The debate surrounding the greatest Hip-Hop songs of all time comes around every so often, so of course, we had to get in on it as well. Of course, these types of lists can be subjective; sometimes it can depend on the era you grew up in, where you lived (East vs West Coast for example), or even your overall preference for certain artists. Whatever the case may be, there are definitely some songs that everybody universally agrees should be on the all-time list. In no particular order, these are our top 50.
The Definitive List of the Top 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All-Time
1. "Tha Crossroads" by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
Released in 1996 as a dedication to the memory of Bone’s friend Wallace Laird III, "Tha Crossroads" was a hit worldwide reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The poignant hit ended up winning the group a Grammy in 1997, and would later go on to rank number 33 on VH1’s Greatest Songs of Hip-Hop list.
2. "Juicy" by The Notorious B.I.G
Released as the first single off his debut album Ready to Die, "Juicy" is considered to be one of the greatest Hip-Hop songs of all time. Produced by Trackmasters, and Diddy (then known as Puffy), the song went on to reach number one on the rap charts and was certified gold. "Juicy" is instantly recognizable from the first beat and has become a classic worldwide. You should know already, but if you don’t, now you do.
3. "It Was A Good Day" by Ice Cube
Released in 1993, the song was the second single from Ice Cube’s third album The Predator. With a sample of the Isley Brother's "Footsteps in the Dark," the song peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 R&B/Hip-Hop song’s chart, and number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100.
For years many have wondered if the actual day in the song really occurred. However, after a lot of speculation, Ice Cube later stated in an interview that the day described in the song was fictional, and rather centered around what he personally perceived as being the perfect day. "Good Day" was later ranked at 28 on VH1's 100 greatest Hip-Hop songs making it one of Cube's most successful songs to date.
4. "Ms. Jackson" by OutKast
Centered around Andre 3000’s then relationship with Erykah Badu, "Ms. Jackson" was initially created on an acoustic guitar mix that 3000 was working on at the time. The song was released on October 17, 2000, as the second single from OutKast’s fourth album, Stankonia, helping to revive the album’s performance after their first single ‘B.O.B’ underperformed commercially. "Ms. Jackson" later went on to win a Grammy and has since become a staple in the group’s catalog.
5. "C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)" by Wu-Tang Clan
Next Up is the Mighty Wu-Tang. "Cash Rules Everything Around Me" is the third single from their debut studio album Enter The Wu-Tang. The Song was recorded in 1991 and focused on the early life of members Raekwon and Inspectah Deck while growing up in New York City. Despite not performing well commercially, "C.R.E.A.M" has since gone on to be recognized as one of the greatest Hip-Hop songs of all time with a gold certification.
6. "Dear Mama" by 2Pac
Written as a tribute to his mother Afeni Shakur, "Dear Mama" dives into Shakur’s childhood struggles of poverty and watching his mom battle addiction. Through the song, however, the rapper makes it clear that nothing trumps the love and respect he has for his mother giving listeners goosebumps. "Dear Mama" reached number one on the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart and was later certified platinum.
7. "Shook Ones (Part II)" by Mobb Deep
A sequel to Mobb Deep’s promotional single "Shook Ones" (which was released in 1994), "Part II" focuses on inner-city kids involved in street violence while battling financial troubles. The song was later sampled by Mariah Carey for her song "The Roof (Back In Time)", and is now known as one of the best Hip-Hop songs ever.
8. "Fight The Power" by Public Enemy
Regarded as one of Public Enemy’s best songs, "Fight The Power" focuses on racial tensions and civil unrest. While touring Italy, lead MC Chuck D was inspired to write the hit after being asked by Spike Lee to do a song for his classic film Do The Right Thing. "Fight The Power" was named the best song of 1989 and was later ranked number 288 on the RIAA’s Songs of the Century List. Not bad for a song that came out in 1989.
9. "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five.
This heavily sampled Hip-Hop classic was released in 1982 as a single on the group's first album also titled The Message. The song is widely regarded as being the first rap song to focus on social issues and has even inspired artists like Phil Collins to create more songs with powerful and challenging themes. "The Message" peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.
10. “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg
It’s Like This and Like That (you know the rest). This legendary track by Snoop and Dre was one of the many iconic hits these two would make together. Released in the Fall of 1992, the song reached number one on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart, and made it onto Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.
11. “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang
Taking it back to 1979, we’ve got one of the “O.G” rap records "Rappers Delight." This song has been credited by many as introducing rap music on a worldwide level and brought awareness to world issues. "Rapper’s Delight" was voted number two on VH1’s 100 Greatest Hip-Hop songs list, and was recorded all in one take.
12. “They Reminisce Over You” by Pete Rock C.L. Smooth.
Let’s take a minute to “reminisce” over "T.R.O.Y." Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth dropped this legendary classic in 1992. The song peaked at number one on the Hot Rap charts and was written as a tribute to Pete Rock’s friend who had recently passed away.
13. “Get Low” by Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz
Alright, stay with us here.
This track had us running from the window to the wall when it first dropped in 2003 and ended up becoming one of the songs of the summer a few months later. "Get Low" was also the world's first introduction to “Crunk” music on a national level, and wound up reaching the Top 5 on the U.S. charts.
14. “U.N.I.T.Y.” by Queen Latifah
The 90’s version of "Respect" by Aretha Franklin, Queen Latifah shook the world up when she dropped this track in 1993. The song addressed issues of various forms of harassment against women in Hip-Hop culture and went on to win a Grammy in 1995 for Best Solo Rap Performance.
15. “Rosa Parks” by OutKast
Released in October of 1998 as the first single from their album Aquemini, "Rosa Parks" is yet another fan favorite in the OutKast catalog. The song was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement hero Rosa Parks and was the most successful single off the album.
16. “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar
Recently named the best song of the 2010s by Pitchfork in 2019, "Alright" served as an upbeat song to bring hope in trying times. The single focused on themes of social justice and remains just as relevant in 2020 as it was in 2015.
17. “Doo Wop (That Thing)” by Lauryn Hill
It was 1998 when Lauryn Hill told us that we “couldn’t win if we weren’t right within” in her song "Doo Wop (That Thing)." "Doo Wop" debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and definitely had us “reading the room.” Over twenty years later, this hit still gets people out of their seats.
18. “Lose Yourself” by Eminem
Very few songs have hit our cores the way "Lose Yourself" did. Considered to be one of Eminem’s best songs, the record is the first Hip-Hop song to ever receive an Academy Award. "Lose Yourself" was number one pretty much everywhere in the world, and is still featured in movies, commercials, etc.
19. “Can’t Knock The Hustle” by Jay-Z
This classic gave us absolutely no reason to doubt. Featuring Mary J. Blige, this record introduced us to the legend now known as Jay-Z. While the song wasn’t a big hit commercially at the time of its release, it has since become a Hip-Hop classic and a staple in Jay’s catalog.
20. “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio
It was 1995 when Coolio dropped one of the biggest hits of the ’90s. "Gangsta’s Paradise" has sold over six million copies worldwide making it one of the biggest selling singles of all time.
21. “Who Shot Ya” by Biggie
The backstory behind this record and the chain of events that followed afterward is a whole story within itself as "Who Shot Ya" kicked off one of the most notable rap beefs of all-time with Tupac. Nevertheless, the instrument section in this track alone is iconic, and "Who Shot Ya" has made every all-time list since being released.
22. “All I Need” by Method Man featuring Mary J. Blige
Method Man and Mary J gave us everything we needed on this Bad Boy remix from 1994. The song won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a duo or group and was later featured in the film 8 Mile.
23. “I Got 5 On It” by The Luniz
Released in 1995 as the lead single from their debut album Operation Stackola, ‘I Got 5 On It’ was an instant banger. The song was certified platinum by the RIAA, and has sold over a million copies to date (which is definitely worth more than five dollars).
24. “Work It” by Missy Elliot
Missy Elliot put that thang down, flipped it, and reversed it on this legendary track from 2002. Produced by Timbaland, the song hit number two on the Billboard charts and continues to make its rounds on social media to this day.
25. “Still Not A Player” by Big Pun
In this hit from 1998, Punisher let us know that he didn’t want to be a player anymore, and went straight into the top ten. In the years since, this classic has been sampled quite a bit, most notably by Ariana Grande in her 2013 hit "The Way.'
26. “Hip-Hop Hooray” by Naughty by Nature
You can’t talk Hip-Hop, without bringing up this hit. Released in 1992, "Hip-Hop Hooray" shot straight to the top of the charts spending a week at number one, and can be heard at least once in every major sports stadium and arena per game. To date, the song has sold over a million copies in the U.S alone.
27. “Ante Up” by M.O.P
Ladies and gentlemen, we present one of the most hype songs of all time. Yet another Hip-Hop staple that can be found at major sporting events (who wouldn’t want this to be their theme song?), "Ante Up’ has also been featured in various different films, and reached number 7 on the U.K. singles chart.
28. “Flava In Ya Ear” by Craig Mack
Released in 1994, it was the remix of this track that sent "Flava In Ya Ear" to iconic Hip-Hop status. The remix featured Busta Rhymes, Biggie, LL Cool J, and Rampage, and is also heavily remembered for its video. The single eventually would up reaching number nine on the Billboard Hot 100.
29. “La Di Da Di” by Doug E. Fresh featuring Slick Rick
This 1985 classic is also one of the defining moments in Hip-Hop history. The single features Slick Rick rapping over a simple beatbox from Doug E. Fresh and has become one of the most heavily sampled songs in history. Sometimes simplicity really is the key.
30. “Keep Ya Head Up” by Tupac
In a song that still rings true today, it was 1993 when Tupac told us that things would get a little easier if we kept our heads up. This record ended up becoming another big hit for Pac, and a fan favorite in his massive catalog.
31. “Ready or Not” by The Fugees
This 1996 hit by the Fugees was released as a single off of their second album The Score. While underperforming commercially in the U.S. at the time, the song was very successful overseas. In the years since however, "Ready or Not" has been given its proper due, and is still performed today.
32. “Lost Ones” by Lauryn Hill
Speaking of Lauryn Hill, it was 1998 when she gave us this classic off of her album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. While not an official single, the song is recognized as being one of the most dynamic and powerful on the album.
33. “N.Y. State of Mind” by Nas
Taken from his legendary debut album Illmatic, this song is Nas at his absolute pinnacle. The hit features Nas talking about his rap skills, as well as the dangers of living in the Queensbridge section of New York City. In the years since, the single has gone on to be featured in Rolling Stone’s 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time list.
34. “In Da Club” by 50 Cent
This 2003 smash had the shorties in the club on their birthdays. Released as the first single from his debut album Get Rich or Die Trying, "In Da Club" quickly reached number one, and wound up being nominated for two Grammys.
35. "Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)" by Missy Elliott, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Queen Latifah, Angie Martinez
The Hip-Hop version of Kool & The Gang’s 1979 hit "Ladies Night," this remix features an All-Star female rap cast. The remix became a big hit in the U.S. reaching number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number 2 on the Rap Songs chart.
36. “Get Money” by Junior M.A.F.I.A.
The ’90s featured the dominance of Hip-Hop group Junior M.A.F.I.A., and "Get Money" is considered to be one of their most popular hits. Lil' Kim and Biggie also hopped on the track, and "Get Money" became a huge success selling over a million copies.
37. “Crush on You” by Lil Kim feat Lil Crease
It was 1997 when Lil' Kim dropped her fan-favorite "Crush On You." The song features Junior M.A.F.I.A member Lil' Cease, as well as Biggie on the hook. The music video for "Crush on You" also previewed what was to come in terms of Lil' Kim’s creativity and legendary looks in her videos.
38. “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” by Busta Rhymes
This 1997 monster hit by Busta Rhymes went on to become one of the biggest songs of that year. The song has what’s considered to be one of the greatest beats of all time, and the success was further propelled by the music video. The single even ended up scoring a Grammy nomination.
39. “B.O.B” by Outkast
This song is proof that you can make an all-time record without it necessarily being a huge hit number wise. In terms of commercial success, "B.O.B" wasn’t a huge success, but has since gone on to be recognized as one of the greatest Hip-Hop songs of all time.
40. “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa
If you're reading this article, you’ve probably heard "Push It" at some point in your life. Released in 1987, these ladies dropped a fire single that ended up experiencing multiple rounds of success. "Push It" is also known for its iconic dance routine, and has been certified Platinum by the RIAA.
41. ”"It's All About The Benjamins" by Puff Daddy and the Family
Released in August 1997, "Benjamins" featured an All-Star line up of Diddy, The Notorious B.I.G, Lil Kim, and Missy Elliot on the vocals. The song reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and had us all feeling like we were ballers and shot-callers. In 2008, "Benjamins" was ranked number 32 on VH1's '100 Greatest Songs of Hip-Hop' list.
42. “California Love” by Tupac feat Dr. Dre
This comeback single from Tupac is one of his most well-known songs. Released at the end of 1995, the record ended becoming one of the best selling singles of 1996. "California Love" has been featured numerous times in pop culture, and ended up getting Tupac two posthumous Grammy nominations.
43. “The Rain” by Missy Elliot
Released in 1997 as the lead single off her album Supa Dupa Fly, "The Rain" began dominating airplay towards the late summer. The music video further elevated the success of the single, which ended up reaching number four on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop song chart.
43. “International Players Anthem” by UGK feat. Outkast
Ladies and gentlemen, we present the song that’s considered to be one of the Hip-Hop Bibles. Released in 2007, critics labeled "International Players Anthem" as being one of the best hits of that year, and the song reached number ten on the Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart.
45. “Ruff Ryders Anthem” by DMX
It was 1998 when DMX told us to stop, drop, shut 'em down, and open up shop. This single from X is one of his personal favorites and was recently featured on his Verzuz matchup with Snoop Dogg. The video currently has 129 million views on YouTube.
46. “Tennessee” by Arrested Development
Written by member Speech after the deaths of his grandmother and brother, Arrested Development released this Hip-Hop staple in March of 1992. "Tennessee" samples Prince’s "Alphabet St.," and reached number six in the U.S., later winning a Grammy.
47. “O.P.P.” by Naughty By Nature
Released in 1991, this song had everybody asking if they were “Down With O.P.P.” in the early ’90s. This single is known as being one of the first Hip-Hop songs to crossover into the Pop scene. "O.P.P." went onto reach number six on the Billboard Hot 100.
48. “Forgot About Dre” by Dr. Dre feat Eminem
This classic was released in early 2000 off of Dre’s album entitled 2000. The song addresses Dre’s haters with Eminem flying in for backup. The single-ended up winning a Grammy, and twenty years later we definitely haven’t forgotten about this hit from Dre.
49. “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puffy feat Faith Evans and 112
Written as a tribute to the late Notorious B.I.G., Puff dropped this poignant hit in 1997. The song samples the 1980’s hit “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, and spent eleven weeks at number one. With over five million copies sold worldwide, "I’ll Be Missing You" is one of the best selling singles of all time.
50. “Hit Em Up” by Tupac
So you remember earlier when we mentioned that Biggie’s "Who Shot Ya" started a long chain of events with Tupac? Well, this song was Tupac’s response. "Hit Em Up" is widely regarded as one of the best diss tracks ever recorded, and set the tone for future diss records to come.
So there you have it. Of course, there's plenty of honorable mentions (and room for debate), but these songs are what we consider to be the Top 50 greatest Hip-Hop songs of all time. Stay tuned because we definitely may have to do a follow up very soon. For now, though, take a minute to enjoy these throwbacks.