Conventional pop music wisdom dictates that Track 4 is the traditional cornerstone of any pop music album, the compartment in which artists stash their best stuff for listeners to find after working through the appetizers at the beginning of an album. In rap, however, it’s always been about Track 1. Why? Because hip-hop is not polite and because it has no patience. A rapper won’t wait to engage you with subtlety: He’ll tell you what you need to know right now, up front, without delay.

Thus, the Opening Song: the gateway to a rapper’s album, or even his whole career. It’s the moment when the curtain comes up and the spotlight hits the stage and we all collectively ask: “What do you have to show us?” An album only gets one chance to make a first impression, and that leadoff song can say it all.

It can encapsulate an artist’s entire style, as with Warren G’s ”Regulate,” or it can be a sly and subtle introduction that eases you into terrors to come, as with Three 6 Mafia’s “Sippin’ on Some Syrup.” It can rip things open with a terrific explosion, like the Beasties’ “Shake Your Rump.” Or, like Nas’s “N.Y. State of Mind,” it might sneak up on you and run off with your wallet before you have a chance to decide whether or not you even want to listen. There’s a million ways to come at it and a million ways to get it wrong. Don't postpone joy. These are The 50 Best Album-Opening Songs in Rap History

Written by Sam Sweet (All Nite Menu)