Hip-Hop has been about that Bikini Bottom life for 20 years now
When SpongeBob Squarepants creator Stephen Hillenburg died tragically from ALS-related heart failure at age 57 last November, he had already touched the lives of more than a couple generations of kids and adults who grew up watching his wacky maritime visions play themselves out on what’s now the fifth-longest-running animated series, in its 20th year on TV. But who knew so many of its fans were not just hip-hop lovers but hip-hop artists themselves?
Besides the obvious influence of Hillenburg’s oblong, aquamarine aesthetic in such pop-renaissance fare as Tierra Whack’s sui generis Whack World, a shocking number of the best rap songs of 2019’s first half have appeared in the wake of the creator’s death to pay homage to the rectangular one. Just recently Billy Woods and Kenny Segal kicked off their stirring new Hiding Places with a tune called “SpongeBob,” but before that, rabid 2018 freshman Rico Nasty really arrived with the ferocious, singsongy “Sandy,” likening “smoking out the bowl” to the “bitch” of the title, known to the rest of us as SpongeBob’s diving-suit-clad squirrel BFF.
CupcakKe, the outrageous sex-boast extraordinairess who also puts in work for social justice, continues to top her own glorious ribald jokes with the Bollywood-flavored “Squidward Nose,” in honor of both the SpongeBob curmudgeon and the shape of the phallus she’d prefer to one “smaller than my toes.” And who could forget “Underwater,” from Ghostface Killah’s immortal 2006 masterwork Fishscale, which shouts out SpongeBob driving by “in the Bentley Coupe?” Here’s 21 songs that trace the depth of the beloved cartoon’s influence on hip-hop.
Billy Woods and Key Beats
This bluesy slow-burner has the most oblique show reference of all of these, briefly alluding to its titular character in the final quarter because “this whole operation underwater.” It’s a surprisingly apt opener for an album about economic unrest where humor pokes in from bizarre angles.
Looser and ruder than anything on 2018’s Nasty, this is where a maniacally giggling 21-year-old growls her way through just over two minutes of high-on-acid, not-classic, hilarious-anyway total DGAF that imagines Sandy Cheeks’ helmet as a bowl to smoke out of.
“Squidward Nose” (2019)
If you can get “His dick’s smaller than my toes / I’d rather have Squidward nose” out of your head, you’re a better man than I.
“I Got Top in Bikini Bottom” (2017)
The best title on this list, complete with lyrics that live up: “She want to suck on me like Squidward blowing on his clarinet” and “Bitch, I’m a star just like Patrick.”
Lil Yachty feat. Migos
“Peek a Boo” (2017)
SpongeBob isn’t directly referred to in “Peek a Boo” but it did make Rap Twitter history: Yachty blamed his infamous lyric “she blow that dick like a cello” on his mistaken belief that the woodwind instrument Squidward plays is a cello.
Remy Ma, “Shether” (2017) / Wu-Tang Clan, “Ron O’Neal” (2014)
OK, so not every rapper is a SpongeBob fan, particularly older guardians like Remy Ma and the Wu, who compare their rivals unfavorably to our squeaky-voiced boy.
“Squidward Tentacles” (2016
In which the premier sergeant of Chicago drill mistakes Squidward the six-limbed character for the real cephalopod when he boasts “I’ve got eight arms like Squidward.”
“On Larry” / “Ignorant” (2016)
One of the stupidest successful rappers of the current moment, it’s no surprise that a popular cartoon factors into his lowest common denominator mix, and more than once, sampling the familiar end-theme on “Ignorant” and a surprisingly subtle reference to Gary the snail in “On Larry.”
Famous Dex feat. Rich the Kid and Quavo
“Goin for the Ten” (2016)
This highly Quavo-tized triplet fest is not the only song on this list to threaten to “put holes in ‘em like SpongeBob” or call rivals “squarer than “SpongeBob” but it’s certainly the most Migos-esque one.
“Squeeze Me,” “Patrick Star,” “Sandy Squirrel” (2015)
Pharrell and Co. contributed three songs to the 3D flick SpongeBob Out of Water: the Bo Diddley-like “Squeeze Me,” the steel-drum-heavy starfish tribute “Patrick Star” and best of all, the choppy drum-stutter of “Sandy Squirrel,” though these very kiddie-oriented tunes are among the least rap-related tracks Williams has ever worked on.
“Cat Daddy” (2011)
Squidward, SpongeBob, and Krabby Patties repeatedly show up in the hook of this unfortunate Chris Brown collaboration that came with its own dance. It was enough to go viral, briefly.
Not 30 seconds into the best rap album of 2011 do Squidward and his clarinet make an appearance, helping usher in one of the strangest and most delightful new talents to grab the mic this decade.
Big Boi feat. Vonnegutt
“Follow Us” (2010)
One of the catchiest tunes on Big Boi’s stank-catchy solo debut likens the rapper to our porous hero because he “soaked up game as a little bitty kid.”
“Bikini Bottom” (2010)
“I Got Top in Bikini Bottom” didn’t just rehash the title of this high-concept Chuuwee cut from six years prior, but both sampled SpongeBob’s end-credits music. This one is far more invested in the show than just punchlines, though, virtually fanfic: a fight with Mr. Krabs that culminates with “Krabby patties in the trash” and then “Call Sandy tryin’ to get some ass.”
Tony Starks’ MF Doom side really began to show on the story-rich Fishscale with this surrealist submarine odyssey highlighted by a mermaid with “a Halle Berry haircut,” a visit to Noah’s ark and a cameo from a certain cartoon sponge.
Lil Kim feat. T.I. and Sha-Dash
“Get Yours” (2005)
SpongeBob is used pretty often as a metaphor for how “holy” you’ll be if you fuck with the rapper speaking. Luckily, the triumphant, bubbly production keeps “Get Yours” on the silly side regardless.
Prince Paul feat. The Waikikis and Wordsworth
“Prince Paul’s Bubble Party” (2004)
Legendary hip-hop producer (and skit inventor) Paul is no stranger to weaving TV comedy into his music, but this Hawaiian-flavored goofball vignette was actually made for kids, right on the SpongeBob movie soundtrack.