5 Songs Representing Rap Royalty | Timberland’s Royalty Boot Celebrates Hip-Hop’s 50th Anniversary

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Source: TIMBERLAND | Men’s Hip-Hop Royalty Timberland® Premium 6-Inch Waterproof Boots

A few weeks ago when discussing the FUTURE73 50th anniversary of Timberland collection, I stated that Timberland had an opportunity to connect in a major way to Hip-Hop’s 50th anniversary. The company answered the call with a release of the Timberland Royalty and the boot is layered with references to the four facets of Hip-Hop. According to designer of the boot, founder and educator of CNSNT DVLPMNT Chris Dixon:

  • The gray sole represents “The Concrete Jungle” (breakdancing).
  • The silver mic cord lace aglets (MCing).
  • A vinyl-inspired back and silver metal turntable hangtag (DJing).
  • And a graffiti-stencil Timberland logo (graffiti).
  • All of which compliment the boot’s purple color scheme (inspired by the BX mural honoring DJ Kool Herc, widely considered the founding father of Hip-Hop–and the host and deejay of that 1973 party–as well as Supreme hip-hop’s regality).
  • “This is a Black history tribute from Timberland—50 years of royalty”


While the immediate use of these boots will point directly towards the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, a Black Greek organization that has prestigious members such as Langston Hughes, Benjamin Hooks, Earl Graves and Michael Jordan, it’s not really the first color that comes to mind when someone says Hip-Hop. Royalty is understandable, but like the Omega Psi Phi allusion, Prince is the immediate reference point and because of that I’m not necessarily sold on this boot as the element needed to highlight the culture. There are aspects of the boot that are undeniable, and I’d love to see it carried into a limited run of a different design especially when Hip-Hop has changed so much. There is an opportunity to further the discussion on technology in Hip-Hop by discussing the move from analog to digital. The advancement of the culture beyond the boundaries of New York to becoming a global music and the most popular music in the world. The opportunity to celebrate with direct dedications to the fallen emcees who are loved by the culture who wore the boots, DMX comes to mind immediately along with Prodigy. This doesn’t mean that I’m not a fan and I that I don’t want to highlight the boot. I do and to do so, I’ve created a graphic highlighting a song from each era of Hip-Hop which captures the theme of royalty in both boot and Hip-Hop form. I had about ten different playlist ideas. I initially sneaker with a list of songs that mention Timberland (Check out the Bing AI Search). I then felt like the perfect aspect would be to create a playlist that could connect to each part of the sneaker. For DJing that song would have been Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s “Brand New Funk” and for EMCEEing I was going to choose KRS-One’s “Rapture – Step Into a World”. I finally landed on a list that goes from the 80s to today. One song for each decade. Every song with lyrics referencing, “Kings, Queens, Royalty” or subject matter connected to the act of ruling which is an ongoing theme in Hip-Hop. From one generation to the next true emcees battle to be different and to shine brighter than the next. This has led to countless lists of the top emcees. The following list isn’t definitive by any means, but I’ll share lyrics from the song and analyze how it speaks to the heart of Hip-Hop. Here is my playlist to coincide with Timberland’s celebration. While the brand stepped up to deliver educational workshops with Dixon’s design classes, there is a continued celebration waiting and more ideas to capture for every month of this year. I bypassed the 70s since the boot is based on a mural for Kool Herc and because I wanted to bring the 5 decades into the future and include the 2020s.


80s Queen Latifah “Wrath of My Madness” from the album The Timberland x Wacko Maria Classic 2-Eye Boat Shoe

You’ve been begging and dying
For somebody’s rhyming to set you free
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I’m coolin’, teaching those needing schoolin’
And the mic? This mic in my hand? I’m rulin’!
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Latifah has the spirit so head for the water
And dive into the wrath of my madness

Analysis: Monarchies are often considered direct lineages of God and like the bible, Latifah is using a biblical reference to rearrange the words, “God gave his only begotten son.” She then explains how her rhymes allow her to rule and that what she is saying is akin to a baptism, so “head for the water.” It would have been easy to choose Run-DMC’s “King of Rock”, but this song carries the mantle as one of the dopest tracks of the 80s and it showed that women can be rulers just as well as men.

90s Gangstarr “Royalty” from the album Moment of Truth

Major effect to your sector, I’m the corrector
Live and direct, wavin’ my mic like a scepter
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Analysis: This is an unlikely choice for an era that introduced the world to Nas, Outkast, Wu-Tang, Biggie and Pac. Gangstarr was the last of a dying breed. As the 90s arrived duos and crews as well as solo emcees backed by armies of producers ran the rap game and dominated the airwaves. Backpack rap was relegated to Rawkus Records, but Guru and DJ Premier represented the last of the 80s where Hip-Hop was ruled by a DJ and an MC. Royalty is Premo at his best on the beats and Guru delivers his monotoned manifesto in the same way Latifah did at the end of the 80s. He establishes that his mic is his staff and as a member of the Nation of Gods and Earths, he represents God in the physical form. With an obvious reference to African heritage, he flips the overseer term into a positive removing the skill from its slave history.

2000s Pharoahe Monch “Desire” from the album Desire

Floss, knowing that the soul is still missing
(Who am I?) I’m the poetical pastor
Slave to a label, but I own my masters
Still get it poppin’ without artists and repertoire
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When my brain excels, your train derails
Pop shit, make you feel The Clipse like Pharrell (Woo!)
You will feel me, you will admire
(My) Struggle, (My) hustle, (My) sole desire

Analysis: An entirely surprising entry here I’m sure. The 2000s were owned by Kanye West, but lyrically there aren’t any references to royalty in his lyrics… which is kind of funny considering the amount of arrogance Ye needed to dominate the decade the way he did. It wasn’t Ye who made one of the greatest thematic albums in the history of rap though. Yes, Graduation and College Dropout got the airplay and sales, but Desire from Monch is a beautifully orchestrated album with grade A lyricism. In the verse above there is the needed reference to royalty with a play on his name and monarchy, but it’s the first line shared here that sets the tone. Millionaires were being made with rap music. In the 80s emcees wanted to appear to have the trappings of success because there was a need to distance the art from the previous generations (think Motown singers who looked the perfect part but were still being mistreated), so emcees took on the appearance of drug dealers. As the 2000s progressed rappers really were getting rich, and the songs took on a lot of the luxury trappings of the 80s without the rebellion. In the 80s Dapper Dan put together outfits for emcees made of luxury bags broken down and reassembled. In the 2000s Kanye was rapping about the purchase of the actual products and labeling himself as the Louis Vuitton Don. The music was distancing itself from the struggle and the people; rappers were addressing different stories. Pharoahe stayed consistent to the foundation of Hip-Hop. On Desire he remade Public Enemy’s “Welcome to the Terrordome”, but Desire was full of double entendres. Every line in the verse above is filled with wordplay and duality. The second verse of the song continues his lyrical mastery and holds a rhyme capturing the importance of this music:

Desire, the fire that ignites the torch to brand
(This is not rocket science) This is easy to learn
My mic’s the gavel; when I talk, court’s adjourned
Respect, even if you was ashes, you couldn’t earn
I embody antibiotics, you are infected with germs
Rap’s fatally ill, please, get concerned

2010s Kendrick Lamar’s verse from Big Sean’s “Control”

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And bomb on they mom while she watchin’ the kids
I’m in destruction mode if the gold exists
I’m important like the Pope, I’m a Muslim on pork
I’m Makaveli’s offspring, I’m the King of New York
King of the Coast; one hand, I juggle ’em both

The juggernaut’s all in your jugular, you take me for jokes

Analysis: King Kunta was a close second for the 2010s. This is the only posse cut on the list and it was chosen because the 2010s turned into a chase for clout with soundalike SoundCloud rappers rising to prominence with a few emcees focusing on lyrics. The rankings and best emcee lists pitted J.Cole, Lupe Fiasco, and elder statesmen in the conversation for the GOAT emcee. Kendrick Lamar’s verse caused the biggest uproar in music because in one song he delivered a verse that challenged every emcee. In his opening bar he says, “line them up,” as he bombs on their mom which is a reference to Ice Cube’s song “Check Yo Self”. It’s clear he doesn’t care who he offends, and he continues by delivering lines which can be considered sacrilegious, “important like the Pope, Muslim on pork.” In true battle rap essence, he’s decided to swing the blade at anyone standing in his line of sight. His reference to “Qualities of the Prince” and Tupac’s Makaveli, while it didn’t create the conflict that happened in the 90s leading to the death of Pac and Biggie, is equally as serious in claiming he’s the king of both coasts. It’s a brag as bold as when Snoop kicked over buildings in The Dogg Pound’s “New York, New York” music video. The final line alludes to the X-Men villain Juggernaut, an unstoppable force. Once the Juggernaut builds up a head of steam, his momentum carries him roughshod through everything in his way. Imagine that in a jugular vein.

2020’s Nas featuring Lauryn Hill “Nobody” from the album Ténis Timberland Field Trekker Low preto mulher | King’s Disease II

If Chappelle moved to Ghana to find his peace then I’m rollin’
Where the service always roamin’, I’m packin’ my bags and goin’

It’s a challenge in that, it’s a balancin’ act
Visit beautiful places, there’s more out here than the trap

Analysis: Nas could have found his way on this list simply based on “The World is Yours” from Illmatic. The classic line “Suede Timbs on my feet keeps the cypher complete,” is the epitome of 90s Hip-Hop. That verse, however, misses the mark in referencing royalty and that classic lyric has been updated to Nike’s in later remixes as Timberland found itself at odds with the culture that built the 6-inch boot into a status symbol. Nas’ three album series King’s Disease takes place with the emcee over 30 years in the game and he shows no rust as he enters his 50s. It’s appropriate that Nas rounds out this list with Lauryn Hill featured on the track. His opening lines establish the importance of growth and moving beyond where you’re from. I chose these bars although they don’t reference royalty, the album itself fits the topic. Recently Nas explained how a person overcomes King’s Disease. He stated one has to remove the ego and focus on the art. In the film “Belly” Nas plays the character Sincere. In the film he states that he wants to get above the madness of the drug game and move to Africa. By referencing Dave Chappelle in this track Nas is showing that the wealth means very little when you don’t have peace of mind. Chappelle walked away from millions at the height of success on Comedy Central. Nas’ allusion to his character Sincere in Belly explains that fame and money, the trapping of royalty isn’t a balm. Lauryn Hill, who hasn’t performed or dropped a full-length project since the groundbreaking Miseducation in the 90s, shows up on this song and delivers a verse comparable to Kendrick Lamar’s verse on Control. The song is a beautiful testament to the maturation of Hip-Hop and is the perfect way to end this list.




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