This week’s Fresh Pair guest, Redman, is one of the true treasures of the mid-’90s, when hip-hop was rugged and raw, but still had a sense of humor about itself. That description could very well apply to the New Jersey native, whose irreverent but surprisingly heady rap style had a lasting impact on the hip-hop landscape at large. Eminem counts him as a heavy influence, while his contributions to hits like “Da Rockwilder” with Method Man and Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty” make him a fond favorite of millennial rap fans.
In addition to his hazy, marijuana-fueled battle raps, though, Redman was equally beloved for his non-rap contributions to the popular canon, from his characteristically grimy appearance on MTV Cribs to film and television roles like the hilarious stoner comedy How High and a sitcom featuring his How High co-star Method Man. For what it’s worth, he was also one of the more fun fighters to play with in games like Def Jam Vendetta and its sequel Def Jam: Fight For NY (but we don’t talk about Icon, yuck).
But we’re here to list some of Reggie Noble’s best songs, so let’s get to it. Obviously, with such an extensive discography of comical lyrical content, some of the inclusions and cuts might be controversial, but the debate is half the fun. Here are Redman’s best songs, ranked.
10. “Let’s Get Dirty (I Can’t Get In Da Club)”
The lead single from Redman’s 2001 album Malpratice, “Let’s Get Dirty” was later repurposed as Christina Aguilera’s image-swerving hit “Dirrty.” Still, sometimes the original is best; Red is obviously able to indulge more of his grimy inclinations here, making it a better “Redman” song overall.
9. “Mrs. International”
Admittedly, this is partially due to my love of ’70s funk and soul, but Blackout 2 was a solid, but underrated follow-up to Meth and Red’s 1999 original. The smooth beat belies the comedic potential of the duo’s rhymes, and the video is straight-up hilarious.
8. “I Don’t Kare”
1998’s Doc’s Da Name featured, in this writer’s opinion, Red at his absolute best. On this album, he steps away from the murkier recordings that defined much of his early output with more mainstream-friendly headnodders, but doesn’t completely leave behind the rugged proclivities that made him such a standout throughout the ’90s. “I Don’t Kare” best exemplifies this middle ground, with rib-bruising rhymes to boot.
7. “Smoke Buddah”
“Smoke Buddah,” from 1996’s Muddy Waters was never released as a single but became one of the most popular songs from the album. Perhaps this owes to the subject matter, perfectly paired with a sample of Rick James’ “Mary Jane.”
Okay, technically this is an Erick Sermon song, but the two are so indelible to each other, I’m counting it as a Redman song. It’s my list. Argue with ya mammy. Also, Red shares an equal amount of time on this song, making it the best representation of their well-established chemistry. Plus, there isn’t a millennial alive who won’t remember this, either from its near-constant airplay or from appearing on NBA Street Vol. 2.
5. “Part II”
Best-known as the unofficial theme song of Meth and Red’s 2001 college comedy How High, “Part II” sees our boys bringing absolute heat over an undeniable beat featuring none other than the legendary Toni Braxton.
4. “Time 4 Sum Aksion”
Redman’s second single was the one that saw him break through to the mainstream and started him on his path to stardom. It’s probably one of the more referenced early rap songs and is still something of a party starter, even as the song of hip-hop swung away from its rollicking drums and stressed samples.
3. “How High”
The original “How High” appeared on the soundtrack of the Def Jam documentary The Show. It showcased Method Man and Redman’s yin-yang chemistry for the first time, presaging their prolific partnership and providing the initial spark that would grow to a blazing demand for their 1999 joint album Blackout!.
2. “Da Rockwilder”
Redman admitted that there’s a longer version out there somewhere… but let’s face it. You really can’t improve on perfection. From its ominous intro to its pulsating, irresistible beat to that unforgettable, abrupt ending, there’s not an ounce of fat on this definition of a classic. There’s not even a chorus, which somehow makes it even more of a club mainstay.
1. “Tonight’s Da Night”
Okay, look, I know I said Doc’s Da Name had Red at his best — to me. You’d be hard-pressed, though, to find too many hip-hop fans who will argue against his debut album, Whut? Thee Album and his initial flurry of genre-bending singles. Nobody was doing it like this before, but a whole lot do it now. That should tell you something.