Letters to Holly

Wednesday, October 15

The Greatest Hip Hop Songs of All Time

I was the only one in my high school groups who would admit he listened to rap. Once, I tried to convert my best friend and his girlfriend (or she might have been mine; high school was weird). We were driving in his car, and I played them an LL Cool J cassette single ("Mama Said Knock You Out"), and they cut it off within a minute. The music was too repetitive, they said. Rap got big right as my house got MTV, and I watched it improve right alongside the quality of all the videos. I gravitated toward it more than metal; we were taught the latter was devil music, and rap wasn't prominent enough to warrant that attention. Also, it was fun.

VH1 aired their Top 100 Hip Hop Songs right before it aired the annual Hip Hop Honors. That show featured EVERYBODY performing songs by Slick Rick, De La Soul, Naughty By Nature, Too Short, and Cyprus Hill. It was nothing less than a party, and it took me back to the teen years. Here's the list:

01 Public Enemy / "Fight The Power"
The best thing rap has to a Dylan protest song. Public Enemy were the heaviest of acts -- even their steppers wore military uniforms. Chuck D may have the best pure voice for rap. It preaches, it accuses, and it declares.

02 Sugarhill Gang / "Rapper's Delight"
THE party rap song. It never got old, just overplayed. Also proved that disco rhythm sections could outlive the fashions. It was the first rap that played on white AM stations in my neighborhood.

03 Dr. Dre / "Nuthin But A 'G' Thang"
The epitome of Dre's Chronic sound. It was a constant Jeep speaker destroyer for the '90s. I was in college when this song, and eventually gangsta rap, overtook grunge.

04 Run-DMC ft/ Aerosmith/ "Walk This Way"
The crossover. It showed rap could be surpass mainstream novelty status. Completely salvaged Aerosmith and gave them another 20 years.

05 Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five / "The Message"
There would be no "Fight the Power" without this song. But its production dates it horribly. Rap's first great foray beyond the competitive-MC/party genre.

06 N.W.A. / "Straight Outta Compton"
The act that spooked the FBI. A superstar rap group (Ice Cube, Dre, Easy E) that eventually single-handedly launched west-coats rap.

07 Notorious B.I.G. / "Juicy"
Not even his best song. "Hypnotize"should be here.

08 Snoop Doggy Dogg / "Gin and Juice"
Snoop has ridden this wave for 15 years now. Only Chubby Checker has milked one song for longer.

09 Salt-N-Pepa / "Push It "
Rap's most popular female act might be its best (although MC Lyte had the best voice), and "Shoop" was their best song.

10 Kurtis Blow / "The Breaks"

11 Jay-Z / "Hard Knock Life"
The Rick Rubin-remix of "99 Problems"deserves to be here. This is Jay-Z's most accessible song, but it doesn't provide his best showcase for his talent. However, it's got the cleverest sample (from Annie, for God's sake) for a mainstream-chart rap.

12 L.L. Cool J / "I Can't Live Without My Radio"
I grew up with LL. Literally. He was a few years older than me when he went big, and this was part of his arrival. But his best raps -- "Phenomenon," "Around the Way Girl," " Goin' Back to Cali," "Mamma Said Knock You Out" -- all should be here.

13 Wu-Tang Clan / "C.R.E.A.M."
Wu were more important for what they did than how they did it.

14 Tupac / "I Get Around "
He's the Elvis of rap. His celebrity is bigger than his talent.

15 Eminem / "Stan"
Remember when he was THE name in rap? It's a good pick for the pure storytelling, and this used to be rap's most precious commodity. An MC could work the crowd, but a true artist could stretch beyond chants and boasts. This pick is ultimately a better one than "Lose Yourself," which almost became an anthem.

16 Missy Elliott / "Get Ur Freak On"
Missy can do no wrong. No wrong can she do.

17 Sir Mix-A-Lot / "Baby Got Back"
Its status outside the top ten shows rap is more than the stereotypes. But the pure fun of it earns it a Top 20 spot.

18 50 Cent / "In Da Club"
19 Ice T / "Colors"

20 Kanye West ft/ Jamie Foxx / "Gold Digger"
Exactly where it should be.

21 Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force/ "Planet Rock"
Bambaataa is a large influence on rap production and content. He's rap's Bob Marley.

22 Naughty By Nature / "OPP"
Tight lyric flow, great percussion, and a great Jackson Five sample.

23 Outkast / "B.O.B."
Surprised they're not higher.

24 Eric B and Rakim / "Paid in Full" 25 Fugees / "Killing Me Softly"
26 MC Hammer / "U Can't Touch This"
27 Beastie Boys / "Hold it Now, Hit it"
Not even their best song. Nowhere near it.

28 Ice Cube / "It Was A Good Day" 30 Digital Underground / "The Humpty Dance"
The beat alone earns a spot on the list, but the band was better than this novelty tune.

30 Tribe Called Quest / "Check the Rhime"
31 Kool Moe Dee / "How Ya Like Me Now"

32 Puff Daddy & The Family ft/ Notorious B.I.G., Lil' Kim and The Lox/ "It's All About The Benjamins"

33 Bone Thugs-N-Harmony / "Tha Crossroads"
"Over. Rated. Clapclap. Clapclapclap."

34 Cypress Hill / "Insane In The Brain"
35 Queen Latifah ft. Monie Love / "Ladies First"

36 Nelly / "Hot In Herre"

37 Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock / "It Takes Two"
Deserves to be in the top five. A timeless jam.

38 Coolio / "Gangsta's Paradise"
39 Tone-Loc / "Wild Thing"

40 Run-DMC / "It's Like That"

41 Funky 4 + 1 / "That's the Joint"

42 Roxanne Shante / "Roxanne's Revenge"

43 Game, The ft. 50 Cent / "Hate It or Love It"
44 Method Man ft/ Mary J. Blige / "I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need to Get By"

45 Geto Boys / "Mind Playing Tricks On Me"

46 De La Soul / "Me, Myself, And I"

Their biggest hit isn't the best song on the CD 3 Feet High and Rising. That's a classic album with no dead spots. The creative sampling is jaw-dropping. I mean, four black kids using Steely Dan and Hall and Oates?

47 Young MC / "Bust A Move"
48 Nas / "One Love"

49 Boogie Down Productions / "My Philosophy"

50 Lil' Wayne / "Tha Block Is Hot"

51 Doug E. Fresh & the Get Fresh Crew / "The Show"

52 Foxy Brown ft. Jay-Z - "I'll Be"

53 Lox ft. DMX and Lil' Kim / "Money, Power, Respect"

54 MC Lyte / "Cha Cha Cha"

55 Terror Squad ft/ Fat Joe and Remy / "Lean Back"

56 Busta Rhymes / "Woo-Ha! Got You All In Check"

57 Big Daddy Kane / "I Get the Job Done"
As simple and old-school as rap can get. But it's infectious.

58 Ludacris ft. Shawna/ "What's Your Fantasy"
59 Ol' Dirty Bastard / "Shimmy Shimmy Ya"

60 L.L. Cool J / "I Need Love"

61 Slick Rick / "Children's Story"

62 Digable Planets / "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)"
It got old really damn quick. The lack of a respectable chorus hurts this song a lot.

63 Kid 'n Play / "Rollin' With Kid N Play"
64 The Roots / "What they Do"

65 Spoonie Gee and The Treacherous Three / "Love Rap"

66 House Of Pain / "Jump Around"

Your Sis remembers kids in Ireland mimicking this song.

67 Mase / "Feel So Good"
68 T.I. / "What You Know"

69 Common / "I Used to Love H.E.R."

70 3(rd) Bass / "Pop Goes the Weasel"

The best song to sample Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer," and then they mixed it with "Eminence Front" by The Who. Clever. It also is a classic MC-diss song.

71 Whodini / "Freaks Come Out at Night"
72 J.J. Fad / "Supersonic"

73 Black Sheep / "The Choice Is Yours"

73 EPMD / "You Gots To Chill"

75 Lil' Kim ft. Lil' Cease/ "Crush on You"

76 Big Punisher ft. Joe/ "Still Not A Player"

77 Cold Crush Brothers / "Cold Crush Bros. at the Dixie"

78 Arrested Development / "Tennessee"

79 DMX / "Ruff Ryders' Anthem (Stop Drop)"
80 Three 6 Mafia ft. Paula Campbell/ "Hard Out Here For A
81 PM Dawn / "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss"
PM Dawn surpassed De La Soul as hippie rappers, which took some effort. But they made some great singles.

82 Chubb Rock / "Treat 'Em Right"
83 2 Live Crew / "Me So Horny"

84 UTFO / "Roxanne Roxanne"

85 Black Star / "Definition"

86 Heavy D. and the Boyz / "Now That We Found Love"

Heavy D. is the best speed-rapper. Period. He deserved to be a bigger star.

87 Wyclef Jean ft. Refugee All Stars / "We Tryin' to Stay Alive"
Everything from The Carnival is great.

88 Jungle Brothers / "What U Waitin' 4"
89 Cam'ron / "Oh Boy"

90 Pete Rock & CL Smooth / "They Reminisce Over You(T.R.O.Y)"

91 Chamillionaire ft. Krayzie Bone / "Ridin'"

92 Yo-Yo / "Can't Play with my Yo-Yo"

93 N.E.R.D. ft. Lee Harvey and Vida / "Lapdance"

94 Master P ft. Sikk, Fiend, Mia-x and Mystical / "Make 'Em
Say Ugh"
95 L'Trimm / "Cars With The Boom"

96 DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince / "Parents Just Don't Understand"
97 Eve / "Who's that Girl"

98 Warren G ft. Nate Dogg / "Regulate"

99 Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz ft/ Ying Yang Twins / "Get
Your Sis loves this song. She's insane.

100 Biz Markie / "Just A Friend"
So goofy, it attains greatness.

Picture of the Day
The Imperial version of Public Enemy. Vader is kinda-sorta-almost wearing a clock.

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