I remember when I was about to start at the American Enterprise Institute, and was being taken to different offices to sit down with and get to know various directors and scholars. Chatting with one fellow, I mentioned that I was born in Inglewood, Calif. “Ah,” he said, a smile creeping across his face. “Always up to no good!” Color me impressed: a conservative think-tanker had just quoted 2Pac. Days later, he quoted The Game.
It just underscored that ideology and even background don’t figure into the tastes of true music fans, something you’d never know by the assumption that those at a Republican rally just want to hear country (Alice Cooper, by the way, is a conservative — I expect to hear Welcome to My Nightmare at the next CPAC). I also had the added benefit of musical education from working at Tower Records (R.I.P.) in college. Many might remember the vast classical music rooms there, appropriately staffed by geniuses in the genre. While working undercover to catch shoplifters (yes, a cool job), I got schooled in everything from ska to opera. But my musical appreciation — capped by an undying love for records over CDs — has always been wide-ranging, from Frank Sinatra to Bob Dylan. And I’ve always loved rap.
So here are my top 20:
1. California Love – 2Pac with Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman
Probably 2Pac’s most crossover hit, this soars with the best of the state – “Let me serenade the streets of L.A.” With, yes, odes to Oakland and Sactown, the Bay Area and back down, as well. Best to hear while out for a cruise in the Golden State, even if it’s a tad cliche.