- 1.Check the Rhime – A Tribe Called Quest
- 2.Slow Down – Brand Nubian
- 3.Passin’ Me By – The Pharcyde
- 4.Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat) – Digable Planets
- 5.They Reminisce Over You – Pete Rock & CL Smooth
- 6.Juice (Know the Ledge) – Eric B & Rakim
- 7. 93 Til Infinity – Souls of Mischief
- 8.Mass Appeal – Gang Starr
- 9.N.Y. State of Mind – Nas
- 10.Hip Hop Hooray – Naughty By Nature
- 11.Hypnotize – The Notorious B.I.G.
- 12.Regulate – Warren G ft. Nate Dogg
- 13.I Like It (I Wanna Be Where You Are) – Grand Puba
- 14.People Everyday – Arrested Development
- 15.Rosa Parks – Outkast
- 16.Concrete Schoolyard – Jurassic 5
- 17.Loungin’ – Guru and Donald Byrd
- 18.Live at the Barbeque – Main Source
- 19.Stakes is High – De La Soul
- 20.Can I Kick It? – A Tribe Called Quest
- 21.Runnin’- The Pharcyde
- 22.Juicy – Notorious B.I.G.
- 23.Dog It – Digable Planets
- 24.Sabotage – Beastie Boys
- 25.What They Do – The Roots
- 26.Definition – Black Star (Mos Def & Talib Kweli)
- 27.Me or the Papes – Jeru The Damaja
- 28.Times Up – O.C.
- 29.MVP – Big L
The 90s are widely considered the golden age of hip hop, a time when the genre exploded in popularity and influence. The decade saw the rise of legendary rap artists like Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., Nas, and Jay-Z, who crafted some of the most iconic hip hop songs of all time. These songs combined infectious beats, clever lyrics, and a raw, authentic energy that captured the spirit of the era and resonated with fans across the globe.
The best 90s hip hop songs are a testament to the genre’s cultural significance and enduring legacy. Tracks like “Juicy” by Notorious B.I.G., “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” by Dr. Dre, and “California Love” by Tupac Shakur remain staples of the hip hop canon, beloved by fans and critics alike. These songs showcased the raw talent and creative vision of their creators, demonstrating the power of hip hop to both entertain and inspire.
The 90s also saw the emergence of socially conscious hip hop, with artists like Public Enemy, Wu-Tang Clan, and A Tribe Called Quest using their music to address issues like racism, police brutality, and poverty. Tracks like “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy and “C.R.E.A.M.” by Wu-Tang Clan became anthems for a generation, empowering listeners to speak out against injustice and inequality.
Overall, the best 90s hip hop songs represent a defining moment in the history of the genre. They are a testament to the creativity, passion, and cultural significance of hip hop, and they continue to inspire and influence new generations of artists and fans today.
1.Check the Rhime – A Tribe Called Quest
“Check the Rhime” is a classic hip-hop track by A Tribe Called Quest, released in 1991 as a single from their second studio album, “The Low End Theory.” The song features Q-Tip and Phife Dawg delivering their signature back-and-forth flow over a jazzy sample of “Baby, This Love I Have” by Minnie Riperton. The track’s upbeat tempo and catchy chorus make it a timeless favorite among hip-hop fans.
A Tribe Called Quest’s lyrical prowess and unique style make them one of the most influential hip-hop groups of all time. Their music has been described as a fusion of jazz and hip-hop, with a focus on conscious lyrics and socially conscious themes. “Check the Rhime” is a perfect example of their style and approach to music, and it continues to be celebrated today as a hip-hop classic.
2.Slow Down – Brand Nubian
“Slow Down” is a classic hip-hop track by Brand Nubian, released in 1990 as a single from their debut studio album, “One for All.” The song features the group’s three MCs – Grand Puba, Sadat X, and Lord Jamar – delivering their smooth and intricate rhymes over a funky sample of “Spoonin’ Rap” by Spoonie Gee.
Brand Nubian is a hip-hop group that emerged in the late 1980s as part of the conscious hip-hop movement. Their music is known for its Afrocentric themes and positive messages, and “Slow Down” is no exception. The song encourages listeners to slow down and appreciate life, rather than getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of the world.
“Slow Down” is a beloved track in hip-hop history, and it continues to be celebrated as one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time. Its smooth flow and positive message make it a timeless classic, and it remains a favorite among hip-hop fans today.
3.Passin’ Me By – The Pharcyde
“Passin’ Me By” by The Pharcyde is a classic hip-hop song released in 1992. The song features a jazzy beat and soulful samples from jazz, funk, and R&B genres, with witty and introspective lyrics about love, attraction, and rejection. The song became an instant hit and is widely regarded as one of the best songs of the ’90s. The music video for the song features the group members chasing after their love interests, and the humorous yet relatable narrative adds to the song’s charm.
4.Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat) – Digable Planets
“Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” by Digable Planets is another iconic song of the ’90s, which won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 1994. The song is characterized by a laid-back and jazzy beat, with smooth and poetic lyrics that celebrate individuality and artistic expression. The song is widely recognized for its catchy hook and the group’s unique fusion of jazz, hip-hop, and funk elements. The music video for the song features the group members in a variety of colorful settings, showcasing their distinct style and personalities. The song’s cultural impact is reflected in its inclusion in several movies, TV shows, and commercials over the years, cementing its place as a classic hip-hop anthem.
5.They Reminisce Over You – Pete Rock & CL Smooth
“They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” by Pete Rock & CL Smooth is a touching and emotional song released in 1992 that pays tribute to their friend and former group member, Troy Dixon, who passed away tragically. The song is widely regarded as one of the best hip-hop songs of all time, featuring a smooth and soulful beat, with introspective and heartfelt lyrics that showcase the group’s storytelling abilities. The song’s chorus and sample from Tom Scott’s “Today” have become iconic in the hip-hop community, inspiring countless tributes and covers over the years.
6.Juice (Know the Ledge) – Eric B & Rakim
“Juice (Know the Ledge)” by Eric B & Rakim is the title track of the 1992 movie “Juice,” which starred Tupac Shakur. The song is characterized by a driving beat and aggressive lyrics, with Rakim’s trademark flow and wordplay showcasing his status as one of the best MCs in hip-hop history. The song’s lyrics deal with the themes of power, control, and ambition, fitting perfectly with the movie’s storyline. The song’s music video features footage from the movie and showcases the group’s streetwise style and attitude. The song’s cultural impact is reflected in its inclusion in several movies, TV shows, and video games over the years, cementing its place as a classic hip-hop anthem.
7. 93 Til Infinity – Souls of Mischief
“93 Til Infinity” is a classic hip hop track by the group Souls of Mischief, released in 1993. The song is known for its laid-back, jazzy beat and the smooth, effortless flow of the four emcees – A-Plus, Opio, Phesto, and Tajai. The track features a memorable hook that celebrates the limitless possibilities of the future: “this is how we chill from 93 til infinity.”
The song has been highly influential in the development of alternative and underground hip hop, and is widely regarded as one of the best hip hop tracks of the 1990s. Its influence can be heard in the work of many subsequent artists, including Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Joey Bada$$.
8.Mass Appeal – Gang Starr
“Mass Appeal” by Gang Starr is a classic hip hop track that was released in 1994. The song is known for its catchy hook and laid-back instrumental, produced by DJ Premier. The lyrics, rapped by Guru, are centered around the concept of the commercialization of hip hop and the struggle to remain authentic in the face of fame and fortune. Guru emphasizes the importance of staying true to oneself and avoiding the temptation to sell out for mass appeal. The song’s title itself is a play on words, referring to the desire to appeal to the masses while also critiquing the idea of doing so.
“Mass Appeal” is widely regarded as one of Gang Starr’s signature songs, and its influence on the hip hop genre is still felt today. The song has been sampled and referenced by numerous other artists over the years, and its legacy is a testament to the enduring power of the golden age of hip hop. With its tight rhymes and smooth production, “Mass Appeal” remains a staple of hip hop playlists and a must-listen for fans of the genre.
9.N.Y. State of Mind – Nas
Meanwhile, “N.Y. State of Mind” is a gritty and raw depiction of the harsh realities of life in the streets of New York City, as seen through the eyes of rapper Nas. The song, released in 1994, is widely regarded as one of the greatest hip hop tracks of all time, and a defining moment in the genre’s history. The track’s dark and atmospheric production, combined with Nas’ vivid and introspective lyrics, create a vivid picture of life on the streets of New York, and the struggles that many young people face growing up in poverty and violence.
10.Hip Hop Hooray – Naughty By Nature
“Hip Hop Hooray” by Naughty By Nature is a classic hip hop track that was released in 1993. The song is an upbeat and positive celebration of the hip hop culture and community, with catchy hooks and memorable lyrics. The track was a huge commercial success, reaching number 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and earning a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
The song’s music video, which features the group performing in front of a large audience, is also widely recognized as a classic of the era. “Hip Hop Hooray” has remained popular in popular culture, being used in various movies, TV shows, and commercials over the years.
11.Hypnotize – The Notorious B.I.G.
“Hypnotize” by The Notorious B.I.G. and “Regulate” by Warren G ft. Nate Dogg are two of the most iconic rap songs from the 1990s. “Hypnotize” was released in 1997 as the lead single from The Notorious B.I.G.’s album “Life After Death,” which was released posthumously after his tragic death. The song is a perfect representation of the East Coast hip-hop style of the time, with a heavy beat and lyrics that boast about the rapper’s wealth and success. The chorus is incredibly catchy and has become a staple of hip-hop culture.
12.Regulate – Warren G ft. Nate Dogg
“Regulate” was released in 1994 and quickly became a hit, thanks in part to its smooth, laid-back beat and the catchy chorus sung by Nate Dogg. The song tells a story of a night in Long Beach, California, where Warren G and Nate Dogg are on the lookout for trouble, but ultimately end up cruising around and enjoying the company of some women. The song has become a classic of West Coast hip-hop and is often cited as one of the greatest rap songs of all time.
Both “Hypnotize” and “Regulate” have had a lasting impact on hip-hop culture and continue to be popular among rap fans today. They are representative of the golden age of hip-hop in the 1990s and serve as a reminder of the talent and creativity of the era’s greatest artists.
13.I Like It (I Wanna Be Where You Are) – Grand Puba
“I Like It (I Wanna Be Where You Are)” is a classic hip-hop track by American rapper Grand Puba. The song, which was released in 1995, is based on a sample from the classic soul track “I Wanna Be Where You Are” by Michael Jackson. The song is a smooth and mellow ode to love, and Grand Puba’s flow effortlessly glides over the beat, creating a laid-back, yet upbeat vibe. The song’s simple and catchy hook, “I like it, I wanna be where you are”, is infectious and sure to get stuck in your head.
14.People Everyday – Arrested Development
“Everyday People” is a hit single by American hip hop group Arrested Development. The song, which was released in 1992, is a positive and uplifting anthem about unity, diversity, and acceptance. The track samples the classic Sly and the Family Stone song of the same name, and features a catchy, sing-along chorus that encourages listeners to embrace their differences and come together as one.
The song’s verses are delivered by lead rapper Speech, who raps about the importance of acceptance and understanding in a world that can be divided by race, class, and other factors. The song’s message of unity and inclusivity is just as relevant today as it was when it was released over 30 years ago. “Everyday People” is a timeless classic that continues to inspire and uplift listeners with its positive message and infectious groove.
15.Rosa Parks – Outkast
“Hip hop” and “jazz” rarely come together better than in “Rosa Parks,” the classic song from Atlanta’s iconic rap duo Outkast. Released in 1998, “Rosa Parks” is an upbeat, brass-heavy tribute to the civil rights icon that effortlessly mixes smooth jazz with André 3000’s soulful lyrics and Big Boi’s infectious delivery. The song was a major hit for Outkast, peaking at number 55 on the Billboard Hot 100 and receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
16.Concrete Schoolyard – Jurassic 5
“Concrete Schoolyard” by Jurassic 5 is a classic hip hop track that captures the essence of the golden era of hip hop. Released in 1998, the song features the group’s signature tight vocal harmonies and smooth flow over a funky beat. The lyrics are intelligent and witty, exploring themes such as education, social injustice, and self-empowerment. The song was a hit with critics and fans alike, helping to establish Jurassic 5 as one of the most respected groups in underground hip hop. The song’s music video, directed by Spike Jonze, features the members of Jurassic 5 performing in a schoolyard, complete with a playground, hopscotch, and chalk drawings. Overall, “Concrete Schoolyard” is a timeless classic that showcases the best of what hip hop has to offer.
17.Loungin’ – Guru and Donald Byrd
“Loungin'” by Guru and Donald Byrd is a laid-back jazz rap track that exudes a cool, sophisticated vibe. The track was released in 1993 as part of Guru’s solo album “Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1.” The track is built around a sample of Donald Byrd’s “Wind Parade” and features a smooth, melodic trumpet solo by Byrd himself. The lyrics, delivered in Guru’s signature conversational flow, focus on enjoying life’s simple pleasures and taking it easy.
18.Live at the Barbeque – Main Source
“Live at the Barbeque” is a classic track from the Queens-based hip-hop group Main Source. The track was released in 1991 and features verses from Nas (in his first recorded appearance), as well as Main Source members Large Professor and Akinyele. The track’s production is gritty and sample-heavy, with a looping bassline and hard-hitting drums. The lyrics are packed with clever wordplay and boastful braggadocio, with each rapper delivering standout verses. Nas’s verse in particular is considered a classic, with its vivid depictions of street life and poetic imagery. “Live at the Barbeque” is widely regarded as one of the greatest posse cuts in hip-hop history and a landmark moment in Nas’s career.
19.Stakes is High – De La Soul
“Hip hop is not just music; it’s a way of life.” The lyrics of De La Soul’s “Stakes is High” emphasize the current state of hip-hop music, expressing the group’s concern that rap music is becoming more commercial and lacking the authenticity that it once had. The track, with its laid-back beat and introspective lyrics, reflects the introspective nature of the group, as they explore the state of the rap game.
20.Can I Kick It? – A Tribe Called Quest
On the other hand, “Can I Kick It?” by A Tribe Called Quest is a feel-good track that is infused with jazz influences. It’s a perfect example of the golden age of hip-hop, with its catchy chorus and smooth beat that make you want to dance. The song is based on Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” and the group uses this sample to build a track that is both fun and funky.
Both “Stakes is High” and “Can I Kick It?” exemplify the creativity and innovation that made the 90s era of hip-hop so special. They each demonstrate the power of hip-hop to convey social commentary and tell stories, while also celebrating the joy of music and the culture surrounding it. These tracks are timeless and continue to inspire new generations of hip-hop artists today.
21.Runnin’- The Pharcyde
“Runnin'” by The Pharcyde and “Juicy” by Notorious B.I.G. are two iconic tracks that helped define the sound of hip-hop during the 1990s.
“Runnin'” was released in 1995 as the second single from The Pharcyde’s album “Labcabincalifornia.” The song features a mellow beat and smooth flow with lyrics that touch on themes of perseverance and the struggles of the music industry. The song also features a memorable music video with backwards footage of the group running through Los Angeles.
22.Juicy – Notorious B.I.G.
“Juicy” was released in 1994 as the lead single from Notorious B.I.G.’s debut album “Ready to Die.” The song samples Mtume’s “Juicy Fruit” and features Biggie’s signature storytelling style, chronicling his rise to fame and reflecting on his upbringing in Brooklyn. The track became an instant classic and is now considered one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time.
Both “Runnin'” and “Juicy” showcase the diversity and depth of the hip-hop genre. While “Runnin'” has a more laid-back vibe, “Juicy” has a more upbeat energy, yet both tracks are powerful in their own right and continue to be celebrated as two of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time.
23.Dog It – Digable Planets
“Dog It” by Digable Planets and “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys are two classic hip-hop tracks that showcase the genre’s diversity and innovation.
“Dog It” is a playful, jazzy track that combines elements of hip-hop, jazz, and funk. The trio’s smooth flow and intricate wordplay complement the catchy horn samples and groovy bassline. The song’s lyrics are a celebration of living in the moment, encouraging listeners to let go of their worries and embrace the present.
24.Sabotage – Beastie Boys
In contrast, “Sabotage” is a high-energy, guitar-driven track that incorporates elements of punk rock and hip-hop. The Beastie Boys’ aggressive delivery and distorted guitars give the song a rebellious feel, while the driving beat and catchy hook make it an instant classic. The song’s lyrics are a call to action, urging listeners to stand up against those who try to hold them back.
Both tracks showcase the innovative and eclectic nature of hip-hop, incorporating elements from various genres to create something unique and powerful. “Dog It” and “Sabotage” remain timeless classics that continue to inspire new generations of hip-hop artists.
25.What They Do – The Roots
“What They Do” by The Roots and “Definition” by Black Star are two classic tracks from the late 90s that showcase the lyrical prowess of their respective groups. The Roots, known for their live instrumentation, provide a jazzy, soulful backdrop for rapper Black Thought to deliver a poignant commentary on the pitfalls of the music industry and the pressure to maintain a certain image in the face of success. Mos Def and Talib Kweli of Black Star similarly tackle societal issues on.
26.Definition – Black Star (Mos Def & Talib Kweli)
“Definition,” showcasing their sharp wordplay and socially conscious message over a funky beat.
Both songs are prime examples of the conscious hip-hop movement of the late 90s, which placed a strong emphasis on lyricism and addressing social and political issues. The Roots and Black Star, along with other artists like Common and The Pharcyde, sought to use their platform to shed light on issues affecting their communities and inspire listeners to take action. The production on both tracks is also noteworthy, with The Roots incorporating live instrumentation and Black Star sampling a classic beat from Boogie Down Productions. Overall, “What They Do” and “Definition” are timeless classics that continue to resonate with listeners today.
27.Me or the Papes – Jeru The Damaja
The late 90s was an era of rap music where lyrics, flow, and storytelling were paramount. Jeru the Damaja, O.C., and Big L were some of the artists who were known for their lyrical prowess, and their songs “Me or the Papes,” “Times Up,” and “MVP,” respectively, are shining examples of their skills.
“Me or the Papes” by Jeru the Damaja features a smooth jazz-infused beat that complements the rapper’s laid-back delivery. The song is a meditation on the corrupting influence of money and the importance of staying true to oneself. The lyrics are dense and complex, showcasing Jeru’s intellectual depth and wit.
28.Times Up – O.C.
In contrast, “Time’s Up” has a more aggressive and hard-hitting sound. O.C.’s bold delivery and commanding presence on the mic demand the listener’s attention as he calls out societal ills such as racism, police brutality, and poverty. The beat’s heavy bassline and ominous piano chords add to the song’s intense atmosphere, making it a memorable and thought-provoking piece.
Overall, both tracks showcase the lyrical and musical talent of their respective artists while addressing pressing issues that are still relevant today.
29.MVP – Big L
“MVP” is a classic song by Big L, a talented and influential rapper from Harlem, New York. The track was released in 1995 as part of Big L’s debut album “Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous” and features his trademark flow, aggressive delivery, and clever wordplay. The song’s title, “MVP,” stands for “Most Valuable Poet,” a fitting name for an artist who was widely regarded as one of the greatest lyricists of his time.
The track is produced by legendary hip-hop producer Lord Finesse, who also mentored Big L early in his career. The instrumental is driven by a gritty and funky sample from the song “Nautilus” by Bob James, a popular sample source in hip-hop music.
Big L’s lyrics on “MVP” are full of punchlines and metaphors, showcasing his skill as a wordsmith. He raps about his prowess as a rapper, his disdain for fake gangsters, and his love for hip-hop culture. The song has become a classic in underground hip-hop circles and is often cited as one of the best rap songs of all time.