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9/11-Inspired Songs: Jay-Z, J. Cole Pay Tribute With Lyrics

Sept. 11, 2011, marks one decade since the four coordinated terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., which claimed innocent lives and generated an amount of patriotism not often witnessed in contemporary history. Following the traumatizing events, many hip-hop artists have continued to reference “9/11″ in their music, whether in tribute to those lost, or in criticism of the government. In memoriam, The BoomBox pays tribute to 9/11 with 10 hip-hop songs shining on a light on that unforgettable day.

10

‘Raise Up (USA Flag Remix)’
Petey Pablo

Frank Micelotta, Getty Images Entertainment

The original version of ‘Raise Up’ celebrated Petey Pablo‘s home state, North Carolina, but the Southern rapper also offered up a patriotic remix, encouraging listeners to wave their US flags enthusiastically. Petey replaces local neighborhood shout outs with mentions of the Air Force, Marines and other US military departments. Radio personality Steph Lova chimes in at the end, sending well wishes to “everybody from every corner of the earth, who lost a loved one” on Sept. 11.

09

‘Around My Way’
Talib Kweli

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On this Kanye West-produced, John Legend-featured track from Talib‘s 2004 album ‘The Beautiful Struggle,’ the Brooklyn MC gets poetic on contemporary social injustices. Between thoughts on struggles endemic to the ghetto, Kweli points accusatory fingers at those who jumped on the patriotic bandwagon after 9/11. He rhymes, “It really gets me mad, the way we saluting flags/ Wrapping them around our heads, when n—-s ain’t become American ’til 9/11/ Feeling like you gotta sneak into heaven.”

08

‘Welcome to New York City’
Cam’ron featuring Jay-Z & Juelz Santana

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No Dipset fan expects 9/11 conspiracy theories from Cam’ron, but they do expect him to grab a feature from fellow NYC titan, Jay-Z, and harp on the city’s immeasurable swag. After proudly introducing the track with, “Welcome to the Empire State, home of the World Trade,” Jay runs down landmarks from the famed Rucker Park to MSG, and Juelz Santana jumps in before the second verse, adding, “It’s the home of 9/11, the place of the lost towers, we still banging, we never lost power.”

07

‘Chinese New Year’
Clipse

Ben Hider, Getty Images Entertainment

On the Clipse‘s second studio album, ‘Hell Hath No Fury,’ the Thornton brothers deliver one of their grittier street tales via The Neptunes production, with ‘Chinese New Year,’ which compares a festive, light-filled event to the light show associated with gunfire. To paint a vivid picture of the scene and drive home the reality of the song, Malice references the grim events of Sept. 11, rhyming, “With them 911s revvin’, gunfire leave brethren remains like it’s 9/11.”

06

‘Why’
Jadakiss

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The beauty of this Jadakiss track lies in its simple complexity. The Yonkers rapper delivers line after line, wondering ‘Why’ certain events had to take place. He references the music industry — “Why is the industry designed to keep the artist in debt?”– pop culture — “Why did Aaliyah have to take that flight?” — and finally, 9/11 — “Why did Bush knock down the towers?” Paired with his hook on Immortal Technique’s ‘Bin Laden, fans get a good idea of Jada’s political stance.

05

‘Bin Laden’
Immortal Technique featuring Mos Def, Jadakiss & Eminem

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Immortal Technique is known for spitting anti-establishment lyrics that zero in on politics, so it’s no surprise the Harlem rapper dedicated this track to musings on 9/11. Mos Def and ‘Kiss carry the straightforward hook — “Bush knocked down the towers” — while Immortal lays down lines on the government’s missteps. Em‘s contribution in the final seconds — “Shady Records was 80 seconds away from the towers, some cowards f—ed with the wrong building, they meant to hit ours” — is the perfect closer.

04

‘Premeditated Murder’
J. Cole

David Livingston, Getty Images Entertainment

On this cut from his late 2010 mixtape ‘Friday Night Lights,’ North Carolina native J. Cole reflects on his altered reality, thanks to an influx of money and career success. “From a Civic to a seven, must’ve died and went to heaven, like a passenger on 9/11,” he raps, expressing surprise and content over his current achievements, while warmly remembering the victims lost on Sept. 11.

03

‘Words I Never Said’
Lupe Fiasco featuring Skylar Grey

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‘Words I Never Said’ was the first single from Lupe Fiasco‘s ‘Lasers’ album and it made an immediate splash, with the Chicago rapper declaring the War on Terror a “bunch of bulls—” in his first breath. But that was the only beginning. Lupe went on to question the government’s involvement — “9/11, building 7, did they really pull it/ And a bunch of other cover-ups” — and condemned Obama and the conservative media in the same verse.

02

‘Public Enemy #1′
Eminem

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In 2006, Shady and his crew dropped ‘Eminem Presents: The Re-Up,’ a 20-track compilation featuring Shady Records artists and their affiliates. This track finds the ever-controversial Em spitting verses about Peeping Tom government tactics, and even his Fifth Amendment rights, which prompts a Twin Towers reference and a flashback to Tupac’s death: “I can feel the tremors tremendous/ In remembrance of Sept. 11/ Flash back to Sept. 7 when Tupac was murdered in Vegas.”

01

‘Thank You’
Jay-Z

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‘Empire State of Mind’ is cemented in pop culture as one of the most popular New York City tributes to date, but on ‘The Blueprint 3,’ ‘Thank You’ features an entire third verse as a metaphor, pitting 9/11 against the crumbling careers of his fellow rappers. “I was gon’ 9/11 ‘em, but they didn’t need the help,” Hov raps. “…’Cause not only did they brick, they put a building up as well, then ran a plane into that building, and when that building fell, ran to the crash site with no masks and inhaled.”

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