Today marks twenty-five years since the release of Stanley Kubrick’s gripping Vietnam War drama, Full Metal Jacket. And while most heads may not necessarily associate this movie directly with hip-hop, it’s easy to see the influence that both it and other war flicks have had upon rap (the infamous “Me love you long time” sample in 2 Live Crew’s “Me So Horny,” for instance). Thus, in order to celebrate the silver anniversary of this classic, UpNorthTrips handpicked some great “War” titled (thought not necessarily war-related), battle-tested rap joints and put them in a raw as hell mix.
“There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from…”
Killarmy — “War Face”
Album: Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars
Breakdown: Where the original Wu-Members drew inspiration from the martial arts, these Wu affiliates repped the military influence, both physically (they dressed in fatigues in their videos) and lyrically (all their albums are war-themed). This RZA-produced song’s intro lifts the voice of the drill instructor everyone loves to hate, Sgt. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket, making it the ideal track to set off our War Report mix.
Quotable: “N*ggas best to witness/ At how I gets to business/ Soldier from the trenches/ My offense be my defense with military sequence.” — Beretta 9
Pace Won — “I Declare War”
Breakdown: The Brick City representing, punchline spitting Outsidaz member declared war on the Mayor over this funky track. Pace’s voice, flow, and lyricism go down in our books as unjustly overlooked, and this record is proof. Pace mashes over the track, produced by Ski Beatz, with no chorus, straight bars.
Quotable: “Terrorist n*ggas want the bomb, I’m here/ Quick to cop, pop me in their CD-ROM and stare.”
OC ft. Organized Konfusion — “War Games”
Breakdown: OC made his official rap debut on the 1991 Organized Konfusion cut, “Fudge Pudge,” then returned the favor by reuniting with the Queen’s duo on this Premier-blessed track from his second album. The Crooklyn Dodger #2 drops three armed and dangerous verses while Po and Monch handle the chorus duties. The track and the album itself are both criminally slept-on.
Quotable: “Havin’ a pity for foes, fuck G.I. Joe/ He’s a sucker, slap the taste outta wild motherfuckas.” – OC
Kool G. Rap ft. MF Grimm, B1 — “Take ‘Em To War”
Breakdown: Not only does G. Rap bring a vest (check), a gun (check), and two clips (check) to war, but he brought a young MF Grimm and B1 along with him on the mission. G Rap’s machine gun like delivery proves that no shortage of weaponry can stop the Kool Genius when he brings his rapid fire flow. Not to mention those infamous, dark, grimy strings that emphasize how sinister this track is.
Quotable: “You got beef? Go get yourself a wreath because it’s murder/ ‘Cause I put holes in my beef like fuckin’ White Castle burgers.” – Kool G. Rap
Eric B & Rakim — “Casualties of War”
Album: Don’t Sweat The Technique
Breakdown: On one of rap’s classic anti-war tracks, Ra grabs a rifle, dons a helmet and transforms into a soldier. Vividly describing the pains and agonies of combat life, we hear the struggles that every soldier faces of being away from his family and city, all while striving to not come home in a coffin.
Quotable: “Cause it ain’t no way I’m going back to war when I don’t know who or what I’m fighting for.”
Nas — “War Is Necessary”
Album: Grand Theft Auto IV Soundtrack
Breakdown: Another great song included in Nas’ deep catalog of rarities. This one was also featured in the actual GTA IV game, but nevertheless this joint stayed off of most people’s radar. Producer Wyldfyer (who also produced the Jay-Z/Nas banger, “Black Republican”)’s beat matches Nas’ fast-paced flow, as God’s Son spins stories of street tales, both old and new.
Quotable: “Who’s crew was realist?/ Shot up the movie theaters, Time’s Square/ ’88, who’s crew was in it?”
Mos Def — “War”
Album: New Danger
Breakdown: By the time of the release of Mos’ sophomore album, we watched him graduate from an open-mic rocking MC from Brooklyn to a strong-voiced, national spokesman for hip-hop. He crafted his songs to address and sometimes challenge many social issues. On this Psycho Les-produced joint, Mos only needed one verse to let us know that war is all about the C.R.E.A.M.: “War is a global economic phenomenon.”
Quotable: “Curtains up on the theater of warfare/ Dramatic politics nightly preformed there.”
Black Moon — “War Zone”
Album: War Zone
Breakdown: How could we possibly complete this list without including at least one Boot Camp Clik representative? On the title track to their long-awaited second album, General Buck squares off with 5FT, while Heltah Skeltah’s Rock handles the chorus like a .50 caliber machine gun in the trenches.
Quotable: “It’s a war inside my head, but I stay nappy.” — Buckshot
Busta Rhymes ft. M.O.P. — “Ready For War”
Breakdown: On Busta’s fourth album, we got a precursor to what we would later be one of rap’s most hype, rowdy, adrenaline-laced cuts ever, the “Ante Up” remix. Point blank, mixing M.O.P and Busta Rhymes is like mixing gunpowder with a static charge. Putting these dudes on the same track results in one thing: “FIYYYAAAH!” (*M.O.P. voice*)
Quotable: “Sneak the guns right in, y’all keep tryin’/ And I’m a check all pussies like a G-Y-N.” – Lil Fame
U-God ft. Inspectah Deck & Street Life — “Semi-Automatic Full Rap Metal Jacket”
Album: High School High Soundtrack
Breakdown: Although this joint doesn’t fit within the format of war-titled rap records, it was definitely the right place to end this mix. Not quite the most famous of the Clan’s nine members, Golden Arms and the Rebel INS drop some memorable verses here, and are flanked by the sharp shooting lyrics of the Wu’s extended fam, Street Life.
Quotable: “I set the mic in flames, bomb like fighter planes/ MCs are shot down long range with sniper aim.” – Inspectah Deck