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Top 10 Ultimate Decade Defining Rap Songs

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Tiffany Ezuma. Throughout the decades, this music genre has become known for its use of rhythm, rhyming, sampling, MCing and Djing. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 ultimate decade defining rap songs. This is part of a series of videos from the birth of rap music to the 2000s. For this list, we’re basing our choices on what we feel are the most iconic rap songs of the past decades, based on a mix of their popularity, commercial success, production and lyrical quality, and cultural impact. Special thanks to our users Timothy Swan, fsanders2 and ruby16wallpaper for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Transcript
Script written by Tiffany Ezuma.

Throughout the decades, this music genre has become known for its use of rhythm, rhyming, sampling, MCing and Djing. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 ultimate decade defining rap songs.

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

#10: “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.

#9: “Hypnotize” (1997)
The Notorious B.I.G.

Biggie Smalls had already passed by the time “Hypnotize” reached number one but its impact has outlived the artist by a mile. Produced by Puff Daddy, the tune samples Herb Alpert’s “Rise” to achieve its cool, chilled-out ‘70s vibe. Meanwhile, Biggie is at his best with lyrical references ranging from couture designers to “Star Wars.” While “Juicy,” “Mo Money Mo Problems” and “It’s All About the Benjamins” are also awesome tracks with Biggie’s touch, it’s this platinum-certified and Grammy-nominated track that is one of the best examples of pure East Coast hip-hop.

#8: “In da Club” (2003)
50 Cent

As the protégé of Eminem and Dr. Dre, audiences were expecting a lot from 50 with his commercial debut. Luckily, he more than delivered: this track was his first single and an instant success, selling over 2 million copies and hitting the charts at number one. Featuring a drum beat pounding in the night that works nicely with 50’s gruff vocals, “In da Club”’s lyrics call for a celebration. Just try to find one music fan who hasn’t heard this song—it’s virtually impossible!

#7: “Shook Ones (Part II)” (1994)
Mobb Deep

Think sequels are never as good as the originals? Think again. This sequel to Mobb Deep’s promo single “Shook Ones” doesn’t only equal the original but betters it. “(Part II)” may have fewer curse words, but it’s undoubtedly a classic in east coast and hardcore hip-hop. Earning loads of critical acclaim, the lead single from the group’s sophomore effort is 5-and-a-half minutes of the Queensbridge duo’s finest hour.

#6: “C.R.E.A.M” (1993)
Wu-Tang Clan

With artists like Nas, Common and Biggie referencing it in their own work, this tune has to be one of the most influential rap songs out there. The Enter the Wu-Tang single is notable for memorable verses from Raekwon and Inspectah Deck about running the streets and prison life. But it’s the chorus from Method Man that won’t quit as he breaks down the meaning of “C.R.E.A.M.” While Method Man’s duet with Mary J. Blige “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By” is also great, it’s this Wu-Tang number that continues to be one of the group’s highest-rated singles to date.

#5: “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” (1992)
Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg

While Snoop Doggy Dogg later made his mark with the solo hit “Gin and Juice,” we’ve picked this 1992 collaboration with Dr. Dre for this list. Why? This west coast hip hop single has a sound many have tried to replicate but with little success. It has all the elements a rap song should contain, including a smooth beat, a life manifesto and a code of the streets. Thanks to Dre’s production talents, Snoop Dogg’s guest vocals and so much more, “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” was The Chronic’s highest charting entry and continues to live on in popular culture today.

#4: “Lose Yourself” (2002)
Eminem

This song is arguably one of the best rap anthems of all time. Eminem is at his rawest and most personal, and while this follows along the same vein as his earlier hit “Stan,” it’s “Lose Yourself” that made it here. It’s just simply one of the best lyrical descriptions of the feeling of battling for something and being ready to triumph over the naysayers. The song also received five Grammy nods and won an Oscar, becoming the first rap song to do so.

#3: “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.

#2: “California Love” (1995)
2Pac feat. Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman

Pac showed that being locked up didn’t slowed him down with this single that was his first release after his stint in jail. This ode to California has Tupac spitting about the superiority of his adopted home. Its laid-back vibe and beat are so infectious that listeners can’t help but imagine the perfect California day. The song became a chart-topping hit and was honored with a posthumous Grammy nomination, making it the biggest hit of the rapper’s career.

Honorable Mentions

“No Sleep till Brooklyn” (1986)
Beastie Boys

“It’s Tricky” (1986)
Run-D.M.C.

“Regulate” (1994)
Warren G feat. Nate Dogg

“N.Y. State of Mind” (1994)
Nas

“Ms. Jackson” (2000)
OutKast

“99 Problems” (2004)
Jay-Z

#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 favorite rap song of all time? For more can’t miss Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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