Mobb Deep, "Shook Ones (Part II)" (1994)
Steely, hard, ice-cold and ultraviolent: "Shook Ones (Part II)" was a definitive moment in returning gangsta rap back to New York City's grittiest, grimiest streets after a pair of summers enjoying the backyard barbeques of Los Angeles. Over a hard breakbeat chopped and pitch-shifted by Havoc, the pair commit lyrical acrobatics with cold-blooded effortlessness. "I remember that clearly. We wrote that in the crib high on drugs," Prodigy told Complex with a laugh. "Probably weed, probably was some dust in there, mad 40s, getting twisted. That was one of the first ones where we were like, 'Whoa. This shit is ill. This shit sounds crazy right here. This is some other shit right here, son. This ain't normal.'" The track's vivid mix of mean-mugging and emotional weight ("I'm only 19, but my mind is old/And when the things get for real, my warm heart turns cold," he raps) would influence a generation of rappers. And despite moments as violent as a splatter film, the track would prove durable enough to be tweaked by Mariah Carey, Jordan Knight and even some elements of the Broadway smash Hamilton. C.W.