Rappers have arguably the biggest egos of anyone in the music industry, at least between the late 90s to mid 2000s when “Bling Rap” was at its peak. Entire songs centered around how big your car’s rims were, how much your pinky ring was valued and even about how much money you could invest in your mouth. While rappers today still rhyme about their ego and everything they have, the genre has evolved into a more emotional aspect and ditching catchy hooks in favor of storytelling and subject manner. But when it comes to the Bling Era artists, they couldn’t be out done; the bigger the ego, the bigger the chain.
It would be impossible to talk about this era and make this playlist without Lil’ Wayne. His hook on B.G.’s “Bling Bling” speaks for itself for inclusion on this list. “Everyt ime I come around yo city bling bling. Pinky ring worth about fifty bling bling. Every time I buy a new ride bling bling.” The song is often credited for popularizing the phrase “Bling bling” and its release in 1999 signified a changing of the guard from the hood and gangsta rap from the 80s and 90s to what happens when those artists get paid.
Nelly was the king of pop rap during this era, but he also managed to give the bling era one of its defining hits with “Grillz” featuring Paul Wall, Ali and Gipp. The song is drenched in bling rhymes and flash; you can hear the gleam of gold and diamonds without watching the music video for the track. Paul Wall’s verse is the kicker with lines like “Open up my mouth and you see more carrots than a salad,” or “People call me George Foreman cause I’m sellin’ everybody grills.” Wall is known for his icey mouth and mentions it on some other hit songs from the era like Mike Jones’ “Still Tippin’” and Kanye West’s “Drive Slow,” but it’s “Grillz” where Nelly Nels, Wall, Ali and Gipp put on their Sunday best dental wear and deliver a hit for the age.
T.I. started from dirty south/bling/pop that has manifested into a career with momentum that doesn’t seem to stop. His track “24’s” was never absent from high schoolers’ cars at the Sonic Drive-In after its 2004 release. The track’s hook sums it all up “Money. Hoes. Cars and clothes, that’s how all my partners know. Blowin’ dro, 24s, that’s how all my partners roll.” At this point in bling, it wasn’t enough to just have chains and rings, oh no, your car had to be decked out as well and if it wasn’t on 24s, then you couldn’t be a member of the King of the South’s court.
Rich Boy burst onto the scene in 2007 with his hit “Throw Some D’s” while his rapping skills were average at best, Rich Boy left an impact on the hip-hop and the automotive scene (much like T.I.’s “24’s”) with the hook “Throw some D’s on that bitch.” The song isn’t much more than just a hook, but for the era it’s a fun song to bounce around to and features a few clever bars from producer Polow Da Don and a beat that’s guaranteed to be stuck in your head after one listen. The only thing to ask after hearing this song is “When can I get some D’s?”
Lil’ Wayne makes his second appearance on this list on Fat Joe’s track “Make it Rain.” You’d be hard pressed to go anywhere without hearing this song’s hook, literally anywhere this was on the radio, gas stations and high schools proms across the country. If “24’s” and “Throw Some D’s” is about what you do with your car, then “Make it Rain” is what you do with all your leftover cash. “Yeah, I’m in this bitch wit’ da terror. Got a handful of stacks. Better grab an umbrella. I make it rain, I make it rain, I make it rain on them hos,” Weezy croaks on the track’s chorus. Fat Joe is reliable as always, but the track does suffer from not having a verse from Lil’ Wayne. Regardless, Wayne once again popularized a phrase for the rap community for years to come.
It would be hard to talk about this era of rap without mentioning 50 Cent, and while his hit “In Da Club” is absolutely a club anthem and would be right at home on this list, “How We Do” with The Game is more appropriate. When the single dropped in 2004 alongside The Game’s debut LP “The Documentary,” 50 and The Game were inseparable with this hit and a follow-up “Hate It or Love It.” Unfortunately the duo are caught up in a feud but not without giving the Bling Era a hit with lines like, “I put Lamborghini doors on that Es-co-lade,” 50 croons as he opens his first verse.
“Fresh like Impala. Chrome Hydraulics, 808 drums,” as The Game begins his first bars. The song has an infectious beat and both MCs aren’t afraid to stretch their tough guy persona and wrap around their tough guys cars. This is what you listen to when you cruising around at night and you want to impress.
Mannie Fresh has always been more known for music video cameos, features, and most recently productions….if you can find him. But his track “Real Big” is the epitome of Bling Rap. Everything on this track is big: his chain, his cars, his jewelry, the people he hangs out with. EVERYTHING. The track’s chorus hits this home going “House real big. Cars real big. Belly real big. Everything real big. Rims real big. Pockets real big. Rings real big. Let me tell you how I live. Like that, buy that, 24’s ride that. Ladies, gentlemen, gangstas, pimps, mammas, daddys, stunnas, Shiners. I’m rich bitch, I’m a real Big Tymer!” Fresh spends the entire song rapping about how bigger is always better and 13 years after release it’s amusing to see how some MCs prefer casual over flash.
In short, the bling era was all about fancy cars, big chains and being better than the next guy. While for some MCs today that philosophy is still the same, it’s fun to go back and listen to tracks that were basically all flash with little substance and just how much hip-hop really has changed in what feels like a short amount of time.