18. Jeru the Damaja "Brooklyn Took It" (1994)
In 1994, Jeru's phenomenal debut album The Sun Rises in the East helped revive East Coast rap, along with the output of Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, and fellow Brooklynites Black Moon and the Notorious B.I.G. The Damaja, who hailed from East New York, displayed not just coastal but also borough pride throughout. Nowhere was it more apparent than "Brooklyn Took It," where he and boom-bap divinity DJ Premier (BK's adopted son from Texas) flipped a sample of KRS-One's famous 1987 "The Bridge Is Over" diss ("Manhattan keeps on makin' it/Brooklyn keeps on takin' it/The Bronx keeps creatin' it/And Queens keeps on fakin' it") into a badge of honor.
Mixing hardcore Brooklyn imagery of beatdowns, shootouts, and dice games into metaphors for his unique delivery of hard but intellectual lyrics and the thumping drum sound that had become a borough staple ("Drums numb your ears, rhymes swell up your lips"), Jeru placed a crown atop his head. Did it matter that it may have belonged to you and he snuffed you in the face (lyrically, or perhaps literally) and snatched it, along with your pride and your girlfriend? And if it did, what the fuck were you gonna do about it? Clearly you weren't stepping to an MC with "so many bodies on [his] microphone, the shit's haunted." While Brooklyn took it, everyone else just had to stand there and take it. —Justin Monroe