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Song Stories

“South Bronx”

Boogie Down Productions | 1986

KRS-One would soon position himself as a teacher, but rather than the empowerment messages the rapper would become known for, this track is a gritty "dis record" aimed at a rival. According to KRS, one of his friends played some demos for Mr. Magic, and the noted radio DJ pronounced them wack. "We was like, 'What? Are you crazy? MC Shan is wack, not me.' And I went home and wrote 'South Bronx.'" The crew then went into the studio and cut the track in two hours for $50 because that was how much money they had.

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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