Though English soul-stomper Johnny Wakelin was first to the songwriting homage prize with “In Zaire,” [LISTEN] Muhammad Ali’s infamous bout against the then undefeated heavyweight champ of the world, George Foreman, dubbed on this day in 1974 “The Rumble in the Jungle,” got one-upped later by The Fugees‘ eponymous song.
Bringing talent from A Tribe Called Quest to Busta Rhymes and John Forte to the studio, the pseudo-super group turned the historical moment into a racially-heated, political hip-hop bomb, opening with an audio sample of Ali’s pre-fight speech about fighting not for himself, but for “black people who can’t eat, black people who don’t know no knowledge of themselves,” Lauryn Hill threading aggressions from Rhymes and the rest of the crew with this beautifully frustrated chorus:
Blocks on fire (You’re astar)
Fiends getting higher (You’re a star)
Robbing blue collar (You’re a star)
Killing for a dollar (You’re a star)
We need a ghetto Messiah