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The Top 20 Greatest Jock Jams Of All Time

In honor of Jock Jams' 20th anniversary.

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July 25, 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Jock Jams music compilation series. For the uninitiated (or those born after 1995) the premise behind Jock Jams sounds at best pretty silly and, at worst, nonsensical.

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From 1995-1999, ESPN and dance label Tommy Boy Records collaborated on a series of compilation albums called Jock Jams, featuring the biggest sports anthems from the 80s and 90s.

Aside from a ton of airtime for cheerleader-laden, seizure-inducing commercials and its logo plastered on the covers of these compilations, ESPN's other main contribution was featuring on-air talent saying their trademark catch-phrases on the opening tracks of the albums. Michael Buffer, Dan Patrick, Chris Berman, and Dick Vitale all made guest appearances on album openers throughout the series' run.

While the concept may seem a little ludicrous, the albums were very, very successful. Four out of five of the volumes reached 30 or higher on the Billboard Top 200, with Volume 2 reaching number 10 on the charts.

Tommy Boy Records

Why did people buy these? Well, in addition to these ads playing during almost every commercial break on ESPN, MTV, and Nickelodeon, compilation albums used to be big business before the days of the mp3. See, purchasing compilation albums made economic sense for the buyer. Why drop $15 on a album where you know only one song vs. an album where you know more than half? It was this same strategy that once made movie soundtracks and the Now That's What I Call Music! series as big (if not bigger) than artists' own full-length albums.

For artists, inclusions on popular compilations served as advertisements for the rest of their music. This may have been why so many huge rappers and R&B artists willingly appeared on the Space Jam soundtrack. (Also money.)

20 years later, a generation of music buyers still fondly remember Jock Jams as the blood-pumping, ear-splitting soundtrack of their youth.

Tommy Boy Records

Jock Jams was the music you used to tailgate to, the music you scored your cheerleading routine to, the music that rocked the crowd at professional sporting events, and the soundtrack to psyching yourself up before a middle school soccer game. For some of us, myself included, Jock Jams served as a gateway to hip-hop when our parents wouldn't let us buy full rap albums due to their explicit content. They were a pop culture window and, believe it or not, a bellwether for what was cool. At least, cool to a sports-obsessed 10 year old.

So without further adieu, here are the Top 20 Jock Jams songs from throughout the series' five-year run.

20. Gary Glitter – "Rock and Roll Pt. 2 (Hey Song)"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 1How did this tune defy the odds and become a sports classic? According to Sports Illustrated, it was a tradition started by the marketing director of the (now-defunct) Colorado Rockies hockey team in the 1970s. From there, it ruled Denver pro sports, and eventually the New Jersey Devils came to adopt it as one of its anthems in the 1980s.Why did it become a sports classic? Well that would be due to the low, low bar it sets when it comes to audience participation. You probably didn't know who performed this song or what its title was. But, so long as you know when to half-heartedly yell "HEY," little else matters.

19. Rednex – "Cotton Eye Joe"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 3

In a list full of extremely weird songs, this is by far the weirdest. Adopting an American folk tune from the 1800s called "Cotton Eyed Joe," Swedish eletronica/country band Rednex dropped the "d" and dropped it into dance clubs across Europe.

Reception on this song was split. While it topped charts across Europe and reached #25 on Billboard Hot 100, many people hated this song passionately. It's legacy persists today: When it blares through the speakers at sporting events, you'll see half of the crowd giddily break out in little jigs while the other half contemplates suicide.

18. Tag Team – "Whoomp! (There It Is)"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 1

Why yes, this song is very stupid. And yes, it did introduce the country to the word "whoomp," which never needed to happen. Yes, it is now stuck in your head and no, there's nothing you can do about it.

While this track is very, very annoying, there is no denying just how big it was in the early 90s. And, thanks to it playing at football stadiums whenever a fumble occurs, it's never really left the cultural zeitgeist. Is the guy with the Compton hat and the cellphone that shows up at the 1:00 mark in the video a young Barack Obama? The truth is out there.

17. The Vengaboys – "We Like to Party"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 5

"We Like to Party" will always be most closely associated with those Six Flags ads with the old guy dancing that ran for a billion years. It has all the elements of a perfect Jock Jam that also apply to a horrifying commercial jingle that makes you want to chop your ears off: It repeats a short sentence about having fun ad nauseum, it has an synth-based hook in the chorus that's impossible to get out of your head, and it's obnoxiously upbeat. It can make an optimist's day even better and push a pessimist into a permanent state of unrelenting despair.

16. 69 Boyz – "Tootsee Roll"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 1

You've danced to this song before, but you probably weren't aware that it was the product of some guys who called themselves "69 Boyz." In fact, knowing that may make you enjoy it less come to think of it. Which is worse, the "69" or the "z" and the end of "Boyz"?

However, it's hard to completely hate on a song that tells you specifically when and in what direction to dance. After a few beers at the ballpark, a little choreography assistance is appreciated!

15. Coolio – "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 2

Before he was getting "Iced" in backyards and performing at Clippers halftime shows, Coolio was the most popular rapper in America. At a time in hip-hop history more commonly revered for turning out some of the greatest work from Notorious B.I.G., 2pac and Dr. Dre, Coolio and his monster 1995 album Gangta's Paradise was topping the charts and winning Grammys. While maybe not as as lyrically dextrous or as cultural impactful as his peers, Coolio knew better than anyone how to turn out broad rap hits for the masses, and "1, 2, 3, 4," was no exception.

This track had an instantly memorable chorus, and like many of these Jock Jams, it was easy to dance along to (provided that you knew how to count to four on your fingers). There was no deeper message here than to party to excess and have fun, which may have tainted Coolio's critical legacy 20 years down the line. But perhaps it's high time that we pay tribute to this song for what it is: a timeless banger that gets the party going.

14. Freak Nasty – "Da' Dip"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 3

Freak Nasty started a minor dance craze with this track in 1996. Why don't you remember it? Because that was also the summer of the "Macarena," which was much easier to do because of it's comparably slower tempo and the lack of rhythm needed to successfully accomplish it.

13. The Outhere Brothers – "Boom Boom Boom"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 2

Coolio wasn't the only rapper to give Michigan sports a shout in his 90s music videos. The Chicago-based Outhere Brothers manage to double-rep the Big Ten in the "Boom Boom Boom" video, giving Illinois a nod too. (Yes, there was a time in the 90s when Michigan and Illinois were both basketball powerhouses, kids.)

By the way, original lyrics to this song are FILTHY. Look at them. Right? Historically, Jock Jams were family friendly affairs, so these were all cut from the version that appeared on Vol. 2.

12. Quad City DJ's - "C'Mon 'N Ride It (The Train)"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 3

If you thought "We Like to Party" was the only classic Jock Jam using transportation as a metaphor for partying, you'd be dead wrong. Also you'd be dead because you didn't see the bus/train coming in time.

While Quad City DJ's also appeared on Jock Jams Vol. 4 with their smash "Space Jam," it's hard to separate that as a standalone Jock Jam and not the national anthem of our country after Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes beat those aliens at basketball. "C'Mon 'N Ride It (The Train)" as just enough apostrophes and parentheses in its title to make it 100 percent Jock Jam.

11. House of Pain – "Jump Around"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 4

Before Everlast told us what it was like and DJ Lethal scratched some records (I guess?) for Limp Bizkit, they comprised two-thirds of New York-based hip-hop trio House of Pain. Their biggest hit, "Jump Around," was heavy on male bravado and the relentless imperative to "Jump! Jump! Jump!"

If you don't think about it too hard, "Jump Around" is still a great jam, and it is considerably easy to get down to due to its simple, sole dance move which requires the listener to leap as high as possible on beat with one arm extended upward. Perhaps this accessibility is why the University of Wisconsin football team still plays it before the fourth quarter of every home game.

10. Salt-n-Pepa – "Push It"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 4

Considering "Push It" originally dropped in 1986, it's a travesty it took four volumes of Jock Jams for it to be included. Salt-n-Pepa were two total badasses who changed the game for hip-hop artists, male and female alike. No wonder the Notorious B.I.G. name-checked them as an inspiration in the opening bars of "Juicy."

While the song's impact may have deteriorated over the last 30 years, it's still refreshing to hear "Push It" in those thrust-y GEICO ads. The youth of today need some semblance of Salt, Pepa, and DJ Spinderella in their lives by any means necessary.

9. Black Box – "Everybody, Everybody"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 2

As with many great dance songs, "Everybody, Everybody" is all about the build. First synth and limited vocals, than percussion, then horns, then a soaring melody sung by Martha Walsh (who we'll talk more about a little later), and then back to a chorus the just repeats the same word over and over again.

Best of all, the song transitions seamlessly from the catwalk to the gym, underscoring that it really is made for everybody. (Everybody!)

8. Notorious B.I.G. ft. Ma$e and Puff Daddy – "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 4

While not exactly a sports anthem, "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" gets such high placement because it's just so damn good. It features one of Ma$e's, one of Puffy's, and one of Biggie's most memorable verses all in the same song. Add to that a flawless Diana Ross sample, and it sounds as fresh as it did the first time no matter how many times you spin it.

It's sort of surprising that while this song is a dance-floor staple, it never became one in sports arenas. (This is obviously a huge missed opportunity, stadium music operator guy.) For now, we'll have to settle for the song's very expensive-looking Hype Williams-directed music video, which features Puffy doing his best impression of a newly famous Tiger Woods while Ma$e sort of does a Howard Cosell thing for some reason.

7. C&C Music Factory – "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 1

While nearly as iconic as 2 Unlimited's "Get Ready for This," "Gonna Make You Sweat" loses points because of its music video, which replaces actual vocalist Martha Walsh with model Zelma Davis who lip-syncs the song's most famous line. In fact, Walsh initially received no royalties for her participation in the song, which over two decades later is pretty upsetting. (She did eventually win an out-of-court settlement after suing label RCA.)

"Gonna Make You Sweat" has, against the odds, stood the test of time. It's still the go-to jam for every arena's Fan Dance Cam, in which children and drunk adults bust a move in the hopes of getting seven seconds of sweet, sweet Jumbotron fame.

6. DJ Kool – "Let Me Clear My Throat"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 3

That crowd at Bahama Bay in Philadelphia must have had quite a treat being at the recording of this Jock Jam. DJ Kool was 38 when he dropped this live recording of "Let Me Clear My Throat," and it would become his legacy. Strangely, DJ Kool only raps one full verse in this song before filling up the other four minutes rotating between crowd work, coughing directly onto the mic, and giving shoutouts to his friends.

While DJ Kool's charming persona no doubt continues to win over new fans of "Let Me Clear My Throat," it's that nasty two-bar sax sample from The 45 King's "The 900 Number" that makes this so instantly memorable, propelling the track to classic jam status.

5. Snap! – "I Got the Power"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 1

This song actually has a lot of lyrics, including two full rap verses from Snap!'s frontman Turbo B. But, odds are you only remember there being four words, which was really all you needed.

How powerful was "I Got the Power"? Reportedly, 20 middle-aged people performing Tae Bo to the song caused a minor earthquake in a South Korean mall in 2011. No really, that actually happened. Do not underestimate the power of the power.

4. Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock – "It Takes Two"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 1

If "It Takes Two" had never come along, hip-hop as we know it may not exist. 27 years after its 1988 release, it sounds a fresh as ever. Hell, you could through it on any Beatz or Jamz hip-hop radio station today, and no one would blink. That's how ahead of it's time it was.

It's tendency to immediately cause an irresistible compulsion to dance is why it's ranked so high. Should you mimic the video and just drive a car into a public space with the song blaring, no doubt you'll too cause a spontaneous dance party. Try it sometime.

3. Technotronic – "Pump Up the Jam"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 1

Due to its repeated use of the word "jam," Technotronic's "Pump Up the Jam" has become synonymous with the Jock Jams series over the years. Over 50 million views of its music video on YouTube are a standing testament to its longevity.

Similar to "Get Ready to Sweat," the original vocalist of this song, Technotronic member Ya Kid K, was overshadowed by a supermodel, Felly Kilingi, who appeared in the video and on the album artwork. Unlike Martha Walsh, Ya Kid K never took the matter to court, and would later appear in videos for other Technotronic songs.

2. Reel 2 Reel – "I Like To Move It"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 2

"21 years later and we are still obsessed with the ass" reads one of the top comments on this YouTube video. Perhaps that's the most simple explanation for why Reel 2 Reel's greatest contribution to the Jock Jams canon has managed to stick around with us for more than two decades. It's about shaking that ass, and as long as ass-shaking still captivates us, so too will "I Like to Move It."

1. 2 Unlimited – "Get Ready For This"

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From: Jock Jams Vol. 1

"Y'all ready for this?"

Somehow, those four words became perhaps the most stirring rhetorical question to ever pervade sports arenas for the better part of the 90s. In fact, any current visit to an athletic competition, from high school on up through the pros, runs of the risk of hearing 2 Unlimited's infectious calling card.

It is perhaps the greatest Jock Jam that jocks ever jammed to, inspiring visions of cheerleaders performing backhand springs while the home team jogs triumphantly out in front of a roaring crowd. It triggers an anxiety-inducing mix of nervousness and pure excitement. Y'all ready for this? Well if you weren't before, you'd better be now.

Presenting The Ultimate Jock Jams Megamix

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