10 Best Hip Hop Songs of All-Time

by Calvin Paradise | 7/21/13

When you see a post a titled like 'best hip hop songs' a bunch of preconceived notions fill your head and you continue reading defensively, if you continue reading at all. Most published lists with the word 'best' in them inspire such reactions.

So before we get into the 'meat' of Bitcandy's 10 Best Hip Hop Songs of All-Time let me just say that these songs may not be the 'best', or top hip hop songs. In this case best is a combination of "our favorite" and "most important/influential."

We lists our reasons for each songs rankings, while occasionally helping you brush up on your hip hop history. There's a lot to unpack, so let's get right to it.

Bitcandy's 10 Best Hip Hop Songs of All-Time starts below:

 

10. Eric B. & Rakim "Paid In Full"

Besides Snoop covering it for about 10 seconds before the infamous streaking scene in Old School, this track is important for a number of reasons. It gave birth to the first commercially successful remix. And most importantly: it framed the economics of 'thug life' in a calm and logical manner so that white people could understand it (to make no mention of its numerous innovative samples and sampling techniques).

Also, it's still dope:

 

9. N.W.A. "Straight Outta Compton"

N.W.A. always gets credited for starting gangsta rap, which really just means that they did it right first (most history works this way). The group intrinsically understood that being seen as villainous and controversially was actually the EXACT image a rapper should aim for.

Kanye West would eventually take this ethos to its non-violent logical conclusion.

 

8. Notorious B.I.G. "Juicy"

Biggie Smalls will forever be tied to the opening lines of this track, and sadly those lines and his 1997 assassination are all most people know about the rapper known as Notorious B.I.G. Not only did this track hit number one on the Billboard Hip Hop and R&B charts, but it also popularized the "rags to riches" hip hop motif that has become the genre's staple.

 

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7. Public Enemy "Fight the Power"

"Fight the Power" is both Public Enemy's most famous song, and the apex of conscious-rap. Originally commissioned by Spike Lee for his seminal film "Do the Right Thing," the song was very controversially when it was originally released in 1989.

It also led to the dismissal of the group's 'Minister of Information,' Professor Griff. Although legalists would argue that it was his homophobic and anti-semitic remarks in a UK Magazine that did that.

 

6. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg "Nuthin' But A G Thang"

If a group of space aliens ever asked me to explain 'West Coast Rap' I would play them the first 15 seconds of "Nuthin' But A G Thang" while nodding my head the whole time. These aliens would hate me, but ultimately know that I was right and that this song kicks.

 

5. Geto Boys "Mind Playing Tricks On Me"

While the Geto Boys are likely better known nowadays for their contributions to the Office Space soundtrack, the band just so happened to be hip hop pioneers. Their only #1-single, "Mind Playing Tricks On Me" was one of the first mainstream rap songs to talk about hallucination, delusion and paranoia, better known as the shit that happens to you when you do drugs.

And while even though such drug use was merely implied, it was a big cultural step forward (probably).

 

4. RUN DMC "Suckers MCs"

Sometimes I envision a future in which Run DMC's massive cultural-footprint is reduced to their collaboration with Aerosmith and stint as Dr. Pepper pitchman. My worst fears will probably never be realized since anyone with commonsense can recognize that the group is responsible for endowing hip hop with its best qualities (an abrasive 'street' attitude and minimalistic beats), including the dis-rap:

 

3. Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force "Planet Rock"

While songs like "Planet Rock" have not necessarily aged gracefully, its historical importance can not be understated. Released in 1982 by Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force, the song was little more than an underground hit at the time. Eventually though it has gotten its do for its unprecedented influence on hip hop and dance music, including its introduction of electro stylings to the medium.

 

2. Sugar Hill Gang "Rappers Delight"

"Rapper's Delight" is a classic hip hop song that's unfairly heaped on the kitsch pile. This came out in 1979 for fucks sake, what do you expect it to sound like?

Sugar Hill Gang's seminal hit gets its due credit being the first rap song to have mainstream success and popularize the genre that would eventually go on to create the modern American pathos [citation needed].

 

1. Grandmaster Flash "The Message"

What can I say about Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" that hasn't already been said about The Constitution? This track, originally released in 1982, was the first to combine bitting social commentary with personal narrative. Or what most of us would define as both the pillar and legacy of hip hop.

So yeah, it's #1 on our list.

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You can agree or disagree with our best hip hop songs list. You may voice your grievances in the comment section below and we'll try to get back to you in 2-4 business days.

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