5 Times You Missed Rappers’ Subtle Salutes to Each Other

You might miss these if you don’t listen closely enough

SSince hip-hop’s inception, rappers have taken shots, waged deadly feuds, and formed lucrative partnerships. Most of these instances are known, oft-debated moments in the culture’s history.

It’s fair to say that over the decades, hip-hop journalism has covered more beef than unity. Controversy sells, and there’s money and traffic to be found in hyping a moment when a rapper takes a jab at another in an interview, freestyle, or the increasingly popular Instagram Live. Even if it never turns violent, such moments can affect an artist’s financial future — especially if fans feel like they didn’t “do well” in a beef. The right diss song can end a career or force the industry to take sides.

But hidden in hip-hop’s history and salacious news cycle are the times when rappers saluted each other in plain sight. There’s even a chance you missed some of these subtle salutes.

When Jay-Z saluted Snoop Dogg

Jay-Z begins his classic The Blueprint with “The Ruler’s Back.” The entire intro feels celebratory, from the horns to the drums to the way his ad libs urge listeners not to judge him too severely: “Just my thoughts, man.”

In 2001, Jay-Z wasn’t a billionaire. At the time, he was dealing with legal issues and entangled in a beef with Nas, widely considered to be one of the greatest emcees of all time. Even though The Blueprint was released on September 11, 2001, Jay-Z still managed to sell more than 400,000 units the first week. And he didn’t back down from the controversy around his 1999 run-in with Lance Rivera: “I’m too sexy for jail like I’m Right Said Fred/I’m not guilty, now give me back my bread!”

But most interestingly, Jay-Z salutes Snoop Dogg on the track in an incredible way. First and foremost, he pays homage while still stating that there are a lot of Jay-Z clones out there: “Well in these times, well at least to me/There’s a lot of rappers out there trying to sound like Jay-Z.” He wasn’t lying.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Hov adds: “I’ll help you out, here’s what you do… You’re going to need a wide lens ’cause that’s a very big shoe.” Yes, he states that “being Jay-Z” isn’t easy, but he also makes a subtle reference to Snoop Dogg’s “What’s My Name (Pt. 2)” video, where — you guessed it — a “very big shoe” is involved. Snoop looks at the camera and states, “You gonna need a widescreen for this.” Check the clip at the 1:18 time stamp.

After the giant shoe is displayed, another character (played by Snoop Dogg) says, “That’s a very, very, big shoe.” Jay-Z goes out of his way to salute Snoop, but the subtle way he does it makes it remarkable.

When Drake saluted Eminem

Drake is back with new music, and he must be in a mood to salute those who came before him. “When to Say When” pays homage to Jay-Z’s “Song Cry” sample, and he quotes Eminem on his second new track, “Chicago Freestyle.”

Eminem wasn’t afraid to be a bit emotional on “Superman,” off The Eminem Show back in 2002. Drake uses the Superman metaphor to rhyme about the way he feels when women attempt to seduce him. Drake reps Eminem by using some of the same lyrics and flow on “Chicago Freestyle.” You can hear for yourself around 3:40.

When Fat Joe saluted Jadakiss

There’s an incredible Jadakiss song that was never officially released as a single, even though Swizz Beatz produced it. Jadakiss flowed over a bagpipe beat and urged listeners to “Thug It Out.”

It should have been a street single in 2007 — one of the reasons Swizz declared it a “warmup” before Jadakiss started rapping. Jada addressed hip-hop’s Southern shift at the time in the first two bars of the song and declared that New York had to get its act together and adapt: “Fuck is everybody so mad at the South for?/Learn how to switch your style up/Go Southpaw.”

Fat Joe executed that advice well. The Bronx rapper admitted that he changed with the times on the song itself. Joe’s salute to Jadakiss begins on the second verse of “Make It Rain,” alongside NOLA vet, Lil Wayne: “Jada, I was listening… so I made ’em an anthem to make some dividends.”

When Mos Def saluted Trick Daddy

Mos Def is so immensely talented that he’s impossible to pigeonhole. Yasiin Bey is more than a rapper; he’s a successful singer, actor, and activist.

On his 2004 album, The New Danger, one gem stands out — one I’ve been listening to for years. The chorus of “Ghetto Rock” steals the show here, and Mos makes it clear that he’s a “bad motherfucker.”

In the second verse, the beat drops, and Mos Def declares, “Alright, okay, what’s up, shut up!” I knew this was a salute to none other than Trick Daddy and his hit “Shut Up.” (If you’re over 30 years old or lived in the South, you did too.) “Shut Up” is the kind of song where the beat can change the entire vibe of a club — but let me heed the song’s title so you can enjoy it if you’ve never heard it.

When Pop Smoke saluted 50 Cent

Raw energy surrounded the late Pop Smoke ever since he arrived on the scene, thanks to his smash hit “Welcome to the Party.” The song has chaotic energy, but Pop Smoke seemed to know what to do with it — one of the reasons so many rappers have remixed it. He understood the importance of cadence and melody; he managed to create a New York anthem that captivated the entire rap industry.

Pop Smoke even sounds a bit like 50 on ‘Christopher Walking.’ He raps, “I ain’t a window shopper,” and if you are as old as I am, you know exactly why he did that.

The comparisons to 50 Cent were obvious: Pop Smoke had no problem rapping about guns and drugs, even if he did so in a pop-friendly way. Young people gravitated toward Pop Smoke’s authenticity.

Pop Smoke even sounds a bit like 50 on “Christopher Walking.” He raps, “I ain’t a window shopper,” and if you are as old as I am, you know exactly why he did that.

50 Cent’s “Window Shopper” was a hit in 2005. Pop Smoke, whether he intended to or not, paid homage perfectly. The respect is apparently mutual, as 50 Cent is now focused on making sure a Pop Smoke posthumous album gets released.

I write about business, finance, technology, art, and culture. Featured in The Startup, Level, Data-Driven Investor, Med Daily, and more. neilmathew85@gmail.com

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