Whether it be NBA players, Dragon Ball Z characters or food, we love to comparing rappers to nouns. It's a pillar of The DJBooth, and if there's anything I love as much as hip-hop, anything that gives me the same feeling of hearing a sample flipped perfectly, it's The Wire.
Case in point, this playlist Michael K. Williams put together for Omar. Sure, it's two years old, but I'm just seeing it now. And also, an Omar playlist BY OMAR?!?! You can't put a time-limit on that kind of brilliance. Honestly, I've been low-key obsessed with that playlist since I saw it and it got me thinking, what would that playlist of other characters look like? What if you could only pick one song for each character in The Wire, what songs would those be?
Well... what would they be?
McNulty "Shimmy Shimmy Ya"
ODB and McNulty are kindred spirits. They both loved to drink, not shower, and they both absolutely hated authority. ODB and McNulty quite literally gave zero fucks about anything besides getting messed up and doing what they do best. Whether pissing on LL Cool J's plaque or making up a serial killer, both were "gaping" assholes, as Landsman so eloquently put it, and yet they were beloved by the public and their peers. ODB and McNutly, despite their penchant for being degenerates, were men of the people; they were loved despite doing the same things so many other people were hated for. Both are almost endearing in their debauchery. Part of the reason you have to love them is because when they are on point, it's magic. You can deal with missed concerts and constant drinking because when when they really care they're unlike anybody else.
ODB was a natural rapper and McNulty was "natural po-lice." They often got into trouble, but it was their natural ability that got them out of it. I'd love to say they would make great drinking buddies, but I'm horrified to think of the damage that would ensue if they got together.
Namond "Shook Ones Part II"
I feel like this one is pretty self-explaintory. I'm really happy Namond got out of the game, but let's be honest, he was weak. It's one thing to not be in the game, but it's a whole other issue to front so hard and then NEVER back it up. I get the pressure from his ogre of a mom and Wee-Bay being his dad and all, but come on. He got punked by Kenard! KENARD! Shit, even when Michael did his dirty work he couldn't collect. Then he uses the same insults Kenard does later?! I don't blame Mike one bit for slapping him. Ain't no such thing as half-way crooks, which is why "Shook Ones" is Namond's theme song. He may not like it, but we all know he won't do shit about it.
Randy "The Art Of Peer Pressure"
Randy's story always made me so sad. Sure, he was a snitch, but he was a good kid. All he wanted to do was throw pee balloons, sell Skittles, then go home and hang out with Ms. Anna. He was never a player, nor did he want to be, but he got swept up in the life. He didn't know he was sending Little Kevin to his death! Leave him alone! His story is definitely one of the saddest. He was a good kid who, in an effort to fit in, got chewed up and spit out by a mad city. He never was a gangbanger, but he was never stranger to the folk neither. I think you know where I'm going with this. "The Art Of Peer Pressure" is Randy's theme song because the pressure was just too much for him.
Prop Joe "Seen It All"
At this stage in the game, Jeezy and Hov are both past their prime. But while they can no longer be considered the elite-of-the-elite, "Seen It All" was quite a statement. Both delivered arguably some of their best work in years and proved that, though may not be on top anymore, you still don't fuck with the veterans. They deserve our respect.
To me, Prop Joe was one of the smartest, savviest players in the game. He was never feared like Marlo or Avon, but Joe could go toe to toe with any of them because he played the game for so long and played it so well. Even Marlo had respect for Joe...for a little while anyway. Do you really think anyone else besides Joe could get him to join the co-op? Every other player was terrified of Marlo, but Joe used his smarts and connections, the kind only a veteran has, to get Marlo's attention. I always respected Joe because he's one of the only players who appeared in every season. He really had "Seen It All" and that's how he made his way. That and fixing clocks...
Bubbles "A Change Is Gonna Come"
Whenever I hear Sam Cooke's classic my heart breaks and my faith in humanity is restored at the same time. Though he sounds beaten and broken, you can hear the glimmer of hope in his voice. I always wonder where Sam was mentally and physically when he made this song. I get the image of a guy strung out on the curb in the pouring rain with a bottle in hand or, in the case of Bubbles, a needle in the arm.
To me this is someone who has hit rock bottom but is determined to make it out; it gives the song a melancholy yet hopeful flavor. It's one of the most powerful, emotional songs ever and similarly Bubbles has the most difficult emotional journey of any character. His lows are the absolute lowest. However, by the end, he's still a tragic figure, we leave him with a new start and it looks like his change has finally come. When he finally tells the story of Sherrod you can sense that he's turning over a new leaf; I can almost hear "A Change Gonna Come" in the background. You get the sense though that his future will always be marred by the past, he is destined for the redemption that Cooke is longing for. If "A Change Gonna Come" isn't Bubbles' theme song, I don't know what is.
I love this beat. It's so sinister, just like Marlo. This song's not high-octane or full of explosions and gun shots, but its simplicity makes it more menacing. It's just like Marlo. Sure, he may kill you in broad daylight, but really he was never one of those guns blazing kind of guys. He would send you down the corner and then make you disappear; it sent the same message as a gun fight. The similarities aren't in beat alone. Marlo was able to rise up so fast because he truly didn't give a fuck about the rules of the game. He did what he wanted, when he wanted, with no regard for the set principles the game had run under for so long. His take no prisoners approach quite literally threatened the old way of life. You know when you have drug dealers complaining about "ethics" and "codes" you are certifiably insane. Plus, look at some of these lyrics:
I put the wolves on ya, I put a price on your head
The whole hood'll want ya, you startin to look like bread
I send them boys at ya, I ain't talkin bout Feds
Nigga, them body-snatchers, nigga you heard what I said
That literally describes fourth season Marlo. He rarely did the killing himself but would send his wolves, Chris and Snoop, after you. He put a bounty on Omar and "body-snatchers" is the perfect way to describe killing someone and boarding them up in a vacant house. Plus, like Jay he was the top dog. He had the most money, the most property, but he was still that corner-loving gangster at heart. "Threat" Jay is the same.
Bodie "Walk Alone"
Bodie was my favorite character in the whole damn show. I love him. I felt a connection with him more than any other character and yet we didn't know that much about him. He played the game well, but never really moved up the ranks or rocked the boat. McNulty put it best, he was a "soldier" in every sense of the word. Though people came and went, Bodie survived because he was smart and stayed on his own. No family, he just looked out for himself and did what he needed to, but by the end he died defending his corner...all alone. Bodie often struck me as a tragic, melancholy figure; he had personality but he also seemed sad. It's the same kind of vibe I get from "Walk Alone." Bodie was always kind of an outsider. I think he'd really identify with "Walk Alone" because both have a tough, jaded feel but still show some serious anguish. Also, let the record show that when Bodie died, I cried.
Cheese "Put it On"
I love "Put It On" because it has so much bounce but it's also so brash and violent. This song simultaneously makes me want to get into a fight and crack open a 40 or light a joint. Big L has so much personality, but he also comes across a someone who you don't want to fuck with. Normally, these street cuts are so dark and angry, but "Put It On" has a little more swagger. It reminds me of Mr. Cheese Wagstaff. The Brother Mouzone incident aside, Cheese was no gump; he was ruthless and was not to be fucked with, yet he was one of the funniest characters on the show. He would always be doing dirty shit - dog fighting, ratting out Joe - but it always put a smile on my face because he was so loud and colorful. He can kill a dog and find a way to make me laugh the same way Big L can make me laugh with, "I got girls that make Toni Braxton look like Whoopi" and follow it up with, "Got thirty-five bodies, buddy don't make it thirty-six."
Believe me, I could do this all day (come on, Omar still needs a theme song) but I have to get back to the rest of my life, aka watching The Wire again. Thankfully, I know from experience that DJBooth Nation is going to come through in the clutch and fill in the blanks below. Enjoy, and remember, always watch out for the Kenards of the world. They're the ones who can be so deadly.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]