Song Exploder

Hrishikesh Hirway

Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Each episode features an artist discussing a song of theirs, breaking down the sounds and ideas that went into the writing and recording. Hosted and produced by Hrishikesh Hirway.

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Our Editor's Take

Song Exploder is a podcast that opens its audience to new ways of listening. Songs touch people, move people, and even change their lives. They are ancient and central to the human experience. And though a song is always playing, there's so much that goes unheard. What is a song, really, and what is it that makes a good one so meaningful? What makes it a hit? These are the questions this podcast is here to answer.

Song Exploder takes on the mysteries of songwriting, one song at a time. Host Hrishikesh Hirway, who also produces the show, introduces a different artist's song in each episode. After a bit of background on the artist and song of choice, a small part of the song plays. Then, the artist takes the mic. Though the strategy is formulaic, no episode is ever the same.

Listeners can expect deep dives into classic favorites. They'll also gain insight into songs they've never heard before. A fun mix of genres, artists, and themes, Song Exploder leaves no musical stone unturned. In each episode, artists talk about inspiration and their creative process. They discuss what makes their composition so unique by breaking down the lyrics, themes, and sounds in the song. Listeners will come away with a changed perspective on the sounds that surround them.

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Episodes

Re-issue: Mobb Deep - Shook Ones, Pt. II
Apr 19 2023
Re-issue: Mobb Deep - Shook Ones, Pt. II
It’s usually hard to pin down when a genre of music starts. But people point to this one party in August 1973 in the Bronx as the moment where hip-hop was born. That makes this year the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. In honor of that, I wanted to revisit an episode looking back at one of hip-hop’s classic tracks: Shook Ones, Part II, by Mobb Deep. Here’s the episode, originally recorded in June, 2020, when I spoke to Havoc from Mobb Deep: The rappers Prodigy and Havoc met when they were still in high school in New York. Havoc grew up in Queensbridge, the biggest public housing projects in the country, and as a teenager, Prodigy lived there for a while, too. The two of them formed Mobb Deep in 1991. In 1995, they put out their second album, The Infamous. It was a success when it came out, but in the 25 years since then, the influence of the album has only grown. Complex named it one of the 10 best rap albums of the 90s, and Pitchfork gave the album a rare perfect score, 10 out of 10. The Washington Post called it a “masterpiece” of hardcore rap, and in Slate, it was called one of the best albums of the ‘90s, and one of the best hip-hop albums ever made. Their biggest song from the album was “Shook Ones, Pt. II.” Havoc made the now-legendary beat that he and Prodigy rap over. To celebrate the 25th anniversary, Havoc told me the story of how the whole song came together. Prodigy passed away in 2017, from complications due to sickle-cell anemia, a debilitating disease he’d battled his entire life. But the legacy of Mobb Deep lives on. For more, visit songexploder.net/mobb-deep.