90s Hip-Hop: The 105 Best Rap Songs From The Nineties

90s Hip-Hop

Hip-hop from the 1990s is commonly referred to as the golden age of rap music. After the music genre emerged in the ghettos of New York in the early 1970s, it took barely two decades for hip-hop to assert itself against established music genres such as pop, rock, dance, country, and tech.

At the beginning of the ’90s, Hip-Hop had reached the center of society, and countless rappers formed and developed the music genre further. This gave rise to some very successful sub-genres such as pop-rap (L.L. Cool J, OutKast, Vanilla Ice), gangsta rap (Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg, Nas, The Notorious B), and rap music (Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg, Nas, The Notorious B.I.G. and Warren G) or Political Rap (Public Enemy).

Gangsta rap, in particular, was viral at the time. At that time, a real war broke out in the U.S.A. between the Westcoast and the Eastcoast. The climax culminated in the murder of 2Pac (Tupac Shakur) and Notorious B.I.G.

The 1990s produced not superstars but legends! Our list of the best rap songs from the 1990s includes 105 tracks.

(At the end of the article, we’ve created a Spotify playlist for you with all the songs listed here.)

1st place: Wu-Tang Clan – Triumph

The six-minute track was released on the album “Wu-Tang Forever” in 1997. The album immediately reached number one on the charts.

With over 600.000 units sold in the first week, the album went four times platinum. The song features verses from all members of the Wu-Tang Clan and, despite its long-running time, does not feature a hook. “Triumph” is often referred to as the group’s magnum opus, which is fitting, as it features all of the members at their best. Wu-Tang Clan’s best song earned the number one spot for the best rap song in the 1990s.

2nd place: 2Pac – Dear Mama

In 1995 “Dear Mama” was released on the album “Me Against The World”. It is most notable for its soulful and thoughtful lyrics, which represent a stark change in 2Pac’s style.

The album sold almost 250 copies in its first week.000 copies sold, remained at the top of the album charts for four weeks, and secured double platinum. “Dear Mama,” where 2Pac thanks his mother in particular for her care, reached number nine on the singles chart.

3rd place: Nas – NY State Of Mind

The very personal song of the native New Yorker is one of his best songs. It was released on the album “Illmatic,” which reached #12 on the album charts in the U.S. in 1994 and spent 19 weeks there.

The album was the cornerstone of Nas’ career, and then in 2001, the album went platinum after he became better known through his later albums. Nevertheless, this song about his youth on the tough streets of New York remains his masterpiece.

4th place: Notorious BIG – Juicy

“Juicy” was released on Biggie’s debut album “Ready To Die” in 1994 and is one of the best hip-hop tracks of the 1990s. It sold over six million copies and therefore went six times platinum. “Juicy” itself made it to number 27 on the singles chart. Here the Brooklyn rapper talks about his life before and after success.

Especially the challenges he had to overcome and the loyalty of his friends are important themes.

5th place: Ice Cube – It Was A Good Day

The most famous solo track of the member of N.W.A. is “It Was A Good Day,” which was released in 1992 on the album “The Predator.” The album reached number one in the charts, and the hit reached number 15 in the singles charts. In the song, Ice Cube talks about a good day in the L.A. neighborhood of Compton, rapping about many topics such as friendship, sex, family, and police brutality.

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Although the hip-hop song conveys good vibes, the many dangers of life for blacks in America’s cities are evident in the lyrics.

6th place: Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg – Nuthin’ But A G Thang

Legendary producer Dr. Dre brought Snoop Dogg on board to record one of the most legendary rap tracks of all time. It appeared on Dre’s first solo album, “The Cronic,” in 1992.

The album went triple platinum within a year. The rap song is one of the most influential rap tracks of all time. Dre and Snoop Dogg describe their life as rappers, marked by women, violence, and music.

The hip-hop song is also a declaration of love to their home in Compton, where they both grew up.

7th place: Nas – The World Is Yours

“The World Is Yours” was released by Nas a month after releasing his “Illmatic” album. Whether this track or “N.Y. State Of Mind” is the New York rapper’s biggest hit is often debated. One thing is for sure, though: “The World Is Yours” is one of the best rap songs of all time.

The song reached its highest position at number 14 on the Hot Rap Singles chart. While many songs in “Illmatic” describe the poor living conditions of his youth, “The World Is Yours” provides a comparatively optimistic outlook on Nas’ future. He also uses the track to mention personal idols like Indian resistance fighters and later president Gandhi.

8th place: Warren G ft. Nate Dogg – Regulate

“Regulate” was released in 1994 on “Regulate…G Funk Era”. It is the first album by Warren G, who is now considered one of the pioneers of West Coast hip-hop. Nate Dogg, the cousin of Snoop Dogg, is featured on the track. The album was able to reach number two on the charts, while “Regulate,” as the most famous song, was also able to get position two on the singles charts.

The album went triple platinum. The hit song tells about a night in Long Beach, California when a lot of things go wrong. According to Warren G, the track is based on true events.

9th place: 2Pac – California Love

“California Love” is 2Pac’s most successful single, and with his impressive discography, that fact alone should put the track on countless best-of lists. But not only that. The rap song is one of the best party songs of all time and perfectly captures the feeling of the west coast and especially southern California.

Dr. Dre is also featured on “California Love,” delivering one of the best verses of his entire career. This track marked 2Pac’s comeback after being released from prison just before the record was made.

10th place: Wu-Tang Clan – CREAM

“CREAM,” or “Cash Rules Everything Around Me,” is probably the best-known hit by the Staten Island, New York-based group Wu-Tang Clan. On the album “Entering The Wu-Tang,” where the track appeared, you can also find other masterpieces like “Protect Ya Neck” or “Method Man.” The album made it to number 41 on the charts.

The album went platinum in 1995 after its release in 1993, “CREAM” went gold. Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, and Method Man are featured on this track. The hip-hop song chronicles the lives of the group’s members in Staten Island, who were affected by Drugs and violence were marked.

11th place: Notorious BIG – Big Poppa

From one greatness of New York hip-hop to another: The Notorious BIG is one of the best rappers of all time, and Big Poppa is one of his biggest hits. The track was released as a single for Biggie’s first studio album, “Ready To Die.”

The hip-hop song hit like a bomb and ranked number six on the Billboard Hot 100. Over 800.000 copies were sold, the single went platinum with it. The legendary flow of the New Yorker makes each of his tracks a pleasure to listen to, “Big Poppa” is one of the best examples. In “Big Poppa,” Biggie raps about his success, talent, and romantic conquests.

12th place: OutKast – ATLiens

The track from the same name, “ATLiens,” was released as a single in 1996. OutKast reached number two on the U.S. album charts; the hit “ATLiens” made it to number 35 of the Billboard Hot 100. The album went platinum twice.

The title references the rappers’ birthplace, Atlanta, and the word alien, which describes a feeling of strangeness. The beats throughout the album are very futuristic with partial gospel influences. The song’s lyrics are about the lives of the members of OutKast, which is always mixed with sci-fi elements to emphasize the feeling of otherness.

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13th place: Gang Starr – Mass Appeal

The rap duo from Brooklyn released one of their biggest and most successful hits in 1994 with “Mass Appeal. The 90s hip-hop song was released on the album “Hard To Earn,” which was critically acclaimed and reached number 25 on the album charts, “Mass Appeal” was the most praised song. The track’s title should be considered critical for commercialized music for success and no longer comes from the heart.

Ironically, “Mass Appeal” became Gang Starr’s first big hit; the beat, recorded as a parody of a standard beat, helped the track achieve its success. Nevertheless, the duo has not allowed itself to be commercialized.

14th place: Pete Rock & CL Smooth – They Reminisce Over You

The long collaboration of Pete Rock and CL Smooth reached a spectacular climax with “TROY- They Reminisce Over You.” Their first studio album together, “Mecca And The Soul Brother,” featured the rap song as a single.

While the album reached № 43 on the Billboard 200 album chart, “They Reminisce Over You” made it to № 58 on the U.S. singles chart and as high as № 1 on the hot rap singles chart. The track’s content is very personal; Pete Rock processes the death of his friend Trouble, Roy, in it. The first two verses are shared by Rock and Smooth, both about their childhood and the importance of a happy childhood.

15th place: Geto Boys – Mind Playing Tricks On Me

“Mind Playing Tricks On Me” is from the album “We Can’t Be Stopped,” released in 1992. The Houston, Texas group released the track as a single, having the most significant career success to that point. “We Can’t Be Stopped” made it to #25 on the album charts, with the song itself climbing to #23 on the singles chart. The track deals with post-traumatic behavioral disorders, as they can occur, for example, after war missions.

The song offers a glimpse into the mind of someone with these issues and their difficulties in daily life.

16th place: Mos Def – Mathematics

“Black On Both Sides” was the name of Mos Def’s first album, and here you can also find one of his best songs. “Mathematics” didn’t make the singles chart itself but played a significant role in the album, causing it to #25 on the chart and going gold a short time later. In “Mathematics,” Mos Def raps about the many injustices and hardships black people endure in the U.S. He supports these statements with statistics that he includes in the lyrics, which is where the name of the song comes from.

17th place: Blackstreet ft. Dr. Dre & Queen Pen – No Diggity

“No Diggity” by Blackstreet was one of the biggest hits in the rap genre of the late 1990s. The popularity of Dr. Dre, who is featured on the rap song, was instrumental in the single’s success. The hit was a worldwide success and made it number one on the singles charts in the U.S.A., New Zealand, and Canada.

The track also went platinum in the U.S.A., New Zealand, and the U.K. The song is about a man who falls in love with a woman.

18th place: OutKast – Player’s Ball

“Player’s Ball” was the first single by Outkast, released in 1993. The 90s hip-hop song was released two weeks before their first album, “Southerplayalisticadillacmuzik.” The rap song is about a gathering of pimps in Atlanta.

It describes the wild parties that are celebrated there.

19th place: Mobb Deep – Shook Ones, Part II

In 1995 the album “The Infamous,” the second studio album of Mobb Deep, was released. The two rappers from Queens, New York, thus brought one of the most influential Rap albums of the 90s, and “Shook Ones, Part II” is the best track on the album. It also reached number 59 on the singles chart, the best ranking of any song on the album, which itself went gold.

The track is about the hard life of teenagers in the inner cities of the USA. Street fighting by gangs, poverty, and drug use are dealt with in “Shook Ones, Part II”.

Number 20: Mobb Deep – Survival Of The Fittest

“Survival Of The Fittest” is a single from the “The Infamous” album released in 1995. Besides the album’s success, it was “Survival Of The Fittest” that made the duo famous in the worldwide hip-hop scene. In the Billboard Hot 100, the hip-hop song made it to number 69, a remarkable success for a hip-hop track at that time. As the title suggests, the rap song is about the Darwinian conditions in New York’s poor neighborhoods.

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Many personal experiences of the two rappers flowed into the lyrics, which seems authentic and genuine. Many critics consider this hit the pinnacle of New York hip-hop.

The ranks 21-105 of the best rap songs from the 1990s:

Each song is linked via the title with the corresponding music video.

Place: Listen: Artist: Year:
21. Sabotage Beastie Boys 1994
22. The World Is Yours Nas 1994
23. Hypnotize The Notorious BIG 1997
24. Gin & Juice Snoop Dogg 1994
25. Jump Around House of Pain 1992
26. The Humpty Dance Digital Underground 1990
27. My Name Is Eminem 1999
28. Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) Jay Z 1998
29. Killing Me Softly with His Song Fugees 1996
30. 911 Is A Joke Public Enemy 1990
31. Let’s Talk About Sex Salt-N-Pepa 1990
32. Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See Busta Rhymes 1997
33. Concrete Schoolyard Jurassic 5 1998
34. Gangsta’s Paradise Coolio ft. LV 1995
35. U Can’t Touch This MC Hammer 1990
36. Can I Get A… Jay-Z feat. Amil (of Major Coins) & Ja Rule 1998
37. Scenario A Tribe Called Quest 1992
38. The Choice Is Yours Black Sheep 1991
39. Still Not A Player Big Pun feat. Joe 1998
40. Shimmy Shimmy Ya Ol’ Dirty Bastard 1995
41. Insane In The Brain Cypress Hill 1993
42. The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) Missy Elliott 1997
43. So What’cha Want Beastie Boys 1992
44. Now That We Found Love Heavy D and The Boyz 1991
45. Whatta Man Salt-N-Pepa ft. En Vogue 1993
46. Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat) Digable Planets 1993
47. I Wish Skee-lo 1991
48. Summertime DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince 1991
49. I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need To Get By Method Man 1995
50. Player’s Ball Outkast 1994
51. Baby Got Back Sir Mix-A-Lot 1992
52. O.P.P. Naughty By Nature 1991
53. Mama Said Knock You Out LL Cool J 1990
54. I’ll Be Missing You Puff Daddy ft. Faith Evans & 112 1997
55. Ruff Ryders’ Anthem DMX 1998
56. Back That Thang Up Juvenile 1999
57. Mo Money Mo Problems The Notorious B.I.G. 1997
58. I Used to Love H.E.R. Common 1994
59. Hip Hop Hooray Naughty By Nature 1993
60. Sugar Hill AZ 1995
61. Tennessee Arrested Development 1992
62. Hit ‘Em Up 2Pac 1996
63. Flava in Ya Ear Craig Mack 1994
64. It’s All About the Benjamins Puff Daddy 1997
65. N.Y. State of Mind Nas 1994
66. Know The Ledge Eric B & Rakim 1992
67. Rosa Parks OutKast 1998
68. Take It Personal Gang Starr 1992
69. Electric Relaxation A Tribe Called Quest 1993
70. I Ain’t Mad At Cha 2Pac 1996
71. Elevators (Me & You) OutKast 1996
72. Make em Say Uhhh Master P 1997
73. Above The Clouds Gang Starr 1998
74. Welcome to the Terrordome Public Enemy 1990
75. Sound Of The Police KRS One 1993
76. Protect Ya Neck Wu-Tang Clan 1993
77. Burn Hollywood Burn Public Enemy 1990
78. Doo Wop (That Thing) Lauryn Hill 1998
79. Ebonics Big L 1999
80. Nas is Like Nas 1999
81. Time’s Up O.C. 1994
82. If I Ruled The World Nas 1996
83. Renee Lost Boyz 1996
84. Afro Puffs The Lady of Rage 1994
85. What They Do The Roots 1996
86. Step Into A World KRS One 1997
87. Bonita Applebum A Tribe Called Quest 1990
88. All That I Got Is You Ghostface Killah 1996
89. When I B On Tha Mic Rakim 1999
90. Keep Ya Head Up 2Pac 1993
91. I Seen a Man Die Scarface 1994
92. 93 ‘Til Infinity Souls Of Mischief 1993
93. Check The Rhyme A Tribe Called Quest 1991
94. Respiration ft Common Black Star 1998
95. Sky’s The Limit Notorious B.I.G. 1997
96. Dead Presidents II Jay Z 1996
97. Liquid Swords GZA 1995
98. Passin’ Me By The Pharcyde 1992
99. Crooklyn Crooklyn Dodgers 1994
100. Luchini Camp Lo 1997
101. Original Gangster Ice T 1991
102. I Got 5 On It Luniz 1995
103. Definition Black Star 1998
104. Slow Down Brand Nubian 1990
105. Ha! Juvenile 1998

Rap songs 90s Spotify playlist

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