Is THIS The Greatest Rap Song of All Time?
(Written by Jason Cuthbert)
September 11th, 2001 is a day we now unfortunately refer to as “911” because of the horrifying, deadly World Trade Center attack in New York City.
Em was invited by Jay to produce and be featured on the gold-certified song called “Renegade” from Jay’s double-platinum sixth studio The Blueprint dropped on 9/11/2001.
Did this decision lead to two of the greatest rappers of all time making the greatest rap song of all time?
Leading up to 2001 when “Renegade” penetrated our mental states, neither Jay-Z nor Eminem needed each other for a mainstream co-sign, hip-hop credibility, or to gain a paying audience.
Brooklyn’s Jay-Z already added five albums to his lucrative catalog, one every year. Reasonable Doubt, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter, and The Dynasty: Roc La Familia.
Let’s not forget Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records label that would eventually give us Kanye West, that “RW” logo gracing his Roc-A-Wear clothing line, Jay-Z headling the “Hard Knock Life Tour” in 1999 with DMX, Method Man, Redman, Beanie Sigel, Ja Rule, DJ Clue, Memphis Bleek, and Amil, along with its 2000 documentary film that tracked that tour called Backstage.
Eminem had been over in the Midwest of the map earning battle rap credibility in local Detroit outlets and in the Rap Olympics competition in Los Angeles and also released an indie rap album called Infinite.
Eminem was then selected for stardom by none other than Mr. N.WA., Captain The Chronic,and the super producer and introducer of Snoop Dogg himself—Dr. Dre.
Eminem’s two pre-Renegade albums The Slim Shady LPwon a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album and is now quadruple-platinum.
The dyed-blonde Caucasian word wizard followed up that album off of Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Record label with The Marshall Mathers LP, his birthname, going diamond, with 11 million in sales—still his highest-selling album to date.
Two from Your Top Five
With these two upper echelon lyricists Jay-Z and Eminem finally on a song together, “Renegade” allowed hip-hop fanatics to hit rewind repeatedly on a track that most-likely featured 40% of their Top 5 Rappers list.
With the self-titled Jay Hova and the Rap God constantly listed among other greatest rapper nominees like Nas, The Notorious B.I.G., and 2Pac, “Renegade” became a highly scrutinized internet rap forum and barbershop conversation about who had the better verse.
Whether you were all about Jay-Z spitting: “The renegade, you been afraid I penetrate pop culture/ Bring ’em a lot closer to the block where they pop toasters,”
…or Eminem’s tongue-twisters like: “Now who’s the king of these rude, ludicrous, lucrative lyrics? Who could inherit the title, put the youth in hysterics,” clearly Jay-Z and Eminem both respected each other’s penmanship.
Jay-Z was even man enough to admit that Eminem may have been one of the rare times when Jay had taken a secondary seat on one of his own songs by saying in an interview with Cypha Sounds and Peter Rosenberg that:
“I think he (Eminem) is very intelligent rapper… It’s just, when you make 4000 songs.. I’m a constant collaborator, you know and… some people gonna have better days. It’s just the way it is. But if we count the amount as the competitor and if we count the amount of records that I’ve been on versus people who had better performances then it’s gonna be like 400 to 3. I’m really just trying to make a great record. I don’t get a person and hope that they have a bad performance.”
Eminem has publicly shown nothing but respect to Jay-Z and his career. In a 2017 Complex interview, Em shared his truth about Jay, stating:
“To me it’s like, Jay is a good guy because he’s a guide for… It’s almost like he can see what’s going on in hip-hop. He’s very in tune with the times and then he does something his own way, and then other people follow it. That’s amazing to me, so I’ve always looked up to Jay for that.”
In fact, Complex reported on May 14th, 2019 that Eminem tied with Jay-Z for having the third most Top 10 hit songs as a rapper—a total of 21 hits. Eminem made this happen thanks to another two-man collab, the song “Homicide” by Logic.
The Home & Home Tour
How many hip-hop legends are so big in the eyes and ears of listeners that they could not only do a tour limited to just four shows, but also limit those four shows to the baseball stadiums of the cities that they grew up in and represent every day, all day?
That’s exactly what the two “Renegade” brothers Eminem and Jay-Z did on “The Home & Home Tour.”
On September 2nd and September 3rd of 2010, “The Home & Home Tour” began with Eminem bringing Jay-Z to the Detroit Tigers’ Major League Baseball stadium Comerica Park.
Jay-Z returned the financially lucrative favor by taking Eminem on stage with him at the famed Yankee Stadium of the New York Yankees on September 13th and September 14th of 2010 to conclude their two-city tour.
Each of these rap titans performed over 30 songs of their own, and each included “Renegade” into their set, which like the title of Em’s fifth album, gave “Renegade” its own encore.
Royce Was Supposed to Be a Renegade
Sometimes the greatest rap songs of all time end up with artists that they weren’t originally intended for.
The behind-the-scenes story behind “Renegade” is that it wasn’t going to be a Jay-Z song at all.
In fact, the verbally invincible Bad Meets Evil duo of Eminem and Royce da 5’9” was going to have another hot one to burn their names deep in the history books with, because “Renegade” was going to be a Royce track featuring Eminem. Royce talked to VladTV about the origin of “Renegade” during a 2016 interview stating:
“Yeah, it was originally my song. Me and Marshall was recording like a few different joints for my album and we picked a different song, a song called “Rock City,” because the label at that time, Columbia, thought that, that could be more of a single. So, we weren’t using ‘Renegade.’ It ended up being a song like a crazy beat, fire Marshalls verses, and at that time, Em and Jay had already been talking about doing music together. So, he sent him that, and Jay liked it and he did it.”
Black and White Battles
We have long seen the black versus white racial dynamic played out among high-level respected peers in the media, facing off in their respected games.
Whether it was the Italian-American Rocky Balboa boxing the African-American Apollo Creed in the movie Rocky movie franchise or the low-cropped afro-rocking Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers competing for those 1980s NBA basketball titles against the blonde-haired Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics, foes became friends.
We could even take the Jay-Z and Eminem black and white unification back to when Queens rappers Run DMC came together with Boston rockers Aerosmith for the hip-hop cover hit called “Walk This Way” in 1986.
With the sick, toxic racial history between human beings of dark and pale completions throughout the world, Jay-Z and Eminem ran right over that fragile bridge between this black/white divide with their middle fingers up, literal renegades to our society that often focuses on our differences instead of our similarities, and perpetuates hate in the process.
Jay and Em showed that talent trumps racial differences, and that they could speak to each other’s audiences to bring about a deeper understanding about life on the other sides of the tracks.
Speak Your Mind
What makes “Renegade” the greatest rap song of all time is not just star power of Brooklyn and Detroit’s finest fusing their firepower together.
The song’s messages and content fall right in line with other hip-hop anthems—be authentic and speak your mind.
Hip-Hop as a culture, even back in its 1970s Bronx beginnings, was about giving a voice to the voiceless and providing a creative outlet of expression for the pain of the underprivileged.
Whether it is the hard knock life of Jay-Z’s Marcy Projects housing apartments in Bedford-Stuyvesant or the low income trailer park domestic roots of Eminem in Detroit, these lived experiences have made these men into inspirations for those financially struggling and musical renegades of a world that favors those born-rich who didn’t have to fight their way out of the 99% socio-economic classes like Jay-Z and Eminem had to.
Jay-Z gives his first-hand perspective of living in a crime-ridden environment, with a fatherless childhood, and surviving with the limited financial opportunities available to him.
Eminem expresses how the media has hypocritically painted him as some satanic drug addict, ruining the lives of listeners as if he created all the ills of the world that they face.
The confident chorus on “Renegade” sums up the importance of speaking your mind, and owning it, just like the outspoken legends Public Enemy, Ice Cube, and Wu-Tang Clan did before them, as they chant:
“Renegade! Never been afraid to say/
What’s on my mind at any given time of day.
‘Cause I’m a renegade!
Never been afraid to talk about anything/
(Anything?) Anything! (Anything).”
What better hip-hop mission statement could we possibly ask for?
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