Producer: Dr. Dre
Album: Above the Rim: The Soundtrack
Label: Death Row, Interscope, Atlantic
After throwing her weight around on The Chronic and Doggystyle, Death Row's token female rapper Lady of Rage was perfectly poised to become the queen of hip-hop's g-funk era. And she finally got her shot in the summer of '94, when her solo debut "Afro Puffs" was released as the fourth single from the double platinum Above The Rim soundtrack.
Many women had attempted to tackle the rugged sound of West Coast gangsta rap, but Rage—a native of Farmville, Virginia—commanded respect like no other: "Now I'm hittin' MCs like Haaaadouken!/Ain't no doubt about it, I'm the undisputed." Her precise flow fell perfectly in the pocket of the neck-snapping Daz-and-Dre beat, which was remixed for the radio using the same Johnny "Guitar" Watson sample that Biggie had rapped over earlier that year on Mary J. Blige's "What's The 411 (Remix)." With an ominous video that styled her as a brolic blaxploitation heroine—leather, cowrie necklace, the titular hair style—Rage had all the makings to be Suge's next star.
Sadly, "Afro Puffs" was overshadowed by another female rapper who blew up by copying the Death Row sound: Da Brat's "Funkdafied" went platinum just as Rage was starting to climb the charts. But even though Rage will always be remembered as a one-hit wonder, "Afro Puffs" stands as the last truly perfect single from Death Row's original roster. Or, in the more succinct words of the Doggfather: "Snoop Doggy Dogg still don't love a hoe—but you gotta give credit where credit's due." - Brendan Frederick