bassline of the song compliment each other very well. It changed my life because it made me hear music differently. It made me appreciate music and realize melody can create a story like actual words can.
2. Sade - "Bullet Proof Soul" (Epic, 1992)
Guilty Simpson: This song is beautiful to me. Sade has an intoxicating voice that’s very relaxing. She doesn’t try to over sing the song at all. The words of the song are on another level, unlike so many songs today that sound like rap lyrics being sung. This song changed me because it made me appreciate a more mature sound in music.
3. Eazy-E - "The Boyz-N-The Hood" (Ruthless, 1987)
Guilty Simpson: This was one of the first memories I have of gangster music. I remember feeling like I was going to get in trouble for listening to it. I knew what it was, I didn’t want to go out and kill anybody but it made me feel like I was doing something bad by listening to it and that was enough for me. I remember being addicted as soon as I heard it. This changed my ear for rap music contents. I liked that danger!
4. 2Pac ft. Stretch - "Pain" (Death Row, 1994)
Guilty Simpson: This track is so dope to me. It represents a time in my life with friends and family. Many aren’t here with us anymore and this track was the soundtrack to when they were. Tupac had a rare gift to put emotion on records and this record is one of them. The singing on the record is really an instrument as opposed to the extra stuff I hear in a lot of records. This record changed me because it made me know a record can really capture a time period. When I hear it my mind actually goes back!
5. The Gap Band - "Outstanding" (Total Experience, 1982)
Guilty Simpson: This reminds me of being younger at family reunions. Charlie Wilson fathered your favorite singers style, haha! This song is so fly to me.