In 2003, Nate Dogg posed a question that keeps rappers up at night: “Could you love me on a bus?” he crooned on the chorus of 50 Cent’s hit “21 Questions.” Fiddy raises an equally important conundrum on the same track: “If I went back to a hoopty from a Benz / Would you poof and disappear, like some of my friends?” If ever there was a song to remind the listener that you’re not a baller unless you own expensive cars, this is it.
Cars and hip-hop go together like gin and juice: they are an essential ingredient in that complex lyrical hierarchy that tells your peers that you have climbed that ladder of success a few rungs higher. Recent research by Gocompare analyzed more than 62,000 songs on Rap Genius from artists featured in the Top 40 Rap US Billboard Charts across the past decade to find the most mentioned cars and the artists who made the most mentions.
LA rapper The Game came out top with 473 car mentions, while Gucci Mane and Rick Ross were second and third with 431 and 349 shouts respectively. Nas crept into the top 10 with 153. The data unveiled Mercedes-Benz as the most mentioned brand, while the Chevrolet Impala and Range Rover are the models with the most name-checks.
In the spirit of looking at rappers’ relationships with their whips, here’s our guide to the most favored rides in hip-hop, both on and off the lyric sheet:
Compton rapper The Game is the biggest motor name-dropper in… er, the game. While his videos feature more vehicles than a season of Top Gear, the Chevy Impala is The Game’s favorite whip to natter about.
While the latest Impala might be seen as something of a dad-mobile, the early-to-mid ’60s versions are the ones to have, especially on hydraulics to give your Olde English some extra fizz.
You’ll find The Game piloting a ’65 in “Celebration” but biggest showing for this car is the iconic bouncing ’64 in Dr Dre’s “Let Me Ride.”
Otherwise known as a “Mercy” if you are into making ground-shaking hip-hop tracks, the flagship V12 Lamborghini has always been about making the biggest impression possible.
Thanks mainly to a buy-out by Audi in 1998, cars like the Murcielago became user-friendly enough that this impact wouldn’t be breaking down or reversing into a lamppost outside the club.
This car features in Kanye West’s “Mercy” and was recently found lurking in Rick Ross and Skrillex’s “Purple Lamborghini.” Three years ago, Ross put his well-used matt black and carbon-wrapped LP640-4 Roadster on sale for $210,000 on eBay.
While the Range Rover is the steed of choice for Sloane Rangers, The Queen and English farmers, there is one person Stateside who loves this luxury SUV more than anyone else: Jay Z.
From “J-Hova spittin’ game from da Range Rover” in “20 Bag Shorty” back in 2000 to “Jay Z in the Range, crazy and deranged” in his feature verse on Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love,” Jigga has long been a fan the big Brit off-roader.
But another shout-out to the “double R” comes from Nicki Minaj on her album Pink Friday: The Lost Tapes. The song is like any other love song, except the object of Nicki’s desire is her car: “I love my, I love my, I love my Range Rover.”
Maybach 62 and 57
When century-old German marque Maybach was reborn in 1997 as an ultra-exclusive wing of Mercedes-Benz, it remained maybe a bit too exclusive for its own good. Built on an old S-class chassis, the Maybach 57 and 62 didn’t sell very well. But the big Merc did capture the imagination of one group: rappers.
While it has been estimated that just 157 Maybachs were shifted worldwide in 2010, you can bet a fair few of these were snapped up by the hip-hop fraternity. Rick Ross even named his Maybach Music Group after the German brand in 2009, telling Sway Calloway, “I think, just that level of luxury is inspiration for people who started, like myself… who just looked and fantasized.”
The most notable appearance by a Maybach is on “Otis,” the Grammy Award-winning hit from Kanye and Jay Z’s album Watch The Throne. The car in question is given the Mad Max treatment thanks to a blow torch and industrial angle grinder, and then ragged around a car park. When this monstrosity went up for auction it fetched just $60,000.
Popular with Tony Soprano and Beverly Hills soccer moms, the big Caddy SUV really came into its own when 50 Cent ripped off the doors and fitted scissor-style replacements better suited to Italian supercars.
“I put Lamborghini doors on that Escalade,” he raps on The Game’s “How We Do,” “Low pro’s so low look like I’m ridin’ on blades.” The Escalade is also a popular mode of transport for Eminem, and don’t forget that time Janet Jackson appeared on SNL as Escaladay.
However, like bootcut jeans, hoodies under suit jackets and Justin Bieber’s original side-swept haircut with bangs, the Escalade is best left in the early 2000s.
The Lexus is a bit of a strange one. Founded in 1989, this luxury division of Toyota didn’t waste any time before it was being constantly named-checked by the hottest rappers of the 90s, including Biggie Smalls, who helped make brown plastic interiors seem strangely aspirational.
Along with Courvoisier and Air Force Ones, the Japanese premium brand dominated hip-hop tracks all throughout the ’90s. Deliberate product placement? Who knows, but, if true, it gives a whole new meaning to Biggie’s line, “I want it all from the Rolexes to the Lexus / Getting paid is all I expected.”
Built by Volkswagen, the Bug Veyron definitely wasn’t one for the people. Arriving in 2005 at 253 mph, the Veyron had a 8.0-liter W16 with quad turbochargers and a base price of $1,700,000.
For the aspirational rapper who wanted to show off (read: pretty much all of them), this was the car to have. Flo Rida reportedly bought his Veyron for $1.7 million, then had it wrapped in gold. Lil Wayne spent $1.8 million on his black Veyron, explaining his purchase with this line: “Man, I heard they got a fucking car that’s a million dollars. I want it.”
Rolls Royce Phantom
Dr. Dre rocks a coupe and P. Diddy has a drop: the Phantom is the car of choice for hip-hop royalty.
When BMW took control of Rolls Royce in the early ’00s, it set about creating the luxury equivalent of the Bugatti Veyron. The Phantom, when it arrived in a four door, shipping-container-on-wheels version, was about as luxury as you could get.
Fresh out of jail, man-of-the-moment Gucci Mane recently dropped half a mill on a red Phantom Drophead. Perhaps Gucci secured a bit of a discount on the sticker price – after all, with 431 mentions, he’s the second biggest petrol-head in hip-hop.
Mercedes Benz 500SL
Mercedes-Benz is the most rapped-about brand in hip-hop, with 3238 mentions. Aside from the obvious glistening shimmer that comes with the three-pointed star, the popularity of this car comes down to its diversity.
Mercedes is equally suited to everything from riding in a downplayed S-class to the studio (as Jay Z does) to flexing in a half-million dollar SLR McLaren. A 300SL even pops up in Kayne’s “Diamonds from Sierra Leone.”
With so many shouts it’s hard to pin down one model in particular, but arguably the most poignant is 2Pac’s ode to getting out of jail with a special dedication to the employees of Clinton Correctional Facility: 1996’s “Picture Me Rollin’.” With the lyrics “Picture me rollin’ in my 500 Benz” and “Flossin’ a Benz on rims that isn’t stolen,” it was ultimately a song about freedom from a man who would not live to see out the year.
While the Testarossa may have been the car to own in the ’80s, it still has a lot of kudos 30 years later.
Featured in white as Dr Dre’s ride in “Straight Outta Compton,” Action Bronson is posed with a Prancing Horse of a problem in “Strictly 4 My Jeeps”: “’89 Testarossa, will I fit in?”, he muses.
Other Ferrari references include Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka’s “Ferrari Boyz,” “Rari” by Famous Dex and perhaps the lesser-known “Rari WorkOut” by the UK’s Lethal Bizzle.
When Nelly is not thinking about plasters or headbands his mind is on one other thing: Porsches. The 2013 pop-country ear worm “Hey Porsche” sees the Texan rapper enthusing a little too romantically about his Speedster.
But its not the lithe ’50s drop-top that makes its way into most hip-hop tracks, but the Panamera; the Stuttgart firm’s stab at a luxury sedan. While Porsche gets 1,104 mentions in songs, the Panamera is the most talked-about model, with 147 mentions.
Who is its biggest fan? That’s right: The Game, who seems to go through a Panamera every week. For some Euro repping of the “Deutsche luxos limousine,” check out “Panamera Flow” by Bonn spitter Bushido.
When VW launched the Continental in 2003, its everyday drivability, near 200mph performance and understated bling made it an instant hit with footballers (and just straight-up ballers) everywhere.
Its ability to house wheels as big as paddling pools probably helped, too. Bow Wow bought one, Fabolous bought one and – yes, you guessed it – The Game bought one.
But the prize for most ostentatious Conti goes to Yo Gotti, with a CMG Tiffany edition one-off. It rolls on a set of custom 22″ Forgiato F2.01 wheels with a white-and-bronze finish. The custom body kit was designed specially for Yo Gotti.
On the topic of expensive cars, check out the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT.
- Words: Oliver Stallwood
- Lead image: tjwproductions.com