Before you jump to conclusions…
As far as rap tropes go, records about riding around with your crew or cars, in general, are as hip-hop as graffiti and breakdancing. In that spirit, we've compiled and ranked a list of the ten best "riding" songs... that is, songs with a variation of the word “riding” in the title.
While putting this list together, two things stuck out to me: the East Coast does very little riding, and a candy-painted Cadillac may as well be holy.
The songs on this list are almost exclusively Southern or West Coast classics. Considering the car-centric cultures of the South and West, and the fact that a great “riding” song often packs plenty of funk along with a mountain-moving bassline, such regional divisions make sense.
There are way too many driving-based puns I could have used to introduce this list, so I’ll leave that part up to the imagination.
Here are the ten best “riding” songs, but first...
Beastie Boys — "Slow Ride" (Licensed to Ill, 1986)
They say you grow out of your Beastie Boys phase, but they’re wrong. The sped-up “Low Rider” sample is iconic. Three Jewish kids from Brooklyn having the time of their lives, it’s easy to relate, or at the very least, root for them years after their peak.
Rapsody — "Ridin'" ft. GQ (Laila's Wisdom, 2017)
The magic of "Ridin'" comes in the way of its ability to create a setting. Between the starry beat and conviction driving Rap’s flow, this one feels like a late night cruise. GQ's guest verse is the epitome of strong rapping, and the beat switch sounds like you’re entering another dimension. Rapsody’s inflections and cheek will steal your heart and give or take a few years, this song will be topping plenty of lists.
Kanye West — “Drive Slow” ft. Paul Wall & GLC (Late Registration, 2005)
It feels unjust to entirely disqualify a classic Kanye track just because he used “Drive” instead of “Ride” in his title. One of the top songs from one of Ye's early classics, the track’s creeping rhythm, and looming saxophone flourishes give it some of the Southern flavors that make up most of the list. Of course, with Paul Wall on the track, there's just enough Houston mixed in with the glimmer of Chicago.
10. OutKast — “Funky Ride” (Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, 1994)
“Funky Ride” is quintessential Atlanta, a six-and-a-half-minute sensual odyssey brought to life by Organized Noize and the Society of Soul. Though OutKast is just the vehicle here—pun intended—it's hard to imagine Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik without this groove. A funky ride indeed, the production is bolstered by a slew of guitars, including an emotive and animated solo that deserves its own feature credit.
9. Young Buck — “Shorty Wanna Ride” (Straight Outta Cashville, 2004)
One of the most crunk and most memorable singles of his career, Young Buck's “Shorty Wanna Ride” is the whole package. In fact, the former G-Unit emcee's influence knows no bounds because apparently, even Taylor Swift is a fan. Can we really blame her, though, when on a scale of headbob-ability, “Shorty Wanna Ride” scores a perfect ten somewhere between the claps and bassline.
8. Three 6 Mafia — “Ridin Spinners” ft. Lil' Flip (Da Unbreakables, 2003)
Long before raps about fidget spinners, there was “Ridin’ Spinners,” one of Three 6 Mafia's many contributions—triplet flow, defining and innovating club rap production, A$AP Rocky’s aesthetic—to hip-hop. This is one of those songs where your favorite verse changes every time you press play. Something about Juicy J’s enunciations, something about Lil' Flip’s swagger, and something about Lord Infamous, in general, make this record a classic.
7. Q-Tip — “Let’s Ride” (Amplified, 1999)
We ride on the East Coast too, you know, when the trains aren’t running and the weather is accommodating. On "Let's Ride," the intricate guitar sample drives the track, creating the perfect sonic playground for Q-Tip to stay in the pocket while having a good time. If Tip’s chipper cadence isn’t enough to make you smile, the fact that this song is a tribute to his truck should do the trick.
6. Chamillionaire — “Ridin’” ft. Krazyie Bone (The Sound of Revenge, 2005)
How iconic is this hook? Chart-topping, Platinum-certifying, tongue-twisting—"Ridin'" remains one of 2005's greatest highlights. What’s missing? The Krayzie Bone feature never quite stacked up in terms of memorability. Then, of course, there is the dreaded curse of a song this infectious: sometimes all you want to hear is the hook.
5. Clipse — “Ride Around Shining” ft. Ab-Liva (Hell Hath No Fury, 2006)
Astral coke raps—need I say more? The production is mystifying as it is tailored for listening in pristine whip interiors. If this one isn’t on your list of top Pusha verses, please at least tell me that “the Black Martha Stewart” is a top-five Pusha line. Nearly 11 years later, "Ride Around Shining" is still a classic "riding" song from a truly classic album (Hell Hath No Fury).
4. Lil Wayne — “Ride 4 My N****s (Sky's The Limit)” (Da Drought 3, 2007)
The sky truly was the limit for Weezy in 2007 as he proved when he so thoroughly took ownership of what was originally Mike Jones' beat on Drought 3 standout “Ride 4 My N****s (Sky's The Limit).” The way he makes his vocals muddy and gritty and punchy all at once is so impressive that it's easy to forget the beat ever belonged to anyone else.
3. Nelly — “Ride Wit Me” ft. City Spud (Country Grammar, 2000)
If you have two functioning ears, you've heard this song. Breezy and nostalgic, “Ride Wit Me” is the single that helped to put Nelly ‘on’ the mainstream map, and proved that even in 2001, he was a legend in the making. Everything about this smash hit—and the debut album that houses it—screams classic: the hook, the velvety vocals, the warm guitar.
2. UGK — “Ridin’ Dirty” (Ridin' Dirty, 1996)
A certified Texas classic and one of the more transformative cuts from 1996, “Ridin’ Dirty” is a luxe and sinuous masterpiece. One of the most enticing and collected songs on Pimp and Bun's classic album of the same name, this song captures all of the central tenets of Southern rap culture. Cadillac not included, but definitely required.
1. Dr. Dre — “Let Me Ride” ft. Jewell (The Chronic, 1992)
“Just another motherfucking day for Dre,” posted at the top of some list somewhere. Let Me Ride" is the definitive "riding" song and a lowrider anthem that immediately conjures up images of convertible '64 Chevy Impalas on hydraulics. Now 25 years old, this Chronic standout still sounds fresh, with a confident Dre flow, Snoop cameos that still get a rap fan giddy, and G-Funk production that sounds like a breezy summer day drive in instrumental form. There are certain songs that just feel pristine, and this is one of them; some polish really lasts forever.