Inspiration comes from many different places, the radio being one of them. While carousing around town in my hooptie the other day, the Notorious B.I.G./Puff Daddy/Mase 1997 classic "Mo Money, Mo Problems" came on over my speakers, much to my odd delight. After I was done singing Biggie's verse word-for-word ("Federal agents made 'cause I'm flagrant / Tapped my cell and my phone in the basement"), I realized two things: 1. I'm a huge dork, and 2. hip-hop from the late 1990s was insanely overplayed.
10. "My Name Is" (Eminem)
Marshall Mathers had to start somewhere — what better way to break into the rap game by offering a corny, tongue-in-cheek song to help introduce himself to the masses. Not all of Em's music, obviously, was this cheesy, but "My Name Is" must be awkward for Em to look back on nowadays.
9. "Rosa Parks" (Outkast)
"Ah ha, hush that fuss ..." was all the rage when this song — the lead single from the duo's decidedly not corny 1998 album Aquemini — hit big. Further Outkast songs ("Ms. Jackson," "Hey Ya") are perhaps even tamer, but they were released post-2000. Including them on this list would be cheating, you guys.
8. "Make 'Em Say Uhh!" (Master P)
One cannot make a list of late '90s hip-hop and not acknowledge the presence of Master P and his No Limit Souljas. The excessive, bombastic epicenter of all things No Limit is — far and above — P's "Make 'Em Say Uhh!" featuring the help of Fiend, Silkk the Shocker, Mia X, and Mystikal. The video for this song pretty much tells it all.
7. "Still Not A Player," Big Pun
Big Pun was 698 pounds when he had a fatal heart attack in 2000 at the age of 28. For those that may not know, Pun was a male model in his adolescence — he used to look like this and this. Then came his rap career, pushing out such overplayed songs as "Still Not A Player," featuring the aptly-named Joe (not Fat Joe, just Joe).
6. "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" (Will Smith)
Yeah, this is probably the corniest of the bunch. At that point in his career (1997), releasing an album just seemed like overkill for Will Smith. What, he didn't have enough money? He's a fine actor, and we will always have precious reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, yet Big Willie Style was the height of corniness for Smith. That didn't stop the album from going nine times platinum. I guess he was just preparing us all for the Willenium.
5. "I'll Be Missing You" (Puff Daddy feat. Faith Evans and 112)
In which Puff Daddy samples the Police for a hip-hop song. Some of his sampling was unique — at least when Puff first started to do it — but then it became a tired, weary joke. Who in the hell ever thought David Bowie's music would translate over to hip-hop? That being said, I definitely owned Puff Daddy and the Family's No Way Out and I enjoyed the shit out of it.
4. "Hypnotize" (Notorious B.I.G.)
The most annoying, grating kids you knew growing up listened to this song. They listened to it and they sang all the lyrics to it with a dumbass, smarmy look on their face. They "threw their hands in the air" when they heard it at a party, getting way too excited whenever it came on. To me, that is why this song sucks. That, and it's beyond overplayed.
3. "Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are)" — Pras feat. Ol' Dirty Bastard and Mya
This song is just awful. These top three songs are all pretty bad in their own right, in my opinion, yet they were all overplayed to the point of insanity. Now, that's not the fault of the song itself, but it sure as shit doesn't make the song any better — not by a long shot. "Ghetto Supastar" is gratingly awful — to the point where it's not even fun to sit and reminisce about the music we all used to listen to in the late 1990s while listening to this song. To me, there's nothing fun about this song. Its overplayed nature took away all of that from the song itself. Also not helping the song is its sample from the 1983 Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton song, "Islands In The Stream."
2. "California Love" (Tupac feat. Dr. Dre)
If I never hear this song again, I would be a happy man. It's my fault for watching the video ad nauseam when it was released in 1996, but looking back, the song itself is kind of shitty. That damn video can only be so entertaining after a certain point. This is another song, like "Hypnotize" before it, that was celebrated by those kids in high school you just couldn't stand.
1. "Wanna Be A Baller" (Lil' Troy)
Words cannot describe how truly lame this song is. It's not a very good song, Troy isn't the most talented dude to ever rock the mic (just watch the beginning of the video — such charisma!), and this song's gratingly repetitive nature just doesn't help things. At all. Yet this song was all over the radio in 1998, and I simply couldn't get away from it. It backed me into a dark, dark corner and didn't let me leave for a good 10 months.
"Crossroads" (Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
"Triumph" (Wu-Tang Clan)
"Bling Bling" (B.G.)
"Feels So Good" (Mase)
Let me know in the comments if I missed any songs you think should be on the list, or if you think I'm a total jackass. Mind you, I owned the albums to the majority of these songs and listened to them when they were first released, enjoying them rather immensely. However, looking back on everything, these songs were all pretty tame, repetitive, and oftentimes corny.
This article originally published on June 13, 2011, and was updated for publication on July 25, 2016.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.