Top 10 Brooklyn Rap Songs

Brooklyn. Crooklyn. Brooknam. Whatever you call it, BK is home to a bevy of rap poets: Yasiin Bey, Talib Kweli, The Notorious B.I.G. and JAY Z. It’s also home to sports weirdos like Mike Tyson and Stephon Marbury, among others.

Naturally, BK has inspired modern anthems like “Brooklyn (Go Hard)” and oldie goodies like “Brooklyn’s Finest.” In honor of hip-hop’s most bragged about borough, here’s a countdown of the 10 best Brooklyn tributes.

Honorable Mention: Every Biggie Smalls song ever.

10
Marco Polo & Torae, “Coney Island”

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Coney Island must be a nice part of town because it’s referenced in rap a ton. Torae, go ahead, tell me all about this jolly neighborhood: “It ain’t gonna get more ‘hood or get more slum/ Than 23rd and Mermaid, that’s where I’m from/ And even though the beach and boardwalk is fun/ Come seven blocks past Nathan’s, you’re done.” Oh, never mind. I’ll just turn around.

9
M.O.P. – “Welcome to Brownsville”

One thing about Mash Out Posse: you never understand what they’re talking about. They just don’t rap loud enough. Their vocals are softer than lullabies. I really wish they’d yell or something. I think this song is about a part of Brooklyn known as Brownsville. Or something. It seems like a family-friendly neighborhood, but I’m not sure.

8
Gang Starr – “The Place Where We Dwell”

Neither of these gentlemen are native New Yorkers -- Guru originally came from Boston; DJ Premier was born in Houston, TX. Yet they both held down the Big Apple throughout. Guru repped Brooklyn until his death. Here, he raps about the borough over a bass-heavy Premier beat, taking us through BK from hood to hood, all the way down to the aforementioned Coney Island.

7
Beastie Boys – “Hello Brooklyn”

The Beasties coined a BK catchphrase on this hometown tribute. There’s very little actual neighborhood references here. Instead, the trio takes the opportunity to pump their chests: “You’re gonna get smacked with my gold finger knuckle, ’cause bein as fly as me is somethin’ that you never thought of.” There’s that Brooklyn spirit again.

6
Jeru Tha Damaja – “Brooklyn Took It”

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As far as songs about Brooklyn go, most tend to focus on borough’s grimy side. But not every Brooklyn anthem is consistent with this portrait. Jeru The Damaja brings some balance to the table with “Brooklyn Took It.”

5
Smif-n-Wessun – "Bucktown"

Tek and Steele salute the home of the original clappers on the Beatminerz-laced “Bucktown.” How they managed to push a song this grimy up the charts is still a mystery.

4
Jay-Z – “Where I’m From”

“I’m from where the hammers rung and news cameras never come.” As soon as Jay starts the song, you immediately visualize his hood. That’s good storytelling. You can feel the sense of desperation and survival in every line. Vivid. Inventive. Inspiring.

3
Ol’ Dirty Bastard – “Brooklyn Zoo”

The thing about “Brooklyn Zoo” is that it’s not actually about Brooklyn. Or a zoo. Or a zoo in Brooklyn. ODB was born and bred in BK, a beast of an emcee from the brooklyn zoo. But instead of blushing about his borough, he made a song that was groundbreaking enough to remind us that Brooklyn breeds rap visionaries. Certified masterpiece. 

2
Crooklyn Dodgers – “Crooklyn”

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Crooklyn Dodgers was a hip-hop supergroup comprised of Brooklyn rappers. They appeared in various incarnations. For “Crooklyn”, the group was made up of Masta Ace, Buckshot, and Special Ed. Aside from the usual Brooklyn is grimy, yadayada, the fellas also shout out specific street corners, giving foreigners an auditory tour of their neighborhood. Buck, in particular, namechecks the Samuel J. Tilden Houses, a housing project in the borough: “Hit me when I represent the F.A.P/Straight from the ‘ville, Tilden played the building.”

1
Jay-Z (Feat. Alicia Keys) – “Empire State of Mind”

Hov is synonymous with the Brooklyn spirit. BK rappers love bragging about their neighborhood, and you could fill a CD with Jay Z’s Brooklyn tributes. Each one holds a different significance. Here, he’s essentially trumpeting the something-from-nothing narrative with a personal twist. Jay takes us back to where it all started — Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects.