Lifelong music fans always know that there are certain songs you hear as a kid that just stick with you, no matter the genre or artist. And hip-hop heads know that without rap's history, both in its early days and the artists who came before the genre was established, much of the foundation of the culture can be lost. But while there are plenty of deep conversations to have about where different elements of hip-hop came from and how listening habits affect generations, sometimes it's easier just to take a trip down memory lane and worry about what it all means. With that in mind, XXL spoke to 17 different rappers to find out what was on each artist's playlist as a child, from N.W.A and Jay Z to Marvin Gaye and Dana Dane. Think back. —XXL Staff

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Isaiah Rashad

Montell Jordan, "This Is How We Do It." Master P's "Bout It, Bout It II" with Mia X on it. "Warning" by Biggie. That KC and Jo-Jo song, "California Love." Mystikal—I listened to "Shake Ya Ass," but that song reminded me of that Jet Li movie, Red Dragon. I don't even remember why. Mystikal and Ludacris song, "Move Bitch." You know what, scratch all that. Chicken -N- Beer. My childhood was probably Chicken -N- Beer. Yeah, that's probably my favorite. —As told to Dan Rys

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Photo Credit: Lauren Gesswein

Killer Mike

I listened to everybody as a child, because I hated R&B and pop music and I loved rap music. So I listened to everything. When I was a little dude, I sat next to my uncle and listened to Ice-T, who I still think is one of the illest and most truthful street storytellers there is; no one gets as honest about the street hustler lifestyle as Ice. Of course, when I got a little older myself, I was listening to N.W.A and Public Enemy and EPMD, I was listening to Tribe, Ghetto Mafia in Atlanta, to Sammy Sam and Kilo, who had a huge rivalry in Atlanta. I was listening to all things West Coast, from N.W.A to Compton's Most Wanted to E-40 and Too $hort and The Click, and I was listening to booty shaking music. I was listening to that country-ass South shit that I love. I was listening to literally everything. In terms of my favorite thing to listen to as a kid? 8 Ball and MJG and UGK, all day. —As told to Dan Rys

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Tech N9ne

5th and 6th grade, World Class Wreckin’ Cru. “Dr. Dre! Dr. Dre! Dr. Dre!” The Art of Noise. Soul Sonic Force. “We are the future, you are the past.” I was a breakdancer, so, World Class Wreckin’ Cru. Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force, “Looking For The Perfect Beat.” The Art Of Noise, “Beat Box.” I ended up remaking that, called, “Bout To Bubble.” Everything I used to jam to back when I was little, I made songs to. Like “Amadeus, Amadeus,” I did “I’ma Playa, I’ma Playa.” Falco. That’s my shit. —As told to Eric Diep

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Action Bronson

A lot of whatever was out of that time. I remember a lot of N.W.A, Metallica, Guns 'N Roses. It was just a mixture of bunch of different things. Like Santana’s album. —As told to Emmanuel C.M.

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Big Boi

Everything. Definitely Bob Marley, I'm a big fan of Bob Marley. A lot of Parliament-Funkadelic, definitely A Tribe Called Quest, N.W.A, De La Soul, the whole Native Tongues movement. Definitely was messing with The Hieroglyphics back then, too, for sure. —As told to Dan Rys

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Photo Credit: Jonathan Mannion

MC Lyte

That’s funny. I think when I was young in Brooklyn my mom listened to a lot of easy listening music, and I lived that, so it was everybody from Lionel Richie, James Taylor, Carole King, all of the great folk singers and songwriters. At my uncle's, it was R&B/soul, so it was The O'Jays, it was Earth, Wind & Fire, and he allowed me to play his records. And of course, in Harlem at my grandmother's house, my older cousins allowed me to play their records. Treacherous Three and Kurtis Blow and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. I got a chance to listen to it and play all of it. I don’t know if it was my playlist, but it became my playlist. —As told to Emmanuel C.M.

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Before I started rapping I wasn't really into music like that. Maybe Michael Jackson or Bob Marley—my father used to make me listen to Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye. Other than that, the things I was listening to on my own was just Michael Jackson; he was the biggest thing when I was a kid. Hell yeah. —As told to Emmanuel C.M.

Prodigy Mobb Deep


Everything—Big Moe, Swishahouse, Paul Wall, Slim Thug, Chamillionaire, Madonna, Brooks And Dunn, Garth Brooks, Billy Idol... —As told to Emmanuel C.M.

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Definitely hip-hop. Of course I was a big Run-DMC fan, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap. But then at the same time I was a big R&B fan, too. I was big on Michael Jackson, big on Cheryl Lynn, "Got To Be Real," and everything. Just R&B music, too, was like my hip-hop as well. We got a mixture of all of that, from Color Me Badd to all different kinds of records back in the '90s. Even the Mary J. Blige's, the Jodeci's—I guess it came in the '90s—but back then it was the R&B that was poppin'. That's what I was paying attention to more. The Keith Sweat's, even though Keith Sweat was a singer about love and baby-making music or whatever, it still was my hip-hop. We definitely had a colorful list, though, and it goes back even to Marvin Gaye. —As told to Dan Rys



Eminem. Honestly, I hate to say it like this but it was just a white boy rapping how he was rapping. Going crazy like he was going crazy. It was dope how he was putting the words together and how he made every word rhyme. He just told a story about himself whether it was a positive story or a negative story. —As told to Miranda Johnson



Biggie, Ready To Die. Everything Jay Z—a whole lot of Jay Z. The Fugees' The Score, Mary J. Blige's What's The 4-1-1?. Mos Def and Talib Kweli, Black Star. Michael Jackson was on my playlist when I was real, real young; like a lot of kids I was a huge Michael Jackson fan. Luther Vandross, 'cause my dad brainwashed me—but I've come to really appreciate it, his voice is amazing. Tina Turner; every family function my mom does Tina Turner. [Laughs] So I've come to love Tina Turner, her and Patti LaBelle. But those are just some things; it was definitely a lot of hip-hop, especially a lot of New York hip-hop. I'm still mad I can't do the moonwalk. [Laughs] I tried in the kitchen with my socks on, and I can't. —As told to Dan Rys



Snoop, Slick Rick, Camp Lo, Soulja Slim. He was Magnolia Slim back then. UNLV, and G-Slim. He’s an artist from New Orleans. Warren G. You know he was dope. DJ Quik. You know. Those guys. —As told to Layne Weiss


Fat Trel

Childhood playlist was Scarface, Balls And My Word. Nelly, Country Grammar; I was a huge fan of Country Grammar. I listened to a lot of Kriss Kross. I found my father’s albums in his cars and listened to a lot of Kriss Kross. Master P, Ice Cream Man. I listened to a lot of Geto Boys, too, when I was little. I was listening to a lot of music that I had no business listening to. That was the playlist. —As told to Eric Diep

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Kevin Gates

Depends on what mood I am in. Whatever mood I am in, that’s the type of music I like to listen at. If I'm depressed, I want to hear something depressing. If I'm happy, I don’t know. It’ll be hard to put in words. You just to be around me just to see. I might go from playing Katy Perry to Edwin McCain to Gucci Mane. Those don’t even go together, but they go together with me. —As told to Eric Diep

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Ice Cube

When I was a child I used to bump stuff like "Kung-Fu Fighting" and shit like that. Parliament and "Knee Deep," these wacky-ass songs, "More Bounce To The Ounce." Anything that wasn’t a traditional love song. I was in to "Keep On Trucking" and all that kind of shit. —As told to Emmanuel C.M.

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Yung Joc

I was a big Dana Dane, Slick Rick fan. I loved Dana Dane. Matter of fact, I am gonna get Dana Dane on my new album. If anybody can get me with Dana Dane, please do that. —As told to Eric Diep

Yung Joc


I know everybody is going to say Nas but I’ve got to say KRS-One and Boogie Down productions. —As told to Miranda Johnson