The True Top 50 Hip-Hop Songs of All Time
Recently Rolling Stone magazine out together a panel of 100 industry executives and came out with their list of the top 50 hip hop songs of all time. Now I read this list, absorbed this list, and disagreed with this list. So rather than being pissed off and trying to strike up a, “Hey what do you think about that questionable top 50 hip hop list Rolling Stone pot together” with unsuspecting strangers at the bar (That can be risky especially at the bars I go to). I said, “What the hell?” I will put together my own list. I have a blog that 1000 people a week read (That’s right I’m bragging). I should put out a list that all 1000 of those people will hate”. Thus it was born.
Now this is not a list meant to be a memorial for the golden age of hip-hop. That means that Slick Rick won’t have 10 songs in the top 10. At the same time this isn’t a referendum on mainstream east coast rap. That means that Silk That Shocker won’t have anything on this list. Sorry to break this news so publicly New Orleans, but I couldn’t do it with throwing up in my mouth (pink vomit style).
This list is a representation of the best hip hop songs of all-time. That means everything is in play from the Sugar Hill Gang to Drake (by the way Drake didn’t make it either, and I’m not sorry about breaking. As matter of fact I may write an entire post, just about why he didn’t make the list).
The list will be s count down, 50 – 1, because it adds suspense. The list will be broken down into 3 post with the first post being 50 – 31, the second post 30 – 11, and the final post being the top 10. So enjoy, and send all your hate to @kortneyshane on twitter.
First I want to highlight the controversial ones that didn’t make it.
I almost put James Brown on the list. I consider if to be the first mainstream hip-hop artist. Think about it. What’s the difference between, “I love it when you call me big Poppa” and “Poppa don’t take no mess.” Both of those dudes are rapping.
There is also no Uncle Luke or Lil Wayne. I tried to get both in, especially my boy Luke. I love Scared, but half I’m not sure if it qualifies as a rap song.
The biggest omission from this list is Scarface. He is one of the best if not the best lyrists of all-time. I really wanted to find a place for him but I just couldn’t. If I were forced to put a song of his on here it would have been, Seen a Man Die. I just didn’t know where to put it. What I’m trying to say is, I couldn’t find it in my heart to fit him in (whoa that just got weird).
Now I have previously released songs 50 – 11.
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
I encourage you to click on the songs and listen to them before you send your hate mail. Especially if you haven’t heard of the song before. There’s no shame in not being up on your hip-hop game. That’s what I’m here for. I have your back.
Enjoy the list, and please share this on your facebook page and tweet it out. It took a long time to put this together and I would appreciate the love.
Now let the list begin.
Welcome to Our World
Timbaland, Magoo, Aaliyah, Missy Elliot
This song is one of the best compilations of all time. This track announce Missy Elliot as legitimate rapper, and not just the “He, he, he” girl from the MC Lyte video. It also showcased Aaliyah and began Timbaland’s era of dominance as a producer.
Busta Ryhmes announced his arrival and unique style with this song. True story, I didn’t know a single word of this song up until 6 years ago.
Regulate…G Funk Era
Warren G, Nate Dogg
Money, Power, Respect
The LOX, Lil Kim
This is just a filthy record. Lil Kim laces the track with the hook. This is the best record The Lox ever made
46. Two Words
The College Dropout
Kanye West, Mos Def, Freeway
This record showcases the best of Kanye West’s rap skills. It would have been higher on the list if Freeway was able to enhance the track. However I put it 46, because it’s “Two Words/Mos Def/K-West hot sh*t!”
When Disaster Strikes
Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood
This is DMX doing what he does best, telling a great story. X is one of the best hip-hop storytellers ever (yeah I went X right there, because I know him like that). Slippin’ showcase the best of those skills, and combines that unmistakable emotion that X always bring2.
43. You Got Me
Things Fall Apart
The Roots, Erykah Badu
The Roots are one of the best bands of all time, and a treasure for hip-hop music. You Got Me is a smooth track with a great story. It encapsulates everything hip hop music is.
I can’t stress enough that this is not Dead Presidents II. This is the original Dead Presidents. The version where Jay-Z says,
One day your cruisin’ in ya seven/
Next day your sweatin’ forgetin’ your lies/
Alibis ain’t matchin’ up, bullshit catchin’ up/
Hit with the rico, they repo your vehicle/
Everything was all good just a week ago
41. Big Poppa
Ready to Die
The Notorious B.IG.
This is a flashy track, but lyrically it’s one of Biggie’s best performances. Anytime you have dudes singing, “I love it when you call me Big Poppa” that’s fire. I just hate what the movie Hardball did to this song3.
All Eyes On Me
This song is synonymous with that video of 2Pac in that white suit, surrounded by smoke, some other questionable people in heaven, and a grand piano. It’s a great story, and showcases Tupac at his finest.
39. Bonita Applebum
People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
A Tribe Called Quest
This is a smooth hip-hop ballad to the ladies.
The Fugees knocked it out of the park with this track. It represented the islands for hip-hop, and gave us our first indication that Pras was a little off.
The Wu-Tang Clan, Cappadonna
Every hip hop list, party, get together, and bank robbery has to have some Wu-Tang. Most of the tie I don’t even know what the hell they’re talking about, but I’m bobbing me head while I dance in the middle of the street. Every member of The Clan(RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard make up The Wu-Tang Clan) and Cappadonna.1 killed it on this track.
Mecca and Soul Brother
Pete Rock, CL Smooth
This track is the perfect combination of a smooth beat and melodic rap. The horns on this track are sexy (did I just say that). If you don’t know this track, get on it. This is probably controversial positioning, but its deserving.
This is the most innovative hip-hop track ever. Not only did Nasty NaS (that’s right I just hit you with a Nasty NaS), rap an entire sing backwards, but he executed it flawlessly. This is a shining expel of why he is considered to be one of the top five rappers of all-time.
34. Through The Wire
The College Dropout
This is the second time Kaye West, and The College Dropout have appeared on this list. And it’s well deserved.
Life After Death
The Notorious B.I.G.
Before you start sending me hate mail for putting this song on the list, click the link and take a listen. Then listen again. This is the best lyrical performance by Biggie Smalls.
32. Mona Lisa
The Adventures of Slick Rick
So Slick Rick made the list after all, with one of his signature tracks.
31. Just A Friend
The Biz Never Sleeps
Oh this is what I call happy music. Anytime I see Biz I get happy. He prove that you can be an individual in hip-hop, and still have music that will live forever. Just A Friend isn’t a great lyrical or vocal performance. However it’s soulful and funny. Being made to be a fool is something everyone can relate no matter the age. This song will live forever.30. Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)Vol. 2… Hard Knock LifeJay-ZThere 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.
10. U Don’t Know
I’m not sure what this song is about, but it’s fantastic. Jay-Z lets it rip form the first line to the last, and shows the full arsenal.
This song appears on Jay-Z’s 6th studio album, The Blueprint. However it’s a flashback to old Jay-Z. It has that young gritty energy that is synonymous with his first album. It’s as if he wanted to remind everyone that he can still throw 100mph.
When the legendary Roots crew dropped The Seed (2.0), initially it didn’t garner much attention, partially because it was on Phrenology which was a subpar album. However The Seed (2.0) was a rose growing from the concrete, and now gets the recognition as such.
This song is actually the derivative of a neo-rock record that was made by Cody Chesnutt called, The Seed. The Roots and Chesnutt came together, took the original song, added some funk, and produced The Seed (2.0).
The Roots are a rare gem. To be a successful band – that actually plays their music – in hip hop is unheard of. The Roots are in an arena of their own, and The Seed (2.0) is what they can produce.
The Great Adventures of Slick Rick
This is a legendary hip-hop record on Slick Rick’s most recognizable album. Lyrically it holds up, yet it still has that old school hip-hop beat. That lets you know it’s a classic track. Slick Rick is one of greats, and Children’s Story shows why.
Gin and Juice is Snoop Dogg’s first solo single off his debut album Doggystyle. After heavily contributing to Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, this record established him as his own man.
It showcased the laidback part style that became his trademark.
This song is polarizing. On one side you love it, because it compares the love for hip-hop to that of the love for a girl. On the other hand it devalues west coast rap, and even implies that hip-hop was ruined by the west coast. Consequently this song sparked beef between Common and west coast rappers (mainly N.W.A).
With all that being said it’s a very creative track, and deserves to be recognized as such.
Do the Right Thing Soundtrack
Based on social significance alone, this song makes it into the top 10.
This song was originally created for Spike Lee’s movie, Do the Right Thing. Later it appeared on Public Enemy’s album, Fear of a Black Planet. Public Enemy was known for addressing social issues head on, and Fight the Power is a representation of that.
4. Can I Live
This is probably the most introspective record by Jay-Z. It’s a masterpiece that is executed on every level.
It starts off with Jay-Z setting the scene, by talking over horns. He explains that people hustle out of a sense of desperation, which ironically turns into an addition. Not unlike the one the fiends have that they serve. Then the beat hits, and the legendary rap begins.
Can I Live is Jay-Z’s stand out record on his first classic album, Reasonable Doubt. It showcases Jay-Z’s ability to make stark vivid imagery with his lyrics. He takes you on a journey through the mentality of a hustler, and juxtaposes that with the reality of the situation. The imagery is so vivid that it’s comparable to a movie.
This song is an effort that shouldn’t be undervalued, and is worthy of being one of the greatest rap songs of all time.
Straight Out of Compton
Straight Out of Compton is the title track of N.W.A.’s debut album. This song is so ferocious, that it had to be hot in the suburbs. As soon as Ice Cube starts his rap by say, “Crazy muth*** named Ice Cube.” I can see kids throughout the gated community bumping this in their home theater system.
This record foreshadowed what was to come from Dr. Dre and west coast rap. It’s unfortunate that N.W.A broke up after this album, but at least we got this gem.
Bombs Over Bagdad is arguably the greatest hip-hop song of all time. It has lyrics, beat, and creativity that are second to none. This is Outkast – the greatest hip-hop group of ever – showcasing some of their best work.
B.O.B. appears on the album Stankonia, and as crazy as it sounds, it was overshadowed by Rosa Parks, which was on the same album and commercially more successful. However, now it gets the respect it deserves and many believe it’s the greatest hip-hop record ever.
Non Album Single
The Sugar Hill Gang
It’s controversial to make this the greatest hip-hop read cord of all time.
It’s not the greatest songs lyrically, and it doesn’t showcase the best beat. However, you have to take into account the circumstances in which it came out.
You have to consider that there was no road map to make a hip-hop record, and despite that The Sugar Hill Gang made a successful record. Rappers Delight ended up becoming the first mainstream rap songs. Now it must be said that this record is one hundred thirty seven minutes long. But if you can take the time off work, and you have an opportunity to listen to this record, you will see that this is a timeless piece art that will continue to stand the test of time.
1. Full disclaimer I had to look this up.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.3. I should have probably stopped at the first X. 4. I’m not going to discuss the movie. All you really need to know is Keanu Reeves was teaching kids on the Southside of Chicago how to play baseball.
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Follow Kortney Williams on Twitter @kortneyshane