BEST OF RAP CITY: THA BASEMENT

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Rap City freestyles are another anchor of 2000’s Rap culture. Rap City was a music video show which aired on BET from 1989 through to 2008. Throughout its tenure, Rap City was the creme de la creme of Hip-Hop content. From music videos of established artists to exclusive interviews and freestyles with artists in the Rap City studio. Rap City provided Hip-Hop fans with the type of content that every culture-head needed to get their swag levels on point. Although Rap City was a staple of Hip-Hop from its formative years right up until the mixtape/digital takeover, it’s most iconic moments occurred during Big Tigger’s tenure hosting the show. From 1998-2005 Big Tigger held down the fort for Rap City: Tha Basement. As Rap’s commercial boom occurred during the late 90’s and early 2000’s so did Rap City’s boom. Tha Basement featured appearances from a who’s-who of artists. Several icons blessed the Rap City’s studio with freestyles which have since become bastions of exactly how Hip-Hop was during its initial boom. We here at LO-FI: The Magazine have broke down the best of the Rap City era for the old-school and the new-school. So grab somethin’ light and tap into the best of the Rap City era.

Cam’ron/Dipset

Instrumental Used: Scarface – My Block

Let’s kick things off with everybody’s favorite game-changers, Dipset. Arguably the most iconic freestyle for reasons other than the rapping, Dipset show off why they are the swag champs of the early 2000’s. Jim Jones kicks things off draped in Kansas City Chiefs gear with his verse off the Dipset track ‘Beautiful Noise’. His whole role here is just to set the table for the young gun Juelz and the head honcho Killa’ Cam. Up next Juelz steps up to the mic and rips it the only way he knows how to. Reppin the Dolphins for his NFL Jersey of choice, Juelz floats effortlessly over the Scarface instrumental. “Welcome to New York City… No.. Welcome to Dipset City”. After Juelz, we get blessed with the presence of Cam’Ron. Casually counting his money whilst freestyling, Killa Cam puts on a transcendent display of flossin’. Add this money counting steeze, with the fact that Cam spits some of the craziest bars to bless the Rap City booth. GOAT status, nothing more nothing less. “4 mill from Def Jam and I aint sell a record for ‘em”. Like Anfernee we do things the Hardaway, word to Killa Cam. An essential Rap City watch. 

Big Tigger Report: The whole time he was just in awe of their swag. And he lowkey got clowned by Jim Jones Capo Status right at the start.

Lil Wayne

Instrumental Used: Collie Buddz – Come Around

Although this whole freestyle is simply Lil Wayne’s ‘Live From the 504’ off of the ‘Da Drought 3’ Mixtape, something about witnessing Wanye in his prime makes this such a special video. We get started with Birdman blessing the mic with a red rag (suwoop) and prime Weezy proceeds to go in. Birdman lurks in the background kind of like someone who never pays their artists would, but that’s a whole different story. Irregardless of this freestyle being Lil Wayne’s ‘Live From the 504’ (Gillie Da Kidd diss and all), it’s a rare glimpse of seeing a rapper in their prime in all aspects of the game. Thanks to Jim Jones his swag was on point and his ability behind the mic (especially his wordplay) was hitting a crescendo during the mid-late 2000’s era. This is a glimpse into the Wayne that was constantly blessing the streets with mixtape after mixtape. In-studio vlog’s weren’t exactly a thing back in the day so the mere experience of witnessing prime Wayne behind the mic makes this a legendary Rap City moment. Wayne had blessed the Rap City studio’s several times before but this moment shows him at his peak.

Big Tigger Report: Sadly, Tigger had left Rap City at this stage. If he was still around he would of said some wild shit off the top of his head. 

Kanye West

Instrumental Used: Ludacris- Stand Up

Spitting over a beat he produced for Ludacris, Kanye and Big Tigger connect for a rare Rap City freestyle. Using a combination of verses that would either show up on later albums or were featured on the Freshmen Adjustment mixtape series, Kanye does what Kanye does. He definitely holds his own as we witness his College Dropout swag in effect. Bookbag Kanye, ya feel me? Anyways a Kanye appearance further cements Rap City’s legacy as being the best of the best in regards to commercial Hip-Hop. Whether you were a rising star or a well established star, A visit to the Rap City basement was essential to your promo run.

Big Tigger Report: Big Tigger actually brought the freestyle heat here. “From the Wild Wild Hunnids to the West Side, Big Tigger keep the ‘gat on his left side”. Lowkey snapped harder than Kanye here.

50 Cent/ G-Unit

Instrumental Used: 2Pac – Dying to Live

Draped out in the timeless G-Unit tees, 50 Cent brings Young Buck and Lloyd Banks through to Rap City: Tha Basement. Promoting the release of the group album ‘Beg For Mercy’, 50 kicks things off casually and sets the table for Young Back to black out. Buck starts off by spinning his G-Unit spinner chain. Buck then spits with his visceral Southern energy and proved he belongs amongst two of New York’s elite spitters. After 50 drops some more bars we see the arrival of Lloyd Banks. “Them bullets is the size of Mutumbo’s pinky”. Lloyd Banks might be the Joe Johnson of Rap. Two ice cold killers in their respective fields. The same way Joe Johnson got buckets with little to no facial expression is the same way Banks’ spits some of the coldest bars with a stone face. Nearly every time the G-Unit crew get behind the mic you are in store for nothin’ but lyrical intimidation. This freestyle right here is no different and it creates some more Rap City goodness. Shout out Tony Yayo as well. 

Big Tigger Report: He spat a couple bars off the dome. But he didn’t go over the top. Maybe he didn’t want to get incessantly trolled by 50 on Instagram 20 years later. Wise move Big Tigg.

Ludacris

Instrumental Used: David Banner – Like a Pimp (featuring Lil Flip)

Ludacris definitely deserves to be in the Rap City Hall of Fame. Every Ludacris appearance on Rap City is more than stellar. Whether he was dolo or flanked by his Disturbing Tha Peace crew. This appearance right here might be his best. The near spoken word flow brings back memories when Ludacris was dominating the charts with anthems such as ‘Act A Fool’, ‘Southern Hospitality’ and ‘Stand Up’. His whole freestyle is essentially a flex about his success and all he has left to take over is Rap City. Easily the best display of host/ artist chemistry is illustrated here as Big Tigger spits some rebuttal to Luda’s killer verse. Maybe underrated as an artist due to his ‘sellout’ era, this Ludacris freestyle just shows how gnarly he was behind the mic. A hitmaker by trade, Luda showed us that he was still a proficient MC on Rap City.

Big Tigger Report: You have to see it to believe it. On this Rap City right here, Big Tigger established himself as the greatest freestyler of all time.

Fabolous

Instrumental Used: Mase – Breathe, Stretch, Shake

BK’s own shows his elite skills on Rap City. One of the sharpest flowers from his era, F-A-B-O flows like the ocean on Rap City. “Don’t get much slicker than Fab, I strap up with the Eagles, throw bullets just as quick as McNabb”. “I got cars like Michael got rings”. A Don Diva shoutout appears too. Damn near every bar is quotable here. Proficient would be one word to describe Fab’s skills in the booth. Street Fam whatup!

Big Tigger Report: “Hit you with something much stronger than a taser”. Just as Fab said: Tigg you killin’ em!

Clipse

Instrumental Used: Philly’s Most Wanted: “Cross The Border (Remix)”

Before the Star Trak movement became a star of the Instagram world. Pharell and Chad Hugo were Grindin’ with the Thornton Brothers AKA the Clipse. Pusha T and Malice brought the movement to Rap City. They do what they do best on this edition of Rap City. Their coke infused hard-hitting street gospels shine bright in the booth. Pharell and Chad Hugo sit in the cut as their hired guns spit fire. Icons of streetwear and the rap world, this appearance shows us the burgeoning days of the Star Trak movement. Furthermore, has Malice or Pusha T ever spit a bad verse? Tap in now or don’t.

Big Tigger Factor: “Jersey MLB.COM, Watch by Jacob”. Big Tigger might be the greatest rapper to never drop an album. 

Cassidy

Instrumental Used: The Notorious BIG – Dead Wrong

Another infamous Rap City occurrence. Cassidy rips the mic so hard he claimed Kanye didn’t want to rap after him. Whether it is true or not, Kanye may hold the record for least words said by a guest in the Rap City booth. A revered MC, Cassidy (Larsiny) shows us that the Rap City platform was perfectly suited for his verbal assaults. Everytime he appeared on the show he killed it. He is definitely a contender for the Rap City Hall of Fame. Philadelphia stand up. 

Big Tigger Report: Another one of those post-Tigger episodes. Pour one out.

Master P/ No Limit

Instrumental Used: Nas- Made You Look

A short and sweet freestyle. I simply put this on the list because of the rare Curren$y appearance. Master P introduces the ‘new No-Limit’ aka the 504 Boyz v2. Curren$y and Krazy bless the Rap City microphone with their NOLA twang. It’s not the best Rap City freestyle by any means but Curren$y’s presence here is too rare. A humble reminder to stay on your grind at all times. Curren$y’s journey from industry to independestry began here with the new No-Limit. 

Big Tigger Report: The No-Limit Soldiers were tryna get this shit done as fast as possible leaving no time for Big Tigger to flex his freestyle proficiency.    

Mobb Deep

Instrumental Used: Mobb Deep – Got it Twisted

RIP Prodigy for real. Alchemist is on the 1’s and 2’s for this joint as Havoc brings the energy right from the first bar. He really kills it in the grimiest of Mobb Deep ways. After Havoc, Prodigy steps up to the mic and hits us with the signature flow. Purveyors of the grimiest music from their era, Mobb Deep brought the heat here on Rap City. An essential watch for fans of the Mobb and furthermore fans of the Golden-Age. 

Big Tigger Factor: Havoc takes the reins right from the first second. No Tigger in sight. Until the end when blesses us with another Tigg special. 

Jadakiss

Instrumental Used: Sunshine Anderson – Heard it All Before

“I just want you to remember the God for ‘nicks the size of PlayStation Memory Cards”. Kiss drops a whole minute of quotables during this Rap City appearance. Much similar to Cassidy and Fabolous, the Rap City booth is the perfect environment for Jadakiss to stunt his true talents behind the microphone. Draped in his trademark paper towel du-rag, Kiss blesses us with a display of his proficiency. Had he spit another verse or another short freestyle it could of had the potential to be the best Rap City appearance. Regardless, Kiss was just saving his ammo for the album. Rap City: Tha Basement was always a teaser not a main course. The man with the greatest laugh known to man, did it again on Rap City. 

Big Tigger Report: “I got the FUBU on, they ain’t give me no Dirty Denim”. Tigger with a lazy flex. In contrast to Jadakiss’ lyrical bullets Tigger doesn’t stack up as one of the greats. However don’t play with Tig, he’s an undisputed legend.  

Styles P

Instrumental Used: Fabolous – You Make Me Better

D-Block, LOX reppin’ Styles P AKA SP Da Ghost does his daily routine in the vaunted Rap City booth. “mad heart under the Polo sign”. One of the flat-out most intimidating rappers of yesteryear, Styles spits using his trademark flow over the Fabolous instrumental. The LOX members have always been the nicest in the freestyle/cypher game and their Rap City track record fulfills this reputation. It’s not much to be said but the fact that Styles did his thang on Rap City. Nothing more, nothing less. 

Big Tigger Report: Another Tigger-less episode. Sadly. 

DMX/Drag-On

Instrumental: Nas – Made You Look

The Ruff Ryders Drag-On and DMX bless the Rap City booth with their undeniable energy. Drag-On shows us here that he really should of had next out of the Ruff Ryders movement. “Whilst yall was gettin potty trained I was gettin’ shotty trained”. In true Ruff Ryders fashion Drag-On and DMX have the censors working overtime. Once DMX touches the mic his transcendent energy is on display. His poignant delivery and unique vocal inflections remind you of the undeniable beast he was in his prime. Maybe the most underrated in comparison to his commercial success DMX brought his unique energy to the Rap City world. 

Big Tigger Factor: Big Tigger sets the table with a lil’ freestyle. Light work.

  • OTHER DMX RAP CITY APPEARANCES:

BG

Instrumental Used: Baby – What Happened to That Boy (featuring Clipse)

Fresh off his exit from Cash Money, BG stops by the Rap City booth to bring Chopper City to ‘Tha Basement’. In a slick move they have him rap over a Birdman instrumental (similar to 50 Cent rapping over a Murder Inc. track). WAHHNNN. BG uses this platform to oust Birdman (Baby) and diss him for not paying him during the Cash Money era. One of those rare instances where beef and shots entered the Rap City environment, BG keeps it all the way gutter right here. Chopper City in the Ghetto baby. FREE B-Gizzle!

Big Tigger Report: How did Tigger not get a record deal? He might be the GOAT at making shout outs mid freestyle.

Lil Flip

Instrumentals Used: Scarface – Guess Who’s Back (featuring Kanye West), Clipse – When The Last Time

The Ying-Yang twins said some funny shit at the start. But we are really here for the freestyle king Lil Flip (1:51). Flip shows us why he is the god of freestyling off of the top of the head. He’s the Screwed Up Click ‘Freestyle King’ for a reason. In retrospect I wish Flip got some more shine on the Rap City platform because he could truly wreck shop on the mic. However to witness Flip in his freestyle prime there are plenty of YouTube videos and Screw tapes available. If he had just one decent appearance on Rap City Flip would of been a shoe-in for the Rap City Hall of Fame. Potential scenarios out the window, Flip is still a freestyle legend in our eyes. 

Big Tigger Report: He spit like 5 lines and did better than the Ying Yang Twins. Tigger still the GOAT.

  • OTHER LIL FLIP RAP CITY APPEARANCES:

Mase

Instrumental Used: Mase- Breathe, Stretch, Shake

Church Mase was still too nice behind the mic and this freestyle is livin’ proof. “My money is tall even right beside Ewing”. If he is a pastor or Murda Mase, his flow is still forever timeless. Harlem World till the world blow, you heard? “How I’m livin’ big checks in the mail. You? Second interview at Nextel.” Double Up one time for Mase the God. Undoubtedly one of the swaggiest behind the mic. His bouncy flow will live for eternity regardless of his religious choices.

Big Tigger Report: Big Tigger sets the table here. He didn’t snap. But he did his job. Salute

Beanie Sigel/State Property

Instrumental Used: Mobb Deep – Burn

This right here might be the GOAT. Off rip Beans starts sending shots at Jadakiss and the LOX. After Beanie unloads his clip his State Property goons start lyrically murdering Kiss and the LOX. Beanie Sigel proves he’s the GOAT of this goon shit. He was spitting some serious venom throughout this freestyle. True Hip-Hop heads will enjoy every second of this freestyle. Lyrical warfare in the flesh. My only wish is that Oschino got a chance to spit, he had to stand next to Freeway the whole time. The Beanie Sigel/ State Property edition is easily the rawest Rap City in existence. Rappers have sent slick shots on Rap City but Beanie and State Property were coming at the LOX something fierce on this joint. Top 5 Rap City freestyles. Book it into the Hall of Fame.

Big Tigger Report: I don’t think Tigger was expecting such a wild freestyle. The 215 came too crazy. 

  • OTHER BEANIE SIGEL RAP CITY APPEARANCES:

Murphy Lee

Instrumental Used: Young Gunz – Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

Joe Budden is hosting this one (WTF?). Murphy Lee is on this list because someone needs to rep the St. Lunatics. After all, this was the era in which they dominated the mainstream. Nelly’s freestyle was too wack to throw him on here. So tap into Murphy Lee as he lowkey rips the Young Gunz instrumental. Shouts out to the Marshall Faulk reference as well. As a kid I fucked with Murph Dirt heavy and this freestyle proves that he was nice with it for sure. Add the novelty of Joe Budden hosting and you get a rare Rap City freestyle.

Big Tigger Report: Joe Budden!? Budden replaces the Tigg man here. Does he send shots at Jay-Z? IDK but yeah Joe Budden is here for some reason.  

Shyne

Instrumental Used: Queensbridge Finest- Da Bridge 2001

One of New York’s Penny Hardaway’s/ Derrick Rose’s, AKA another New York artist that had ‘next’, slides through to the Rap City basement. His baritone-like voice recites the standard NY grimy rap. The type of rap that the Rap City platform was built for. An essential watch if you want to relive the far too short career of Shyne-Po. Bad Boyz for life!? Shyne really coulda had next. No doubt. Sincerely yours, Shyne Po. Shout out to the Mets fitted as well

Big Tigger Report: For some reason the beat cuts off when he’s freestyling. Anyways Tigg does his thang thang. Freestyle king. 

  • OTHER SHYNE RAP CITY APPEARANCES:

Project Pat

Instrumental Used: Three 6 Mafia – Tear Da Club Up ‘97

Short but sweet, Project Pat brings the Memphis energy to the booth. Utilising his unique flow Project Pat floats over the Three 6 Mafia instrumental. A rare taste of that Southern flavor on Rap City, Patta brought the phonk right here. Holding that Hypnotize Minds chain during the whole freestyle was a very rare flex as well. The flow that would hypnotize the new generation, Project Pat shined bright on Rap City. 

Big Tigger Report: He didn’t hop in the booth here. Maybe that was for the best as Project Pat murked the beat.

Three 6 Mafia

Instrumental Used: T.I. – 24’s

Lord Infamous, DJ Paul, Juicy J and Crunchy Black pull to the Rap City basement to spread the Three 6 Mafia wave. They keep the verses extremely short but the highlights include Juicy J shouting his classic “shutdafuckkup”and Crunchy Black doing what Crunchy Black does That is of course, spitting some remedial bars. It’s all love though, Crunchy is a certified legend. Lord Infamous (Rest in Peace) and DJ Paul do themselves justice though. During Three 6’s mainstream push in the early 2000’s, this edition of Rap City shows the pioneers were a big deal during their heyday. 

Big Tigger Report: He wasn’t really on point here. But Juicy J saved everything by screaming “shutdafuckkuppp”.

Foxy Brown

Instrumental Used: P Diddy – Bad Boys For Life

“I think you tricks got Fox confused, I was a lil’ too gangsta’ for the Moulin Rouge”. I really don’t care if she did or didn’t write her shit, prime Foxy Brown is one of the most sauced up Femcees to grace the game. Def Jam’s first broad was a standout star and her performance on Rap City is nothing short of great. Ill Na-Na did the jerry on here, super official. Unfortunately there was no flexing of her mathematics skills like we heard on ‘Affirmative Action’ but the bars were correct and everyone peeped them light shots at Lil Kim. An underrated legend for sure, you better show love to Foxy Brown. 

Big Tigger Report: Nowhere to be seen. It’s a damn shame.

Gucci Mane

Instrumental Used: Cassidy- Im a Hustla

So Icy, Big Cat La Flare AKA Gucci Mane was independent on Rap City? Legend status. As mentioned in our DVD article, Gucci could be one of the best freestyle artists in rap history. His Down South flow may be harsh to the untrained ear, but his cadence and lyrics are on point when he drops freestyles. No-Pad, No-Pen shit for-real. Peep the rare Trap House tee at the start too and the So Icy chain. This that OG Gucci. “Gucci Mane La Flare new artist of the year”. Not gonna lie, Gucci killed this.

Big Tigger Report: Mad Linx era of Rap City, No Big Tigger smh.

T.I.

Instrumental Used: YoungBloodz – Damn (Featuring Lil Jon)

The video starts with DJ Vlad on the 1s and 2s. That’s right DJ Vlad. Nothing but rareness. As much as I dislike T.I. for using politics to oust Lil Flip during their beef, there’s no denying he was too raw behind the mic. In this edition of Rap City, T.I. sends some slick shots to Ludacris: “These rappers really don’t deserve to beef, but keep runnin’ ya teeth and imma come disturb ya peace.” Trap Muzik T.I. went crazy, can’t even front. Another one of those occurrences when beef spilt over into the Rap City booth. The rap game was too crazy back then. 

Big Tigger Report: “If you 18 I gotta see ID”. Big Tigger gotta have consent you feel me?

The Rap City era personifies the commercial boom of Hip-Hop. As Hip-Hop blew up in the late 90’s and 2000’s so did everything around Hip-Hop. Luckily for us Rap City chronicled the best from this era. Rap City: Tha Basement, Big Tigger and their Freestyle Booth gave artists a chance not only to flex their abilities behind the mic but it also gave artists a chance to flex their larger-than-life personalities. The spirit of Rap City lives on with things such as the XXL Freshman Cypher and other various YouTube series but nothing will ever match the greatness of Rap City. Beast Coast showed love to the Rap City era by recreating it for an one-off video. Rap City was the perfect platform for artists. Where else could you see Cam’Ron counting money whilst freestyling? Where can you see Beanie Sigel drop a damn diss track? The only place is Rap City: Tha Basement. The Rap City era is must-watch material for fans trying to relive or discover the early 2000’s Rap world. We definitely missed some classics in this list, so let us know. In the tweets or on the ‘gram. LO-FI: The Magazine signing out. One love. 

Stay tuned for more Culture content on LO-FI: The Magazine!

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