We’re all probably familiar with martial arts-inspired hip hop groups like the Wu-Tang Clan and hip hop soundtracks in martial arts movies like “Cradle 2 The Grave” and “The Man with the Iron Fists”, and even pro wrestling and MMA entrance songs. It’s no surprise then that the ‘art of war’ meshes really well with the upbeat nature of hip hop. In this list, we’ll be counting down 10 top martial arts-related hip hop tracks. This list will include, but not be limited to those from martial arts movies alone but will also look at MMA fighter and pro-wrestler themes that have noticeable martial arts influence. (Please be advised that some of the videos/lyrics contain adult themes unsuitable for younger readers) So without further ado, let’s fire up the bass cannon!
- “Bring it On” – Nathaniel Dawkins and Tom Erba
- “Mortal Kombat” – Afu-Ra
- “It’s Goin Down” (Cung Le Fight Song) – TC (Tony Corleone)
- “DNA” – Kendrick Lamar
- “X Gon’ Give It To Ya” – DMX
- “Suplex City, B**ch!” (Brock Lesnar entrance song) – PFV
- “It’s a Fight” – Three 6 Mafia
- “The Time is Now” – John Cena
- “Can’t Be Touched” – Roy Jones Jr.
- “Da Mystery of Chessboxin” – Wu-Tang Clan
Perhaps the most recognizable song from the Undisputed series, not only has “Bring it On” been used it seems in every single film since “Undisputed 2”, it’s also been used in the final fights of Undisputed 2 and 3 as well as in the epic fight between Boyka and Igor Kazmir in “Boyka: Undisputed 4”. While the choreography alone is enough to please the most die-hard action fans, it’s background themes like these that contribute to viewer enjoyment by supplementing the fights with an audio-induced adrenaline rush that’ll make the audience feel like they’re experiencing the action.
A devoted student of combat himself, Afu-Ra has made the martial arts influence in his second single “Mortal Kombat” really prevalent. With the help of former Wu Tang Clan member Master Killa and a kung fu-like background theme, Afu-Ra does a great job rapping about the martial arts, such as being specific in using jiu-jitsu for bone-breaking, using triple spin kicks, side kicks and hook kicks and training his body to be like iron, like in the kung fu movies.
With a great fighter comes a great song dedicated to him or her, and such is the case with former MMA fighter and Sanshou legend Cung Le. The beats in “It’s Going Down” would pump anyone up for a bout, but that’s not all. More importantly, artist TC, possessing a 2Pac-like voice, sums up Cung Le’s fighting style and reputation perfectly. For instance, lyrics such as “Didn’t know I got a side kick, I could make your bones snap”. “Right kick blow into the left cheek, knock your punk a** all the way to next week” resemble Cung Le’s dominant kicking ability, which is not something a lot of MMA fighters have. And of course, for someone who has knocked out Frank Shamrock and former UFC champion Rich Franklin, Cung Le will “blast on (your) a** til (your) lesson’s learned.” (I confess, I myself do listen to this song to get pumped up for my Taekwondo tournaments!)
Compton-born rapper Kendrick Lamar has it in his DNA. While the martial arts element is not readily apparent, if you listen carefully you’ll get how this song propelled Kendrick Lamar’s new alter ego “Kung Fu Kenny”, who was originally played by Don Cheadle in Rush Hour 2 (and yes that’s Don in the video). As seen in the music video for “DNA”, Kendrick Lamar is dressed in a black kung fu suit much like the original Kung Fu Kenny. In addition, “DNA” also mentions some martial arts-related metaphysical concepts like meditation, The Matrix, and Nirvana. With a catchy beat and on point rapping style, DNA has assuredly earned Kendrick Lamar his black belt in rapping.
“First we gonna rock, then we gonna roll, then we let it pop, don’t let it go!” Now, this song does not contain any martial arts-related lyrics per se, but it first appeared in the Jet Li film “Cradle 2 The Grave”. Since then, it’s managed to pave its way into pop culture, having been regarded as one of DMX’s best songs, making it to the Billboard Hot 100, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, and receiving a platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America in May 2017, almost 14 years after its release. The song was further used in the movie “Deadpool”, the video game Forza Horizon 3 and even a KFC commercial! It was also the walkout song for MMA fighter Georges St-Pierre.
Named after Brock Lesnar’s signature catchphrase “Suplex City, B**ch!”, this well-played tribute for the WWE great and former UFC heavyweight champion, whose signature moves consisted of various punishing suplexes that Lesnar himself used to victory multiple times, including 16 times on John Cena at the 2014 Summer Slam.
Another high point is that the song has capitalized on “hit(ting) him with the F5”, one of Lesnar’s best known finishing moves.
Used in the 2006 hit movie “Rocky Balboa”, “It’s a Fight” is one of those songs that will ring a bell for Rocky fans beside the exalted, feel-good classic “Gonna Fly Now” by Bill Conti. In the movie “Rocky Balboa”, our title character, now 60 and his glory days long gone, mourns the loss of his wife, but is forced to come out of retirement to fight the current heavyweight champion Mason “The Line” Dixon played by real life boxer Antonio Tarver. With its serious overtone and heart-pumping beat and lyrics, the boxing-oriented “It’s a Fight” is a perfect fit for the story of “Rocky Balboa”, and there’s no denying that this song was key to earning the Rocky Balboa soundtrack spots on the Billboard Top 200.
Yes, WWE champ John Cena is also a rapper and he rapped and performed his own entrance song “The Time is Now”. Having been released as part of Cena’s debut album “You Can’t See Me” back in 2005, this track remains one of the WWE’s most iconic songs and was used in every WWE Smackdown vs Raw and WWE 2K game ever since Smackdown vs Raw 2006, and yes that includes the most recent WWE 2K18.
Performed by none other than the Body Head Bangerz formed by heavyweight boxing champion Roy Jones Jr., “Can’t Be Touched” was first released as part of the Body Head Bangerz debut album “Body Head Bangerz: Volume One” back in 2004. With its hard beats and lyrics, “Can’t Be Touched” has maintained its popularity and is still considered Roy Jones Jr.’s best song as well as one of the best workout motivation numbers. After all, how many people do you know want to have the feeling that they: “can’t be touched, can’t be stopped, can’t be moved, can’t be rocked, and can’t be shook”? Case closed!
You just can’t beat a classic, and “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’” sets a great example of the influence of kung fu movies on da Wu Tang Clan. Named after the 1979 film “Mystery of Chessboxing”, Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah adopted his stage name after the villain of the same name. “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’” starts with dialogue samples from “Shaolin and Wu Tang” and “Five Deadly Venoms”. After that, each member of the clan take turns rapping their verses, with RZA playing an eerie beat in the background, presenting an unconventional yet highly effective style of music. Released as part of the Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 debut album “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”, “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’” is one of the many songs that established the Wu-Tang Clan, who would later open doors for other East Coast rappers like Nas, B.I.G and Jay-Z.
So there we have it folks, 10 pretty epic, infectiously memorable martial arts-related hip hop songs. Which other hip hop titles get you amped and psyched up? Let us know below, join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! (While you’re here, check out our other Top 10’s for yet more powerFU-el!)