We took some of these jams from a master list by the ever-savvy Billboard, which was pretty thorough, but we realized that we would have to necessarily omit such god-awful regrettables like “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down. (We’d like to forget that such a shudder-worthy hard-rock grunge “revival” even happened near the end of the ’90s and beginning of the ’00s, wouldn’t you?) To narrow it down and broaden the discussion, we’ve decided to look at five hip hop and R&B songs referencing superheroes, rating them with corresponding grades.
So, here are a few songs that your favorite Marvel and DC superheroes just might boogie down to at a house party. (And can you imagine what that party would be like? Seriously, can we get an invite? Would Spider-Man drink light or dark beer? We have so many questions right now.) Let’s go!
1. Batman and Robin – Snoop Dogg feat. Lady of Rage RBX
Tha Doggfather injects a re-working of the classic Batman theme song with the trademark West-Coast gangsta swagger of a G-funk persuasion. A deep, plucky bass line adds Gotham-like seriousness with old-school comic-book kitsch, as Lady of Rage raps, “Hit ’em with the POW! BAM! BIFF! Whoa / Pick up your lips, don’t trip, tie your shoelace / When I spit, I split it, turn Harvey Dent into Two-Face / Robin, I’m more than a sidekick, I’m more like the livest”. Yes. All of the yes. We give this superhero jam an A-.
2. Superman – Eminem
Some of you may remember saving your allowance to buy The Eminem Show circa 2002, only to have it confiscated by your mom after she saw the “Parental Advisory” sticker and gasped at the violent, sexually-charged lyrics. Now I get why moms the world over did what they did, because it probably wasn’t cool that I could rap all of the f-words on the album at the age of 12. And I know I wasn’t the only one! This ditty is rife with gross, misogynistic lyrics, and essentially sees Marshall Mathers telling his lady that he can’t save her and be her Superman. That being said, The Eminem Show was very much a key work of 2000s rap, and represented an era in which Em broke down racial barriers for the genre. We give this superhero jam a C+.
3. Gotham City (Remix) – R. Kelly
R. Kelly is the king of pushing remixes that are way more bangin’ than their originals could ever hope to be (see: “Ignition”). The remix to “Gotham City” is no exception. The original song was, appropriately, on the soundtrack to the 1997 film Batman & Robin. But it was terrible. So sappy, so fluffy. Even the would-be futuristic sparse hi-hats were lost amidst the cheese. The remix is much more palatable. Here, we see spookier, notably more East-Coast-influenced production à la Mobb Deep’s The Infamous. The concept is “Gotham City for the ghetto”, as Kells croons, and longs for a utopia where he feels he can belong, in the vein of “Gangsta’s Paradise” and “Thugz Mansion”. For the extra effort and solemn relatability of the remix, we give this superhero jam a B.
There’s clearly something missing here — where are the songs about more obscure fandom characters?! Is the intersection of hip-hop artists and comic-book culture aficionado(a)s really that small? Perhaps Nicki Minaj rhyming about Harley Quinn and Rocket Raccoon is but a mere fantasy, but hey — a geek can dream, right?