4. Kanye West "Jesus Walks" (Verse 2)
Album: The College Dropout
Our basest popular music originated in the Black American churches. From gospel to rock'n'roll, it's just a couple quick steps from bible-thumping in the pews to hip-shaking in the juke joint next door. It's not surprising that the two rappers who tried to bring religion to the clubs were from Chicago, where the church is still a central pillar of the music scene. Rhymefest was performing this song well before it became a smash for Kanye West, and he ultimately received a co-writing credit. Verse two, in particular, captures how Kanye, early on, mixed a combination of grassroots-sympathizing relatability ("To the victims of welfare, for we living in hell here...") and irreverent humor ("The way Kathie Lee need Regis") to get at something greater without seeming didactic. But perhaps most significantly, it showed that 'Ye had vision, closing his verse with a confident assertion that he would have the clubs screaming out "Jesus Walks."
He was right. —David Drake