Who, like me, has watched both episodes of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire? It’s pretty great so far, right? The Atlantic City-set show had me from the moment that the “Jimmy” character blew off half that dude’s face with the shotgun—I never expected the show to get that hardcore with it. But I’m loving the fact that Boardwalk Empire is taking it there. There’s a top-quality essay in this month’s issue of Vanity Fair pegged to the show and how it’s bringing some much-needed class back to my home-state of New Jersey, in light of those meatheads on Jersey Shore and the bimbos on every other Garden State-focused reality show.

Coming from good ol’ Jersey (Bergen County, to be more specific), I’m used to all the wisecracks. Quips about how every inch of the state smells like sewage; digs at the plethora of highways. In college, every unfunny, lazy-witted clown would ask me, “You’re from Jersey, right? So which highway do you live by?” The sad part is, though, that I do in fact live near a highway: Route 4 West. Or, the always annoying, “You’re Italian, so you must know some mobsters in Jersey, right?” No comment.

But the one thing I’ve never heard, and have forever wanted to hear, is, “There are some great rappers from Jersey, huh?” Because, when you think about it, there really have been some sick NJ-bred MCs over the years, though Jersey has never been regarded as a true breeding ground. My guess is that the state’s closeness in map placement to New York City leaves it in that “second fiddle” category, much like NJ is in every other walk of life when put side by side with the Big Apple.

I get it.

Nothing us proud Jersey lifers can do about it, other than make fun of The Situation and Snookie until our voices give out and JWoww’s inevitable Playboy cover spread hits the stands (though I’ll no doubt give that one a glance…don’t act like you won’t).

One group that always reps Jersey to the fullest is Naughty By Nature. The legendary East Orange trio has a new seven-track record out called Naughty by Nature feat. Garden State Greats: The Mixtape, which showcases some of Jersey’s best underground artists. Between the new NBN tape and Boardwalk Empire, my fellow Jersey natives have reasons to bask in local pride these days, a nice change of pace from the reputation-hurting effects of guilt-filled reality TV.

I’m on my New Jersey ish today, so I’ve decided to compile a few NJ-saluting anthems, as well as a few choice cuts from Jersey rappers, from the archives. There haven’t been many, but the ones that do exist are tough enough to warrant more of their kind. —Matt Barone

Sugarhill Gang, “Rapper’s Delight” (1979)
Reppin' Englewood, NJ

King Sun, “Hey Love” (1990, Righteous But Ruthless)
Reppin' Paterson, NJ