Top 10 Decade Defining Rap Songs of the 1980s

Script written by Tiffany Ezuma. It was the decade of new school hip-hop and the start of the genre’s golden age. For this list, we’re choosing what we feel are the most iconic rap songs of the decade based on a mix of their popularity, commercial success, production and lyrical quality, and cultural impact. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 rap songs of the 1980s. Special thanks to our users Jaime Enrique Gutierrez Pérez, thenewjord50, isjeboyamar and Rolando Royster for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script by Tiffany Ezuma.

It was the decade of new school hip-hop and the start of the genre’s golden age. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 rap songs of the 1980s.

This is part of a series of videos from the birth of rap music to the 2000s. For this list, we’re choosing what we feel are the most iconic rap songs of the decade based on a mix of their popularity, commercial success, production and lyrical quality, and cultural impact.

#10: “Me Myself and I” (1989)
De La Soul

A group known equally for its flow and wit when it comes to the hard issues, De La Soul’s skill is exemplified in this song. As an anthem to their uniqueness, “Me Myself and I” was the group’s only chart-topper on the U.S. R&B chart; but deservedly so. Borrowing its funky beat from songs by the likes of the Ohio Players and Doug E. Fresh, among others, the 3 Feet and Rising single is an essential example of the golden age of hip hop.

#9: “Push It” (1987)
Salt-n-Pepa

With its recognizable beat and heavy breathing in the background, this song exemplifies everything the ladies of Salt-n-Pepa stood for; it’s fun, in-your-face, and informative. As they rap about sex, they also make the statement that they’re staples of the rap game and their own bosses. “Push It” topped the Billboard Hot 100, was nominated for a Grammy and went platinum – the latter making them the first female rappers to achieve the honor.

#8: “Planet Rock” (1986)
Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force

Rap meets the future is the perfect way to describe this song. Afrika Bambaataa is widely responsible for shaping the rap game and flipping it on its head by adding electro to his music. This tune helped prove that the exploration of other genres is key in crafting a unique sound, as demonstrated by “Planet Rock”’s use of Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic samples and its heavy synthesizer beat. It was also a crossover hit, earning spots on the Hot 100, as well as the American soul and dance charts.

#7: “I’m Bad” (1987)
LL Cool J

Known for his smooth lyrics and cool cat persona, LL often raps of his rep – see “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” for more examples.” But it’s this Bigger and Deffer hit that proves LL isn’t someone to mess with. While bragging about his ability to rule the rap game and his sexual prowess, the rapper confirms that he’s both an OG and a Casanova. “I’m Bad” was also his first charting entry on the Hot 100 and a top 10 smash on various other charts.

#6: “No Sleep till Brooklyn” (1986)
Beastie Boys

The boys know how to make a statement, and songs like “Fight For Your Right to Party” are proof of this. But it’s this single from Licensed to Ill that’s gotta be their anthem. Adding a distinctive, grittier hip-hop sound to AC/DC’s “T.N.T.,” “No Sleep till Brooklyn” also features lyrics that are a little bit all over the place while paying homage to New York and its boroughs. And let’s not forget they’ve got Slayer’s Kerry King on guitar! The song has since become a pop culture mainstay and has been covered by multiple artists.

#5: “Fight the Power” (1989)
Public Enemy

This is perhaps one of the most important songs of all time due to its social message. Written for Spike Lee’s film, “Do the Right Thing,” it’s a critique on the abuse of power. Despite its heavy tone, “Fight the Power”’s beat, chant-a-long chorus and use of samples make it a catchy hit. In addition to critical acclaim, the Public Enemy track also topped the Hot Rap Singles chart and helped shape music history.

#4: “It’s Tricky” (1986)
Run-D.M.C.

With so many goodies like “King of Rock,” “Rock Box,” “My Adidas,” and “Walk This Way,” you might say “it’s tricky” to choose just one Run-D.M.C. song for this list. But it’s this Raising Hell tune that stands out the most to us. As the group’s trademark fun and carefree tune, it’s also got a chorus that hypes things up to another level. Meanwhile, their way with words and rhyming poke fun at the more serious rap songs of the time, injecting some levity into the genre. We dare you to try not to sing along every time it plays.

#3: “Straight Outta Compton” (1988)
N.W.A.

The world didn’t know what hit them when N.W.A. unleashed their debut record. These guys were angry, loud, and had something to say. As the lead single and title track from their first album, “Straight Outta Compton” made it clear the members of N.W.A. weren’t messing around; just check out Ice Cube as he spits the opening verse. While “Fuck tha Police” was equally raw and significant, nothing was quite as forceful or powerful as this gangsta rap number.

#2: “Paid in Full” (1987)
Eric B. & Rakim

As exhibited in songs like “Microphone Fiend,” this duo is comprised of two of the best rappers and lyricists in the game. However, it’s “Paid in Full” that’s the best calling card for Eric B. & Rakim: it’s complex, the wordplay is on point, and its content is relatable. On top of all that, it has a danceable beat. Then there’s the Coldcut remix, known as “Seven Minutes of Madness,” which propelled the twosome to chart success in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “I’m Your Pusher” (1988) Ice T
- “The Breaks” (1980) Kurtis Blow
- “The Show” (1985) Doug E. Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew
- “It Takes Two” (1988) Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock
- “Bust a Move” (1989) Young MC
- “Hey Young World” (1989) Slick Rick
- “Self-Destruction” (1990) The Stop the Violence Movement

#1: “The Message” (1982)
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

This groundbreaking song opened doors for the hip-hop genre by using music as a way for the underrepresented to get their stories out there. Its strong social message showed the world what it was really like living in the ghetto – a hard place with little opportunity – and inspired countless musical acts thereafter. In addition to placing more importance on the rappers as opposed to the DJ, the Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five tune is also considered one of hip-hop’s finest tracks ever.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your top rap song of the 1980s? For more can’t miss Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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