The intro track of a Hip Hop album often sets the tone for the entire record and provides listeners with a preview of what's to come. These opening bars can be introspective, explosive, or simply a mission statement from the artist. Some of the best intros have become iconic in their own right, encapsulating the essence of the album and establishing a deep connection with listeners from the get-go.

One of the most celebrated hip-hop album intros came from Meek Mill's debut LP, Dreams and Nightmares. Said track began with a more laid-back, eloquent approach before the beat (and Meek's bars) switched into something much more aggressive. This intro was more than just a beginning – it was an invitation into the world of Philadelphia, offering a glimpse into the life and environment that shaped one of Hip Hop's greatest lyricists.

Similarly, Kanye West's "Good Morning," from his third studio album, Graduation, was another iconic intro that captured the essence of the entire body of work. With its uplifting production and reflective lyrics, "Good Morning" set the stage for an album that explored themes of success, failure, and personal growth. Kanye's ability to blend introspection with triumphant beats made this intro a memorable and powerful opening that resonated with listeners long after the first listen.

REVOLT compiled 19 intros that properly prepared the listener for the full listen. These intros were more than just introductory offerings -- they were the gateway to understanding the artists' visions, themes, and messages.

1. N.Y. State of Mind – Nas

Nas' "N.Y. State of Mind," from his critically acclaimed debut album, Illmatic, is a quintessential piece of East Coast Hip Hop. The track showcased Nas' lyrical prowess and vivid storytelling, painting a raw and gritty portrait of life in the Queensbridge housing projects of New York City. Over DJ Premier's haunting and minimalist production, Nas delivered intricate verses that captured the struggles, dangers, and resilience of urban life.

2. Dreams and Nightmares (Intro) – Meek Mill

Meek Mill's "Dreams and Nightmares (Intro)" was a powerful and iconic track that served as the opening to his debut studio album, Dreams and Nightmares. The song is renowned for its dramatic structure, starting with a soulful and reflective piano-driven beat over which Meek Mill recounted his rise from adversity and his dreams of success. As the track progressed, it underwent a sudden, electrifying beat switch, with Meek delivering an explosive and triumphant declaration of his arrival in the rap game.

3. Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A

N.W.A's "Straight Outta Compton," the title track from their groundbreaking album, is a seminal work in the history of Hip Hop. The song served as an unfiltered and unapologetic introduction to the group's perspective on life in Compton, California. With its aggressive lyrics and hard-hitting beats, "Straight Outta Compton" captured the raw energy and social commentary that defined N.W.A's music.

4. Love Sosa – Chief Keef

Chief Keef's "Love Sosa," from his debut studio album Finally Rich, is a pivotal track that played a significant role in the rise of the Chicago drill music scene. The song's hypnotic production, featuring dark, melodic beats crafted by Young Chop, perfectly complemented Chief Keef's distinctive, raw vocal style. "Love Sosa" is an ode to Keef's tough persona and street credibility, with lyrics that boasted about his success and resilience amid adversity.

5. Good Morning – Kanye West

Kanye West's "Good Morning" was the opening track to Graduation. It functioned as an introduction to the album's themes, with West using a school-based metaphor to represent his own journey in Hip Hop. The song featured a sample of Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" and saw the Chi-Town star boasting about his success.

6. What Up Gangsta – 50 Cent

50 Cent's "What Up Gangsta" is the explosive opening track to his debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin'. It serves as a no-holds-barred introduction to 50 Cent himself, complete with aggressive rhymes and dark humor as he details his past life on the streets. Lines like, "They say I walk around like I got a vest on my chest" established his gangster persona, while references to violence and drug dealing painted a vivid picture of his struggles.

7. Westside Story – The Game

The Game's "Westside Story" wasn’t just a song, it was a declaration. Released as the lead single from his debut album, The Documentary, the track threw down the gauntlet for Compton. Produced by Dr. Dre and Scott Storch, it boasted a club-friendly beat that recalled G-Funk classics. The Game rapped with a smooth flow, name-checking West Coast legends like Tupac Shakur and Nate Dogg while showcasing his own lyrical prowess.

8. Liquid Swords – GZA

GZA's "Liquid Swords," the title track and second single from his album of the same name, was a masterclass in lyrical dominance. The song boasted a dark, atmospheric beat crafted by RZA, featuring samples from classic soul tracks. GZA wasted no time by unleashing dense wordplay and intricate rhymes that showcased his sharp intellect and chess-playing metaphors.

9. Fear Not Of Man – Yasiin Bey

Mos Def's "Fear Not Of Man," from the critically acclaimed Black on Both Sides, is a powerful call for courage in the face of oppression. The song opened with a haunting Afrobeat groove, sampled from Fela Kuti, that set the stage for Mos Def's message of resilience. His lyrics challenged fear tactics used by powerful entities and contrasted the fleeting nature of mortal men with the enduring power of the spirit.

10. Big Momma Thang – Lil Kim

Lil' Kim's "Big Momma Thang" from Hard Core is a braggadocious anthem filled with sexually suggestive lyrics and boasts about her skills as a rapper. Originally intended as a diss track targeting Faith Evans and 2Pac, it was reworked after disapproval from The Notorious B.I.G. Featuring a JAY-Z guest verse, the song showcased Lil' Kim's confident flow and unapologetic lyrics. The track's title itself is a double entendre, referencing both her dominant personality and her physical attributes.

11. Intro (The Dynasty) – JAY-Z

JAY-Z's "Intro (The Dynasty),” from The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, is a powerful and introspective opening track. Unlike many celebratory intros, it offered a glimpse into a complex mind. Just Blaze's dark, atmospheric production set the stage for Hov's reflection about the constant vigilance required at the top and the "highway of life," where even a slight misstep could be fatal. The line "This is food for thought, you do the dishes!" challenges listeners to engage with his message.

12. Tell Me Something Good – UGK

UGK's "Something Good," from Too Hard To Swallow, offered a smoother soundscape compared to their later, more hardcore work. Built around a soulful sample of Rufus & Chaka Khan's "Tell Me Something Good," the song featured Pimp C's signature drawl and Bun B's steady flow rapping about life in the South.

13. Long Live The Kane – Big Daddy Kane

Big Daddy Kane's "Long Live the Kane," the title track from his debut album, was a quintessential example of his unparalleled lyrical prowess and charismatic delivery. Produced by Marley Marl, the song featured a hard-hitting beat that complemented Kane's smooth yet commanding flow. "Long Live the Kane" served as a declaration of his skills and dominance in the Hip Hop scene with intricate wordplay and clever punchlines that showcased his talent for storytelling and braggadocio.

14. King Back – T.I.

T.I.'s "King Back" wasn't just a song, it was a declaration of dominance. Released after a brief legal hiatus, the track from King announced the rapper’s triumphant return to the rap throne. The booming production by Just Blaze laid the foundation for T.I.'s assertive flow. He wasted no time dismissing doubters and reminding everyone of his lyrical prowess.

15. Everybody Rise – Busta Rhymes

Busta Rhymes' "Everybody Rise" exploded onto the scene as the opening track to Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front. A pulsating beat, driven by a sample of The Controllers' "If Tomorrow Never Comes," created a sense of urgency next to Busta’s signature rapid-fire rhymes. The call to action was ambiguous – was it a celebration of life, a party invitation, or a rallying cry in the face of impending doom?

16. Be (Intro) – Common

As one would’ve guessed, Common's "Be (Intro)" set the stage for his introspective and soulful album, Be. Kanye West's production weaved a melancholic soundscape with hauntingly beautiful keys, leaving room for Common's thoughtful lyrics. He opened with a sense of vulnerability, questioning his purpose and searching for meaning. Lines like "Gotta find a way to be, gotta find a way to believe" established the introspective tone of the album.

17. Kill You – Eminem

Following one of his notorious public service announcements, Eminem's "Kill You” brought fans into his world on the landmark album The Marshall Mathers LP. The song served as a response to the media frenzy surrounding his controversial big label debut, The Slim Shady LP. Over a menacing beat, Eminem unleashed a torrent of violent metaphors and dark humor, taking aim at critics, female rappers, and even his own mother. Despite its shocking content, "Kill You" was a masterclass in wordplay.

18. Mural – Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco's "Mural" wasn’t your typical intro. Clocking in at over eight minutes with no chorus, it unfolded like a lyrical painting. The dense wordplay and complex metaphors created a fantastical world, but some interpreted it as a commentary on the struggles of being an artist.

19. Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter's Daughter – Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar's "Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter's Daughter" from his 2012 album good kid, m.A.A.d city isn't a love song. The title's humor masked a complex narrative about a fleeting teenage encounter in Compton, California, where Lamar grew up. While the production was sparse, with a melancholic piano melody, the song's emotional core lied in Lamar's introspective verses, whichset the standard for the entire album’s cinematic concept.