Ah 90s hip hop, the golden age of the genre! Powerful, uncategorizable, and expansive, this article will reveal the 51 best 90s hip hop songs from worldwide artists in the 1990s. Without further adieu, let’s get into this list of our favorites from the decade:
1. “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” by Pete Rock & CL Smooth
T.R.O.Y. starts our list as one of the best 90s hip hop songs. The song got its inspiration from the death of Troy Dixon, well-known as Trouble T. Roy of the Heavy D and the Boyz, a close friend of Pete Rock and CL Smooth in 1990. It was the top song in their epic debut album Mecca And The Soul Brother. Today, the song is one of the top classic golden age rap hits ever.
2. “The World Is Yours” by Nas
This song combines the myths of Scarface with the songwriter’s upbringing and the shootouts to the five boroughs. The World Is Yours is a beautiful hip hop hit listed in the debut album ‘Illmatic’ of 1994. It’s a legendary melody and it played a significant role in making the hip-hop world hopeful to one of the most cherished rappers globally.
3. “C.R.E.A.M” by Wu-Tang Clan
The Wu-Tang Clan exists as the most cinematic, innovative, and outstanding rapping crew of the 90s. Enter the Wu-Tang is one of the finest debut rap albums ever released. Lead by Raekwon, Method Man, and Inspectah Deck, ‘CREAM’ provides a memorable message in street economics.
4. “Regulate” by Warren G
This song is among the most incredible tales in hip-hop history. Nate Dogg and Warren G’s story is about a twisted night in Long Beach, California. In the song, Nate rescues Warren, who’s in the hands of robbers, and then they plan on creating the G-Funk era.
5. “Shot Callin’ Big Ballin'” by The Whoridas
The WhoRidas were initially the Oakland staples. However, they made their markings on Delicious Vinyl, the Los Angeles label. They became prevalent on the West Coast after releasing the “Shot Callin’ Big Ballin’.” This rap hit became a typical hit on the G-funk-dominated radio that became fully operational due to Dre’s success.
6. “Let’s Talk About Sex” by Salt-N-Pepa
New York’s trio, DJ Spinderella, Salt, and Pepa are the first ladies in 90s hip hop history. These rappers conquered all the barriers with their naturally fresh tracks and attitude. Let’s Talk About Sex was more than just a dancefloor filler. It was a prophetic teaching of safe sex and a timely show up of toxic media control.
7. “Playaz Club” by Rappin’4-Tay
This song arose as a g-funk classic golden age rap hit. It’s a type of hip-hop song that served as an immediate appeal. Besides, it got a spot on compilations of West Coast classics for a long time after its release in the 90s. The song uses a perfect sample from the 1968’s hit track “Private Number” by Judy Clay and William Bell. It has a guitar line that perfectly highlights the singer’s silk voice and confidence.
8. “Check The Rhime” by A Tribe Called Quest
This is a top song in The Low-End Theory, one of the most celebrated hip-hop albums in history. The piece shines and impresses many audiences due to its back-and-forth collaboration between Phife and Q-Tip. These two artists effortlessly and flawlessly bounce their lines off each other.
9. “Hard Knock Life” by Jay-Z
The hip-hop world used some unique samples in the beginning. But had never seen an odd sample like Jay-Z used for Hard Knock Life. In this song, the rapper uses a chorus of squealing kids highlighted from the musical Annie. Impressively, Jay managed to create cool stage brats while going platinum, no easy feat indeed.
10. “Keep It On The Real” by 3X Krazy
In this hit, 3X Krazy was frank about their intentions. It’s a great hit that foreshadows the hypha era of super-stylized vocal performances of the late 90s in the Bay Area. This rap song is a bold classic hit of the West Coast. Considering the intention of 3X Krazy, Keep It On The Real is a mission accomplished.
11. “Shook Ones Pt 2” by Mobb Deep
The classic work of Mobb Deep verses over a signature of the sinister Havoc beat. Shook Ones Part II is the best rap song ever released by Mobb Deep. It’s also one of the best hits in hip hop history. The song is also the centerpiece of The Infamous, an all-around epic album that significantly impacted the East Coast Hip Hop renaissance.
12. “I Used To Love H.E.R” by Common
This is a super classic track of the golden age rap songs. The singer describes his shifting feelings for a girl. However, the feelings became his always-evolving relationship with hip hop. It’s an authentic landmark rap hit and a centerpiece amongst the best albums in hip hop’s best performing years.
13. “Mass Appeal” by Gang Starr
The singer was into hardcore hip hop, which he revealed right from the beginning of his artistry. Mass Appeal is an epic rap hit in their fourth album, Hard To Earn. The song addresses sell-out artists who are ready and willing to compromise themselves and their sound for success.
14. “Definition” by Black Star
The first single was released by Mos Def and Talib Kweli (the Black Stars) and titled in the 1998 monumental album. When hip hop struggled with mass-produced factory rap and materialism, these two rappers brought the genre back to the essence with a fantastic dose of intelligence, consciousness, and positivity portrayed in “Definition.”
15. “Tha Crossroads” by Bone Thugs N Harmony
The Crossroads is a Grammy-winning song and the largest selling single released by Bone Thugs N Harmony. It’s a remake of the unique “Crossroads” the artists did after the death of mentor Eazy E. That makes this rap hit a timeless dedication to your loved ones.
16. “Dear Mama” by 2Pac
This is a global golden age rap hit that talks about the adoration Tupac Shakur has for his mother. In this song, the rapper reflects upon his past and expresses apology and love for his mother who raised him. A true tear-jerker, this song is well deserved on this list.
17. “All That I Got Is You” by Ghostface Killah
This is an amazing autobiographical song. In this track, Ghostface narrates the story of his poor childhood and the challenges he faced growing up. The rapper also tells how his father abandoned him at the age of 6 lived in a three-bedroom apartment. Ghostface Killah’s difficult living conditions like plucking cockroaches from the cereal box as a poor kid really highlight amazing imagery on this track.
18. “Listen Up” by Erule
Erule is a Midwestern nurtured MC and Windy City rapper. He mixed various aspects of West Coast hip hop and the 90s East Coast classic sound to create a powerful style fine-tuned by his charisma.
Erule plays with funk samples, classic loops, and a peculiar synth that enhances the beat in this song. It gives perfect memories of the Memphis’ horrorcore style in the early days.
19. “Love’s Gonna Getcha (Material Love)” by Boogie Down Productions
This hip-hop song is an excellent example of narrating a story and passing a message through music. The rapper raps with perfect articulation and tone that you’ll hear and understand every word spoken. Besides, the song’s fantastic video makes the message even stronger.
20. “Hypnotize” by The Notorious BIG
Hypnotize is yet another 90s hip hop song worth listening to. Puff Daddy produced and released this track surrounding the death of the iconic rapper. The song impressed a multitude of fanatics, and it quickly became Eastside’s number one hip-hop song. Although this track got touched by tragedy, it’s a brilliant example of his massive talent.
21. “Gin & Juice” by Snoop Dogg
This was the second single rap song that portrayed Snoop Dogg’s iconic talent. It eventually earned him a Grammy nomination award. The video of this song shows how Snoop is in a happy place, an immoral party filled with booze, women, and weed. This is the track that made Snoop rise into fame in the industry, and today he’s one of the greatest contributors.
22. “Hip Hop Hooray” by Naughty By Nature
This classic golden age rap song combines hip hop stars like James Brown, Peter Gabriel, and the Isley Brothers. That’s what made it a hit. In addition, the track features a shout chorus that will leave you in the same spirits. As a 1993 track released in the 19 Naughty III, the third album of a New Jersey group, making it legendary.
23. “Nuthin’ But A G Thang” by Dr Dre
Dr Dre is one of the greatest rappers in America. Dr Dre launched ‘The Chronic’ his debut solo album with his first stint in solo prominence. This track happens to be one of the best classic golden age rap hits of all time. Having Snoop Dogg on board, this rap song sets its bar high for the next two decades. It’s also one of the greatest watermarks in the hip-hop industry.
24. “Burn Hollywood Burn” by Public Enemy
This song was inspired by the Fear Of A Black Planet, Public Enemy’s second masterwork. It condemns Hollywood’s consistent exploitation and stereotyping the black people. The song features Big Daddy Kane and Ice Cube, some of the greatest talented rappers in the industry.
25. “I Ain’t Mad At Cha” by 2Pac
You’ll enjoy listening to the impressive piano-laced background tune of this hit. It’s the first song released after his death. The song is narrated by 2Pac traveling down memory lane as he tried to reconcile with some individuals he wronged in the past. Its video shows 2Pac shot dead while leaving a hotel and going to heaven where he’s welcomed by legends like Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, and Marvin Gaye – super prophetic.
26. “If I Ruled The World” by Nas
This is one of the most radio-friendly hits by Nas. It’s featured in “It Was Written,” his sophomore album. The song is a fantastic collaboration with Lauryn Hill and an impressive recreation of the old-school classic produced by Kurtis Blow. In this song, Nas shares a picture that shows how he would look in the utopia version.
27. “Luchini” by Camp Lo
“This Is It (Luchini)” is a hit single featured in the Uptown Saturday Night, the protagonist’s most underrated debut album. It’s a great song with a fantastic vibe you’ll enjoy listening to.
28. “Know The Ledge” by Eric B & Rakim
This rap hit got its inspiration from the film soundtrack ‘Juice.’ In addition, it’s a product from ‘Don’t Sweat The Technique,’ Eric B and Rakim’s last album. The track narrates the story of a young thug who tries to be successful on the streets. It has powerful beats and lyrics from the true OGs of rap.
29. “Stakes Is High” by De La Soul
Stakes Is High is a scathing attack on what the protagonist thought to be a constant fall of hip-hop music and culture. It’s been over 20 years, and today this track seems to be very prophetic. In fact, it’s one of the most referenced hits of De La Soul’s discography.
30. “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” by Ol’ Dirty Bastard
This is the second single and the best track ever released by Ol’ Dirty Bastard. The song comes from Return to the 36 Chabers, the protagonist’s solo debut album. It’s a great song that features R.Z.A., a fellow member of the Wu-Tang Clan.
31. “Rosa Parks” by OutKast
OutKast is best known to be the chorus master. This single rap hit boasts some of the most recognizable hooks of OutKast’s songs. It is also amongst the many highlights presented by the masterful Aquemini.
32. “Sound Of The Police” by K.R.S. One
Despite being on the play for over two decades now, this is one of the most relevant hip-hop songs of the 90s. Here, K.R.S. One talks about police brutality, especially towards black people. He intelligently links the slavery days to how police act nowadays. It’s powerful, emotional, and relevant.
33. “Above The Clouds” by Gang Starr
This song boasts one of the best and most creative hip-hop beats ever. It combines remarkable lyrical concerts from Guru and Wu-Tang Clan’s skilled user of the world’s Inspectah Deck. As a result, it’s one of the best golden age rap tracks released by Gang Starr.
34. “My Name Is” by Eminem
This song got Eminem to international fame in the hip-hop industry. It also marked the beginning of an amazing career that would make Eminem on the top list of the best-selling artists in the music world.
35. “Time’s Up” by O.C.
Time’s Up comes from O.C.’s underrated album the Word…Life. The song was a mocking claim made towards the thug posturers and studio gangsters who were flocking into the hip hop genre.
36. “Player’s Ball” by OuKast
Player’s Ball is the golden age classic hit that marked the beginning of OutKast’s success in the music industry. It’s the first single solo track of the Southernplaylisticadillacmuzik, released later in 1994. This rap hit is a very influential and essential song because it introduced OutKast to the world of hip-hop music and marked the start of a decade with great music.
37. “Protect Ya Neck” by Wu-Tang Clan
This is a debut solo featured in “36 Chambers,” Wu-Tang’s first classic album. The song was a game-changer to hip-hop music at that time. It boasts verses contributed by eight of the nine Wu-Tang members.
38. “Summertime” by D.J. Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
This is the greatest rap hit and track of hip hop you’ll find impossible to hate. It’s an amazing summertime anthem that will leave you feeling good and happy.
39. “Bonita Applebum” by A Tribe Called Quest
Bonita Applebum is the second single from the group’s debut album titled “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.” It’s also their first song to praise female beauty. The song is cheeky and humorous. You’ll love it.
40. “Jackin’ For Beats” by Ice Cube
Ice banked on the incredible success of the AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted debut album. In this song, Cube discusses someone else’s beats, including those from Call Me D-Nice by Nice, Funky Drummer by James Brown, and many other artists. You’ll enjoy it.
41. “100 Miles And Runnin'” by N.W.A
This is N.W.A.’s song taken from their album of the same name. It was the first-ever song N.W.A released after Ice Cube left the group. The song’s first stab talks about Cube, expressing their joy in getting rid of him. Cube responded the following year with his classic hit “No Vaseline.”
42. “Slow Down” by Brand Nubian
Slow Down is one of the singles taken from “One For All,” Brand Nubian’s brilliant debut album. Although they produced great music later, this hit remains one of their all-time greatest tracks.
43. “Welcome To The Terrordome” by Public Enemy
This is another centerpiece of Public Enemy’s third album. The track collects all the controversy, immediacy, and aural destiny featured in “Fear Of A Black Planet.” It’s a fantastic hit you will enjoy listening to many times over.
44. “The Devil Made Me Do It” by Paris
This is a solo release from Paris’ excellent debut album with the same title. It’s one of the most underestimated albums in hip hop history. The track is one of the most successful works of Paris, and very few people have managed to match his raw ferocity and power.
45. “M.C.s Act Like They Don’t Know” by K.R.S. One
The track is a perfect collaboration of D.J. Premier and K.R.S. One. KRS-One tells other rappers that one can never be a real MC if you can’t “shake” a crowd in this rap song. It’s a message that no one else could ever give in the industry’s live performance.
46. “93 ‘Til Infinity” by Souls Of Mischief
It’s a lead hit song taken from an album of the same title. The song is one of the all-time classic golden age hip hop songs worth listening to.
47. “E.M.P.D.” by Rampage ft. L.L. Cool J
It’s one of the most known tracks in 90s hip hop history. The song has a thrilling beat and brilliant lyrics presented clearly by Parrish and Erick. In addition, L.L. Cool J, the guest rapper, certainly showcases his greatest ever bars.
48. “The Other Side Of Town” by Master Ace
The song comes from Take A Look Around, his best debut album. This emotional track perfectly interpolates a song of the same title produced by Curtis Mayfield. It’s an excellent testimony to the young Master Ace’s talent.
49. “Electric Relaxation” by A Tribe Called Quest
This is another best hip-hop track by A Tribe Called Quest on this list. It’s an epic song dedicated to women and certainly one of the greatest hits in hip hop. The song is a masterpiece taken from one of the best 1990s hip hop albums.
50. “La Raza” by Kid Frost
La Raza, translated to “The People” or “The Race” is Kid Frost’s best single and debut. It boasts Spanish and English lyrics, making it an excellent choice for many fans. The song is a leading single featured in Hispanic Causing Pain, his first album. Besides, it was very instrumental in bringing the “Chicano” culture into the rapping industry.
51. “We’re All In The Same Gang” by West Coast Allstars
Last on our list of the best 90s hip hop songs is We’re All In The Same Gang by West Coast Allstars. In this song, the protagonists unite to condemn gang violence. It’s a powerful hit that is an excellent answer to Self-Destruction, another anti-violence track by the East Coast all-stars released in 1989.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.