Good things don't always need a sequel. Donnie Darko is best remembered as a one-and-done and not even Biggie could save The Blueprint 2. If Ashton Kutcher really could time travel, he'd be wise to hunt down whoever's responsible for The Butterfly Effect 2 and stuff some dynamite in their mailbox.
When it comes to rap songs, however, sometimes thunder does strike twice (and thrice, and, um, whatever comes after thrice). From blockbuster franchises like Rick Ross' "Maybach Music" to lesser-known trilogies like Lucki's "Count On Me," here are the 10 best rap song series, ranked.
P.S. We decided a series must contain at least three songs to qualify and, for the sake of variety, we only included one series per artist—sorry "Mafia Music" and "American Terrorist."
10. Lucki — “Count On Me”
- “Count On Me” (2013)
- “Count On Me Pt. II” (2013)
- “Count On Me 3” (2014)
Lucki (formerly known as Lucki Eck$) has danced with the devil known as drugs, but his “Count On Me” series is dedicated entirely to slanging them, not swallowing them. Lucki isn’t your typical neighborhood drug dealer, though; in a shady industry full of flaky characters, the Chicago rapper stands out as a reliable vendor. “You can trust me with your money, trust me with your money / You can count on me,” he assures his beloved clientele.
Rather than use drug dealing as a way to escape the streets or boost his status, you get the feeling Lucki takes pride and pleasure in selling itself. And if he likes you, he might just give you a discount: “If they nice, 12 for 32 like rulers.” Despite the fatal consequences of his trade that he addresses in “Count On Me 3” (“That one damn bitch had a fucking relapse, OD’d god damn that’s a shame”), there's something charming about the way Lucki talks about selling drugs, especially when mixed with Hytman and Hippie Sabotage’s potent production.
9. Big K.R.I.T. — “My Sub”
- “My Sub” (2011)
- “My Sub (Pt. 2: The Jackin’)” (2012)
- “My Sub, Pt. 3 (Big Bang)” (2014)
The only thing Big K.R.I.T. likes more than his old school is what’s inside it. Featuring trunk-rattling production and classic Southern flavor, Krizzle’s “My Sub” series is his love letter to the almighty subwoofer, the necessary addition to your ride that’ll get you respect in the streets and action in the sheets.
“My Sub” parts one and two play out like a short film: K.R.I.T. pulling up to the club, sub blaring, asses shaking. His loudspeaker bags him a bad bitch, but as the sequel’s title suggests, he gets jacked for his precious sub before he can get lucky. “Part 3” acts as the prequel to this story as K.R.I.T. explains how it all started way back—while waking up the entire neighborhood, of course.
8. Common / Lonnie Lynn — “Pop’s Rap”
- “Pop’s Rap” (1994)
- “Pop’s Rap, Pt. 2 / Fatherhood” (1997)
- “Pop’s Rap III…All My Children” (2000)
- “Pop’s Belief” (2011)
Common’s father, Lonnie Lynn Sr., passed away from prostate cancer in 2014, but he’ll always be remembered for his “Pop’s Rap” series. A former basketball star who turned his drug addiction into a decades-long career as a youth counselor, Pops sprinkled wisdom on many of his son’s albums through spoken word poems included on the project’s closing songs.
Though the “Pop’s Rap” series officially only appears on four of Common’s albums—Resurrection, One Day It’ll All Make Sense, Like Water For Chocolate and The Dreamer/The Believer—Lonnie Lynn’s presence can also be felt on Electric Circus’ “Heaven Somewhere,” Be’s “It’s Your World (Part 1 & 2)” and Black America Again’s “Little Chicago Boy.”
It’s been almost three years since Pops drew his last breath, but his reverberating voice and beautiful words still soothe the soul to this day.
7. Lupe Fiasco — “SLR”
- “SLR (Super Lupe Rap)” (2010)
- “SLR 2” (2013)
- “SLR 3” (2013)
From underwhelming albums like Lasers and DROGAS Light to his bi-monthly retirement threats, Lupe Fiasco makes it hard to be a Lupe fan. Take his “Super Lupe Rap” series on its own, however, and you'll find yourself falling back in love with Lu like Lois Lane and Superman.
Beyond the dizzying lyrical displays, “SLR” also tells us a little bit about what makes Lupe tick, about what produces such electrifying performances out of such a frustrating talent. 2010’s “SLR” was partly a response to Soulja Boy saying he doesn't "want to be super-Lupe-Fiasco-lyrical and n*ggas don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about.” To which Lu replied, “call it being Pretty Lyrically Swag / Soulja call it Super Lupe Lyrical / You can’t understand me nor mimic my miracles.”
Three years later, Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” verse sprung Super Lupe into action once again. Despite not being mentioned in the song—a fact Lupe acknowledges himself—the Chicago rapper still fired back with the fiercest response to King Kendrick: “Now we all heard what he said, but what he said means we dead / And that shit is insane / He’s so crazy, look at the little baby / N*gga you ain’t Nas, n*gga you ain’t Jay-Z / You will respect me, you will reject me / But I’ve done so much, no matter how far you go, you will reflect me.”
Lupe’s “SLR” series is proof that when you light a fire under his ass, he comes with that heat. Following the tepid response to DROGAS Light and his recent anti-Semitic controversy, let’s hope Super Lupe makes a return on DROGAS Wave (or whatever he decides to call his next album).
6. Master P/Dipset — “Bout It, Bout It”
- “I’m Bout It, Bout It” ft. Mia X (1995)
- “Bout It, Bout It II” ft. Mia X (1996)
- The Diplomats — “Bout It Bout It… , Part III” ft. Master P (2002)
Master P was always more interested in selling records than writing rhymes, but that’s what makes “Bout It Bout It” so brilliant. Bucking the popular boom bap and G-funk styles of the time, 1995's "Bout It Bout It" was all ‘hood pride and death threats over a worm-like synth that'll still put you in a mean muggin' trance. The sequel, released just a year later featuring exactly the same beat and exactly the same cast, seems redundant in hindsight, but it was only because P couldn't shout out enough cities as he wanted to on the original (seriously).
That’s also part of the charm of “Bout It Bout It.” TheNo Limit general saw the song as the hood’s “national anthem,” which he took from his native Calliope Projects all the way to Harlem, where he linked up with Dipset almost a decade later. Cam'ron and Jim Jones essentially hijacked “Bout It Bout It… , Part III” from Master P, but with classic lines like "snow so white only thing missin' is seven dwarfs," their diplomatic efforts made the world a better place.
5. Meek Mill — “Tony Story”
- “Tony Story” (2011)
- “Tony Story Pt. 2” (2012)
- “Tony Story 3” (2016)
Meek Mill isn’t the kind of rapper who’ll leave your head spinning with lyrics (nor is he the kind of rapper who's very good at handling beef in the Twitter era, but that's another story). Instead, Meek’s strength as an emcee lies in his first-hand experience of the streets and bringing that harsh reality to life in his music.
Like the Philly version of Paid In Full, “Tony Story” is a tale of jealousy, betrayal and revenge. In part one, Tony kills his best friend Ty over a brick before finding himself on the other side of Ty’s cousin Paulie’s gun. In part two, Tony’s little cousin plots revenge on Paulie, only to meet the same fate as Tony and Ty. In part three, Paulie gets ratted out by his girl and winds up in county jail, where Tony’s people await. It's a vicious, never-ending cycle of death that only becomes more gripping through Meek's rhymes.
“Tony Story” has already been turned into a novel and according to Meek’s final line on part three, the upcoming “Tony Story 4” will “be a movie n*gga, literally.” Get the popcorn ready.
4. Rick Ross — “Maybach Music”
- “Maybach Music” ft. Jay Z (2008)
- “Maybach Music 2” ft. Kanye West, Lil Wayne & T-Pain (2009)
- “Maybach Music III” ft. T.I., Jadakiss & Erykah Badu (2010)
- “Maybach Music IV” ft. Ne-Yo (2012)
- “Maybach Music V” ft. DeJ Loaf (2017)
If Maybach—a since-defunct high-end arm of Mercedes-Benz—is a metaphor for the luxury lifestyle that Rick Ross’ purported transatlantic drug trades have afforded him, then his “Maybach Music” series is that fantasy come to life in audio form. With legends like Jay Z, Kanye West and Lil Wayne riding shotgun, the MMG mogul laid the foundation for his record label while motivating listeners to be their own boss.
Of course, it would come to light that William Leonard Roberts II wasn’t the mobster he made out to be, but there’s no denying the imaginative rhymes and slick flows he brought to the “Maybach Music” series. After all, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League’s cinematic production (on the first four releases, anyway) deserved nothing less than creative license.
“Maybach Music” wasn’t the realest shit Rick Ross ever wrote—we had to wait 11 years and nine albums for that—but fiction is often more enchanting than fact.
3. OutKast — “Da Art of Storytellin’”
- “Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 1)” ft. Slick Rick (1998)
- “Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 2)” (1998)
- “Knowing” (2003)
- DJ Drama — “The Art of Storytellin’ Part 4” ft. OutKast & Marsha Ambrosius (2007)
Through their “Art of Storytellin'” series, André 3000 and Big Boi painted vivid pictures of love and lust, from the sweet yet troubled soul of Sasha Thumper to the fine ass of Suzy Skrew. Better yet, they practically mastered the art of storytelling. “I said what you wanna be, she said, ‘alive’ / It made me think for a minute, then looked in her eyes / I coulda died,” 3 Stacks rapped like a director dropping bonus DVD commentary on Aquemini's "Part 1."
Like any good story, there’s a moral to OutKast’s “Da Art of Storytellin'" series. Rape Mama Earth’s heavenly body and she’ll eventually crumble (“Part 2”). Steal from a client like Wanda did on “Knowing” (aka “Part 3”) and expect the dude to “get in your shit!” It’s the basic law of karma, and the only way to reverse bad shit happening to you is to stop doing bad shit.
André 3000 and Big Boi always were great at telling it like it is, then telling it how it could be.
2. Drake — “AM/PM”
- “9AM In Dallas” (2010)
- “5AM In Toronto” (2013)
- “6PM In New York” (2015)
- “4PM In Calabasas” (2016)
Hit songs with catchy hooks may be Drake’s bread and butter, but his “AM/PM” series is nothing but bars. Whether he’s pulling a late shift in Toronto or kicking back in Calabasas, the series has served as a platform for Aubrey to air out his enemies while reminding the rest of the competition that he's "number one over all these n*ggas" (except on this list, of course, but Drake doesn't seem to be a fan of lists anyway).
Like Kendrick’s “The Heart” series, you can also chart Drake’s evolution through his “AM/PM” series: from the confident yet anxious rookie on “9AM In Dallas” (“what if I don’t really do the numbers they predict?”) to the household name who’s established like the Yankees on “4PM In Calabasas.” Heavy is the head that wears the crown, so it’s no surprise Drake has become more vigilant throughout the series, from putting the little homie Tyga in his place on “6PM In New York” to killing three birds—Diddy, Budden and Meek—with one stone on “4PM In Calabasas.”
Joke all you want about his DeGrassi days, simp anthems and Ja-fake-an accent, there’s no denying Drake can rap with the best of them—when the time and place suit him.
1. Kendrick Lamar — “The Heart”
- “The Heart Pt. 1” (2010)
- “The Heart Pt. 2” ft. Dash Snow (2010)
- “The Heart Pt. 3” ft. Ab-Soul & Jay Rock (2012)
- “The Heart Part 4” (2017)
Kendrick Lamar‘s “The Heart” series is just that: all heart. 2010’s “Pt. 1” was an explosive introduction for those who were already up on the kid from Compton, but for many of us, “Pt. 2” was the moment Kendrick Lamar captured our hearts. And if he wasn’t the one pouring his heart out in the booth, K. Dot would’ve probably been picking up his jaw off the floor, too. “My favorite verse has to be ‘The Heart Pt. 2,’ period,” he said in 2011. “It got so emotional in the booth I actually dropped a tear. I had to come out, fall back and gather my thoughts all over again."
It’s no wonder “The Heart” series is filled with such emotion when you consider each of the last three songs have been released in the run-up to a new project—“Pt. 2” before Overly Dedicated, “Pt. 3” prior to good kid, m.A.A.d city and “Part 4” ahead of Kendrick’s impending album. All that energy, urgency and anxiety that's been building inside erupts like a volcano on “The Heart” series, manifesting itself in both positive and negative (or necessary) ways; Kendrick is desperate to “make a way for my people to see the light” ("The Heart Pt. 1"), but he's also fighting the urge to “kill you motherfuckers dead" ("Pt. 3").
Not only hip-hop's greatest song series, “The Heart” series also provides a fascinating snapshot of Kendrick Lamar’s journey from a “lil Compton n*gga” to “the greatest rapper alive.”