The 100 Best Rap Songs of All Time

The hip-hop genre has more than 40 years of history

Stack of records
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The best hip-hop songs of all time are the songs that touch our souls. They make us smile, laugh, cry, think, and shake what our mama (or papa) gave us. 

Covering more than four decades, here are the 100 greatest rap songs of all time:

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Top 100 Rap Songs: 100-91

Coolio peforms on stage during the I Love the 90s concert at the SSE Arena on September 29, 2017 in London, England. Getty Images/ C Brandon / Contributor

100 | 'Funkdafied,' Da Brat
This fun, light-hearted track helped Da Bra-ta-ta shift 1 million units of her debut album.

99 | 'What They Do,' The Roots
The Roots distinguished themselves here from everyone else by laying down the law.

98 | 'The Light,' Common
Produced by the late great J Dilla and inspired by Common's ex Erykah Badu, "The Light" warmed up many nights throughout the 2000s. It was musical irrigation to our souls the first time it washed over the summer airwaves.

97 | 'Bucktown,' Smif-N-Wessun
Smif-N-Wessun pay homage to the "home of the original gun clappers." When people say they miss that good ol' hip-hop, this is what they're talking about.

96 | 'Player's Anthem,' Junior M.A.F.I.A.
Biggie's crew took a striking leap into the spotlight with this street anthem. "Get Money" went on to become Junior M.A.F.I.A.'s most popular hit, reaching No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 and shifting over a million copies in the summer of '96.

95 | 'They Want EFX,' Das EFX
"They Want EFX" was the "iggedy" bomb in the early '90s. A surefire jam, the song later found its way onto an episode of "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

94 | 'Gangsta's Paradise,' Coolio
"Gangsta's Paradise" shares its musical DNA with Stevie Wonder's 1976 gem "Pastime Paradise." Wonder performed the chart-topping song with Coolio and L.V. at the 1995 Billboard Awards.

93 | 'Brooklyn Zoo,' ODB
Brooklyn has always played a pivotal role in hip-hop culture. In return, rappers have rewarded the borough with numerous tributes. ODB's love letter to BK remains one of the best hip-hop songs of all time long after Dirty's death.

92 | 'Freaky Tales,' Too $hort
Too $hort has dropped many a freaky tale since his humble beginnings. "Freaky Tales" stands tall among his best sexploitation tunes.

91 | 'Who Shot Ya,' The Notorious B.I.G.
A menacing track by one of the best to ever breathe on a mic.

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90-81

Fugees
Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill and Praz of The Fugees. Paul Natkin / WireImage

90 | 'All I Need,' Method Man featuring Mary J Blige
The story goes that Method Man approached this collaboration with some hesitation. But when Def Jam showed up at his door with a Benz and an opportunity to work with an icon, he reconsidered. The outcome? Arguably the greatest rap and R&B collaboration of all time.

89 | 'Fame,' GZA
Here GZA creatively weaves a story around celebrity names, a concept so powerful that it's been emulated by several emcees. Brownsville rapper Ka reworked the idea on "Off the Record" from 2013.

Arguably DMX's biggest and brightest hit to date, "What U See Is What U Get" reached No. 50 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1998.

87 | 'All That I Got Is You,' Ghostface Killah featuring Mary J Blige
There are no hard-hitting drums, no hyperbolic threats, just Mary J. Blige's tears and Ghostface Killah's somber rhymes.

86 | 'Ego Trippin',' Ultramagnetic MC's
Not only is "Ego Trippin' " an undeniable masterpiece, it's also responsible for introducing the world to an eccentric figure named Kool Keith. It merits inclusion based on that point alone.

85 | 'Fu-Gee-La,' The Fugees
If anyone ever tells you that it's impossible to blend creativity and commercial appeal, simply cue up "Fu-gee-La" and walk away.

84 | 'I Got 5 on It,' The Luniz
"I Got 5 on It" was the official anthem for broke fiends everywhere. It's also special for adding new terminology to hip-hop lingo.

83 | 'Remind My Soul,' Akrobatik
Akrobatik reminds his peers to be careful about what they're teaching the young'ins. Ak's code of ethics is simple: If it makes Bob Marley turn in his grave, don't do it.

82 | 'How About Some Hardcore,' M.O.P.
M.O.P. earned a near-iconic status in the game because of unforgettable songs such as "How About Some Hardcore" and "Ante Up." This is quintessential M.O.P.: loud, hard, and memorable. How about some respect?

81 | 'It Was A Good Day,' Ice Cube
A good day in L.A. must have been at a premium when Ice Cube penned this stellar track. The video for "It Was a Good Day" follows Cube through an astonishingly peaceful day in South Central L.A. The song is exactly 4:20 in length, but I'm sure that's a mere coincidence.

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Wu-Tang Clan
Wu-Tang Clan. Bob Berg/Getty Images

80 | 'Protect Ya Neck,' Wu-Tang Clan
Unbeknownst to many, the Wu has been making body threats since '92. You best get that heady bobbin', fool.

79 | 'How I Could Just Kill a Man,' Cypress Hill
Admittedly insane-in-the-membrane rappers swap ideas on how to improve world peace.

78 | 'Dreams,' The Game
Here is Game at his most imaginative and Kanye West in top form. A hip-hop anthem is born.

77 | 'Still Not a Player,' Big Pun
The original version, "I'm Not a Player," reached No. 57 on Billboard. Pun tried again with the Joe-assisted remix "Still Not a Player" and soared to No. 24, making it the most successful public clarification in chart history.

76 | 'Mama Said Knock You Out,' LL Cool J
A lot of guys probably saw a muscular L.L. at the punching bag and decided they were long overdue in starting their own exercise programs. It was also the walk-to-the-ring song for professional boxers in the '90s.

75 | 'Nobody Beats The Biz,' Biz Markie
A stunningly amusing song by the Clown Prince of Hip-Hop.

74 | 'N.Y. State of Mind,' Nas
What "Empire State of Mind" wants to be when it grows up.

73 | 'Breathe,' Fabolous
One of the most impressive emcees of the 2000s cemented his arrival with this Just Blaze epic.

72 | 'Kick, Push,' Lupe Fiasco
A picturesque hip-hop anthem that showcases Lupe's superb storytelling.

71 | 'Ebonics,' Big L
Big L schools the world on urban lingo. I wonder how many inner-city cops were forced listen to "Ebonics" as part of their orientation.

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70-61

Lauryn-Hill.jpg
Lauryn Hill. Bernd Muller / Redferns / Getty

70 | 'Parents Just Don't Understand,' DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
The perfect soundtrack to teenage rebellion.

69 | 'Gin and Juice,' Snoop Dogg
Following 93's "Nuthin' but a G Thang," Snoop teamed up with Dr. Dre for yet another surefire hit in "Gin & Juice," off the critically lauded "DoggyStyle." All the splendid elements of West Coast g-funk are mashed up in this anthem.

68 | 'The 6th Sense,' Common
Common and DJ Premier caught this lightning in a bottle at the dawn of the century. It's a quintessential moment of uplift that owes as much to Premier's production as it does to Common's lyrical ingenuity.

67 | 'Can't Knock the Hustle,' Jay-Z featuring Mary J. Blige
Jay didn't come out of the gate banging. After two mildly received singles, the third time proved to be the charm with "Can't Knock the Hustle," a timeless tune that still gets heads bobbing decades later.

66 | 'Everything Is Everything,' Lauryn Hill
L'Boogie had so many gems on her solo debut, but "Everything Is Everything" was the stickum that held the rest of the album together.

65 | 'Umi Says,' Mos Def
A sprawling piece from Mighty Mos Def's stellar debut, "Black on Both Sides."

64 | 'Why,' Jadakiss
Jadakiss hooked up with Havoc for this moment of reflection on a wide array of social issues. The Common-assisted remix is equally fascinating. It's also the first of many rap songs to namedrop future president Barack Obama.

63 | 'Many Men (Wish Death),' 50 Cent
It's as deadly as the bullets that pierced his skin and nearly claimed his life.

62 | '93 'Til Infinity,' Souls of Mischief
Rumor has it this song has launched more rap careers than Steve Rifkind.

61 | 'Reunion,' Slum Village
It's all love in the D, as Slum Villa makes nice over a poignant J Dilla beat.

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Eminem.jpg
Eminem. Christopher Polk / Getty Images

60 | 'Raw,' Big Daddy Kane
Kane in his prime was an unparalleled brute force.

59 | 'I Got It Made,' Special Ed
In the land of one-hit wonders, this is undeniable royalty.

58 | 'Mosh,' Eminem
Eminem's shift to political consciousness gave him a new sandbox to play in. It also led to this huge smash in the midst of a controversial election.

57 | 'Tonite,' DJ Quik
It's pure proof of why Quik is one of the illest hip-hop producers of all time.

56 | 'Who Got da Props,' Black Moon
This one crawls into your head like the slug from "The Matrix" and vows to remain there.

55 | 'O.P.P.,' Naughty by Nature
Show of hands if you thought the last "P" stood for "property."

54 | 'One Mic,' Nas
"One Mic" builds up gradually and explodes into a torrent of explosive rhymes. It's one of Nas' finest moments.

53 | 'Electric Relaxation,' A Tribe Called Quest
A Crisco-slick gem from Tribe's masterpiece.

52 | 'Ridin' Dirty,' UGK
The essence of the dirty South crystallized in one seminal single. Many Southern rappers owe their success to UGK's influence.

51 | 'Wrong Side of da Tracks,' Artifacts
This is arguably the greatest graffiti-inspired song in hip-hop history.

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50-41

Kanye West
KMazur / WireImage

50 | 'The Symphony,' Marley Marl
It's an apt reminder of the days when producers picked collaborators based on poetic prowess, not politics.

49 | 'Hip-Hop 101,' Aasim
His rhymes are sharper than a ginsu. The beat, courtesy of the late, great Roc Raida, will have you reaching for Bengay from too much head motion.

48 | 'Walk This Way,' Run-DMC & Aerosmith
Long live the rap-rock collaboration that had everyone biting the kings.

47 | 'Push It,' Salt-N-Pepa
It's both a club staple and a gym favorite. You haven't fully lived until you've flexed your Kegel muscles to the tune of "Push It."

46 | 'Temperature,' Zion I featuring Talib Kweli
A straight-out-of-nowhere smash by a West Coast duo and an East Coast veteran.

45 | 'Stan,' Eminem
An account of an ill-fated psychotic Eminem worshipper. Dido's ethereal crooning adds more soot to the tale.

44 | 'Children's Story,' Slick Rick
This masterfully woven narrative is by hip-hop's greatest storyteller.

43 | 'Jesus Walks,' Kanye West
West meticulously marries the mainstream and the Messiah and makes it look easy—kinda like walking on water.

42 | 'Ante Up,' M.O.P.
This is further proof that M.O.P albums should come with a warning sticker: "Repeated listens may cause you to run into a wall, especially at the crack of dawn."

41 | 'Ms. Jackson,' OutKast
Two dope boys from the A plead their case before a baby mama's mama.

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40-31

DMX
DMX. Scott Gries / Getty

40 | 'I Seen a Man Die,' Scarface
Assuming the role of a street prophet, 'Face delivers cautionary tales about remorseless violence in the hood.

39 | 'Time's Up,' O.C.
O.C. issues an eviction letter to rap's growing crowd of faking jacks, while Buckwild serves up one of the most memorable instrumentals of the era.

38 | 'Flava in Ya Ear,' Craig Mack
Craig Mack may be a one-hit phenom, but we'll always remember him for this larger-than-life tune that combines some of the biggest enchiladas in '90s rap.

37 | 'Slippin',' DMX
It's a song about falling off the edge written by a man on his way down from rap's pantheon. "Wasn't long before I hit rock bottom," he says, an unintentional reminder about the latter part of X's career.

36 | 'Tha Crossroads,' Bone Thugs N Harmony
BTNH repackaged the original "Crossroads" in honor of mentor Eazy-E, who died in March 1995. It's a solemn hymn fit for the summer blues.

35 | 'Ill Street Blues,' Kool G Rap & DJ Polo
Inspired by the riffs from Joe Williams' "Get out of My Life Woman," producers Poke & Tone cooked up a pot of soul for G Rap to lay his mean rhymes.

34 | 'Dwyck,' Gang Starr featuring Nice & Smooth
Premier lays the smooth cuts. Guru, Greg Nice, and Smooth B put the crazy boasts on display.

33 | 'Regulate,' Warren G
"Regulate" marked Warren G's arrival, which in turn helped define the G-Funk era, a big moment in hip-hop.

32 | 'La di da di,' Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh
An outstanding performance by an imaginative Slick Rick and beatboxing great Doug E. Fresh.

31 | 'Bow Down,' Westside Connection
Cube, WC. and Mack 10 join forces to declare West Coast supremacy on this menacing track.

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Big Daddy Kane
Big Daddy Kane. Raymond Boyd / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

30 | 'Mathematics,' Mos Def
Expectations for Mos Def's solo debut, "Black on Both Sides," were sky high, following his success with Black Star. Potent tracks such as "Umi Says" and the brain-melting "Mathematics" helped Mos smash those expectations.

29 | 'Slow Down,' Brand Nubian
"Slow Down" is rife with wisecracks worth putting on a T-shirt. Sadat X spends his entire verse ridiculing crackheads: "On your crack card you're getting only As and Cs for come back."

28 | 'Ain't No Half Steppin',' Big Daddy Kane
Mr. Asiatic shows us the definition of microphone presence on arguably his biggest smash yet.

27 | 'Shook Ones Part II,' Mobb Deep
Havoc's steely production drives Prodigy's salvo of verbal threats on "Shook Ones Part II."

26 | 'The Breaks,' Kurtis Blow
Kurtis Blow's break-fest still rocks parties all across America. Suddenly, you find yourself bobbing and snapping your whole being to this.

25 | 'Get By,' Talib Kweli
Kweli's song about survival helped him make that important transition from "one half of a dynamic duo" to "strong solo artist."

24 | 'Paul Revere,' Beastie Boys
Bad boys of rap tell a fictional story of the group's formation, while Rick Rubin works up a snake charmer.

23 | 'Paper Thin,' MC Lyte
Lyte's tough talk on this song solidified her status as the new queen in town.

22 | 'Passin' Me By,' The Pharcyde
This lazy summer song is perfect for lounging on the loveseat while enjoying a cold beverage.

21 | 'Hip-Hop,' dead prez
This bouncy anthem showcased DP's versatility while underlining their commitment to activism.

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Jay Z
Al Pereira / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

20 | 'C.R.E.A.M.,' Wu-Tang Clan
Never has there been a wildly influential hip-hop song so soothing by a group so blunt as Wu-Tang's "C.R.E.A.M." That is the genius of The RZA.

19 | 'Straight Outta Compton,' N.W.A.
It wasn't just a gangsta rap anthem. It was also a vicious street classic that resonated with the frustrations of the young, black, and persecuted in L.A.

18 | 'Mind Playin' Tricks on Me,' Geto Boys
The brooding paranoia of "Mind Playing Tricks"was a metaphor for the mental disillusionment that often accompanies inner-city angst. There's no way a song this dark should've made it into heavy rotation, but it did. That it became a huge success has everything to do with Scarface's surrealism, Bushwick Bill's suicidal mindset, and Willie D's stone cold flow. It's the Geto Boys at their best.

17 | 'Scenario,' A Tribe Called Quest featuring Busta Rhymes
A summer burner and a hip-hop essential, "Scenario" is a song for all ages. When Busta comes in with his contagious energy, it's sure to set any dance floor on fire.

16 | 'Dead Presidents II,' Jay-Z
Jay-Z spells out his lofty goals while kicking some of the illest lines he's ever rhymed.

15 | 'Juicy,' The Notorious B.I.G.
"Juicy" is Biggie's most important song, with that rare moment of introspection. Biggie died three years later, but this song lives on through those who remember the days of "The Source" and Mr. Magic.

14 | 'Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang,' Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg
Snoop and Dre drove this Cali anthem all the way to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1993. This was the first single from "The Chronic," and it immediately established him as a supersonic force for decades to come.

13 | 'I Need Love,' LL Cool J
This 1987 smash, often heralded as the first true hip-hop love song, is a reminder that Cool J has been pitching his love to the ladies for a minute.

12 | 'My Philosophy,' Boogie Down Productions
The Teacha instructs his disciples to respect his fresh.

11 | 'Keep Ya Head Up,' 2Pac
"Keep Ya Head Up" is arguably 2Pac's best song ever. Over DJ Daryl's rendition of Zapp & Roger's "Be Alright," Shakur offers a message about staying ahead of the struggle and showing respect to all, regardless of gender.

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Eric B. and Rakim
Eric B. and Rakim. Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

10 | 'Planet Rock,' Afrika Bambaataa
Bambaataa was looking for the perfect beat. Instead, he found the magnetism of electro-rap and changed the game in the process.

9 | 'Fight the Power,' Public Enemy
Chuck D's politically salient rhymes combined with Bomb Squad's searing, ferocious sound to yield this revolutionary soundtrack.

8 |'Top Billin',' Audio Two
Daddy-O turns a sampling goof into a sledgehammer. Throw in the well-placed hook and you have a masterpiece.

7 | 'The World Is Yours,' Nas
Nas and Pete Rock team up to declare a revolution, which is always a good move.

6 | 'They Reminisce Over You,' Pete Rock & CL Smooth
With insane horn riffs, shimmering cymbals, soulful samples, you know it's Pete Rock. On the other end is CL Smooth, channeling controlled emotion through the mic. It's melancholy elegy at its finest.

5 | 'Lyrics of Fury,' Eric B. & Rakim
Rakim never had to rely on gimmicks to grab ears. His inimitable monotone flow took care of that, as evidenced on the impeccable "Lyrics of Fury."

4 | 'Dear Mama,' 2Pac
2Pac's ode to Afeni Shakur remains the unofficial Mother's Day hip-hop anthem. On this heartfelt piece, Pac pats Mama on the back for working tirelessly to put food on the table while trying to save him from the perils of street life.

3 | 'The Message,' Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5
"The Message" was arguably the first hip-hop song to detail the harsh realities of the streets, a sharp contrast to the feel-good disco clubs from which the group emerged.

2 | 'Rapper's Delight,' The Sugarhill Gang
It holds the dubious title of "the first hip-hop song." Its long-term influence on the culture, however, is undeniable.

1 | 'I Used to Love H.E.R.,' Common Sense
When Common dropped "Resurrection" in 1994, there was no shortage of great hip-hop albums. Still, he managed to stand out, thanks to songs such as "Resurrection" and "I Used to Love H.E.R." Before Common, no one had thought to personify hip-hop. No one thought to assign a gender to it. "I Used to Love H.E.R.," a metaphor for hip-hop's evolution, proved that Common's skill, purpose, and approach to storytelling was anything but common.