One of the many themes you hear again and again in Hip-Hop is that of the return. The comeback. The renovation revolution. Whatever these guys want to claim as their jolt of inspiration, they sure love to reaffirm that they’re down for the long haul and not going anywhere anytime soon, whether they’re new jacks or OGs of the game.
Since we’re a sucker for a good comeback story just like you guys, we’ve compiled 20 of our favorite return rap songs for your listening pleasure below.
1. Slim Thug Feat. Devin The Dude - “Bitch I’m Back”
After setting the bar extremely high with his debut album, Already Platinum, Slim Thugga kicked off his sophomore effort Boss Of All Bosses with this extra official proclamation of game, which featured Mr. Lee’s super-synths and the story of how a lone Thug came to be an independent CEO.
2. DMX - “We Right Here”
When X came with this chest-thumping Great Depression single in 2001, we actually believed he wasn't going anywhere. At that point, he had successfully turned three beloved albums into a film career and was supposedly refocusing on the music. Even though that didn’t end up working as everyone hoped, the track still sits as one of the dog’s better late-career cuts.
3. Ludacris - “Number One Spot”
Luda was coasting in the early years of the new millennium with hit after hit. But, for the big single from Red Light District, the Disturbing Tha Peace chief felt it necessary to remind the opposition of his accolades with this boisterous Austin Powers-sampling smash, which dissed Bill O'Reilly and eventually got nominated for a Grammy. Yeah, baby.
4. AZ - “I’m Back”
If this track from AZ’s impressive comeback, Aziatic, ever sat in your rotation for longer than a week, you almost can’t even read the song title without immediately hearing Buckwild’s horns gloriously roaring through your head.
5. Eminem - "I'm Back"
When Slim Shady re-staked his claim with this flagrant album cut from his 2000 breakthrough The Marshall Mathers LP, it wasn’t from an underdog’s point of view. Instead, this seething lyrical display was closer to the perspective of Jason Voorhees and his butcher knife, busting through the back window for blood.
6. Rakim - “Guess Who's Back”
Everyone was hyped when Rakim returned with this 1997 single from his first solo album, The 18th Letter, whether it was an old head happy to hear the God MC in prime form or the new-school cat impressed by the OG's authoritative flow alongside Clark Kent's epic production.
7. The Game - “Let’s Ride”
Brandishing a Dr. Dre flow and Scott Storch beat that is the epitome of West Coast rap, Chuck Taylor let listeners and critics alike know that label issues were the least of his concerns with this riding single from his undervalued Doctor’s Advocate album.
8. Ma$e - “Welcome Back”
After ditching an A-list Hip-Hop career to pursue his faith as a pastor, Ma$on Betha returned to rap with this fun-loving hit. At the time, people thought the Welcome Back Kotter sample was cute enough to carry the song to minor success. But that wasn’t enough for Ma$e, as the Harlemite eventually went back to church, before re-appearing on G.O.O.D. Music's Cruel Summer last year.
9. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony - “Resurrection (Paper, Paper)”
Considering the amount of break-ups to makes-ups Bone's had throughout their long career, half their catalog seems to consist of comeback songs. However, while most Bone Thugs-N-Harmony fans probably have a favorite "comeback" tune, this string-infused single from 2000's BTNHResurrection did a damn good job reinforcing the fact these five Clevelanders hadn't lost a step in their hood harmonics.
10. Jay-Z - “The Ruler's Back”
Gripping Hip-Hop by the throat, Jigga delivered this triumphant introduction to his 2001 Blueprint classic. From there, things got ugly.
11. Do Or Die Feat. Twista & Johnny P - “Still Po Pimpin”
With one album full of game to their name, fans of this Windy City trio were quick to answer yes when B-Lo, AK and N.A.R.D. asked “Do you wanna ride with me?” for the second time on their 1998 Headz Or Tailz release.
12. Juelz Santana - “S.A.N.T.A.N.A.”
Showing his Diplomatic Immunity for the second time, Juelz got grown over some reckless strings from the Treblemakers with this aggressive 2004 single, giving us some some of his Stone Cold Steve Austin sweet-talking.
13. Too $hort - “Can’t Stay Away”
Of course Too $hort’s on this list. He’s been in the game since 1983. Are you kidding me? The Bay Area OG had to take a break at some point. And in 1999, $hort returned to the house from a three-year hiatus with his 11th studio album Can’t Stay Away and this educational title cut for all the young players out there. Since then, Todd Shaw’s released eight more solo albums, proving frequent sex really is the key to a more fulfilling life.
14. T.I. - "I'm Back"
An underrated track from T.I.P’s catalog, this monstrous TrackSlayerz-produced track found our favorite Grand Hustler fresh out of prison and looking to reclaim his throne atop the trap. But somehow this promo single wound up as only a bonus track on the lackluster No Mercy album it prepped, never generating the buzz it deserved.
15. Mystikal - "Bouncin' Back (Bumpin' Me Against The Wall)"
With a Neptunes beat fit for Bourbon Street and intentions of turning naysayers into believers, Mystikal brought out the band to remind everyone he wasn’t going anywhere with this Billboard-made dance jam. Then, all hell broke loose in his personal life and the former No Limit Soldier fell into a six-year sentence that almost completely halted his career. The Tarantula sure had a run for a minute though, didn’t he?
16. Mack 10 Feat. Ice Cube - “Chicken Hawk II”
In the midst of Cali’s gangstafied prominence in the mid-'90s, the dope dealer of the Westside Connection crew let it be known his wingspan had only gotten bigger for this menacing follow-up to his original "Chicken Hawk" record from his Mack 10 debut.
17. LL Cool J - “Mama Said Knock You Out”
Less of a comeback and more of a return to form, LL Cool enlisted Marly Marl for this title track to his fourth album, looking to reaffirm the rugged Queens roots his music blossomed from. Considering the knockout hit turned into Todd's biggest song, they obviously succeeded.
18. Scarface Feat. Jay-Z & Beanie Sigel - "Guess Who's Back"
If you would’ve posed this question to rap fans in 2001, more than likely they wouldn’t have answered with Face. Although he’d been consistently dropping solid solo albums for years, the Geto Boys leader hadn’t seen a successful single in quite some time. Well that is until the Roc walked into the building and hopped onto this would-be classic, which helped get the Houston OG radio love and turned The Fix into one of his best albums.
19. Outkast - “Return Of The G”
Having graduated from young Atlanta players into budding rap superstars in merely four years, Daddy Fat Sax and Andre Three Stacks had become well-rounded MCs by the time they broke through the mainstream with Aquemini in 1998. To remind any young knuckleheads they were grown, but still ready for war if provoked, they kicked off the album with this backhanded spark.
20. Dr. Dre Feat. Snoop Dogg - “Still D.R.E.”
One of the biggest reasons Dre is having such a hard time releasing Detox? Because trumping this glorious comeback single from 2001 will be damn near impossible. From the timeless Cali-grown sound to the song's impeccable visual, this monumental comeback track single-handedly gave the game to the Good Doc in 1999. Now, he’s clearly having a hard time recreating the formula. Justifiably so, if you ask us.