71 Best Hip Hop Songs Of All Time

There are thousands and thousands of top quality hip hop songs; believe me when I say this list wasn’t easy to put together. Do we go with the classic hits that everyone knows? Or with the more modern bangers that are only recent in comparison?

While we learned a bit more towards the former, we’ve got a mix of both. Here are the best hip-hop songs ever!

Contents

“Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” by Dr. Dre, Featuring Snoop Dogg

Song year: 1992

“Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” helped introduce the world to Dr. Dre – the master producer and rapper who began his career with the group N.W.A. – and Snoop Dogg, his young protege. The song is from Dre’s debut solo album, The Chronic, and helped propel him and Snoop to the A-List of hip hop royalty.

“Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice

Song year: 1990

Vanilla Ice sampled the rock band Queen’s song “Under Pressure” on his 1990 signature hit, “Ice Ice Baby.” Hip hop was still somewhat new in the early 1990s, and Vanilla Ice helped bring it into the main street with this catchy hit. All 90s kids will remember blasting this iconic song.

“Regulate” by Warren G, Featuring Nate Dogg

Song year: 1994

Warren G, the younger stepbrother of Dr. Dre, is a 1994 hip hop hit from the “Above the Rim” soundtrack. Warren G and Nate Dogg trade verses in telling a story about a violent night out in Los Angeles involving gambling, women, and a drive-by shooting.

“Da Rockwilder” by Method Man and Redman

Song year: 1999

Fan favorites Method Man of the Wu-Tang Clan and his partner in crime, Redman, teamed together to create the collaborative album Blackout! in 1999. The standout track from the album was “Da Rockwilder,” an energetic, unusually brief (2 minutes and 13 seconds), chorus-less masterpiece.

“Lose Yourself” by Eminem

Song year: 2002

In 2002 Eminem starred in the movie “8 Mile,” loosely based on his own life as an aspiring rapper. The song “Lose Yourself” was the standout song from the film’s soundtrack, topping the Billboard charts and winning an Academy Award and Grammy Award. It remains his signature song and a classic hip hop tune.

“Big Poppa” by Notorious B.I.G.

Song year: 1994

Biggie released the song “Big Poppa” in 1994 from his album Ready to Die. It is his signature song and is one of the most influential hip hop songs ever. Biggie demonstrates mastery of his craft, with slick wordplay, stunning punchlines, and incomparable smoothness.

“Crush on You” by Lil’ Kim, Featuring Lil’ Cease

Song year: 1997

Lil’ Kim is one of the greatest female rappers of all time, and one of her best songs is “Crush on You” from her 1996 album Hardcore. The song features fellow Junior M.A.F.I.A. member Lil’ Cease. The legendary Notorious B.I.G. has an uncredited feature on the chorus.

“Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z, Featuring Alicia Keys

Song year: 2009

Jay-Z has an extensive catalog of hip hop hits in his three decades of making music. Near the top of that list is “Empire State of Mind,” his 2009 tribute to New York. The song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and became a true NYC anthem.

“Juicy” by Notorious B.I.G.

Song year: 1994

The Notorious B.I.G. may or may not be the greatest rapper of all time. But there is no disputing that his debut single, “Juicy,” is among the best hip hop songs. The song tells the story of how B.I.G. grew up in poverty and became successful through his career in rap music. The song has a classic old-school 90s vibe.

“What’s Your Fantasy” by Ludacris, Featuring Shawnna

Song year: 1999

Ludacris seemingly came out of nowhere with his 1999 breakout hit, “What’s Your Fantasy,” featuring long-time collaborator Shawnna. The Atlanta DJ-turned-rapper introduced the world to his fast-paced, aggressive, and humorous lyrics that would make him one of the best rappers over the next two decades.

“The Next Episode” by Dr. Dre, Featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg

Song year: 2000

On the legendary “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” song, Snoop Dogg instructed everyone to chill until the next episode. We had to wait almost a decade, but Dre fulfilled the promise and released “The Next Episode,” an unofficial sequel featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg in 2000.

“Oh Boy” by Cam’Ron, Featuring Juelz Santana

Song year: 2002

Harlem rapper Cam’Ron had been dancing around the border of hip hop greatness, but he officially entered the ring with “Oh Boy” featuring his protege Juelz Santana. The banging track featured production from Just Blaze and introduced the world to the classic Dipset style of music that took over New York in the early aughts.

“Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” by Puff Daddy, Featuring Mase

Song year: 1997

Puff Daddy was already a bonafide star in the hip hop world when he released his debut single “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down,” featuring Mase. The song introduced Puffy to the world as more than a mastermind producer behind the scene. And Mase would go on to launch a successful solo career.

“California Love” by 2Pac, Featuring Dr. Dre

Song year: 1995

2Pac is undoubtedly one of the greatest rappers of all time. With his infectious energy and bottomless anger, the song “California Love” featuring Dr. Dre is one of the greatest tracks in hip hop history. The song topped the Billboard charts and helped turn 2Pac into a world-renowned superstar.

“Hot Boyz (Remix)” by Missy Elliott, Featuring Nas, Eve & Q-Tip

Song year: 1999

Missy Elliott took over hip hop in 1999 with the “Hot Boyz remix” featuring Nas, Eve, and Q-Tip. The record-breaking song spent an incredible 18 weeks atop the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart and was blaring from car speakers and radios across the country.

“In Da Club” by 50 Cent

Song year: 2003

50 Cent had been lurking around the hip hop scene for several years before Dr. Dre signed him. His 2003 debut single, “In Da Club,” immediately put the rapper on top of hip hop. The song spent nine weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, made 50 Cent a household name, and is his signature song.

“Who Am I? (What’s My Name)” by Snoop Doggy Dogg

Song year: 1993

“Who Am I? (What’s My Name)” is Snoop Dogg’s (previously Snoop Doggy Dogg) debut single. This masterpiece was the song that launched Snoop into the stratosphere. Dr. Dre discovered and signed Snoop, but his time as a fledgling protege was short-lived.

“Soul Survivor” by Young Jeezy, Featuring Akon

Song year: 2005

Atlanta’s Young Jeezy left behind a successful career as a drug dealer to become one of the greatest rappers of the 21st century. His debut single, “Soul Survivor,” featuring singer Akon, became a crossover pop hit that hit number four on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Whatever You Like” by T.I.

Song year: 2008

Atlanta rapper T.I., the self-proclaimed King of the South, scored a crossover hit with 2008’s “Whatever You Like,” the lead single from his album Paper Trail. In the song, T.I. reveals a softer version of himself with sing-songy lyrics about buying a romantic interest anything she wants.

“Let Me Ride” by Dr. Dre

Song year: 1993

“Let Me Ride,” the 1993 hit from Dr. Dre’s debut studio album The Chronic, is the epitome of the legendary gangsta rap songs of the early 1990s. Dr. Dre takes listeners on a journey as he rides around Compton in his 1964 Chevrolet Impala with a loaded gun and threatens his enemies not to mess with him. The song won Dre his first Grammy Award.

“It Was a Good Day” by Ice Cube

Song year: 1993

Ice Cube’s signature song from 1993, “It Was a Good Day,” shows us what a perfect day looks like for him. The cops ignore his traffic violations, he gets a page from the woman he’s seeing, and no one tries to carjack him.

“Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

Song year: 1996

There’s never been anyone in hip hop music quite like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. The Cleveland, Ohio, rap group’s biggest hit and signature song, “Crossroads,” is an epic dedication to the man who put them on the map: the late Eazy-E. The song topped the Billboard charts and earned the group a Grammy.

“1st of tha Month” by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

Song year: 1995

A year before “Crossroads,” Bone Thugs-N-Harmoney released what was to date their biggest song. “1st of tha Month” introduced the world to the group’s dizzying, rapid lyrical flow with their unique harmonization. The song tells of receiving welfare checks on the first day of the month and how the group does its best to celebrate despite being in poverty.

“Still D.R.E.” by Dr. Dre, Featuring Snoop Dogg

Song year: 1999

After some chatter that Dr. Dre lost his magic touch in the years following “The Chronic,” the hip hop magician went back to the studio and made some of the finest music of his career. On the 1999 song “Still D.R.E.” featuring Snoop, the good doctor let the world know that he hadn’t gone anywhere and was still one of the best in the game.

“Live Your Life” by T.I., Featuring Rihanna

Song year: 2016

T.I. linked up with R&B sensation Rihanna for 2016’s “Life Your Life” from his album Paper Trail. In the song, T.I. advises listeners to ignore critics and haters and to be happy and confident in their own decisions. The hip hop song became a crossover smash.

“Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” by Busta Rhymes

Song year: 1997

Busta Rhymes might be the most energetic personality in hip hop, and that energy was on full display in 1997’s “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See.” The iconic song from the album When Disaster Strikes earned Busta a Grammy nomination and became a legend in hip hop music.

“Work It” by Missy Elliott

Song year: 2002

Missy Elliott had us all singing a chorus of made-up words on “Work It” from her album Under Construction. We later found out that the chorus is the same line recited backward. “Work It” became Missy’s signature song and reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100, her most successful hit to date.

“Mo Money Mo Problems” by Notorious B.I.G., Featuring Puff Daddy and Mase

Song year: 1997

“Mo Money Mo Problems” is a posthumous release from the Notorious B.I.G. featuring Puff Daddy and Mase. In the song, Biggie describes the problems that arise from wealth and success. The song was a hit, topping the Billboard charts and earning a Grammy nomination.

“U Can’t Touch This” by M.C. Hammer

Song year: 1990

M.C. Hammer, with his wild dance moves and baggy “Hammer Pants,” was a hip hop sensation in the early 1990s. His signature song, “U Can’t Touch This,” brought the genre to countries all over the world for the first time. This legendary song won multiple Grammy Awards and sat at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

“Hit ‘Em Up” by 2Pac, Featuring the Outlawz

Song year: 1996

In 1996, 2Pac was beyond furious. He blamed the Notorious B.I.G. for his attempted murder and had beef with several other New York rappers, from Jay-Z to Mobb Deep. On the “Hit ‘Em Up” diss track featuring the Outlawz, he unleashed a fury that the rap world had never seen before.

“Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang

Song year: 1979

People barely knew what rap music was when the Sugarhill Gang released “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979. The classic song helped introduce the world to hip hop music in a family-friendly way and without the offensive, violent, misogynistic lyrics that would dominate hip hop over the next few decades.

“If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” by Nas, Featuring Lauren Hill

Song year: 1996

Nas described a utopian world with racial harmony and without crime or imprisonment in his signature song, “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That),” featuring singer Lauren Hill. The song, from his album Street Dreams, became one of the most legendary hip hop tracks of all time.

“C.R.E.A.M.” by Wu-Tang Clan

Song year: 1994

“C.R.E.A.M” by the Wu-Tang clan is short for “cash rules everything around me.” The song is from the group’s debut studio album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 chambers). In the song, the group describes growing up in crime and poverty and how people will do anything for money – and to survive.

“Quiet Storm (Remix)” by Mobb Deep, Featuring Lil’ Kim

Song year: 1999

Mobb Deep already had a hit with “Quiet Storm” before they linked up with Lil’ Kim for the remix. On the “Quiet Storm (Remix),” Kim takes over chorus duties, adding her signature flow to an already-iconic hip hop song. Over lightning and thunder background noises and an ominous beat, the New York rappers left us with one of the greatest songs ever.

“New York” by Ja Rule, Featuring Fat Joe and Jadakiss

Song year: 2004

Ja Rule was dominating the airwaves in the early 2000s with his pop-friendly hip hop tracks, but he was on the ropes after rival 50 Cent made it his mission to end his career. His response was “New York,” with Fat Joe and Jadakiss. It is arguably the greatest rap dedication to NY in hip hop history.

“Still Not a Player” by Big Pun, Featuring Joe

Song year: 1998

The late Big Pun released “Still Not a Player” featuring R&B singer Joe in 1998. Pun showed the world what a Latino rapper could do and had us all mesmerized with his fast-paced lyrical skill, confidence, and humor. “Still Not a Player” became the biggest hit of Pun’s short career before his untimely passing in 2000.

“Walk This Way” by Run-D.M.C., Featuring Aerosmith

“Walk This Way” by Run-D.M.C., Featuring Aerosmith

Song year: 1986

Run-D.M.C. were not only pioneers of hip hop music but innovators who showed what the genre was capable of. In 1986’s “Walk This Way,” the hip hop supergroup remixed Aerosmith’s song and featured the rock band on the track. Music critics argue that it is the most influential hip hop song of all time.

“Hypnotize” by Notorious B.I.G.

Song year: 1997

In the Notorious B.I.G. catalog of hits, “Hypnotize” from his album Life After Death, is among the best. This hit was the last song that Biggie released before his untimely death. The song features Biggie’s classic lyrical flow, wordplay, and punchlines. Posthumously, “Hypnotize” hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

“2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” by 2Pac, Featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg

Song year: 1996

2Pac and Snoop Dogg linked up on the 1996 track “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” from 2Pac’s Life After Death album. The collaborative effort remains the best song the two hip hop legends recorded together. Pac and Snoop glamorize life as gangsta rappers over a booming, ominous beat.

“Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J

Song year: 1991

LL Cool J is one of the early pioneers of hip hop music. After a brief lull in his career, critics questioned whether he still had his mojo. His response was “Mama Said Knock You Out,” the 1996 banger that announced to the world that LL was still a monster in the game. Perhaps his signature song, the track won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance.

“(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” by the Beastie Boys

Song year: 1987

The Beastie Boys revolutionized hip hop music by bringing a rock n’ roll flare to it. Their 1987 classic “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” from the album Licensed to Ill became one of the all-time classic hip hop songs, bringing the genre into the mainstream.

“Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

Song year: 1991

Will Smith used to rap under the name The Fresh Prince. In 1991, he and his partner DJ Jazzy Jeff released “Summertime,” a hip hop song dedicated to the joys of summer. Smith takes us back to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as he attends barbecues, plays basketball, and listens to his music as he rides around town in a freshly-waxed car.

“Hate Me Now” by Nas, Featuring Puff Daddy

Song year: 1999

Nas tells his critics to get lost on the 1999 track “Hate Me Now” featuring Puff Daddy. In the song, from his album I Am, Nas talks about having money, clothes, cars, and women. Puffy takes chorus duties, warning his adversaries that you can hate him, but he’s not going to stop doing what made him successful.

“Triumph” by the Wu-Tang Clan, Featuring Cappadonna

Song year: 1997

The Wu-Tang Clan’s 1997 song “Triumph” from their album Wu-Tang Forever displayed the group’s precise technical skill and lyrical supremacy. The song features no chorus, and all nine members of the group have a verse.

“IZZO (H.O.V.A.) by Jay-Z

Song year: 2001

Jay-Z managed to make “IZZO (H.O.V.A.)” a radio-friendly crossover hit in 2001. With production from Kanye West, the upbeat anthem sees Jay tell us about his history as a drug dealer and moving products in Virginia. He celebrates the fact that he is not guilty of all criminal charges.

“Shook Ones (Part II)” by Mobb Deep

Song year: 1995

In the 1995 song “Shook Ones (Part II),” Mobb Deep unleashes a fury of violent threats against their enemies. Prodigy and Havoc ridicule those who claim to live a life of crime, but in reality, they are just scared and phony wannabes. The classic song set the blueprint for how to make an East Coast gangsta rap song.

“What You Know” by T.I.

Song year: 2006

T.I. was on the top of his game for the 2006 smash hit “What You Know” from the album King. In the song, T.I. rhetorically asks what his adversaries know about selling massive quantities of drugs, keeping loaded weapons on their person, and flying private jets. The song hit number three on the Billboard Hot 100.

“The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five

Song year: 1982

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five are among the most significant pioneers of hip hop. Their breakout song, “The Message,” in 1982 took what was an unknown, unpopular genre and helped bring it into the mainstream. Rolling Stone named “The Message” the greatest hip hop song of all time in 2012.

“Fight the Power” by Public Enemy

Song year: 1989

Public Enemy promoted a message of social justice, anti-racism, and freedom of speech in the legendary 1989 song “Fight the Power.” Chuck D and Flava Flav advocated that people fight for their rights against controlling powers, particularly for the African-American community.

“The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” by Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott

Song year: 1997

“The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” was Missy Elliott’s debut single as a solo hip hop artist in 1997. The song pushed the boundaries of what hip hop music could sound like. Unlike her female rapper contemporaries, Missy wasn’t selling sex – she was showing us how funky and unique the genre could be.

“Just a Friend” by Biz Markie

Song year: 1989

“Just a Friend” was rapper Biz Markie’s ode to unrequited love. On the playful track, Biz laments that the woman he wants to date is romantically involved with another man, but she lies that the guy is just a friend. “Just a Friend” reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Back That Thang Up” by Juvenile, Featuring Lil Wayne

Song year: 1999

New Orleans rapper Juvenile couldn’t help but admire a woman’s rear end on the 1999 song “Back That Thang Up.” On the Manny Fresh-produced track, Juvenile praises a woman for her sexiness and encourages her to show off her assets as she dances. Lil Wayne hopped on the track for a brief but memorable guest verse.

“Excuse Me Miss” by Jay-Z

Song year: 2002

Jay-Z linked up with longtime collaborator Pharrell Williams for the 2002 hit “Excuse Me Miss” from his album The Blueprint 2: The Gift & the Curse. The song is a smooth, low-key track where Jay-Z raps about love at first sight and tries to persuade a woman to leave with him. The song hit number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 and received a Grammy nomination.

“O.P.P.” by Naugty By Nature

Song year: 1991

“O.P.P.” by Naughty By Nature epitomizes 90s hip hop. The song, from their album Naughty By Nature, is about cheating on a romantic partner. Over an upbeat, piano-laced beat, rapper Treach playfully reveals the meaning of the group’s name while rhetorically asking who is down with O.P.P.

“Gin and Juice” by Snoop Doggy Dogg

Song year: 1994

Snoop Dogg doesn’t have a care in the world on the classic 1994 song “Gin and Juice” from his album Doggystyle. Snoop takes us on a journey around his neighborhood, smoking marijuana and sipping a gin and juice cocktail while he thinks about his money. The song represents the West Coast G-Funk hip hop era at its finest.

“Ms. Jackson” by OutKast

Song year: 2000

OutKast is one of the most unique rap groups of all time. Andre 3000 and Big Boi are innovators, and on the 2000 song “Ms. Jackson,” the duo created a song with a unique style the hip hop world had never seen. The track topped Billboard’s charts and won a Grammy Award.

“Lollipop” by Lil Wayne, Featuring Static Major

Song year: 2008

Lil Wayne topped the charts in 2008 with the hit “Lollipop” featuring singer Static Major. Over a futuristic, computer-sounding beat, Wayne raps about a woman he’s seeing. In Lil Wayne’s legendary career, “Lollipop” remains one of his signature songs.

“Ante Up” by M.O.P.

Song year: 2000

M.O.P. demanded that their adversaries put their money where their mouths are on the 2000 hit “Ante Up” from their album Warriorz. Screaming the lyrics at the top of their lungs, the hip hop duo exudes bottomless energy as they threaten to assault and kidnap their enemies.

“Insane in the Brain” by Cyprus Hill

Song year: 1993

Los Angeles-based Cypress Hill had us all convinced they were crazy after 1993’s “Insane in the Membrane,” the group’s signature track from the album Black Sunday. In the song, B-Real warns the world not to mess with him because his insanity might prompt him to react violently.

“Grindin’” by Clipse

Song year: 2002

Brothers Pusha T and Malice, the hip hop duo Clipse, introduced themselves to the world on the Pharrell-produced “Grindin” in 2002. The standout track from their album Lord Willin’ featured gritty lyrics and a chorus about keeping a gun in the lining of their jackets.

“Bling Bling” by B.G., Featuring Big Tymers and Hot Boys

Song year: 1999

“Bling Bling” by B.G. featuring Big Tymers and Hot Boys brought new lingo into American culture. With a catchy chorus from L-l Wayne, the song was a crossover hit that left a mark on pop culture and the hip hop genre.

“N***as in Paris” by Jay-Z and Kanye West

Song year: 2011

Jay-Z and Kanye West seized control of the hip hop industry with this track from their album Watch the Throne. This fast-paced, energetic song won the duo a Grammy Award for Best Rap Song.

“Jump Around” by House of Pain

Song year: 1992

House of Pain, with lead rapper Everlast, released the classic hip hop anthem “ Jump Around” in 1992. The ultimate “hype up the crowd track,” “Jump Around” became one of the most classic party songs of all time.

“Can I Kick It?” by A Tribe Called Quest

Song year: 1990

A Tribe Called Quest is one of the most influential acts in hip hop history. The group’s 1990 signature song “Can I Kick It?” is about partying and hanging out. Q-Tip asks the crowd if he can kick it, and the crowd enthusiastically responds that he can.

“Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A.

Song year: 1988

N.W.A. helped bring West Coast rap to the world. Their signature song, “Straight Outta Compton,” is a boastful track about their upbringing in the Compton neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. The song became a cultural touchstone and inspiration for generations of rappers.

“Paid in Full” by Eric B and Rakim

Song year: 1987

“Paid in Full” is a classic hip hop song from Eric B and Rakim from their debut 1987 album Paid In Full. In the song, Rakim references his difficult upbringing and life of crime. He abandoned that lifestyle to become a rapper, and the money started flowing.

“Mind Playing Tricks on Me” by Geto Boys

Song year: 1991

Geto Boys wanted to let the world know that the gangster lifestyle was not as glamorous as some rappers depicted it. On the 1991 song “Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” the group rapped about having anxiety about their adversaries and being forced to sleep with their guns for protection.

“Keep Ya Head Up” by 2Pac

Song year: 1993

There’s a reason most people consider 2Pac one of the best rappers of all time. For all his gangsta rap songs about murder and violence, he also could drop a heartfelt song like “Keep Ya Head Up.” The 1993 inspirational anthem, from his album Strictly for My N.***A.Z., encouraged young black women to stay strong and not give up.

“Rosa Parks” by OutKast

Song year: 1999

OutKast released “Rosa Parks” in 1999. They named the song after civil rights icon Rosa Parks, and the chorus references her dispute with a bus driver in Montgomery, Alabama. The upbeat hit showcases the very best of Andre 3000 and Big Boi at the height of their careers.

“Deep Cover” by Dr. Dre, Featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg

Song year: 1992

“Deep Cover” by Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg was the song that launched one of the most successful partnerships in hip hop history. The song about murdering an undercover cop is the first track that the two rappers appeared on together.

“Big Pimpin’” by Jay-Z, Featuring UGK

Song year: 2000

Jay-Z linked up southern hip hop legends UGK for 2000’s “Big Pimpin’,” a roaring hip hop anthem with Timbaland production. The track sees Jay-Z at his most boastful (and misogynistic) self, letting everyone know that he is a true pimp in the hip hop game.

Top Hip Hop Song, Final Thoughts

Hip hop’s journey from a fringe genre to the most popular musical style in the world was a quick ascent. Over the past few decades, the most talented rappers in the world have left their mark on the music industry. And these hip hop songs that everyone knows are some of their best work.

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