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The 15 greatest rap songs of all time: Number 14

Apr 30, 2020

The 15 greatest rap songs of all time: Number 14


  1. The Pharcyde – “Passin’ Me By” (1992)

It’s hard to define what exactly makes “Passin’ Me By” one of my favorite rap songs of all-time. There’s nothing out there like the second single from The Pharcyde, a group of alt-hip hop pioneers from South Central LA. It’s in a league of its own.

It’s kinda hazy thanks to a Quincy Jones organ sample, but there are moments where the haze lifts at the chorus for a shouty rasp from Bootie Brown that somehow clashes and fits perfectly with the smooth saxophones. It’s lovesick, as the lyrics deal with an opportunity for love and a relationship “passin’ me by.” It’s also quite kooky, with a psychedelic guitar from Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?” playing a fundamental part in setting a hypnotic groove and producer J-Swift’s half-dozen samples melding together to create an unforgettable musical experience.

Any way you spin the 1992 hit, there is no denying it’s catchiness.

Brown’s opening verse grabs the attention of a listener oddly, romanticizing about a teacher, and always raising his hand to get attention. However, he couldn’t do anything about it because she was already married to “Lee, he drove a Z,” so he had to let it pass him by.

The other three verses from SlimKid 3, Imani, and Fatlip all carry the same disappointment about losing out on love, with Fatlip’s verse ending by him writing a note only to have it returned to sender. What a disappointing fate.

The aesthetic nature of “Passin’ Me By” was revolutionary. The Pharcyde were just getting their feet wet with their first album Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde when “Passin’ Me By” gained notoriety on the Billboard charts. They, along with other alt-hip hop artists of the time, have set the blueprint for how artsy and out there the genre could be.

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