Like jazz and hip-hop, boxing is an improvisational art form. Created on the spot and never reproduced in precisely the same way. It’s also urban. From the streets. So throw in a little soul. With that, I offer my picks for the five best songs inspired by the sweet science.
Miles Davis, “Right Off”
I was at the Penthouse Club in New York ten years ago and a stripper told me “Bitches Brew” was her favorite Miles record. I told her I liked this one. The first track off Davis’s 1971 record “Jack Johnson,” the jazz-rock landmark.
The Duke: The Life and Lies of Tommy Morrison
Public Enemy, “Ali Rap”
Promo for and soundtrack to the 2006 ESPN documentary Ali Rap. Chuck D on the G.O.A.T.
R.A. the Rugged Man, “The People’s Champ”
Arguably the most underrated emcee in hip-hop, R.A.’s love of boxing is clear in the video for this banger.
“It’s the brutal lyrical verbal version of Gatti and Ward.”
Menahan Street Band, “Lights Out”
The house band of Brooklyn-based Daptone Records, they also backed neo-soul legend Charles Bradley before he passed away earlier this year. Paired perfectly with some grainy fight films from the fifties.
Tupac, “Road to Glory”
Written for Mike by Tupac for the ring walk of his 1996 rematch with Frank Bruno. The studio version is first, followed by the footage of Tyson’s entrance to the song at 2:18. I miss the nineties.
For more songs that honor the sweet science, check out these playlists from Todd Snyder’s book Beatboxing: How Hip-Hop Changed The Fight Game (Hamilcar Publications, November 2021).
Beatboxing Playlist on YouTube