Narrowing down the top 10 best rap songs of the '90s is a difficult task, as this was the decade in which rap went mainstream and started topping the charts regularly. The 90's best ranges from west coast gangsta to east coast political rap.
- Nuthing but a "G" Thang. Released in January 1993 off Dr. Dre's debut solo album, "The Chronic," "Nuthing but a 'G' Thang" introduced the world to the sounds of gangsta-funk, better known as G-funk. With its high-pitched synth, slow groove, female backing vocals and laid-back rapping by Dr. Dre and his protege, Snoop Doggy Dogg, the song shot to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and kick-started G-funk's dominance in rap
- Hypnotize. A month after his death, The Notorious B.I.G. scored a number 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with the aptly-named "Hypnotize." Sampling both a Herb Alpert single and "La Di Da Di" by Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick, "Hypnotize" is a signature Biggie song and one of the best rap songs of the '90s. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences even recognized its brilliance, nominating it for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1998.
- Guilty Conscience. Featuring Dr. Dre as an angel on the shoulder to Eminem's devil, "Guilty Conscience" broke ground in 1999 as the third single from Eminem's major label debut, "The Slim Shady LP." While not a chart-topper, the song remains one of the best rap songs of the '90s for its controversial lyrics, which end with the two rappers condoning the murder of a construction worker's cheating wife.
- U Can't Touch This. "U Can't Touch This" made it okay for everyone from grade school kids to yuppies to say "Stop…Hammertime!" Sampling Rick James' "Super Freak," M.C. Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" is one of the most instantly recognizable rap songs of all-time, making it absolutely one of the best rap songs of the '90s.
- Ice Ice Baby. Long before Eminem sparked controversy on the charts, Robert Van Winkle, better known as Vanilla Ice, made white rap possible with his infamous hit single "Ice Ice Baby." So bad it's good, the song took the bass-line from Queen and David Bowie's song "Under Pressure," sans permission.
- Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem). Jay-Z sampled the chorus from the Annie song "Hard Knock Life" and made it, like his title states, a ghetto anthem. At the time of its release, the song was Jay-Z's most successful single and earned him a Grammy nomination for his account of "the school of the hard knocks."
- Triumph. With an intro by Ol' Dirty Bastard and verses featuring the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan, "Triumph," from the group's 1997 double album, "Wu-Tang Forever" is an unconventional masterpiece: a six-minute epic without a chorus. Its popular video, which features a swarm of bees attacking Manhattan, helped make "Triumph" one of the best rap songs of the '90s.
- Sound of Da Police. After dropping the Boogie Down Productions moniker, KRS-One released his debut solo album, "Return of the Boom Bap," a scathing attack on police brutality; he compares them to plantation overseers. The chorus features the rapper whooping to signify the sound of the police siren, which he considered "the sound of the beast."
The Rain. Men didn't release all of the best rap songs of the '90s. Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott burst on the scene with "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" from her debut album produced by Timbaland. The song, which borrowed its chorus from Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand The Rain," hit high on the Billboard Hip-Hop charts and established Elliott as a force to be reckoned with in rap.
- California Love. With its robotic chorus vocals and hypnotic beat based on Joe Cocker's "Woman to Woman," Tupac Shakur's "California Love," was one of the best rap songs of the '90s, reaffirming Shakur's career after prison and the power of west coast rap.
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