Are you a music lover? Do you listen to music all the time and know almost every song that comes on? Did you grow up or listen to what would be considered the oldies? Do you listen to a specific genre or a lot of different ones? I love listening to music all the time and I can remember almost every song after I hear it two times.
My favorite genre to listen to is hip hop throughout the years, but my favorite hip-hop songs are from the 90s. Take a trip with me through 50 hip-hop songs from the 90s. In my opinion, these are the best hip-hop songs of the 90s.
1. Wu-Tang Clan – “C.R.E.A.M”
“C.R.E.A.M.” (an acronym for “Cash Rules Everything Around Me”) is about how money is in charge of every individual’s life and the unfairness and ridiculousness of capitalism. It was also written by the Wu-Tang Clan themselves.
2. The Notorious B.I.G. – “Juicy”
B.I.G. raps about his humble beginnings and unlikely rise to fame. He grew up in Brooklyn at a time when rap was just emerging in that area and widely considered a passing fad. Marly Marl and Mr. Magic, who he mentions, are two of many that greatly influenced him to do hip-hop.
3. Dr. Dre ft Snoop Dogg – “Nuthin But a G Thang”
This is a gangsta rap classic dealing with the lifestyle of music, money, and violence (the “G” stands for “Gangsta”). These were all topics Dr. Dre covered in his band N.W.A, but this track has a very different feel. Snoop Dogg changed the game by coming hard with a mellow flow that contested well with Dre’s gruff delivery.
4. Snoop Dogg – “Ginn & Juice”
“Ginn & Juice,” tells the narrative of a party consisting of gin and juice, smoking marijuana, and many sexual interactions. It is considered to be a classic in the mainstream media, as well as arguably having one of the best hip-hop hooks of all time.
5. The Notorious B.I.G. ft Faith Evan – “One More Chance/Stay With Me Remix”
This particular track can also be said to have been key in helping to establish another subtheme in rap music, that being artists bragging about their sexual prowess. In other words, Biggie is advertising his “good love” making skills. The chorus is based on a romantic interest pleading with him to take her back.
6. Ice Cube – “It Was A Good Day”
The track is fairly self-explanatory as it simply details Ice Cube’s ideal day. He was at the top of the rap game and he mostly rapped about gangsta stuff, so he wanted to rap about all the good days that he had.
7. LL Cool J – “Mama Said Knock You Out”
He was having trouble finding direction with his songwriting and when his grandma heard about his struggle, she gave him the simple advice to “knock them out”. He wrote the lyrics about staying on top of the rap game. LL’s lyrics are purely metaphorical, but around this time real violence within hip-hop, and the community was becoming a major problem.
8. DMX – “Ruff Ryders Anthem”
The track was originally rejected by DMX because it initially sounded like some rock ‘n’ roll track and he needed some hip-hop track. He had said that it wasn’t good enough. The producer Swizz Beats, who created the track, said that they would make it hood. DMX went in and did it and they were just hyping him up.
9. Queen Latifah – “U.N.I.T.Y”
The lyrics in gangsta rap are often very derogatory toward women, who were commonly referred to as “bitch” or “ho”. Queen Latifah takes a stand in this song and encourages black women to respect themselves and not accept the abuse from men who try to put them down.
10. Snoop Dogg – “Who Am I (What’s My Name)”
Snoop Dogg introduces himself in this track, his first single as a lead artist. We learn he’s from Long Beach, he hangs with Dr. Dre, and that he’s into smoking weed and making money. He was trying to be a rapper on the song, not a gangsta because he was trying to show style and cadence.
11. Eminem – “My Name Is”
Eminem uses this song as a manifesto of who he is, where he’s from, what he thinks about everything, and by the end of the song, you’ve either bought in or not. Eminem and Dr. Dre finished the song in only an hour or two and even though it was the first they worked together in the studio, they had an instant connection.
12. KRS-One – “Sound of Da Police”
The popular rap song, performed in KRS-One’s signature in-your-face-yet-professional style, controversially compares the current-day police to slave overseers of the past and accuses police of profiling. The basic message of this song is that “black people are still slaves up till today”.
13. Salt-N-Pepa – “Shoop”
They rhyme about a man who gets it done for them and all the freaky things they are willing to do for him. The lyrics are rather racy, but the loping beating somehow took the edge off lines like “Lick him like a lollipop should be licked”, and “I wanna know how does it hang?” This kind of stuff exists mainly in the realm of male rappers.
14. Missy Elliott – “The Rain”
This was the first time the rap icon worked with Hyper Williams. The pair were already comfortable enough with each other to create something that would set a precedent for the future and tone for the rest of Missy’s career. Her outfit as a symbol of power was the black trash-bag-like inflated jumpsuit that she loved.
15. DMX – “Slippin”
DMX began abusing hard drugs at the age of 14, long before he became a professional rapper, that is not solely what this song is about. It begins with the hardships he has faced in life in general, but more precisely he recognizes that life is tough not only for himself but also for many others.
16. 2Pac – “Dear Mama”
He wrote it for his mom even though she was often absent from his life due to being a part of the Black Panther party and then due to being a crack cocaine addict. He was kicked out at the age of 17 and did not have contact with his mom until years later when he was a well-known musician.
17. Wu-Tang Clan – “Triumph”
This track is about the Wu-Tang Clan using hip-hop and a swarm of killer bees to infect New York City’s five boroughs with “true Hip-Hop”. The video for the song ends with the final crowd transforming into a mass of bees that go into the sky forming the W in front of the moon.
18. Common – “I Used To Love H.E.R”
This track initially sounds like Common is talking about a girl, but he’s really talking about hip-hop. H.E.R is an acronym for Hip-Hop in its Essence is Real. He felt that it was getting filled with phoniness and that nobody was being true to it being real anymore.
19. KRS-One – “Mc’s Act Like They Don’t Know”
This song is about how many rappers who sound good on records are actually very poor live performers.
20. Public Enemy ft Ice Cube & Big Daddy Kane- “Burn Hollywood Burn”
This song takes the movie industry to task for its portrayal of black culture. They aren’t calling for sensitivity training or diversity initiatives since they have a more radical solution, burn it down. It’s a metaphor but it gets the point across.
21. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – “They Reminisce Over You”
This song is dedicated to the memory of Troy Dixon, who was known as Trouble T- Roy. Dixon was a good friend of Pete Rock and CL Smooth, he was a member of Heavy D & The Boyz. Dixon died in 1990 after an accidental fall at a show in Indianapolis.
22. 2Pac – “I Ain’t Mad at Cha”
This song follows 2Pac’s interactions with people that he either has issues or has something against him.
23. Nas ft Lauryn Hill – “If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)”
He focuses on injustice in the black community. If he ruled the world, there’d be an equal opportunity and justice, and he’d start by releasing prisoners.
24. Geto Boys – “Mind Playing Tricks On Me”
The song is a rare gangsta rap that explores the dark side of thug life: paranoia and depression. As each of the Geto Boys takes a verse, we hear about their troubles and their deepest fears.
25. Nas – “N.Y. State Of Mind”
The song consists of Nas rapping about the dangerous environment in New York City.
26. Nas – “The World Is Yours”
The track deals with the struggles that Nas faced growing up in New York City. Some of the challenges he raps about overcoming include poverty, violence, and racist cops.
27. OutKast – “Rosa Parks”
This song is about the entertainment industry. Rosa Parks is not actually mentioned in the lyrics and has nothing to do with the song.
28. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – “Summertime”
This song is the perfect song to jam out to in the summer. It’s the perfect song for summer and describes it very well.
29. Wu-Tang Clan – “Protect Ya Neck”
This track was the first Wu-Tang Clan release. The Staten Island group financed the recording themselves and pressed a 12 single containing three versions of this song. They took care of distribution and promotion on their own also.
30. OutKast – “Player’s Ball”
The song discusses the nature of living in the South of the U.S and growing up within hip-hop culture. The title refers to a traditional gathering of pimps in Atlanta.
31. Naughty By Nature – “O.P.P”
The initials O.P.P stand for the phrase, “other people’s property”. It actually stands for something more offensive and the band used the phrase ‘other people’s property as a euphemistic way to refer to the more offensive phrase.
32. Mos Def – “Mathematics”
Mos Def walks us through a series of increasingly huge numbers in order to paint a picture of some of the key social injustices that he saw around him in the late 1990s.
34. Luniz – “I Got 5 On It”
Rather than rapping about being drug kingpins. Luniz talks about being broke and trying to get ahold of some cheap weed.
35. Ice T – “Original Gangster”
On this track, he stakes out his position, explaining that where he comes from, you have to pick your battles, and you’d best not battle him.
36. Eric B & Rakim – “Know The Ledge”
This song is one of the most well-known showcases of Rakim’s storytelling ability. He shares the first-person narrative of a neighborhood thug and drug dealer who is forced to come to grips with his violent and reckless lifestyle.
37. 2Pac – “Keep Ya Head Up”
This may be described as an ode to especially black women and is dedicated to the memory of Latasha Harlins. Latasha Harlins was a 15-year-old black girl who was shot dead in L.A by Soon Ja Du, a Korean store owner.
38. Beastie Boys – “Intergalactic”
They got to space in this song with alien-sounding vocals created with a vocoder, an electronic device originally created to encode speech. The original space-rock party jam. highly influential on Beastie Boys, was “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force, with a vocal that sounds like a vocoder but is actually a Lexicon effects unit.
39. Black Star – “Definition”
This song is Black Star’s version of violence in hip-hop and their dislike of it. The track was released two years after the death of hip-hop legends 2Pac and Biggie Smalls.
40. Dr. Dre – “Still D.R.E”
This song was Dre’s message that he had returned to prominence in the rap/hip-hop world. This song reestablished himself as a top-notch rapper as well as a world-class producer.
41. Beastie Boys – “Pass The Mic”
Passing the mic is a hip-hop tradition dating back to the 70s when crews of rappers would share a microphone with each doing their rhymes before passing it to the next person. In this song, Beastie Boys pass the mic. taking turns rapping about their come-up and wondering if they’ll ever meet Stevie Wonder.
42. Ice Cube – “Jackin For Beats”
This song is all about taking sampled beats from other songs and remixing them together to form a unique funky beat and bass for Ice Cube to drop his lyrics on.
43. Bone Thugs N Harmony – “Tha Crossroads”
This song was dedicated to Eazy-E, a rapper and music mogul who was a member of the group NWA. He died of AIDS in 1995. Bone Thugs N Harmony were signed to his label. Ruthless Records.
44. 2Pac – “So Many Tears”
This song is known as one of 2Pac’s most sad and soulful songs, as he was rapping about pain and suffering.
45. A Tribe Called Quest – “Bonita Applebum”
Around the time this song came out, degrading women was becoming fashionable in hip-hop as were rhymes about violence. A Tribe Called Quest bucked this trend with “Bonita,” a deft and understated song that celebrates the girl.
46. Wu-Tang Clan – “Da Mystery of Chessboxin'”
The song is about many things and it could be a mystery to people. It talks about betrayal, aids, God, and so on. What it all means is a true mystery which is like chessboxin’ since the art of it is a mystery to most people.
47. Common ft Lauryn Hill – “Retrospect For Life”
Common raps about a woman he got pregnant and implores to have the baby. With guest vocals by Lauryn Hill, this song takes a stance against abortion.
48.Xzibit – “Paparazzi”
Xzibit uses this song to call out all the rappers who do this for fame and money.
49. Jay Z – “Hard Knock Life”
Based on “It’s The Hard Knock Life” from Annie. Jay Z transposes this into a song about how he overcame life in the ghetto to achieve massive success, something that would be a common theme in his raps.
50. Run DMC ft Pete Rock & CL Smooth – “Down With The King”
Run DMC use this song to create a gangsta style for their music. The beats are less corny, less fink-inspired, and more jazzy and sinister. It also has ominous basslines, organs, and delayed horn samples, and the vocals are more raucous and angry.
This is the list of my favorite 50 hip-hop songs from the 90s. I hope that you liked it, but is perfectly fine if you don’t because everyone’s opinions vary based on who they are and what they like. If you like hip-hop as much as I do then I believe that you will like the list that I created for you.
Thank you for reading and again I hope that you liked the list I came up with of my favorite 50 hip-hop songs from the 90s.