Hooks are one of the most essential parts of a hip-hop song, and help move a rapper’s track to the top of the charts once its ingrained in the culture. On the flip side, there are plenty of memorable tracks that don’t have a hook and among some of the most popular songs over the years.
A standout no-hook banger is Meek Mill‘s 2012 anthem “Dreams and Nightmares (Intro).” The guaranteed party-starter begins with a triumphant piano groove as Meek reflects on his rise to the top of the rap game. Produced by Tone the Beat Bully, an ominous beat then sounds off as the Philly rhymer spits a heated diatribe to his distractors. No hook needed, just Meek’s blistering rhymes.
Three years ago, J. Cole delivered cautionary verses to up-and-coming rappers on his 2018 track “1985 (Intro to the Fall Off)” from his KOD album. The song was interpreted as him criticizing newer rappers like Lil Pump. Overall, rap fans saluted Cole for his insightful bars about the pitfalls of the industry, all without a hook. As a result, “1985 (Intro to the Fall Off)” climbed to the No. 20 position on the Billboard Hot 100 that year.
A year prior, Kendrick Lamar delivered his own song without a hook, 2017’s “Duckworth.” A few beat switches—courtesy of producer 9th Wonder—support K-Dot’s story of the time Top Dawg Entertainment CEO Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith robbed a KFC restaurant where Kendrick’s father, nicknamed “Ducky,” used to work in the 1990s. Ducky got on Tiffith’s good side, and he decided not to harm Kendrick’s dad. The incident happened many years before Tiffith discovered Kendrick, whose surname is Duckworth, and signed the rapper to TDE. With a tale so riveting, there’s no need for a hook on this one.
These are just a few of the tracks that don’t have a catchy hook or a memorable chorus—just fire bars. XXL highlights the best hip-hop songs with no hooks. Check them out below.