Hip-Hop and cars have always blended perfectly with one another. Whether it's the backdrop to test out a mix of a freshly crafted banger right after the studio, or as an actual call-out in said song, the synergy is rarely forced.
Most point to luxury cars — like Ferraris, Lambos, Bentley's, and Rolls Royce's — as the most rapped about cars. And for good reason. All of those cars appear on Car and Drivers' list of the most mentioned vehicles/brands in Hip-Hop.
But in the '80s and '90s, those cars weren't necessarily what the streets were referencing. In fact, there was an "every man/woman" relevance between what MC's drove, and what was accessible to those enjoying their music.
In the spirit of togetherness, here are three cars that have unlikely Hip-Hop cred.
1. Mazda MPV
"Dedicated to MPV's: phat!"
The combiination of DJ Premier and D&D Studios produced real magic. But they weren't always synonymous with one another. In fact, if it wasn't for Preem's Mazda MPV —which he purchased after signing a deal with Chrysalis Records — he might have continued recording at Calliope Studios on 37th Street and 8th Avenue.
As Gang Starr was readying to record their third album, Daily Operation, at Calliope, Showbiz of D.I.T.C. (Diggin’ in the Crates) called DJ Premier to do the scratches on the remix to Lord Finesse’s “Return of the Funky Man" at D&D.
"Back then, you bounced the final mix to a cassette," Preemo says. "Once you approve it, then you bounce it to a half-inch tape, and you take that tape to mastering, and they got to run that reel to bounce it down. I had an incredible system in my Mazda MPV that everybody in New York knew me for. I put the mix in to listen to it and I was so blown away with the mix, I told the owner, ‘I want to do my next album here.’ They were like, ‘Cool.’ We booked a session and Daily Operation was born.”
Jim Jones recalls seeing 2Pac for the first time in Harlem. While he was at the height of his career, the West Coast Icon was also in an MPV.
“[My favorite 2Pac memory] was that whole era when he was in Harlem doing Above the Rim, he said. "Just to see the way he was thuggin’ in Harlem, that was the first time I really got to see him. I remember I was in high school walking up 125th [street] and he was hanging out of a burgundy MPV [minivan]. Shit just blew my mind to see a live nigga like that run through the streets of Harlem."
The MPV has been name checked by Wu-Tang Clan, The Notorious B.I.G., Fat Joe, Diamond D, and Biz Markie. The latter is insistent that he was responsible for making the MPV fashionable.
When the Biz sat down with Questlove for an episode of Questlove Supreme, he said, "I used to hang with Azie [Faison]. I used to hang with Alpo [Martinez]. I used to hang with Rich Porter. Rich Porter was one of the flyest dudes known to man, to this date. So, he had an MPV first. I said, ‘Yo man, what is that?’ So I sat in there with him; we talked for about an hour, half an hour. The next day, I went and got two of ’em."
Biz's 1989 MPV had a $120,000 dollar sound system. He would also rap about his Mazda on “Bad All By Myself."
2. Izuzu Trooper
Got more troopers than Isuzu..." - Das EFX
The word "Jeep" became a catch-all for many different SUV's in the late '80s and '90s — famously immortalized on songs like LL COOL J's "Back Seat (Of My Jeep) and Masta Ace's "Jeep Ass Nigguh." However, one model in particular — the Isuzu Trooper — played an integral role in introducing a young OutKast to members of the Dungeon Family, Goodie Mob, and Organized Noise.
Since Andre 3000 and Big Boi didn't have a formal demo yet, they had a cassette with an extended instrumental version of A Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario." They popped the tape into Big Gipp's Isuzu Trooper and began what was described as a tag team wrestling-esque back and forth — with neither missing a beat. By the end of the performance, they were invited to the iconic Dungeon on Lakewood Terrace.
3. Audi 5000
"Hit it from the back, then I'm Audi 5000." - Havoc
While the phrase "I'm Audi 5000" has distinct ties to adopted slang that stems from Hip-Hop culture, some might be surprised to learn that the phrase actually stems from someone's actual car. Specifically, LL COOL J.
He bought his first car at the dealership in 1987 for $30,000. It was red, had black BBS rims, a Blaupunkt stereo system, car phone, and the word “determination” on the gas tank. When it was time to go, he would simply tell the person, "I'm Audi 5000..."