JRAWL (c) Nature Sounds

For producer-rapper J Rawls, rap was more than just music. It helped shape his mind and his life, as detailed on his new album, “The Hip-Hop Affect,” which was released on iTunes on May 17.

We sat down with the Ohio-based artist to get his top five favorite songs of all time, listed in no particular order.

Song: “Stakes Is High” (1996)

Artist: De La Soul

“If you listen to those lyrics and you look out and see what’s going on, everything that Pos and Dove said on that song is still true today. They were talking about how things are flashy, that there’s no substance. We’re not getting substance anymore and it just gets old. ‘Stakes Is High,’ my kids love that song. That’s how much I play it.”

Song: “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” (1992)

Artist: Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth

“C.L. was talking about his family and family is so important to me. I’ve got two songs on the ‘The Hip-Hop Affect’ album talking about family. Family is everything. That’s what keeps me going. I really dug how he reminisced on his life and him growing up. They dedicated it to Trouble T-Roy [a dancer from Heavy D. & The Boyz who had passed away prior to the song’s release] and I think that was incredible. That’s my favorite song of all time. I get chills still every time I hear it. It makes me stop.”

Song: “My Philosophy” (1988)

Artist: Boogie Down Productio

“That song is another very important song in my life. It really got me to want to know who Malcolm X is. The picture on the cover of the 12” got me wondering, ‘Who is this guy?’ That’s when I really started researching. I had to know more about Malcolm X, Nat Turner, everybody that was mentioned and that these cats were talking about, like Farrakhan. Who are these dudes? I wanted to know. It made me more intelligent. It gave me drive to find out who these guys were. It made me appreciate the song because when I listed to it and I heard the jewels he was dropping and I found it in a book, it made me say, ‘Oh, wow.’ Then I might do some more digging and find something else that he said a year later.”

Song: “It Was A Good Day” Remix (1993)

Artist: Ice Cube

“It was just that he was talking about what was going on in his neighborhood and that ‘mamma cooked the breakfast with no hog.’ It was a perfect day. Every once in a while, you need one of those. You need that because so many different things can go wrong. I always got inspiration in that song just listening to what he said because I didn’t grow up on the West Coast. I wasn’t in a gang. I knew different gang members and what not, but they weren’t Crips and Bloods gangs, like how them dudes get down. Just listening to what he was saying, it was dope to me. That was a real positive song.”

Song: “The Manifesto” (1998)

Artist: Talib Kweli

“I had that song way before it came out, so I was really digging it. I really enjoyed Kweli’s more revolutionary songs from back in the day. I had a lot of them before they came out, so that was part of the fun, as well. That song was always so dope, just everything that he broke down. He went into everything, just talking about man, woman and child on that song. It had a militant feel. I can think of some of the lyrics, but it’s not really the lyrics that did it. It was the feel, the Hi-Tek beat, him talking about the CIA and George Bush. It was real talk. I loved his flow as well. It always makes me feel militant.”

 For more from Soren Baker follow him on Twitter: @SorenBaker

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