Top 100 rap Hip Hop Songs Of The 1990s: The 1970s marked the birth of Hip Hop, witnessed by a select few who were fortunate enough to be present. As the 1980s unfolded, Hip Hop transformed from a local phenomenon into a burgeoning musical genre and a global cultural movement. Albums within the Hip Hop realm began to emerge steadily from the mid-eighties onwards. The 1990s then stood out as the inaugural decade wherein Hip Hop albums became a regular release, giving rise to numerous exceptional records each year—many of which are now hailed as timeless Hip Hop classics.
In this compilation, we’ve curated what we deem to be the finest Hip Hop songs of the 1990s. Undoubtedly, not everyone, or perhaps no one, will entirely agree with the specific order presented in this list. Such divergence of opinions is precisely why these lists exist: to spark lively discussions about the music we collectively cherish. So, let’s delve into it—do your cherished favorites make the cut? Are there songs you would elevate or demote, or perhaps exclude from the list altogether? Share your insights in the comments section!
100. Busta Rhymes — “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See”
From his second studio album, “When Disaster Strikes…,” Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” takes the lead as an energetic anthem showcasing his unique delivery and dynamic style. This whirlwind of fast-paced lyrics and infectious rhythms captures Busta’s eclectic persona, solidifying his status as one of the rap game’s most innovative lyricists.
99. Gang Starr feat. Nice & Smooth — “DWYCK”
In the universe of “DWYCK” by Gang Starr and Nice & Smooth, East Coast hip-hop seamlessly blends with jazzy elements. Guru, Greg Nice, and Smooth B ride on DJ Premier’s laid-back beat, creating a tapestry of smooth flows and clever lyricism. The catchy hook and effortless vibe make it a classic resonating with the golden age of hip-hop.
98. EPMD feat. LL Cool J — “Rampage”
In 1991, EPMD teamed up with LL Cool J to deliver the electrifying “Rampage.” Saturated with Eric Sermon’s hard-hitting beat and potent verses, the track serves as a battlefield for artists to flex their lyrical muscle. The Long Island duo’s swagger, coupled with LL’s dynamic delivery, turns “Rampage” into an adrenaline-infused showdown setting speakers ablaze.
97. Ras Kass — “Nature Of The Threat”
Ras Kass’s “Nature of The Threat” is an audible journey through history, demanding attention. This powerful track delves into socially charged topics with poise that is both unnerving and profound. Over a minimalistic beat, Kass’s dense lyrics weave through centuries of historical and racial narratives, cementing it as a piece of hip-hop scholarship that’s both hard-hitting and enlightening.
96. Jay-Z — “Where I’m From”
Jay-Z takes a starkly realistic approach with “Where I’m From,” offering a lyrical tour of his Marcy projects upbringing. His raw portrayal of the challenging realities he faced, painted over vicious production courtesy of Amen-Ra and D-Dot, positions “Where I’m From” as a testament to Jay-Z’s role not just as an entertainer but as a documentarian of urban life.
95. Camp Lo — “Luchini”
Dripping with opulent imagery and a distinct ’70s vibe, Camp Lo’s “Luchini” is a sparkling gem from the golden age of hip-hop. Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede seamlessly blend their distinct styles over a mesmerizing horn sample, creating a luxurious soundscape echoing the glitz of a bygone era.
94. The Roots — “You Got Me”
Seamlessly melding hip-hop, soul, and live instrumentation, The Roots’ “You Got Me” is a heartfelt testament to love and trust. Erykah Badu’s ethereal vocals hover over a tight drum pattern and a melodic bassline, creating an atmosphere as warm as the song’s message. The poignant lyrics, coupled with Black Thought’s smooth verses and Eve’s memorable guest appearance, make “You Got Me” a timeless treasure in The Roots’ discography.
93. LL Cool J — “Doin’ It”
With “Doin’ It,” LL Cool J turns the dial up on his signature lover-boy persona, exchanging tantalizing verses with LeShaun over a seductive beat. LL’s charisma and LeShaun’s boldness turn the song into a hip-hop classic radiating irresistible energy.
92. House of Pain – “Jump Around”
Few songs start a party like House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” Bursting with infectious energy from the first note, the track commands listeners to move with DJ Muggs’ blaring horns and iconic, bouncy beat. Everlast’s commanding vocals invite a frenzy, solidifying “Jump Around” as an indomitable force in the realm of hip-hop anthems.
91. Lauryn Hill — “Lost Ones”
In “Lost Ones,” Lauryn Hill embodies her role as hip-hop’s conscience, shedding light on life’s struggles and triumphs while taking thinly-veiled shots at her former groupmate, Wyclef Jean. Hill’s nimble flow dances over the infectious beat, weaving a cautionary tale rich with biblical and personal references. “Lost Ones” isn’t just a diss track; it’s a masterclass in Lauryn Hill’s lyrical storytelling.
90. Eminem — “My Name Is”
Eminem’s “My Name Is” is a landmark moment in hip-hop history, introducing him to the world in an unforgettable manner. The Detroit rapper’s razor-sharp wit, paired with Dr. Dre’s impeccable beat-making, results in a playful yet unsettling track. “My Name Is” solidified Eminem’s arrival, marking the birth of one of hip-hop’s most controversial and brilliant voices.
89. Big L — “Ebonics”
“Ebonics” serves as Big L’s guide to the intricate nuances of street slang. In a linguistic tour de force, Big L’s verses break down common phrases in his uniquely witty style, providing a vivid snapshot of Harlem life in the late ’90s. “Ebonics” creates not only a memorable track but also a timeless document of street vernacular.
88. KRS-One — “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know”
KRS-One unleashes a lyrical assault in “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know,” reminding us of his unquestionable reign in hip-hop. The track thrives on KRS-One’s commanding presence, his verses acting as a call to arms for fellow MCs to respect the art form. With a classic DJ Premier beat that stutters and bounces as his backdrop, KRS-One’s lyrical sermon hits hard, securing the track’s place as a hip-hop classic.
87. Ghostface Killah feat. Mary J. Blige — “All That I Got Is You”
In “All That I Got Is You,” Ghostface Killah trades his usual boisterous raps for an introspective look at his challenging upbringing. Mary J. Blige’s emotive chorus creates a heart-wrenching contrast with Ghostface’s gritty verses, resulting in a profoundly touching track. Paired with RZA’s majestic production, this raw and honest collaboration shows a different side to the Wu member, offering a poignant reminder of the power of storytelling in hip-hop.
86. Juvenile feat. Mannie Fresh & Lil Wayne — “Back That Azz Up”
Representing classic New Orleans rap, Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” took the club scene by storm with Mannie Fresh’s infectious production. This anthem, featuring Juvenile’s commanding presence and Lil Wayne’s undeniable flair, is an unstoppable force that continues to resonate.
85. GZA — “Liquid Swords”
When it comes to raw lyricism and cutting-edge storytelling, few can rival GZA’s prowess on “Liquid Swords.” This track is a masterclass in wordplay and vivid imagery, painting a dark and cinematic picture of urban life. GZA’s sharp and precise flow cuts through RZA’s haunting production like a samurai sword, delivering thought-provoking lines that hit with the impact of a heavyweight boxer’s punch.
84. DMX — “Get At Me Dog”
When DMX burst onto the scene with “Get At Me Dog,” he brought an unruly energy that was impossible to ignore. From the opening growls to the aggressive delivery, X’s ferocity on this track is unmatched. With P.K. and Dame Grease’s menacing production, “Get At Me Dog” is a relentless assault on the senses, a gritty and unapologetic street anthem that commanded attention and helped shift hip-hop’s epicenter back to the streets.
83. Gang Starr — “Mass Appeal”
Capturing the essence of true hip-hop, Gang Starr’s “Mass Appeal” is a masterclass in lyrical finesse. Guru’s smooth and confident delivery rides seamlessly over DJ Premier’s timeless production, combining hard-hitting drums and jazzy samples. With thought-provoking lyrics that challenge the commercialization of rap, Gang Starr reminds us of the importance of staying true to the art form. “Mass Appeal” is an anthem for hip-hop purists, a reminder that authenticity and substance will always reign supreme.
82. Puff Daddy feat. The Notorious B.I.G. & Mase — “Been Around the World”
“Been Around the World” is an unabashed celebration of the extravagant heights of hip-hop success. Puff Daddy’s opulent vision converges with the distinctive styles of The Notorious B.I.G. and Mase, against a backdrop of glossy production and a recognizable David Bowie sample. The track is an embodiment of the ‘shiny suit’ era, a glamorous trip around the world capturing the excessive luxury of ’90s rap.
81. De La Soul — “Stakes Is High”
Defining a pivotal era of hip-hop, De La Soul’s “Stakes Is High” serves as a microcosm of the socio-cultural landscape of the ’90s. The track is a raw embodiment of creativity from the seasoned trio, featuring lyrically potent verses brimming with poignant societal commentary. J Dilla’s production – a laidback fusion of jazzy samples and crisp drum loops – is an auditory delight, reflecting the urgency of the title. “Stakes Is High” is a distinct and uncompromising voice of the decade, seeped in realism yet utterly captivating, proving De La Soul’s status as the vanguard of conscious rap.
80. N.O.R.E. — “Superthug”
A seminal track in late ‘90s hip hop, “Superthug” is a raucous anthem that helped solidify Queens rapper N.O.R.E. as a natural-born superstar, as well as The Neptunes as future producers. Representing the epitome of N.O.R.E’s high-energy bravado, the track underpinned by the distinctive production prowess of the Virginia-born production duo. Peaking at no. 36 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping the Hot Rap Songs chart, “Superthug” helped usher in The Neptunes as the future of rap music.
79. DMX — “Slippin”
In a career as tumultuous as his private life, DMX’s “Slippin” offers a stark glimpse into the rapper’s struggle with fame, addiction, and survival. This raw and gut-wrenching track channels X’s gritty voice and emotive delivery to create a deeply introspective narrative. The haunting chorus, laid over a somber melody and booming drums, resonates long after the song ends. A cornerstone of the late rapper’s discography, “Slippin” stands as a testament to his status as one of hip hop’s most vulnerable and honest storytellers.
78. UGK — “Murder”
While rhymes about cocaine and riches were nothing new for UGK, the duo reached another level of technical mastery with “Murder.” Pimp C brings his signature swagger, and Bun B drops tongue-twisting bar after bar, delivering a lyrical spectacle of internal rhyme and clever wordplay. Thriving over a dirty Southern instrumental, “Murder” showcases UGK at their finest, with Bun’s verse here possibly ranking among the greatest rap verses of all time.
77. Master P feat. Fiend, Silkk the Shocker, Mia X & Mystikal — “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!”
Bursting with southern charm, “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!” stands as a pillar of Master P’s No Limit empire. This star-studded ensemble track is a celebration of the raucous energy that Master P and his labelmates brought to the hip hop scene in the ’90s. Each artist brings their unique flair to the table, riding the adrenaline-infused, brass-heavy beat with aggressive verses. It’s a hard-hitting, chant-inducing anthem that became a blueprint for the bold, unapologetic sounds of New Orleans rap.
76. A Tribe Called Quest — “Check The Rhime”
Encapsulating the unique blend of jazzy beats and thoughtful lyricism that defined their sound, “Check The Rhime” is a staple in A Tribe Called Quest’s revered catalog. The track sees Q-Tip and Phife Dawg trading bars in a charismatic, call-and-response format, their rhymes ebbing and flowing over the laid-back, horn-sampling beat. “Check The Rhime” is more than just a song; it’s a timeless reminder of the rich legacy of ATCQ, serving as a masterclass in the art of flow and lyrical finesse.
75. Black Star — “Definition”
“Definition” by Black Star, the dynamic duo of Mos Def and Talib Kweli, remains an unblemished jewel in the crown of ’90s underground hip hop. The track is an exquisite showcase of lyrical ingenuity, combining razor-sharp wordplay and socially-conscious themes with an eloquence that is second to none. The simple yet effective beat exudes an infectious head-nodding groove, serving as the perfect canvas for the duo’s poetic prowess. With “Definition,” Black Star reaffirmed the power of conscious rap, underlining their position as the torchbearers of intellectual hip hop.
74. Method Man & Redman — “How High”
When two powerhouses of the East Coast rap scene collide, the result is nothing short of explosive. “How High” is a track that encapsulates the impeccable synergy between Method Man and Redman. Fueled by a dark, hypnotic beat, the duo weaves intricate rhymes with a near-telepathic rapport, their verses seeped in wit and humor. Their dynamic flows, coupled with their playful yet potent lyricism, make “How High” a high-water mark in the landscape of ’90s hip hop.
73. Queen Latifah — “U.N.I.T.Y.”
Shattering societal norms and challenging the status quo is a tough task — especially during the ’90s era rap game — but not if you’re Queen Latifah. With “U.N.I.T.Y.,” the New Jersey-born legend embodied strength, defiance, and audacity, spitting verses that held the listener captive. It wasn’t just a song; it was a clarion call for respect and equality, making it an anthem for women across the world. Unflinchingly addressing issues of sexism and domestic violence, Queen Latifah made it clear – she wasn’t just a rapper; she was a woman of substance.
72. Lost Boyz — “Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz and Benz”
Trading rhymes over some groovy Easy Mo Bee production, this track has all the ingredients of a certified classic. Dissing whack MCs and spitting bars sharper than machetes, Mr. Cheeks and Freaky Tah prove that the microphone is a greater weapon than any gun, shooting down the competition with some of the slickest flows of their careers. One of the group’s biggest hits, it deserved every ounce of success.
71. Mase — “Feel So Good”
A natural-born hitmaker, Mase struck gold on his debut single, perfecting his style on the first try. With an addictive hook from Kelly Price and a funky beat to back it up, “Feel So Good” is hip hop at its catchiest, but it’s the young Harlem rapper himself who steals the show. A master of smooth flows, the future New York icon perfected pop rap with this single, laying down the blueprints for the whole culture moving forward.
72. Lost Boyz – “Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz and Benz”
This track, set against Easy Mo Bee’s groovy production, encapsulates all the elements of a certified classic. Mr. Cheeks and Freaky Tah, armed with sharper-than-machete bars, engage in lyrical warfare, proving that the microphone wields more power than any firearm. Shooting down the competition with slick flows, this hit rightfully earned its success.
71. Mase – “Feel So Good”
A natural hitmaker, Mase struck gold with his debut single, flawlessly perfecting his style on the first attempt. Boasting an addictive hook by Kelly Price and a funky beat, “Feel So Good” embodies the catchiest elements of hip hop. Mase, the young Harlem rapper, steals the spotlight with his mastery of smooth flows, setting the blueprint for the future of pop rap.
70. Smif-n-Wessun – “Bucktown”
From street hoodlums to Brooklyn’s promising MCs, “Bucktown” transformed Smif-n-Wessun into overnight underground celebrities. Painting vivid pictures of the borough’s crime-riddled streets, the duo showcases lyrical prowess over sinister jazz rap production. While not a global hit, “Bucktown” forever remains Brooklyn’s anthem.
69. MC Eiht – “Streiht Up Menace”
Featured in the Menace II Society soundtrack, “Streiht Up Menace” narrates a vivid and brutal story, aligning with the intensity of the movie. MC Eiht maintains a steady flow, focusing on the grim realities of ghetto life, encompassed by drugs and pervasive violence. This storytelling masterclass stands as a staple in the West Coast rap pantheon.
68. Method Man – “Bring the Pain”
“Bring the Pain” is quintessential Method Man, a grime-infused anthem showcasing Meth’s ability to unleash raw, unfiltered lyricism over rugged beats. The gritty masterpiece pulsates with the energy of Staten Island’s underbelly, a testament to Method Man’s indomitable presence on the mic.
67. Goodie Mob – “Cell Therapy”
“Cell Therapy” showcases Goodie Mob at their finest—thought-provoking, hard-hitting, and rich in Southern flavor. This audacious critique of societal control and paranoia, punctuated by precise lyricism and a distinctive flow, lingers with haunting piano loops and a melancholic chorus, capturing the essence of ’90s Atlanta rap.
66. Mos Def – “Mathematics”
“Mathematics” is a scintillating display of Mos Def’s intellectual lyrical style. Tackling socioeconomic issues with flawless flow over DJ Premier’s hypnotic beats, Mos Def’s raw honesty and incisive commentary exemplify the golden era of conscious rap.
65. A Tribe Called Quest – “Can I Kick It?”
Crafting a timeless slice of hip-hop, A Tribe Called Quest invites listeners into a space of introspection and groove with “Can I Kick It?” The laid-back vibe, coupled with a philosophical query, allows Q-Tip and Phife Dawg’s effortless lyrical play to flow over the jazzy beat like water over rocks.
64. Puff Daddy feat. Mase – “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down”
“Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” sparkles with ’90s hip-hop glamor as Puff Daddy, alongside the smooth-talking Mase, takes a joyride of opulence. Filled with infectious hooks and memorable lines, this anthem of invincibility signifies Puff Daddy’s ascent into rap royalty, establishing Bad Boy Records as the new vanguard of hip-hop.
63. Run DMC ft. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – “Down With The King”
In a time of seismic shifts in hip-hop, “Down With The King” sees Run-D.M.C. reasserting their pioneering influence. Assisted by Pete Rock and CL Smooth, the trio constructs a reverential bridge between rap’s old school roots and its emerging future, showcasing undiminished prowess and adaptability.
62. TRU feat. Mia X – “I’m Bout It, Bout It”
Embodying the spirit of Southern hip-hop, TRU’s “I’m Bout It, Bout It” pulsates with energy, delivering raw, unfiltered lyrics that capture the essence of the streets. Potent rhymes, hard-hitting beats, and unapologetic narrative make this track not just music but a raw narrative of New Orleans street life, asserting No Limit’s position as chroniclers of the Southern hip-hop scene.
61. The Notorious B.I.G. – “One More Chance (Stay with Me Remix)”
While the original is great, the remix of “One More Chance” is even better. Biggie weaves a narrative of romantic conquests with humor and humility, creating a textured portrait of the rapper’s personal life. The smooth R&B sample creates an intimate backdrop for the Brooklyn rapper’s rhymes, while Faith Evans’ soulful chorus adds emotional depth, revealing the earnest, funny, and vulnerable man behind the larger-than-life persona.
60. Mos Def – “Ms Fat Booty”
With “Ms Fat Booty,” Mos Def makes an indelible mark on the ’90s rap scene, merging storytelling with an infectious Ayatollah beat. His keen observational style takes center stage, painting a vivid picture of love found and lost in the city that never sleeps. Aided by a seductive soul sample, the Brooklyn MC turns an ordinary tale of urban romance into a poignant meditation on fleeting encounters and the search for genuine connection.
59. Method Man feat. Mary J. Blige – “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By”
Showcasing his romantic side with help from Mary J. Blige, Method Man crafts one of the best love songs in hip-hop. With a soulful hook and buttery smooth verses, the track is as slick as an R&B ballad but with the razor-sharp bars of a classic Wu-Tang banger. Winning Method Man his first Grammy, “I’ll Be There for You” becomes a historic moment for Wu-Tang.
58. MF DOOM feat. Pebbles the Invisible Girl – “Doomsday”
“Doomsday” serves as the world’s introduction to MF DOOM’s unparalleled lyricism and distinctive style. Under his metal-faced alter ego, Daniel Dumile weaves intricate rhymes that are as evocative as they are enigmatic, all while maintaining an understated delivery that’s equally nonchalant and profound. Accompanied by Pebbles the Invisible Girl’s haunting vocals, DOOM presents a mesmerizing blend of introspective rhymes and intricate storytelling. The track is a showcase for DOOM’s ability to create a distinct, immersive world within his music, setting the stage for a career that would remain as unpredictable as it was influential.
57. Mobb Deep – “Survival of the Fittest”
An embodiment of raw, visceral street poetics, Mobb Deep’s “Survival of the Fittest” gives voice to the chilling realities of life in New York’s rugged neighborhoods. With its haunting melody, unflinching lyrics, and gritty performances, this song vividly portrays an environment where survival isn’t just a concept but an everyday battle. P and Hav deliver brutally honest verses, representing the ’90s era of hip hop that chose to spotlight the harsh urban reality.
56. O.C. – “Word…Life”
“Word…Life” stands as a cornerstone of lyrical mastery and soulful production that shaped the sound of East Coast rap in the ’90s. The track blends insightful commentary with starkly vivid imagery, with the D.I.T.C. rapper demonstrating a command of the mic that few ’90s MCs could match. His deeply reflective and philosophical style positioned him as a thoughtful lyricist in an era dominated by increasingly commercial interests, providing a reminder of hip-hop’s capacity for social commentary.
55. Redman – “Time 4 Sum Aksion”
Striding onto the scene with raw bravado and a knack for witty wordplay, Redman’s “Time 4 Sum Aksion” pulls no punches. The track is a kinetic explosion of funk-infused beats and electrifying rhymes that firmly planted Redman as a force to be reckoned with in the ’90s hip-hop landscape. With an infectious energy that’s palpable from the first beat to the last bar, “Time 4 Sum Aksion” encapsulates the reckless spirit of youthful energy in a way few tracks of the era could match.
54. Three 6 Mafia – “Tear Da Club Up”
Blasting through the club speakers, “Tear Da Club Up” turns any crowd into a bloodbath. As twisted and ruthless as ever, Three 6 Mafia is in prime form, with the group’s finest MCs trading murderous bars, turning the club into a slaughterhouse. Ominous production from DJ Paul and hypnotic double-time flows encapsulate all the Memphis rawness that made them special.
53. Public Enemy – “Welcome to the Terrordome”
“Welcome to the Terrordome” sees Public Enemy in their most confrontational form. Chuck D’s incendiary verses and Flavor Flav’s anarchic energy transform the song into an explosive commentary on racism, media bias, and the black experience in America. The fierce, disorienting production by The Bomb Squad underscores the urgency of the group’s message. It’s an uncompromisingly political song that challenges listeners, demanding engagement and reflection.
52. 2Pac – “Picture Me Rollin'”
An anthem of defiance and survival, 2Pac’s “Picture Me Rollin’” spins a narrative of hard-earned triumph in the face of systemic injustice. The laid-back West Coast production perfectly complements Pac’s voice as the rapper navigates the beat with the grit and grace that became his trademark. A stand-out track on his 1996 blockbuster double album All Eyez on Me, “Picture Me Rollin’” serves as a bittersweet reminder of 2Pac’s enduring artistic legacy.
51. Pharoahe Monch – “Simon Says”
Pharoahe Monch’s “Simon Says” is a bold showcase of the emcee’s creative brilliance, constructing an audacious lyrical playground over an infectious Godzilla sample. With thunderous delivery, Monch balances humor and aggression, creating an unforgettable anthem that stands as one of the definitive hip-hop tracks of the ’90s.
50. Cypress Hill – “How I Could Just Kill a Man”
Cypress Hill etched their name in history with their debut single, “How I Could Just Kill a Man.” DJ Muggs’ off-kilter production and B-Real’s manic delivery and unpredictable flow catapulted the West Coast group to prominence. Debuting with a track this bizarre, Cypress Hill made an indelible mark, solidifying their position in hip-hop.
49. OutKast – “SpottieOttieDopaliscious”
“SpottieOttieDopaliscious” showcases OutKast’s experimental prowess. This ’90s masterpiece blends trippy, jazz-infused instrumentals with psychedelic spoken word, creating a surreal, funk-filled universe. A sonic testament to OutKast’s avant-garde artistry, the track remains an epitome of their unique southern sound.
48. Snoop Dogg – “Who Am I (What’s My Name)”
“Who Am I (What’s My Name)” is the quintessential Snoop Dogg anthem, blending his distinctive drawl with Dr. Dre’s revolutionary G-funk sound. The track, with its funky bassline, whimsical synth effects, and lyrical prowess, became Snoop’s signature calling card, securing his status as a cornerstone of ’90s West Coast hip hop.
47. Wu-Tang Clan – “Triumph”
Wu-Tang Clan’s “Triumph” is a monumental track showcasing the group’s collective talent. RZA’s production is a sonic assault, setting the stage for the Clan’s lyrical onslaught. Each member, from Deck’s opening verse to ODB’s bizarre intro, delivers unique energy, propelling Wu-Tang to stratospheric heights.
46. Gang Starr – “Moment of Truth”
“Moment of Truth” by Gang Starr is a poignant, timeless track exploring the trials of life. Guru’s meditative verses, delivered with his signature monotone flow, narrate a philosophical journey over Premier’s melodic beat and melancholic strings. An introspective masterpiece, the song delves into themes of responsibility, resilience, and authenticity.
45. Ol’ Dirty Bastard – “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”
“Shimmy Shimmy Ya” stands out as an iconic track from Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s eclectic repertoire. ODB’s raucous personality shines through his off-kilter delivery and gritty vocals, making the track an unruly yet irresistible hip-hop classic. With raw simplicity and RZA’s infectious piano riff, it captures the rebellious spirit of the Wu-Tang Clan outlier.
44. 2Pac feat. Outlawz – “Hail Mary”
“Hail Mary” plunges listeners into a sonic world of existential reflection, serving as a haunting rumination on mortality and survival. With minimalistic beats, 2Pac’s poetic eloquence, and the forceful presence of Outlawz, the track stands as a timeless piece of ’90s hip-hop, showcasing Pac’s lasting impact.
43. Naughty By Nature – “Hip Hop Hooray”
“Hip Hop Hooray” perfectly encapsulates the jubilant energy of early ‘90s hip-hop. Naughty By Nature’s iconic hook, Treach’s rhythmic flow, and the infectious beat turned it into an anthem that transcended the Jersey streets. Today, it remains a symbol of hip-hop’s golden age.
42. Puff Daddy feat. Lil’ Kim, The LOX & The Notorious B.I.G. – “It’s All About the Benjamins”
“It’s All About the Benjamins” embodies the glitz, glamour, and unabashed extravagance of the Bad Boy era. Puff Daddy’s star-studded track unites hip-hop heavyweights over a gritty yet luxurious beat, culminating in a timeless anthem that encapsulates the essence of ’90s rap extravagance.
41. The Pharcyde – “Runnin'”
“Runnin’” by The Pharcyde is a perfect blend of introspective lyrics, smooth rhythms, and jazzy beats. This ’90s gem showcases the group’s ability to balance reflective verses with playful wordplay, all delivered over a vibey backdrop courtesy of the legendary J Dilla. Still as fresh today as it was back then, “Runnin’” stands as a timeless reminder of The Pharcyde’s irreplaceable contributions to hip-hop’s golden era.
40. Public Enemy – “911 is a Joke”
In a blistering critique of institutional neglect, Public Enemy’s “911 is a Joke” is an audacious, politically-charged track that places the group’s social activism center stage. Flavor Flav delivers the lyrics with a potent mix of sarcasm and anger, using humor to convey an urgent message. Driven by the Bomb Squad’s signature noise-heavy production, the song cements Public Enemy’s status as fearless social commentators in the hip-hop canon.
39. Nas – “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”
Closing out Nas’s groundbreaking debut, “Illmatic,” “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” weaves a sonic tapestry of slick rhymes and effortless flow. Nas combines introspective commentary and vivid street imagery, floating over a polished beat by the legendary Large Professor. The jazzy Michael Jackson sample enhances Nas’ lyrical prowess, marking a defining moment in his illustrious career.
38. Onyx – “Slam”
Onyx’s “Slam” exudes raw, chaotic energy, with guttural voices of Sticky Fingaz and Fredro Starr commanding attention over aggressive beats and a menacing bassline. The unapologetically gritty rhymes embody a mosh-pit mentality, symbolizing a boundary-pushing moment for hip hop that infused hardcore punk energy, leaving an influential mark on the genre.
37. Missy Elliott feat. – “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”
“The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” introduced Missy Elliott’s unique, genre-defying vision. Co-produced with Timbaland, this futuristic sonic amalgam boldly redefined hip hop boundaries. Missy’s inventive rhymes and soulful singing provided a fresh, female-centric perspective, signaling the arrival of a pioneering talent unafraid to challenge conventions.
36. Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg – “Still D.R.E.”
“Still D.R.E.” marks Dr. Dre’s triumphant return to the rap scene, featuring Snoop Dogg. The infectious piano line and crisp drums, produced by Scott Storch, evolve Dre’s G-Funk sound. Snoop’s laid-back verses and Dre’s confident delivery announce their comeback, solidifying their status as compelling as ever.
35. Nas – “Nas Is Like”
“Nas Is Like” captures Nas at his most poetic, layered over DJ Premier’s ethereal production with piercing violins and hard-hitting drums. This vital entry in ’90s hip hop resonates as a timeless snapshot of Nas’ verbal acrobatics and profound philosophical musings.
34. Common – “I Used to Love H.E.R.”
“I Used to Love H.E.R.” cleverly uses a metaphorical woman to depict Common’s deep-seated love for hip hop. Against a backdrop of soulful, jazz-infused production, Common’s reflective rhymes expose the industry’s shifting dynamics, offering a poignant ode to the genre’s evolution.
33. Luniz – “I Got 5 on It”
Luniz’s “I Got 5 on It” is a quintessential ’90s anthem, spinning a catchy tale over a hypnotic beat. The infectious hook, laid-back delivery, and relatable subject matter make it a universal hit, embedding it into the fabric of hip-hop and pop culture.
32. Raekwon – “Incarcerated Scarfaces”
“Incarcerated Scarfaces” is Raekwon’s street poetry showcased over a raw RZA-produced beat. Vivid tales from New York’s underbelly, gritty rhymes, and hustler’s wisdom make this track a cornerstone in Wu-Tang Clan’s esteemed catalog.
31. Mobb Deep – “Quiet Storm”
“Quiet Storm” is Mobb Deep at their finest—dark, brooding, and undeniably potent. Prodigy’s chilling narratives and Havoc’s gritty verses, set against a sinister beat, lay bare the bleak reality of street life, making it a raw exploration of the harsh realities often hidden behind the glamor of hip hop.
30. Fugees – “Fu-Gee-La”
“Fu-Gee-La” showcases Fugees’ unique fusion of soul, reggae, and hip hop, setting a new benchmark for genre versatility. Lauryn Hill’s soul-stirring hooks, Wyclef Jean’s melodic cadences, and Pras’ rhythmic verses over Salaam Remi’s beat create a harmonious blend, solidifying its place as a classic ’90s anthem.
29. O.C. – “Time’s Up”
“Time’s Up” by O.C. resides on the intellectual side of ’90s hip hop, delivering a scathing critique of industry fads and false lyricists. O.C.’s incisive verses, paired with Buckwild’s jazz-influenced production, blend social commentary with hard-hitting punchlines, cementing O.C.’s legacy as an unsung hero of the golden age.
28. Jay-Z – “Dead Presidents”
“Dead Presidents” is a significant marker in Jay-Z’s early career, showcasing his lyrical prowess and contemplative themes. Backed by Ski’s melancholic piano-laden beat and a haunting Nas sample, Jay-Z transforms streetwise tales into compelling artistry.
27. Public Enemy – “Shut ‘Em Down (Pete Rock Mix)”
“Shut ‘Em Down (Pete Rock Mix)” is an explosive mix of incendiary lyrics and dynamic production, a political sledgehammer tackling societal ills. Chuck D’s potent lyricism and Pete Rock’s bombastic beats create a relentless sonic assault, a powerful reminder of hip-hop’s capacity to ignite change.
26. The Notorious B.I.G. – “Who Shot Ya?”
“Who Shot Ya?” embodies Notorious B.I.G’s raw talent, combining streetwise narrative, unparalleled flow, and sharp-witted wordplay. Biggie’s menacing raps, laced over the eerie Nashiem Myrick production, make it one of the enduring memories of the tragic East Coast vs. West Coast beef.
25. Snoop Doggy Dogg – “Gin & Juice”
“Gin & Juice” is a quintessential G-funk anthem solidifying Snoop Dogg’s place in hip-hop greatness. Snoop’s silky smooth flow, Dr. Dre’s bouncing beats, and infectious synth lines paint a vivid portrait of West Coast lifestyle, making it a classic West Coast anthem and a cultural timestamp of ’90s hip-hop.
24. Nas – “The World Is Yours”
Remaining a pillar of “Illmatic,” “The World Is Yours” is a reflective yet hopeful journey through the gritty streets of Queensbridge. Nas’s intricate lyricism, coupled with Pete Rock’s soulful piano-based beat sampling Ahmad Jamal’s “I Love Music,” crafts a deeply poetic narrative of ambition and inner-city life.
23. Scarface – “I Seen a Man Die”
Embodying the essence of the Houston hip-hop scene, “I Seen a Man Die” chillingly depicts life’s transience. Scarface, a master storyteller, paints a poignant picture of mortality through intense lyricism. The eerie, minimalist beat provides a fitting soundtrack, making it a milestone in Scarface’s career and ’90s Southern hip hop.
22. Puff Daddy feat. The Notorious B.I.G. & Busta Rhymes – “Victory”
“Victory” is a triumphant anthem capturing the high-water mark of Bad Boy Records. Puff Daddy, The Notorious B.I.G., and Busta Rhymes lay down vigorous verses over an epic, cinematic beat, encapsulating the self-assured swagger of the label’s glory days. Biggie’s posthumous bars add a chilling reminder of the late MC’s formidable talent.
21. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony – “Tha Crossroads”
“Tha Crossroads” is a heartfelt tribute to lost friends and family by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. Their signature blend of melodic flows and rapid-fire rapping is on full display over a poignant beat that perfectly complements the somber subject matter. The raw emotion and universal themes of loss and longing make it a timeless classic.
20. Souls of Mischief – “93 ’til Infinity”
The definitive hit of the Bay Area collective, “93 ’til Infinity” is a laid-back, jazz-infused anthem that captures the vibe of early ’90s West Coast hip-hop. Over a smooth, loop-driven beat, Souls of Mischief deliver clever, introspective rhymes resonating with timeless authenticity. This track is a perfect soundtrack for endless summer afternoons, securing its place in hip-hop’s hall of fame.
19. 2Pac – “Dear Mama”
“Dear Mama” stands as one of the greatest and most heartfelt tribute songs in hip-hop history. An ode to his mother, Afeni Shakur, the track explores the struggles and sacrifices she made. Pac’s raw emotion harmonizes perfectly with the soulful beat, showcasing his vulnerable side and resonating with fans worldwide.
18. Wu-Tang Clan – “Protect Ya Neck”
A revolutionary track from the Staten Island collective, “Protect Ya Neck” marked the dynamic entrance of the Wu-Tang Clan into the hip-hop scene. Known for its raw energy, synergic interplay among group members, and distinctive verse styles, the track, built on RZA’s rugged beat, captures the raw essence of Wu-Tang’s aesthetic.
17. Jay-Z – “D’Evils”
“D’Evils,” off Jay-Z’s debut “Reasonable Doubt,” explores the darker side of ambition and the pitfalls of the hustle. Jay-Z’s insightful storytelling and intricate lyricism paint a portrait of the corrosive effects of street life. Over DJ Premier’s sinister, mournful beat, the track stands as a haunting masterpiece.
16. Ice Cube – “It Was a Good Day”
Perfecting the art of storytelling with a buttery flow, “It Was a Good Day” is the crown jewel in Ice Cube’s catalogue. Narrating his perfect day with an author’s attention to detail and poet’s attention to rhyme, the West Coast legend turns a seemingly simple story into a masterclass in rapping ability.
15. Naughty by Nature – “O.P.P.”
An undisputed classic, “O.P.P.” showcases Naughty by Nature’s knack for crafting infectious, party-starting anthems. Treach’s charismatic delivery is smoothly complemented by the catchy chorus, creating a danceable and lyrically potent track. The clever use of The Jackson 5’s “ABC” sample adds a dose of nostalgia, cementing “O.P.P.” as a timeless hip-hop gem.
14. Jeru the Damaja – “Come Clean”
“Come Clean” is Jeru the Damaja’s definitive statement, an unfiltered display of intricate lyricism and storytelling prowess. Set to DJ Premier’s slick, minimalistic production, Jeru delivers a torrent of hard-hitting bars that pull no punches. The track’s gritty, no-nonsense approach is a perfect showcase of Jeru’s voice in the ‘90s rap landscape.
13. Warren G ft. Nate Dogg – “Regulate”
With “Regulate,” Warren G and Nate Dogg delivered an iconic slice of West Coast G-funk. Warren G’s smooth, laid-back rhymes and Nate Dogg’s soulful vocals create a perfect harmony, setting the stage for a gripping narrative of street life. The track’s funk-laden beat, complete with a memorable Michael McDonald sample, epitomizes the sound of the era.
12. DMX – “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem”
A club-shaking hook, hard-hitting production, and a ferocious performance on the mic – “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” has everything that made DMX legendary. Listing off all the enemies he’s killed over a head-bopping instrumental from Swizz Beatz, DMX turned a track about bloodshed into a chart-topping classic.
11. Ol’ Dirty Bastard – “Brooklyn Zoo”
A chaotic tour de force, “Brooklyn Zoo” encapsulates Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s unorthodox style and irreverent charisma. His erratic, unpredictable flows underscore his eccentric persona, weaving a narrative of street life with unfiltered grit. The beat is as audacious as ODB himself, drawing upon Wu-Tang’s signature grimy sound while taking it into even darker territories. “Brooklyn Zoo” stands as a testament to ODB’s idiosyncratic talent, forever immortalizing him as one of hip-hop’s most unique voices.
10. A Tribe Called Quest feat. Leaders of the New School – “Scenario”
“Scenario” isn’t just one of the greatest ‘90s rap songs; it’s one of the best posse cuts ever. With a mix of Tribe’s distinctive, jazz-infused style and Leaders of the New School’s dynamic energy, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg’s laid-back, rhythmic flows blend seamlessly with Busta Rhymes’ explosive, charismatic delivery. The upbeat, sample-heavy beat lays the groundwork for an unforgettable hip-hop party anthem. Not just a collaborative masterpiece, “Scenario” also marked Busta’s breakout moment, making it a crucial piece of hip-hop history.
9. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)”
On “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.),” Pete Rock & CL Smooth create an ode to nostalgia that stands out as a landmark moment in hip hop’s golden era. Pete Rock’s masterful use of the saxophone sample creates a melancholic backdrop that perfectly complements CL Smooth’s heartfelt reminiscence of his youth and tributes to those he lost. It’s not just a song – it’s a time capsule, capturing the zeitgeist of the ‘90s hip hop scene with an emotional resonance that remains poignant even decades later.
8. OutKast – “Elevators (Me & You)”
With “Elevators (Me & You),” OutKast cemented their position as stalwarts of Southern hip-hop. The track, underscored by its laid-back, hypnotic beat, sees Big Boi and André 3000 delivering introspective verses that delve into their rise to fame and the realities of the music industry. Their distinctive flows and evocative lyricism blend seamlessly with the ethereal production, making “Elevators” a mesmerizing sonic journey that encapsulates OutKast’s innovative spirit.
7. Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg – “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang”
A seminal moment of West Coast rap, “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” is a cultural milestone that signaled the reign of Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg. The smooth, G-funk-infused beat paired with Snoop’s slick, laid-back delivery created an infectious track that quickly became a global phenomenon. Dre’s masterful production combined with Snoop’s charismatic rhymes defined the sound of a generation, heralding a new era in hip-hop and forever solidifying their place as two of rap’s most influential figures.
6. Nas – “N.Y. State of Mind”
One of the cornerstone tracks of “Illmatic,” “N.Y. State of Mind” sees Nas delivering a gritty, unfiltered snapshot of life in the inner city. His lyrical prowess is on full display as he weaves together a series of vivid vignettes, showcasing an uncanny eye for detail. The DJ Premier-produced beat, a mix of punchy drums and melancholic piano samples, underscores the raw urgency of Nas’ delivery. An embodiment of ’90s New York hip hop, “N.Y. State of Mind” is Nas’ love-hate letter to the city that raised him, underlining his position as one of rap’s premier storytellers.
5. The Notorious B.I.G. – “Juicy”
The quintessential rags-to-riches anthem, “Juicy” stands as one of the most iconic tracks in The Notorious B.I.G’s discography. Laid over a Mtume’s “Juicy Fruit” sample, the song finds Biggie narrating his journey from street hustler to hip hop royalty. His vivid storytelling and smooth flow are perfectly complemented by the soulful, upbeat production. Much more than a retrospective look at his rise to fame, “Juicy” is an aspirational anthem that continues to inspire generations, attesting to Biggie’s lasting impact on the genre.
4. 2Pac – “Ambitionz az a Ridah”
From the opening keys that drip with menace, “Ambitionz az a Ridah” oozes an infectious, unyielding defiance that defined 2Pac’s artistry. Serving as the opener to the monumental “All Eyez on Me,” the track is a thunderous declaration of Pac’s tenacity, his verses teeming with visceral intensity. The beat, a seamless blend of G-funk and gangsta rap elements, creates a compelling backdrop for the rapper’s brash, confrontational rhymes. “Ambitionz az a Ridah” isn’t just a song—it’s an anthem for Pac’s indomitable spirit, forever immortalizing him as one of hip hop’s most charismatic figures.
3. Wu-Tang Clan – “C.R.E.A.M.”
A quintessential cut from the Staten Island collective, “C.R.E.A.M.” is as much a mantra as it is a song. In what might be his finest production work to date, RZA laces the gritty backdrop of boom-bap drums and haunting piano loops to lay bare the harsh realities of street life. Raekwon and Inspectah Deck’s raw, uncompromising verses, paired with Method Man’s iconic hook, encapsulate the struggle for survival and the pursuit of prosperity. “C.R.E.A.M.” isn’t just a classic in the Clan’s discography – it’s an anthem for the ages that has left a lasting imprint on hip hop culture.
2. Geto Boys – “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”
With this Southern staple, Geto Boys didn’t just pioneer the concept of rapping about mental struggles – they perfected it, telling vivid tales of sleepless nights and traumatic hallucinations in horrifying detail. Focusing on the side effects of crime rather than the crime itself, the Southern group pulled hip hop in a direction it had never been before, practically birthing the horrorcore scene with this storytelling masterpiece. Side note: Kid Cudi would later reveal that “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” influenced his breakout single “Day ‘n’ Nite.”
1. Mobb Deep – “Shook Ones, Part II”
‘90s hip hop doesn’t get better than this. Prodigy and Havoc deliver cold-hearted bars shooting down all the wannabe gangsters, flowing over a menacing beat as sinister as the ruthless streets of Queensbridge. Whether it be Bandana P’s cutthroat rhymes or the iconic hook, every aspect of the track is the pinnacle of rap music. Lyrical perfection with one of the greatest beats ever produced, “Shook Ones, Pt. II” is the peak of hip hop’s greatest era.