23 Best 70s Hip Hop Songs

The late 70s saw a boom in new types and genres of music. Disco was still going strong, but musicians in the Bronx were about to change the game forever.

Hip Hop came from humble beginnings at underground parties in New York City. By 1979, record labels started taking notice and began releasing hip-hop records. While it started slow, The Sugar Hill Gang finally broke through and had commercial success.

By the end of the year, hip hop was everywhere and ready to take the 1980s by storm. But, let’s talk about the songs that started it all. Here are some of the best 70s hip hop songs. So grab your headphones and keep reading.

1. “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugar Hill Gang

Song Year: 1979

We’ll start the list with arguably the most influential rap song of the decade. “Rapper’s Delight” was the first rap song to get radio airplay. This opened new doors for the genre and greatly increased the size of the audience.

Featuring an addicting rhythm sample from Chic’s “Good Times”, the dance song was catchy and went on to reach the top 40 in the United States. Unfortunately, using the sample led to a copyright infringement lawsuit. This started the heated debate concerning sampling in songs that still goes on today.

Since its release, “Rapper’s Delight” became an influential song and was often initiated during the early years of hip-hop music.

While The Sugar Hill Gang never won any awards upon release of the song, “Rapper’s Delight” was on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list and peaked at number 2 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Hip Hop Songs.

2. ”Superrappin’” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

Song Year: 1979

While Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five would blow up in the 1980s, the group was busy rapping and mixing tracks throughout the 1970s.

During the late 1970s, Cowboy, Melle Mel, The Kidd Creole, and Grandmaster Flash hosted parties and collaborated on music. Cowboy takes credit for coining the term hip hop during this time.

The group’s first official release didn’t happen until 1979. After signing to Enjoy Records, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five released “Superrappin.” The song uses samples from “Seven Minutes of Funk” by The Whole Darn Family. This gives the song its funk-inspired elements.

3. “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” by The Fatback Band

Song Year: 1979

While “Rapper’s Delight” is often cited as the first rap record, the Fatback Band beat The Sugar Hill Gang to press by a few months. “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” is officially the first hip-hop record ever produced.

The song features live instrumental backing by the band instead of looped disco samples. This sets The Fatback band apart from other rappers on this list where turntables and samples create the backing tracks of the song.

The Fatback Band saw limited success with the song, and they peaked at #26 on the US R&B charts in 1979.

4. “Rapping and Rocking the House” by Funky Four Plus One More

Song Year: 1979

Another first, Funky Four Plus One was the first hip hop group to receive a record deal and perform on national television. They were also one of the first groups to feature a woman MC.

Funky Four Plus One featured Jazzy Jeff, Sharon Green, DJ Breakout, Guy Williams, and Keith Keith.

“Rapping and Rocking the House” was the group's first single. Released in 1979, the song featured a live instrumental track and rhymes from 4 MCs. The verse by Sha-Rock is the first time a woman rapper had a feature on a track as well.

5. “To the Beat Y’all” by Lady B

Song Year: 1979

One of the first women rappers to record a single, Lady B is often labeled the Godmother of Hip Hop. Raised in Philadelphia, Lady B was also one of the first non-New Yorkers to record a hip hop record.

Lady B started her rapping career on local Philadelphia radio in 1979. Here she perfected her rhyming skills and recorded “To the Beat Y’all” in 1979. The song samples The Sugarhill Gang, Joe Bataan, and Traditional Folk.

6. “Rhythm Talk” by Jocko

Song Year: 1979

Jocko is often regarded as the first rapper. He started his radio career in 1950 in Baltimore, MD. His career grew while hosting a radio in Philadelphia on WDAS and WHAT. He was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia hall of fame in 2004.

Jocko’s first single was “Rhythm Talk.” Released in 1979, the song features samples from “Ain’t no Stoppin’ Us Now” by McFadden & Whitehead. Jocko delivers a smooth and subdued lyrical rhyme over the catchy hook.

7. “Rhymin’ and Rappin’” by Paulette & Tanya “Sweet Tee” Winley

Song Year: 1979

1979 sparked a revolution in music, and women wanted to be a part of it as well. Sisters Paullette and Tanya “Sweet Tee” Winley rocked the mic for “Rhymin’ and Rappin.

Recorded at their father’s studio, the girls rhymed over a loose groove performed by the house band. The song turned out great and Winley Records released “Rhymin’ and Rappin” in 1979.

Tanya “Sweet Tee” Winley recorded other records including “Vicious Rap” in 1980. The song is a social commentary about racial prejudice and one of the first know conscious rap recordings.

8. “Lady D” by Lady D

Song Year: 1979

Another female rapper, Lady D recorded her first release in 1979 for Reflection Records.

The song features a boogie disco groove and Lady D delivers a story about heading out to clubs and parties in NYC. The song is a perfect blend of disco and hip hop of the era.

9. “Jazzy 4 MCs” by MC Rock

Song Year: 1979

MC Rock recorded “Jazzy 4 MCs” in 1979 for Razzberri Rainbow Records.

The song features samples of the bassline and groove from “Got To Be Real” by Cheryl Lynn. Sped up to a higher beat per minute (BPM), MC Rock performs a high-speed rap over this famous disco groove.

10. “Spiderap” by Ron Hunt

Song Year: 1979

“Spiderap” is the A-side for a two-track single released in 1979. The B-side featured “A Corona Jam” from Ronnie G. & The S.M. Crew. Reflection Records released the vinyl in 1979.

Building on the success of Sugarhill Gang, “Spiderap” uses samples from “Rapper’s Delight” to get the groove going. Ron Hunt performs a no-nonsense rhyme flawlessly over the funky disco groove throughout the song.

11. “Lookin’ Good (Shake Your Body)” by Eddie Cheba

Song Year: 1979

Eddie Cheba pioneered the art of DJ in the 1970s. His music and events went on to inspire some of the biggest names in hip hop including Def Jams Recordings founder, Russell Simmons.

Cheba recorded his first hip hop record in 1979. “Lookin Good’ (Shake Your Body)” is more a disco tune but features rhyming by Cheba as well. The tune found limited underground success in the 1980s at parties in The Bronx and NYC.

12. “We Rap More Mellow” by The Younger Generation

Song Year: 1979

“We Rap More Mellow” is the first release from hip hop pioneer Melle Mel. The Younger Generation features rhymes from Melle Mel & The Furious Five.

The song features a slow chugging funk and tribal groove. Of course, the rhymes are what’s vital in the song and every member of The Younger Generation delivers a flawless set.

After “We Rap More Mellow” The Younger Generation moved on to form Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. Here the group would revolutionize hip music.

13. “Christmas Rappin’” by Kurtis Blow

“Christmas Rappin’” by Kurtis Blow

Song Year: 1979

While “Christmas in Hollis” by RUN DMC might be the most popular rap about Christmas, Kurtis Blow did it first in 1979. “Christmas Rappin” was the first rap song to release on a major label.

Mercury Records signed Kurtis Blow after hearing “Christmas Rappin” in 1979. The song sold over 400,000 copies and was one of the first commercially successful rap songs.

The song had a monumental impact on hip hop and many major artists including The Beastie Boys, Gorillaz, and Next sampled “Christmas Rappin.”

14. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gil-Scott Heron

Song Year: 1971

1979 is the year that hip hop finally saw commercial success but musicians were creating hip hop songs much earlier.

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is a spoken word song released in 1971 by Gil Scott-Heron. The song was extremely influential during the turbulent times of the 1970s and was a call to action for minorities in the United States.

The spoken word poem features countless cultural references throughout the song. Today, you’ll find countless hip-hop songs that use pop culture references in their lyrics as well.

15. “Busy Bee’s Groove” by Busy Bee

Song Year: 1979

Bursting onto the scene in 1979, Busy Bee was instrumental in founding hip hop in New York City. Busy Bee found early success at MC battles in Staten Island, The Bronx, and Brooklyn. By the 1980s, Busy Bee joined the Zulu Nation as their DJ.

As a record producer, Busy Bee released “Busy Bee’s Groove” in 1979. Instead of disco samples, the song features 80s-inspired drum machines and samples combined with DJ turntablism.

16. “Rhapazooty in Blue” by Sicle Cell & Rhapazooty

Song Year: 1979

Right from the first beats, you know what’s coming.  “Rhapazooty in Blue” uses the same “Good Times” samples that many other rap songs used in the 1970s. But Sicle Cell & Rhapazooty deliver a unique call and response vocal on this track that sets it apart.

Coming in at over 14 minutes, this long-play track is reminiscent of the time. The longer songs let disco DJs experiment and create new techniques in the late 70s.

17. “Rap-O-Clap-O” by Joe Bataan

Song Year: 1979

Joe Bataan is one of the first Latin-American hip-hop musicians.  Born and raised in East Harlem, Bataan started his musical journey after leaving the Dragons, a local Puerto Rican street gang.

In the 70s, Bataan was influential in the Salsoul movement, combining Latin boogaloo and African American doo-wop. In 1979, he took these influences and recorded “Rap-O-Clap-O” for Salsoul Records.

The song is at first a disco song, but the rhymes are firmly hip hop. The song samples lyrics from a variety of disco and hip hop songs. It also features loops from “Clap Your Hands Everybody” by Smokin Beats and “Repper De Flip” by Danny Boy.

18. “And You Know That” by TJ Swan

Song Year: 1979

Starting his career as a DJ in New York, T.J. Swan found massive success hosting hip parties at some of New York City’s most memorable venues.

In 1979, TJ Swan recorded his first single. “And You Know That” uses limited disco samples and sounds more like the hip hop songs that would soon take over the world in the 1980s.

It also features an opening lyric from a McDonald’s commercial. The Beastie Boys used the same lyrics for their hit “Three MCs and One DJ.”

19. A Corona Jam by Ronnie G. & The SM Crew

Song Year: 1979

“A Corona Jam” is the B-side on Ron Hunt’s “Spiderap” single.

Both songs use the same backing tracks and samples. While listening, you’ll hear nods to “Rapper’s Delight,” but the tune is distinctly its arrangement. Ronnie G & The SM Crew offer their take on the track. It might not be as memorable as “Spiderap” but “A Corona Jam” is a welcome addition to this single.

20. When the Revolution Comes by The Last Poets

Song Year: 1970

Since the 1960s, The Last Poets have been influential and fighting for civil rights in the United States. The group had a monumental impact on the future of hip hop and African-American culture.

The spoken word in “When the Revolution Comes” is a call to action for Americans in the 70s. While not truly a hip-hop song, The Last Poets' mix of poetry and beats is instrumental to hip-hop.

21. “What is a Man: by The Watts Prophets

Song Year: 1970

Again, this might not be officially hip hop, but without The Watts Prophets, we might not have hip hop. In the 1970s, The Watts Prophets used a mix of spoken word poetry with jazz music to create something unique.

While NYC is often regarded as the birthplace of rap, The Watts Prophets were Californians. They are also cited as the first group to use the word rapping.

22. “Funk You Up” by The Sequence

Song Year: 1979

New York City was a dominant player in the early years of hip hop, but gems like “Funk You Up” came from the South. The Sequence hailed from Columbia, SC, and was an all-female hip-hop trio.

“Funk You Up” was the second release on Sugar Hill right after “Rapper’s Delight” The song owns its funk roots and is a perfect complement to “Rapper’s Delight.” The girls deliver a deep and solid groove that keeps dance floors packed.

Since its release, the groove in “Funk You Up” was sampled by Dr. Dre, Erykah Badu, and En Vogue. The Sequence also claimed copyright infringement on Mark Ronson’s massive hit “Uptown Funk.”

23. “Doctor Love & Sister Love Rap” by Dr. Love & Sister Love

Song Year: 1979

Released in 1979 by Heavenly Star Records,  “Doctor Love & Sister Love Rap” features a slowed-down groove throughout its run time.

While most rappers were rapping over high BPM disco music, Dr. Love & Sister Love slowed the speed down. By the 1980s, most rappers adopted their rhymes to slower BPM tracks.

The song features a subdued sample of “Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now” by McFadden & Whitehead. This beat takes a backseat to strange and hypnotic synthesizer sounds and high-reverb vocals from Dr. Love & Sister Love.

Top Hip Hop Songs Of The 70s, Final Thoughts

So those were the best 70s hip hop songs. Hip hop was born in the late 1970s. While DJs and MCs performed throughout the decade, most artists had to wait until 1979 to get their records released finally.

1979 was a magical year for hip hop, and it all started with The Sugarhill Gang. Hip Hop artists took their music from the underground and brought it to the rest of the world this year.

By the 1980s, hip hop was ready to explode onto the scene, and the 90s saw it dominate the globe.

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