1. The Hold Steady – Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn is from Minneapolis and loves to reference it in their lyrics. (He also went to college in Boston, so that city also gets a shout out.) The band’s songs are often little stories, telling of drug addiction, forgiveness and redemption, and sad women — most of which take place in “bright, new Minneapolis.”
Finn was also influenced by fellow Minnesota rock acts Husker Du and The Replacements. Basically, The Hold Steady is Minneapolis through and through.
2. The Dropkick Murphys – Boston, Massachusetts
Almost every song by the Dropkick Murphys references Boston, specifically South Boston. This Celtic punk band formed in Quincy. You may have heard their hit, “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” in quintessential Boston movie The Departed. Other songs by them include: “The State Of Massachusetts,” “Back to the Hub,” “Tessie” and a zillion St. Patrick’s Day live albums.
Boston’s known for brewing quite a few good bands that reference its “Dirty Water,” but the Dropkicks are the most dedicated.
3. Van Morrison – Belfast, Ireland
Speaking of Irish people, Van Morrison reps Belfast, Northern Ireland about as hard as one can. One of his nicknames is ever “The Belfast Cowboy.” His working class Irish background clearly influenced his music, as much as the soul or R&B evident in his style.
Jimmy Fallon used to do a Van Morrison impression on SNL that was just him swaying back and forth and chugging beers. Accurate. Gotta love Van the Man.
4. Nelly – St. Louis, Missouri
The way Pitbull loves Miami and Petey Pablo loves North Carolina, Nelly is as known for his love of St. Louis as he is for the band aid on his cheek. His first rap group was called the St. Lunatics after his beloved hometown. He’s got multiple songs that reference the home of the Arch. One might think Nelly was from Nellyville, but not so. You can find him in St. Louis all the way.
5. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band – All of New Jersey
I mean, do we even need to talk about this? You can’t even say “The Boss” without someone shouting “New Jersey!” Springsteen is the king of references to where he’s from — Long Branch, NJ. If you went by Bruce’s songs, you’d think New Jersey was just endless downtrodden, lovable, tragic characters working in factories and wishing to get out of this town one day.
6. Best Coast – Los Angeles, California
Not every song has to mention California (I’m looking at you, Red Hot Chili Peppers) in order for the band to encapsulate a place. Best Coast captures the whole LA vibe in their music. Their debut single was called “The Only Place” and it was about growing up in Los Angeles with the sun in your hair and eyes and the ocean and the babes. Why would you live anywhere else?
7. Jay-Z – Brooklyn, New York and Kanye West – Chicago, Illinois
There’s an adorable part of Watch The Throne, Kanye’s and Jay-Z’s collaborative album where they each pledge loyalty to each other’s city. “I’m riding through yo’ hood, you can bank I ain’t got no ceiling (Made a left on Nostrand Ave.) Right (We in Bed Stuy) Made a right on 79th, I’m coming down South Shore Drive (I remain Chi-town) Brooklyn ‘til I die.”
Independently, the rappers have much love for their cities. Jay-Z put out “Empire State of Mind” and constantly references the Marcy Projects while Kanye has “Southside” and “Homecoming” for Chi-City.
8. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Gainesville, Florida
There’s a pervasive false rumor that Tom Petty wrote “American Girl” about a co-ed who committed suicide at University of Florida. (It’s since been debunked.) But the song does reference Highway 441 which runs past the UF dorms and Petty did grow up in Gainesville. Gainesville has a lot of pride for Tom, and Tom has a lot right back.
9. Prince – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis must be some city because Prince also references it a ton in his music. Paisley Park anyone? He also pioneered the Minneapolis sound, a hybrid mixture of funk, rock, pop, synthpop and New Wave in the late 1970s. Rock and roll is alive, Prince sang on a beloved B side, and it lives in Minneapolis.
10. Eminem – Detroit, Michigan
Marshall Mathers loves his hometown of Detroit so much, he raps about it all the time. His protege group was called D12 — “D” for Detroit and he made a whole movie about growing up there called 8 Mile. Eminem is the best thing to happen to Detroit since…well, ever. That place is bleak.