No one ever thought there would come a time when people would be debating the best rap songs of all time. But since the genre has taken its place in American music, alongside rock and pop, as the tunes of choice, there is no denying its importance. Listening to these rap songs will take some down memory lane and introduce others to the best of rap music.
- “The Message” – Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five This was one of the first rap songs to gain recognition, and semi-acceptance, for its attack on the American social system. Aside from its importance, the song was just plain good. The beat alone qualifies as on of the best rap songs of all time as evidenced by the amount of times its been sampled.
- “Straight out of Compton” – N.W.A This song summed up everything you needed to know about that crazy crew from the streets of Los Angeles. All the members of the group got a verse and everybody got grimy on this track. One of the original introductions to the “Gangsta Rap,” genre, it is one of the best rap songs of all time.
- “Fight The Power” – Public Enemy P.E. blazed a political trail with this, the opening credit song to Spike Lee’s movie “Do the Right Thing.” A James Brown sample is used to full effect on this hyped up track, which spoke to millions of rap fans.
- “Juicy” – Notorious B.I.G. The story of Christopher Wallace’s rise to success is infectious. To hear a rapper spit about how it is going to be when he finally makes it big is inspiring. The song is all the more special since the death of the Notorious B.IG. and is truly one of the best rap songs of all time.
- “Hail Mary” – Tupac Tupac puts a lot of imagery and symbolizism into this one. It is unique in his repertoire of street verses. Instead of guns and girls there is an underlying current of counter culture martyrdom. He seems to sense his own significance on this track; one of the best rap songs all time.
- “Radio” – LL Cool J This song was one of the breakout hits of the fledging Dej Jam record label and introduced the dynamic seventeen-year-old rapper to the world. On one of the best early rap songs of all time, L.L. unleashes a braggadocio that would become the template for a generation of rappers.
- “King of Rock” – Run DMC This group was at birth of mainstream hip-hop. The guitar infused track and aggression fueled lyrics had kids bobbing their heads and waves their hands like they just didn’t care.
- “One Mic” – Nas An interpolation of Phil Collins “In The Air Tonight” this lyrical genius had to creativity not to turn the song into a plain sample. The sense of vacancy and desperation in the song matches its title. As they say in the “hood,” Nas kicked real “science” on one of the best rap songs of all time.
- “Can’t Knock the Hustle” – Jay-Z featuring Mary J. Blige A true hustler’s anthem, Jay’s lyrics inspired everyone to get up off the couch and go make that money. Mary J’s soulful vocals lend maturity to the message of the song and allow it to transcend the usual street stories of most rappers.
- “You Got’s to Chill” – EPMD With a sample from the funk band Zapp, there is no way that this was not going to be one of the best rap songs of all time. This East Coast duo ushered in a sound thick with heavy bass, yet danceable tunes.
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