Drive-Bys: Private Eyes in Hip Hop

Essay by Ray Garraty

"There are no private eyes in Ireland. The Irish wouldn't bear it. The concept brushes perilously close to the hated 'informer'. You can get away with most anything except 'telling'."

Ken Bruen, The Guards

The same could be said about rappers. Hip hop artistry often borders on thuggery. It might be unfair to say that hip hop started as a music for thugs and about thugs, but a certain element of life on that side of law was always in there -- or very close by. Rap music is generous with tales of street life: pimps, hoes, guns, drugs, even murder -- one can recall rap albums called Music for Drive-Bys and Murda Muzik. But when someone does something illegal, the last thing he or she wants is some private eye spying on his business.

When I started looking into the topic, I didn't expect to find much sympathy for P.I.s. I also didn't expect to find many songs with private detective as a protagonist -- and I didn't. So my first idea -- to rank rap songs by how much P.I. is integrated into a song -- was soon canned: there are only a few songs where a song is actually about P.I., not just one sentence about him.

So I came up with another idea -- to just rank the songs by their overall quality. If a track is good, it's on top of the list, no matter whether a song is about P.I. or just a shout out to one. Let's start...



  • "Pay It Forward" by Starlito (featuring Billy Blast, Fish & Petty)

Starlito is good, but his homies are whack rappers.

  • "Animal Planet" by GZA

Another GZA track, but once again GZA's delivery leaves much to be desired.

  • "Co$$ Is" by Co$$ (Cashus King)

Nice gangsta rap, but nothing memorable.

  • "Kool" by Large Professor

Prof keeps his cool, but P.I.s here don't play any significant role.

Essay respectfully submitted by Ray Garraty, April 2014.

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