I grew up with hip-hop over the course of my life, so there must have been a lot of songs that I liked, right? Over the course of my life, I’ve been a fan of many different rappers and enjoyed many different songs. Unfortunately, it’s extremely hard to narrow down all my favorites into just 10 songs. I’ve spend some time compiling my top 10 by listening to my favorites that I can easily recall. My rule is no repeating artists unless that artist appears as a featured guest on someone else’s track or as a part of a collaboration like a group or duo. Some songs weren’t singles too.
10. Mobb Deep- “Shook Ones Pt. II”
Album- “The Infamous”
This is one of the all time classics with that New York City griminess. Although I don’t understand what it’s like to be in an urban warzone, I do understand the struggles of making gains financially. This is one of the most hyped tracks of all time. Your favorite rapper bumps this joint from time to time.
9. Sugarhill Gang featuring Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five- “Showdown”
Album- “8th Wonder”
Label/Year- Sugar Hill/1982
Although “Rapper’s Delight” was their biggest hit and left a bigger mark in hip-hop, I actually liked “Showdown” more. It was a funkier joint, and it had a collaboration with their label mate and the other biggest hip-hop group at that point, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. It was a fun joint that they did together without trying to outdo each other.
8. Run DMC- “Rock Box”
Album- “Run DMC”
This track really did spark modern hip-hop into the MTV generation when hip-hop was still seen as a novelty act. Run DMC had great chemistry as a tandem. This song was hard before rappers started getting hard. This song was able to appeal to the rock crowd due to the heavy guitar rifts. It was an indirect diss to rock bands when they said that Jam Master Jay was “better than all these bands”.
7. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony- “Mo’ Murda”
Album- “E. 1999 Eternal”
Bone had so many hits. They had so many classics. Why was this one chosen out of all their songs? This track wasn’t aimed at becoming a good single on the charts or appeal to the mainstream. This track was for the real Bone fans who love that classic Bone rapping. This was all about each of them getting a verse at spitting something hard which forced each other to step up their game.
6. The Notorious B.I.G.- “Juicy”
Album- “Ready to Die”
Label/Year- Bad Boy/Arista/1994
What made this one of the biggest songs in the history of hip-hop was that Christopher Wallace came up through the struggles. He tells the story of his come up to the present when he becomes more successful. His hard rhymes along with the R&B classic sample “Juicy Fruit” made up for a hip-hop classic that still stands up through the test of time.
5. Jay-Z featuring The Notorious B.I.G.- “Brooklyn’s Finest”
Album- “Reasonable Doubt”
“Brooklyn’s Finest” marks the ultimate collaboration between the two best rappers in Brooklyn. What made this song better than the other Jay-Z tracks besides the fact that Biggie was in the song was that there was a great chemistry between the two icons. They were able bounce ideas, rhymes, lyrics, concepts off of each other off one song.
4. 2Pac featuring Stretch- “Pain”
Album- “Above the Rim” soundtrack
Label/Year- Death Row/Interscope/1994
This marked 2Pac’s debut song with Death Row. This track actually was not included in the final compilation of the soundtrack. What made this song stand out against all of his classics weren’t the lyrics or catchiness, but more of the rawness of the song. You felt the emotion. You felt the pain. This is a true example of “It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it”.
3. T.W.D.Y.- “Player’s Holiday”
Album- “Derty Werk”
Label/Year- Thump Street/1999
This track is ranked where it is because of the funky vibes it had with some of the best rappers from the Bay Area getting their time to spit a verse. There was T.W.D.Y. which consisted of Rappin’ 4 Tay, Ant Banks, and Captain Save ‘Em along with guest appearances from Mac Mall and Too $hort. Sure there were feel good party songs, but they didn’t have the Yay Area swag.
2. Naughty By Nature featuring Zhane- “Jamboree”
Album: “Nineteen Naughty Nine: Nature’s Fury”
Label/Year- Arista/BMG Records/1999
This ranks near the top because of the feel good party track it had. It had that positive vibe that wasn’t about that heavy bass or electronic sound. The track was just about having fun. It marked their comeback as one of the most influential groups in hip-hp history.
1. Artist: Ice Cube featuring Krayzie Bone- “Until We Rich”
Album: “War & Peace” (Peace disk)
The reason why this ranks #1 on my list because every line in the song is an outlook on life. It made me realize that life is short so you should live life to the fullest. It made me try to enjoy the simple things in life. This was at a point when Ice Cube was maturing as a person leaving his thug persona behind while Krayzie Bone was just killing the hook.