Hip hop is one of the most popular genres of music of all time. Many hip hop subgenres have emerged over the years, but the music remains as good as ever. These are the 51 best hip hop songs of all time out of a plethora of options.
Note: These aren’t in any particular order:
1. “Lose Yourself” – Eminem
This is a song by Eminem from the soundtrack of the 2002 motion picture 8 Mile. It was released at the end of October that same year. The track focuses on Eminem’s background – it brings out the theme of aggression in the hood. Through this soundtrack, B. Rabbit (the character Eminem plays) gets the respect of other rappers. Lose Yourself rated at the top on Billboard 100 for 12 weeks. To date, many still enjoy the song.
2. “Bodak Yellow” – Cardi B
This is a hit song by Cardi B that we can’t seem to get over. It is a solo and was released on June 16th, 2017. This song made her fame grow immensely, as she was the first female rapper to top the Hot 100 in 20 years. Furthermore, it was awarded the Best Rap Album in 2019.
3. “Ms. Jackson” – Outcast
The music video was released in 2000. It was awarded the Best Video of the Year in the B.E.T. Awards and MTV Europe Music Awards in 2001. As a result, it was nominated for the Grammy Awards. The track’s message is deeper than most people thought as it talks about relationships. We relate today’s relationships to the song since, sadly, most of them are messed up.
4. “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” – Geto Boys
Mind Playing Tricks on Me is one of the rare gang songs to make the list. It depicts the difficulties of thug life, as they go through paranoia and fear of the unknown – an insane lifestyle. The song’s popularity gained its movement on the charts to land at No. 23 on the Billboard’s Hot 100. The song is in the 1991 album – We Cannot Be Stopped.
5. “Dear Mama” – 2Pac
Dear Mama was released on February 21st, 1995. The hip hop song topped the Billboards as a Top Hot Rap Single. The message detailed in this song is about a struggling single mother. Despite the hip hop beats and rap, we can clearly tell the message in the song. Through the difficulties, though not easy, 2 Pac’s mom was able to raise a man.
6. “Lost Ones” – Lauryn Hill
This track was released in August 1998 and is actually a diss song. It talks about how Lauryn and her bandmate became successful and then destroyed their relationship. The song received an award for the Best Rap Solo Performance in the 41st Grammy Awards.
7. “Fight The Power” – Public Enemy
The American group released this song in 1989 as a single, with Motown records. The real meaning behind the song is equality for African Americans. It aimed at leading a new generation that had not been raised in the civil rights movement environment. In 2001 it was ranked as the 288th Song of the Century.
8. “Juicy” – Notorious B.I.G.
The track Juicy is from his album Ready to Die, released in 1994. It has quite the instrumental mix. Being such a hit song, it sends a great message. The melody tells of the contrast between two varying lives – one of abject poverty and another of plentiful riches.
9. “Me Myself and I” – De La Soul
Me Myself and I has a powerful aura, making it a hit song. It focuses on promoting individualism and encourages people to believe in themselves. All you have to do is love yourself. It gives one confidence in themselves as it states that loving oneself is enough.
10. “California Love” – 2Pac and Dr. Dre
This song is vibrant and gives us dancing vibes. The track is about California life – their day-to-day activities and creativeness. Tupac recorded this hip hop song after he was released from prison. The people of California wildly celebrated his release. California Love was top on the Billboards Top 100 for two weeks.
11. “99 Problems” – Jay Z
This hip hop song won Best Rap Performance in the 47th Grammy Awards. Jay Z released the song 99 Problems in 2004. Like most artists, Jay-Z’s album is about his personal life and experiences. In addition, the song pertains to a message about drugs and racist police officers. The video shows the artist being pulled over for simply being African American.
12. “Jesus Walks” – Kanye West
This track is a great hip hop, rap, gospel song. Apart from being a gospel track, the melody gets us to think about our society and the effects of racism. Kanye brings in the Biblical concept of everyone being like Jesus and equality for all.
13. “In Da Club” – 50 Cent
50 Cent struck gold on this one. The track is about getting rich in the club. It encourages people to keep trying no matter how hard it gets – ‘ get rich or die trying’. The song is captivating and receives great airplay on the airwaves. Moreover, it was nominated for the Grammy Awards.
14. “The Box” – Roddy Ricch
This song is top-played all over the world. Roddy Ricch must have put his all into the production of this track. It has an unforgettable lyrical flow, and the video is amazing. Quite the fantasy and imagination this artist has.
15. “Starships” – Nicki Minaj
This track has a different vibe from most hip hop songs. When it was first released, most people hated on it but later realized it was good. Consequently, the views skyrocketed, and it became Top 5 in Hot 100. After that, it became an international hit in 2012.
16. “In My Feelings” – Drake
This song was released in 2018. It is about a girl that Drake likes. He poses the song as a question to the girl, inquiring if she likes him back. It is a great example of contemporary romance. In My Feelings has such a great flow that one finds themselves singing along when played.
17. “Anaconda” – Nicki Minaj
When this song was released, many people didn’t quite understand it. Some thought of it as just a meaningless song, but after listening to it intently, most of them liked it. Over time, it has become a hit song for those who listen to hip hop. The beats make it easy to dance to, and it has a smooth flow.
18. “It Was a Good Day” – Ice Cube
The song was released on February 23rd, 1993. It was so captivating it climbed to No. 7 in the Billboards Hot 100. It ranked No. 27 in the United Kingdom (U.K.) Charts. The song’s popularity confirms that it belongs to the best hip hop songs of all time. The fact that Ice Cube is an actor helped the fame of his album. He has more good songs, but this one is among his best.
19. “N.Y. State of Mind” – Nas
This song is from Nas’s album Illmatic. Old school music is quite good since the album is from 1994. However, Nas recorded this particular track in 1992, although it found its way into the market in 1994, released on April 19th. The song explains that New York is not just a place but a state of mind.
20. “Hypnotize” – Notorious B.I.G
Amazing as it sounds, the song is found on Biggie’s album Life After Death. A week after release, as he was driving by, a shooting began. Sadly, he passed away as a result. Hypnotize was No. 20 in the Rolling Stone. It was also ranked as Top 100 Hip Hop Songs.
21. “I Know You Got Soul” – Eric B & Rakim
Rakim poured out his soul in this song. Arguably, many generations to come may spend time studying this track and the message it sends out. Upcoming rappers may also use I Know You Got Soul as a reference for their music. The flow and the lyrics of this song are on point.
22. “Strictly Business” – E.P.M.D.
The drumroll and music video of Strictly Business are well thought out. There is just something about hip hop music that makes one feel like getting on their feet and dancing. This song is a perfect example of the upbeat, catchy hip hop melodies.
23. “C.R.E.A.M” – Wu-Tang Clan
Cream was the hood slang for money back then. It was an acronym for “cash rules everything around me”. The inspiration behind this track was a letter the artist had received from his friend who had been incarcerated at the time. The song was released in 1983. As such, some people think it is the capitalist anthem.
24. “Paid in Full” – Eric B & Rakim
It was released on July 7th, 1987. The song ranked at No. 58 in Billboards 200 charts. In addition, it was ranked No. 8 on the R&B Charts. Paid in Full is an amazing song with lots of great lyricism. It has been recognized as the benchmark album for golden age hip hop. It sure does serve its intended purpose – entertainment.
25. “Nuthin’ But A G Thang” – Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear this song? Well, it is quite different from other Dre’s songs. It marked the beginning of gangster rap music—the new era of drugs and many social interactions. However, the song shows womanizing and gunplay as normal things in society. Even though we can’t entirely agree with this, it is a great song.
26. “Empire State of Mind” – Jay Z Ft. Alicia Keys
The song is about the hope that New York represents and the possibilities it offers to its residents and people from outside. Empire State of Mind gives people purpose, making them believe that they can do anything, no matter who they are or where they are from. The essence of hope found in the lyrics stands out the most as many people can understand and relate to it.
27. “Slow Down” – Brand Nubian
The song was recorded in 1990 and released around the same time. It was featured on their renowned album Best of Brand Nubian. The music flow is amazing – it is a combination of guitar, drums, and piano. Slow Down earned its place in the hip-hop genre.
28. “Tha Crossroads” – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
The song was written, performed, and released on April 23rd, 1996. It is dedicated to the black community. The track has a good tune, upbeat rhythm, and great beats as a hip hop song. Tha Crossroads receives airplay at great parties in California and worldwide.
29. “The Symphony” – Marley Marl
Written by Marlon Williams and Duval Clear, this song has a mixture of drum break and piano loop, giving it a great demeanor. It is hard to remain seated when this song starts to play. Dance and music usually go together, and this track brings this out. The track features Juice Crew members Big Daddy Kane and Masta Ace.
30. “The Breaks” – Kurtis Blow
The Breaks is a great track. It includes a rhumba part, unique from other hip hop songs. It was attributed to the breakers of Harlem and other hoods to encourage them to breakdance. The track earned a golden record.
31. “It Takes Two” – Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock
It Takes Two is a song by New York’s hip hop duo, Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock. It was recorded in 1998, then released in February 1998, and later certified as platinum. The track became a Top 40 hit. The musicality in the song is exemplary and is good to listen to at parties as you breakdance along.
32. “Rock The Bells” – LL Cool J
Rock The Bells is an annual hip hop festival song. Its origin can be traced back to Southern California. From there, it has spread throughout the world. This song depicts how society has embraced the new subgenres of hip hop and culture. It was released in 1985. Despite this, it still receives massive airplay to date.
33. “Paul Revere” – Beastie Boys
Released in August 1986, this song is about colonists and slavery. Paul Revere uses this track to warn the colonists in Lexington about the British troops approaching. Silver Smith took a night ride to deliver that message. Longfellow celebrates this poetic piece.
34. “Big Pimpin'” – Jay-Z Ft. UGK
The song’s translation can be done in three parts. First is being a Casanova, secondly is having success, especially for a man, and thirdly, it may also mean having sexual exploits. It can be dated back to April 11th, 2000. It was the third and the final single from Jay-Z’s 4th studio album.
35. “F*ck Tha Police” – “N.W.A”
This is one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time. It focuses on protesting police brutality and racial profiling.
36. “Straight Outta Compton” – N.W.A
It was released on August 8th, 1998, and featured in the film Straight Outta Compton. It can be characterized by heavy drumming and aggressive profound lyrics. This song can be a great stress reliever as singing along can be therapeutic.
37. “The Message” – Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five
The song describes the inner city and its poverty situation. It describes the hardships faced by black people in the hood. The track provides social commentary. It is an old-school hip hop song that was released in 1982.
38. “Rapper’s Delight” – The Sugarhill Gang
This song’s rhyme is what makes it appear in this list. It has an intriguing flow, keeping you listening to it on loop without feeling bored. It does not have a monotonous tone, thus great to listen to. This track was the hip hop trio’s first rap single to make it to the Top 40 list on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and is one of the original hip hop tracks ever made.
39. “Southern Hospitality” – Ludacris ft. Pharrell
This is a fun song to listen to and dance to at parties. Most people do not focus on its lyrics but focus on the beats and flow of the tune. In some sense, the song degrades women. However, once you overlook that fact, you can enjoy the song.
40. “Children’s Story” – Slick Rick
The song was released on April 4th, 1994. It defines storytelling rap. The story behind the song and its meaning is being turned into an actual children’s story. However, the track is about how cops and robbers rise and fall.
41. “God’s Plan” – Drake
This is a gospel hip hop song that reassures listeners that everything goes according to God’s plan, no matter what. It focuses on the positive aspects of life. This track has quite the beats and rhythm and is popular with many.
42. “U.N.I.T.Y.” – Queen Latifah
U.N.I.T.Y. was released on November 9th,1994. Queen Latifah’s songs express her strong opinion on street harassment and domestic violence. The artist has a strong disregard for the disrespect of women and slurs against women in the hip hop culture, which is depicted in this track.
43. “Grindin'” – Clipse
The song reached Top 30 in the Hot 100 in 2002, the same year it was released. This track is a production of The Neptunes and was the Virgin Beach rap duo’s debut single. The song has a catchy vibe, so much so that when it begins to play, you cannot help but dance along.
44. “U Don’t Know” – Jay-Z
This piece is quite an inspirational song. In the first part, the artist reveals his past life. The next part reveals how he rose to his current position – it tells of his success journey. This is one of the iconic artist’s greatest songs.
45. “Touch The Sky” – Kanye West ft. Lupe Fiasco
This song was released on August 30th, 2005, and is from the album Late Registration. The album’s focus is on encouraging others. The artist confidently states that he will touch the sky before the day he dies. We think we listen to most of his songs due to their musicality and artistry.
#46: “Shook Ones Pt. 2” – Mobb Deep
This track is the lead single from the album The Infamous and is one of our absolute favorites due to its gritty toughness and hard hitting lyricism. Chances are you’ve heard this instrumental many times, even if you don’t remember where! It’s just that popular and iconic.
47. “My Name Is” – Eminem
Eminem started to rap at the age of 14 with his high school friends. At some point, he would sneak out of school and go for freestyle rap battles. He released this hip hop track in 1999. The song is funny yet rude at the same time. Despite that, it has come to be loved by many and has had its fair share of airplay.
48. “A Milli” – Lil Wayne
A Milli is our favorite of all Lil Wayne’s songs. The beats, the rhythm, and the energy are on a different level – especially where Weezy does his freestyling. We can’t help but play this song on repeat.
49. “Worst Behavior” – Drake
In this song, the artist addresses the people against him. He talks about his transition from an actor to a rapper to becoming a Grammy Award winner.
50. “Alright” – Kendrick Lamar
The sense of optimism that this song gives people makes it a unique melody. The track encourages people to believe that better days are coming ahead. It was released on June 30th, 2015, and is from the artists’ third studio album.
51. “Sock It 2 Me” – Missy Elliott ft. Da Brat
Sock It 2 Me was released on September 30th, 2015. When this song plays, you cannot help but stand up and dance. Singing along has been known to help release tension due to the upbeat melody. The best part of hip hop is that it doesn’t have a specific way of dancing – anything goes!
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other 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.
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