If you didn’t already make sure you check the list of 50 – 31, and listen to the songs if you don’t know them (Click on the song title to listen). There’s no shame in not being up on your hip-hop game. That’s what I’m here for.
I haven’t gotten much push back from the 50 – 31 selections. The only pick that has come under some scrutiny is Up Jumps da Boogie at 50. To that I say a few things.
1. It’s the 50th pick, are we really going to argue about that. That’s like arguing over who the Miami Heat decide to send to the D-League
2. Lyrically, Up Jumps the Boogie is sound, and when you combine that with the beat it makes for a sick song.
3. If the 50th pick is the only objection I have on this list of the top 50 songs, then I did a good job
Time for 30 – 11
Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life
There no way you can leave this song of a hip-hop list. It is the ghetto anthem – according to Jay-Z – after all. This record made Jay-Z a palatable mainstream artist and the face of hip-hop. It also took him from good MC to “maybe he can be one of the greats.”
All credit should go to little orphan Annie, and those kids who probably ended up giving Daddy Warbucks sponge baths.
29. Top Billin’
What More Can I Say?
When you make a great hip-hop track, and every piece of that of that track is sampled1. Then those samples create great hip hop tracks. You have one of the greatest songs of all time. That’s Top Billin’. In my opinion this is the most underrated hip-hop song. It should be even higher on this list…I think I just objected to myself.
1. Everything on this track was sampled from the rooter to the tooter. Most notably on 50 Cent’s sampled this song for his hook on I Get Money, Mary J. Blige sampled the beat on Real Love, LL Cool J sampled the background crowd screaming “Go Brooklyn” on Doin It and many have sampled their hook, most notably Kanye West in the song Otis.
28. The Way I Am
The Marshall Mathers LP
This is Eminem at his finest. He admits to his flaws, concede to all rumors, while saying, “You do the same thing too, not because you’re a bad person. But because that’s what ever normal person does.” This track reminds you of what he could he could have done consistently with his career2.
This record put the Atlanta on the map, and announced the arrival of the greatest hip-hop duo/group ever (if you have any debate in regard to my claim, please offer up who you think it better. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger. (Pulp-Fiction style)). Elevators is a great balance between lyrics, execution, and style. It one of that joint that come on and you start singing every word, while not knowing a single word of the song.
26. Ms. Fat Booty
Black on Both Sides
Imagine the person in your past that you me on a random night. That was oh so allusive, while always being around. You spend money whining and dining that person, yet don’t seal the deal. A week later you see that same person with someone else. Then you realize you got played by Ms. Fat Booty. Mos Def give voice to that situation in this song, and does while giving you stunning visuals with his lyrical skills.
25. The Message
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five song
This is one of the most legendary hip-hop tracks of all time. Many believe that it started mainstream rap, and is the greatest hip-hop record. Obviously I don’t think so, but I do believe there is great social significance to the song. And for that reason it’s 25th on this list.
24. California Love
All Eyes On Me
2Pac, Dr. Dre
The anthem for California is in the building. This isn’t the best track for neither 2Pac nor Dr. Dre. However collectively they made a classic record, and a symbol for the California life.
23. Passin’ Me By
Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
This is a legendary hip-hop track with a funky beat. With all due respect to Runnin’, Passin’ Me By is the best record The Pharcyde ever produced. The Pharcyde was more of a flash in the pain that legendary group. However, they left their mark with this track.
This is a crazy hip-hop record. It has that raw street element that is synonymous with Mobb Deep, yet it still has mainstream appeal. I attribute that to Mobb Deep’s ability to speak genially through this record with conviction. Though this track is nasty, it didn’t lead to long-term mainstream success for Mobb Deep. However, Shook Ones II did become the signature song on the score for 8 Mile.
21. All I Need
Method Man, Mary J. Blige
“Staten Island is in the building!”
When you say Method Man and Mary J. Blige collaborated to make a great hip-hop love song, it sounds weird. But that’s exactly what they did. All I Need is the most significant record for Method Man as it marked his career separate from his affiliation with the Wu-Tang Clan. Now he will always be part of the Wu-Tang, but this track showed that he could do it by himself as well.
The Low End Theory
A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes and Leaders of the New School
Scenario features Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest, who may be the most underrated rapper of all-time. Because he never had mainstream success, Phife is commonly overlooked.
This song also showcase the soon to star, Busta Rhymes. He laces the track on the final verse with the style that would become synonymous with his career.
19. One Mic
One Mic is a simple concept that is executed beautifully by NaS. NaS’ ability to execute flawlessly is second to none, and that’s what makes him one of the top 5 rappers of all-time. Whether it’s I Gave You Power or Black Girl lost,
NaS consistently shows that ability. One Mic is his greatest example of that ability.
18. Rosa Parks
When Outkast released Rosa Parks as a single, they garnered a lot of notoriety and criticism which may have been justifiable. What is justifiable is that Rosa Parks is one of the great hip-hop records no matter what they called it. It could have been called Christopher Columbus, and I still would have been singing,
Ah ha, hush that fuss/
Everybody move to the back of the bus/
Do you want to bump and slump with us/
We the type of people make the club get
Mama Said Knock You Out
LL Cool J
For all of LL Cool J’s commercial success, he made some awful album, and subpar singles.
That is not the case with Momma Said Knock You Out. This track has everything that was great about LL Cool J. It has the emotion, lyrics, and battle element that made LL Cool J great.
16. Paid in Full
Paid in Full
Eric B. & Rakim
You can’t leave Paid in Full off any hip-hop list. This a legendary track and it was the beging of Rakim’s dominance.
This NaS’ best record, and the track that became the staple of his greatest album. It also sparked a legendary battle between him and Jay-Z.
This record is just a raw record. It has that old school feel of 2 turntables and a mic. It sounds like he recorded it in a meat locker.
This is Nasty NaS!
The Marshall Mathers LP
This record is hard to express in words. You can say that Eminem told a great story, but that sells him short. You can say it’s a relationship record, and speaks to the boundaries between celebrity and reality. But that also doesn’t fully express the essence of this track.
The only thing you can say is, Stan is a masterpiece, and it shows up how great Eminem was.
Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg
This is a chill record that highlights what was known Dr. Dre’s style. Because of this record and the success of The Chronic, Dr. Dre became the face of hip-hop. Up until that point he was the most successful rapper/producer, in large part because of the success of this song.
Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G.
This track literally features Brooklyn’s Finest.
This is Jay-Z and Biggie Smalls at their best, going back and forth like a rap battle. Line after line the track intensifies, and crescendos when Biggie spits the line,
Me and Gutter had two spots
The two for five dollar hits, the blue tops
Gotta go, Coolio mean it’s gettin “Too Hot”
If Fay’ had twins, she’d probably have two-Pac’s
Get it? .. Tu-pac’s
Brooklyn’ Finest may be the best rap collaboration ever.
11. Protect Ya Neck
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
This is Wu-Tang doing their thing. It bar after bar, artist after artist, doing grimey raps over one Wu-Tang’s signature Shaolin Style beats. It’s their best record, and is well deserving of its positioning.
2. Eminem was an artist that could have revolutionized rap for the duration of his career. He could have rivaled Jay-Z as the best rapper of his era. However he went a different path and while he was hugely successful, I think he could have been an even bigger rap legend.
Editor-in-Chief of Comedic Prose
Follow Kortney Williams on Twitter @kortneyshane