10 Best Rap Songs Of The 90s
The ten best rap songs of the ‘90s span several styles within the genre. From Eminem’s humorous and complex storytelling to gangsta rap’s hard edge and the underground’s dedication to purity, the ‘90s had it all.
- “My Name Is…” – Eminem. After hip hop nearly killed itself off from the over thuggery and constant battling of the ‘90s, the last few years of the decade saw hip hop take a pill and quiet down. Then, Eminem came along in 1999 and schooled everyone. His game-changing abilities sent many an emcee back to the lab and helped usher in a calmer, more studious and lyrically complex era in hip hop. Fun fact: Eminem came to hate this song, calling it “pop rap” and singing no more than the first verse at concerts.
- “Get At Me Dog” – DMX. As hip hop grew increasingly more commercialized during the ‘90s, hip hop heads everywhere craved something hardcore to return them to rap’s roots. Enter DMX with “Get At Me Dog,” the first release from his 1998 debut album “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot.” DMX would continue rattling off a string of successful albums and singles well into the next decade.
- “Tha Crossroads” – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Who said nothing good ever came out of Cleveland? Bone Thugs-N-Harmony gained national recognition in 1995 with this hyper-paced and emotionally touching ode to deceased loved ones. Bone would become a mainstay in the hip hop world, but they would never have another single reach the same heights.
- “Deep Cover” – Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre. The song that brought G-funk to the fore and solidified itself as one of the best rap songs of the ‘90s. When Dre and Snoop hooked up for this single off the “Deep Cover” soundtrack, gangsta rap took root in American pop culture and exploded.
- “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” – Snoop Dogg. When Snoop blew up with “Deep Cover,” he became the hottest Johnny-on-the-spot that hip hop had seen in a long time. His debut album, “Doggystyle,” became one of the most anticipated releases of all time. The first single off that album, “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?," shot Snoop into extra major superstardom. This is a classic of the dawning G-funk era.
- “Just To Get a Rep” – Gang Starr. Gang Starr’s “Rep” was a prime example of just how far hip hop had come during the famed Golden Era, featuring wicked production by DJ Premier and sick storytelling from Guru. Gang Starr would build on this breakout single to become one of the best hip hop groups in history.
- “The Choice Is Yours” – Black Sheep. Few songs with such an underground pedigree have maintained their popularity in the mainstream like Black Sheep’s “The Choice Is Yours.” A New York beat infused with classic hip hop samples and a thrumming baseline overlaid with rugged lyricism by emcee Dres, it shouldn’t be a pop success, but it is, and it’s a rap song of the ‘90s that ranks among the best.
- “Hit ‘Em Up” – 2Pac. 2Pac’s discography is so large, it’s hard to pick just one for inclusion in the list of best rap songs of the ‘90s. “Hit ‘Em Up” is an excellent representative of Pac’s overall style, however: rough, rugged, raw and bleeding emotion. A retort to Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya?” and an unforgettable battle rap from a decade stuffed with them.
- “Who Shot Ya?” – Notorious B.I.G. Not only is it one of Biggie’s best hits, but it’s also one of the best rap songs of the ‘90s. Much like Pac, Biggie has gads of hits to sort through, all equally worthy of inclusion. “Who Shot Ya?,” like “Hit ‘Em Up” for Pac, gets at the core of Biggie’s personality when Puffy wasn’t pushing him to sell out with lighter, more commercially-friendly fare.
- “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” – Dr. Dre. No discussion of the best rap songs of the ‘90s would be complete without Dre’s signature tune from his 1992 album “The Chronic.” It was Dre’s first release after leaving former hip hop supergroup N.W.A., and it was the foundation for Dre’s ascendance to top producer of the decade.
Posted on: Sep. 29, 2010