First Impressions: The 50 Best Album-Opening Songs in Rap History

31. UGK "One Day" (1996)

Producer: Pimp C, N.O. Joe, Mr. 3-2
Album: Riding Dirty
Label: Jive


It begins with the warmest, richest track on Ridin' Dirty, an album that goes a hundred layers deep in shadowy warmth. It was one thing for rappers to recognize the greatness of vintage soul music but Bun B and Pimp C took deeper lessons from their parents' generation. To find an equal for "One Day" you might have to go all the way to Curtis Mayfield's "Billy Jack," from 1975. These are the songs that make pain indistinct from love and gentility indistinct from anger and lushness indistinct from toughness. Pimp C understood that to make a song about death feel true you had to make it as plush and elegant as the satin interiors of all the coffins in which his dead friends were buried. "One Day" makes a home for the deceased but it's also a song about what the deceased do to us after they're gone. It's a church service in song without the church and without the congregation, just three rappers and a track that feels like a Cadillac hearse winding across a cemetery, and a local friend who could do a frighteningly persuasive impression of Ron Isley. Hip-hop loves its "tribute" songs, sure, but this—this is an elegy. —Sam Sweet

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