The Ultimate Throwback Hip-Hop Playlist For Your Triumphant Return To School

As someone who came of age in the early 2000s, I’m always in the mood for some nostalgic hip-hop. I stroll to the subway in the morning in step with Jay-Z's "Izzo" as if I'm walking into my middle-school dance with my seventh-grade squad. When I talk to any and all attractive dudes, Ashanti's "Mesmerize" plays in my head as if I were talking to my middle school crush. I have a patented, all-purpose throwback hip-hop playlist full of middle-school-era rap entitled “Bad As Hell Soundtrack” that’s basically the score to my life.

Needless to say, the "Bad As Hell" soundtrack is very important to my self-concept. It gives me a modicum of mental toughness in a life otherwise devoid of hardness. Not to mention, this personal mixtape brings me back to a simpler time: my Nelly and Ja Rule-filled childhood. Are you intimidated yet? Who am I kidding? Of COURSE you are.

It's for this very reason that occasion of going back to school is as good a time as any to refurbish the nostalgic hip-hop section of your iTunes library. We've designed an eclectic throwback playlist to impress all your friends with your vintage bump 'n' grind tune knowledge. Even if they're not impressed, at the very least, people will go "OHHH!! THAT song!!"

1. Jay-Z, "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)"

Best lyric: "To try and to fail, the two things I hate / Succeed in this rap game the two things is great."

Memory it evokes: Being at your friend's house, overhearing your friend's big brother listen to it.

Current mood: Invincible. Feeling, as Jay so aptly states, like the eighth wonder of the world.

2. Ja Rule feat. Ashanti, "Mesmerize"

JaRuleVEVO on YouTube

Best Lyric: "And it's CRA-ZAY, but BAY-BAY..."

Memory it evokes: Attempting to grind with your crush at your eighth grade dance... and failing miserably.

Current mood: Feeling some serious feels for bae. Also, feeling serious feels about the bygone king and queen of hip-hop, Ja Rule + Ashanti.

3. OutKast, "Rosa Parks"

OutkastVEVO on YouTube

Best Lyric: "Ah ha, hush that fuss / Everybody move to the back of the bus."

Memory it evokes: Watching the music video on TRL and being intrigued by Andre 3000's innovative use of football gear.

Current mood: Sophisticated, and wanting people to be impressed with your great taste.

4. Lil' Kim, "The Jump Off"

Best lyric: "I'm the Wicked Witch of the East, you better keep the peace / Or out come the beast."

Memory it evokes: Your cool older cousin blasting the radio in her car while driving you to the mall circa seventh grade.

Current mood: Pretending to be ludicrously wealthy.

5. Nelly, "Country Grammar (Hot...)"

NellyVEVO on YouTube

Best lyric: "Shimmy shimmy cocoa what? / Listen to me now."

Memory it evokes: Listening to the heavily edited version of this on your school bus in grade school. Wondering what Nelly was saying for basically half of the song.

Current mood: Sitting in gridlock traffic and blasting music so loud your neighbors start to get visibly annoyed.

6. Mariah Carey feat. Jay-Z, "Heartbreaker"

MariahCareyVEVO on YouTube

Best Lyric: "She wanna respect the rest, kick me to the curb / If she find one strand a hair longer than hers..."

Memory it evokes: Attempting to learn the movie theater dance from the music video.

Current mood: Just dumped, wanting to stick it to your ex.

7. Missy Elliott, "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)"

Missy Elliott on YouTube

Best lyric: "Beep beep, who got the keys to the Jeep? V-r-rrrrrrrooooom!"

Memory it evokes: Watching your first music videos on MTV, not really understanding what was going on, but being intrigued at the same time.

Current mood: Sitting poolside, being extremely chill.

8. Lauryn Hill, "Doo Wop (That Thing)"

laurynhillvevo on YouTube

Best Lyric: "How you gonna win if you ain't right within?"

Memory it evokes: Being an innocent child and trying to figure out what the elusive "thing" that Hill was referring to was. But intuitively, you knew it was feminist.

Current mood: Critiquing the patriarchy. Frustrated with Tinder.

9. R. Kelly, "Ignition (Remix)"

RKellyVEVO on YouTube

Best Lyric: "It's the freaking weekend baby/ I'm about to have me some fun."

Memory it evokes: SO many memories. You've probably played this at every adult party you've hosted, kicking off a sing-along. Basically, every positive memory you have is likely associated with this song.

Current mood: Euphoric and silly. Enjoying the onomatopoeia of car horns.

Image: Atlantic Records/ YouTube; Giphy