The playlist of the best rap songs of all time contains pieces from the first rap artists like Grandmaster Flash, Sugarhill Gang, Run-DMC, or Beastie Boys over rap legends like N.W.A., The Notorious B.I.G. or Tupac Shakur to today’s stars such as Eminem, 50 Cent, Drake and Kayne.
The beginnings of hip-hop are in the late 1970s. Commercially successful in the early 1980s to find. Rap established itself predominantly in the black ghettos of New York. There rapped about problems with crime and drugs at so-called block parties.
In 1982, “The Message” was released by the hip-hop group Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five. The rap song is about the hard everyday life on the street. In 1979 Sugarhill Gang had a mega-hit with “Rapper’s Delight,” a pure party song and exceptionally well received in clubs.
In the 90s the gangsta rap became extremely popular. At that time, a real war broke out in the U.S.A. between the Westcoast and the Eastcoast. The climax culminated with the Murder of 2Pac (Tupac Shakur) and Notorious B.I.G.
Other gangsta rappers include u. a. 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre.
In the new millennium, the rapper Eminem finally took over the hip-hop business and, according to Billboard magazine, became the most successful musician of the 2000s in the United States. Eminem was followed by today’s rap stars, such as Jay-Z, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar.
Our list of the best hip-hop songs includes a good mix from the most diverse decades of hip-hop history.
(At the end of the article, we’ve created a Spotify playlist for you with all the songs listed here.)
01. Rapper’s Delight – Sugarhill Gang
Who doesn’t know it, the iconic music at the beginning of one of the first songs popularized the genre of rap? The Sugarhill Gang was one of the first crews to establish themselves with spoken lyrics on beats, some even trade “Rapper’s Delight” as the first-ever rap song.
In any case, the Sugar Hill Gang used the first documented sample in the song. Sampling is a musical technique in which a specific music sequence is taken from another piece and used for a completely new beat. The sample used here comes from “Good Times,” a disco hit by “Chic.”
So since 1979, this song has been part of every hip-hop fan’s standard repertoire and has been a seminal influence on the genre. By the way: The Sugarhill Gang was put together by a woman. Sylvia Robinson formed Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank, and Master Gee and recorded “Rapper’s Delight.”
02. Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio feat. L.V.
Rap is often about dangerous lives and the gangster image of the performers. Coolio and L.V. created the ultimate anthem for life as an outlaw with this song. The lyrics and melody are based on Stevie Wonder’s song “Pasttime Paradise.”
It depicts the lives of people growing up in less privileged areas, also called “ghettos” in slang. These people reflect on missed opportunities and a life perceived as wasted in the song. The constant feeling of insecurity and the inability to live a quiet life is evident.
Thematically, the song largely coincides with the film “Dangerous Minds,” for which it was written as the theme song.
The film’s subject matter and the haunting sound of the song convinced the fans because the song was number one in the German singles charts for six weeks. The song is Coolio’s biggest hit worldwide.
03. Changes – 2pac
The song “Changes” deals with the serious issues of hip-hop. It refers to the fight against drug crime, racism between white and black people in the U.S., and the difficulty of escaping a life of poverty.
Police violence and life in gangs are also themes. As he was called in real life, Tupac Shakur had experienced both in real life as well. These themes in an impressive lyric about the reality of life in the “ghetto” met with great interest worldwide, as the song was able to place almost worldwide in the charts and established 2pac as a world star.
04. Get Ur Freak On – Missy Elliot
Missy Elliot proves that a woman’s rap song can also be a real hit with this track. Produced by her and producer-star Timbaland, the song, which uses Punjabi melodies, became an international hit.
Due to its great success, it was even used as a soundtrack for the movie “Lara Croft.”
Rolling Stone magazine listed the song among the best songs of the decade. By the way, the man speaking in the intro is speaking Japanese: he says that now everyone should start dancing wildly and making noise together.
05. Ni**as In Paris – Jay Z, Kanye West
This hit from their joint album “Watch The Throne” has finally propelled Jay-Z and Kanye West into the Olympus of hip-hop. It uses samples of several hip-hop hits at once, such as “Victory” by Puff Daddy, Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes, and “Dirty South Bangaz” from Big Fish Audio.
Kanye West explains that the song was inspired by how West and Jay-Z moved from their American environment to the fashion scene in Paris. The song was released in 2011 and has reached the top of the charts in Austria, Canada, Germany, the U.K., and the U.K.S.A. reaching platinum status for 600.000 units sold.
06. Juicy – Notorious B.I.G.
He was one of the best rappers of all time at his absolute peak. Hilarious, concise, and wildly original. The first single from the world-famous 1994 debut of “Ready to Die” departed from the rough east coast rap sound.
Although he didn’t want to record this song in the first place, executive producer Sean “Puffy” Combs insisted Biggie rap over a simple, club-friendly loop of Mtume’s early dance-party jam “Juicy Fruit.” The result is a rap song on every lover’s playlist.
07. Hard Knock Life – Jay Z
One of Jay-Z’s best songs as a solo artist is this song that deals with life before his rap career. In the song, which uses the song “It’s A Hard Knock Life” from the musical “Annie,” he talks about how he overcame the barriers of his background and became successful.
Jay Z has a long history with the musical. He had seen it on Broadway as a kid and then submitted an essay about it in a writing contest at his school. The story of the musical, which deals with social advancement, also draws parallels to the song’s content.
08. Ms. Jackson – OutKast
Rap can also be melodic. This is proven by the rap duo OutKast, whose second single from the album “Stankonia” became a real hit. “Ms. Jackson” reached number one in the charts in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and the U.S., making it one of OutKast’s most successful songs.
One of the duo members, André 3000, deals with his breakup with Erykah Badu, herself a successful singer. “Ms. Jackson” is Badu’s mother, to whom he tries to show his intentions in the Breakup and to explain that he will take responsibility for their child despite everything. The tune is inspired by Wagner’s Wedding March, among other things, which is particularly ironic.
09. Gin and Juice – Snoop Dogg
This well-known rap song is an anthem to parties, alcohol, the desire for money, and “cruising,” which refers to aimlessly driving around in a car. The song comes from Snoop Dogg’s debut album “Doggy Style” and symbolizes the zeitgeist of the 90s, from which it originates.
The song was written by Dr. Dre, produced, and was sold in the U.S.A. for 700.000 units sold awarded with gold.
Snoop Dogg, based on his song, set the world record for the largest gin-and-juice cocktail in 2018. The 500-liter Paradise cocktail was presented in style with an umbrella and oversized straw by Snoop Dogg.
10. Gold Digger – Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx
“Gold Digger” is the name given in English to women who try to profit from rich, mostly professionally successful men by starting a relationship with them that is motivated solely by the man’s wealth. Kanye West and Jamie Foxx have taken up this “calculating woman” phenomenon in their commercially very successful song, which is about a woman being interested in the protagonist of the song, who is rumored to have already been linked to a great many men.
The success undoubtedly comes from the sample for the song’s hook comes from the very famous song “I Got A Woman” by Ray Charles, which Jamie Foxx reperforms.
The single was so successful that it broke the record for most digital downloads in a week. Of course, this record has since been broken as the song was released in 2005 when digital downloads were getting their start.
11. Not Afraid – Eminem
One of the most successful rappers globally is Eminem, Without a doubt. However, the musician, whose real name is Marshall Mathers, devotes himself to rather atypical content on this song.
While he was previously known for his songs bitingly mocking other celebrities, on “Not Afraid,” he raps about his complex biography, overcoming his drug addiction, and apologizes for past albums’ tone. He thanks his fans for their loyalty and promises to be responsible from now on, including in his role as a father.
In the chorus, he encourages all those who are still in a difficult phase of their lives and encourages them to stay strong and face the challenges as he did.
12. Whatever You Like – T.I.
With “Whatever You Like,” rapper T.I. even placed in the Billboard 100 most successful songs from 2000 to 2009. No wonder the catchy sound and the top-class producer team and T.I.s unmistakable sound hit exactly the fans’ feeling in the release year 2008.
T.I. sings in the rap song quite simply about how a man can buy a woman anything she wants and feel free to ask her for anything her heart desires.
The songlines that deal with physical love between the two protagonists of the song were later replaced with more innocuous lyrics for the radio versions to play the song on the radio more often. The song was T.I.s first number one hit of his career.
13. The Motto – Drake feat. Lil Wayne
Music can influence pop culture. This is shown by “The Motto,” which was Y.O.L.O. (you only live once) has made it popular.
Drake says the song is meant to symbolize his feeling of living life to the fullest and that this feeling of living was given to him through music. In retrospect, the acronym Y.O.L.O. However, pop culture is so inflationary that it is now considered more ironic or funny. The song is from Drake’s album “Take Care” and was even nominated for a Grammy.
14. Hot Boyz – Missy Elliot feat. Nas, Eve & Q-Tip
Some of the most successful rappers teamed up for this feature and made real rap history. The single broke the record for most weeks at number one on the R&B charts in the U.S. and gave Missy Elliot her biggest hit in the U.K.
As the first female superstar, Missy Elliot paved the way for other female rappers and successfully wrote hits for Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and many more artists.
15. The Phuncky Feel One – Cypress Hill
The song from 1991 reached number one on the U.S. rap charts. It is the second single from the debut album of the rap group Cypress Hill, whose first album they named after themselves. Cypress Hill is considered a hip-hop pioneer and is the first Latin American rap group to produce platinum albums.
The song “The Phuncky One” was well-received, especially by urban and college radios who played the song often. As a result, the debut album sold over two million copies in the U.S. alone and enabled the band’s continued success.
16. The Message – Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5
Of course, this song must also appear in the best rap songs of all time. “The Message” is one of the first songs classified in rap/hip-hop. The song is about the harsh realities on the streets.
At the time, the song was a sharp contrast to the feel-good disco clubs from which the group emerged.
17. Slippin – DMX
One of the best songs for motivation is “Slippin'” by DMX. The song is about the positive change that the rapper wants to bring about in his life. He swears to himself that he will become the person he wants to be and says that although he has hit rock bottom, he finally finds the courage and drive to realize himself and his dreams.
With the song released in 1998, D.M.X. reached gold in the U.S. for 500.000 units sold. In the charts, on the other hand, he tended to rank at the back of the pack.
18. Expression – Salt-N-Pepa
“Expression” was the first single from Salt-N-Pepa’s third album, “Black Magic.” It was written and produced by Cheryl “Salt” James, one of the band members. The song reached number one on the U.S. rap charts, marking the band’s first number one hit. It also reached platinum.
Salt-N-Pepa is the first female hip-hop artist to win a Grammy. Due to their success, they are commonly called the “First Ladies of Rap and Hip Hop.”
19. Bow Down – Westside Connection
The first single from Westside Connection’s debut album, “Bow Down,” was a huge success. The song even became the most successful single Westside Connection would ever release.
In the song, Ice Cube’s song “You Know How We Do It” is sampled and was released in the Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack recorded.
The group split up after the second album failed to match the success of the first and declared their comeback in 2008.
20. Lean Back – Terror Squad
This song bridges the gap between hip-hop and a club song. Due to its catchy melody and beat, it was well-received by listeners and stayed at the top of the R&B charts for more than a month.
The video for the song features appearances by DJ Khaled, Kevin Hart, and Lil Jon, among others. The critics received the song very positively, and it was even called a summer classic.
21. Rap God – Eminem
Rap lives on exaggerations, competition, and power struggles of rappers and their gangs among themselves. Therefore, it is common to play with superlatives and stage himself as the greatest and most talented rapper. Therefore, titling himself a rap god perfectly implements this stylistic device.
To confirm this titling, Eminem uses numerous rap techniques in the song, for example, double- and even triple-time, in which the rapper uses two – respectively. Three times as fast speak as usual.
Due to the frequent use of slang terms for homosexual people as swear words, the song was heavily criticized by L.G.B.T. associations. Nevertheless, it reached four times platinum in the U.S.A. with 4 million units sold. The song also held the world record with the most words in one minute.
However, this record has been broken in the meantime.
Rap can drive or calm, but above all, it conveys an attitude to life that no other genre embodies so authentically. We hope you can update your playlist with these twenty best rap songs, revel in old favorites, and have fun listening to music!
Ranking 22-98 in the best rap songs of all time:
Each song is linked to its music video via the title.
|22.||Straight Outta Compton||N.W.A.|
|24.||The World Is Yours||Nas|
|25.||Walk This Way||Run-DMC feat. Aerosmith|
|26.||‘Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang’||Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg|
|27.||Thrift Shop||Macklemore & Ryan Lewis|
|28.||The Message||Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five|
|31.||Low||Flo Rida feat. T-Pain|
|34.||In Da Club||50 Cent|
|35.||good kid, m.A.A.d city||Kendrick Lamar|
|36.||Hit Em Up||2Pac|
|37.||Words of Wisdom||3rd Bass|
|38.||Black Republican||NAS feat. Jay-Z|
|39.||Bust a Move||Young MC|
|41.||Baby Got Back||Sir Mix-A-Lot|
|42.||Fight The Power||Public Enemy|
|43.||My Name Is||Eminem|
|44.||The Breaks||Kurtis Blow|
|45.||I Get Around||2pac|
|47.||They Reminisce Over You||Pete Rock & CL Smooth|
|48.||Keep Ya Head Up||2Pac|
|49.||It Was a Good Day||Ice Cube|
|50.||I Used to Love H.E.R.||Common|
|53.||I Need Love||LL Cool J|
|54.||Lollipop||Lil Wayne feat. Static Major|
|55.||Paul Revere||Beastie Boys|
|56.||Tootsee Roll||69 Boyz Hot|
|57.||Can’t Hold Us (feat. Ray Dalton)||Macklemore & Ryan Lewis|
|58.||Get By||Talib Kweli|
|59.||Ill Street Blues||Kool G Rap & DJ Polo|
|61.||Temperature||Zion I feat Talib Kweli|
|62.||La di da di||Slick Rick & Doug E Fresh|
|63.||Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down||Puff Daddy feat. Mase|
|66.||Drop It Like It’s Hot||Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell|
|67.||Children’s Story||Slick Rick|
|68.||Good Life||Kanye West feat. T-Pain|
|70.||Mercy||Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T, 2 Chainz|
|71.||Flava In Ya Ear||Craig Mack|
|72.||Best I Ever Had||Drake|
|73.||How Do U Want It||2Pac feat. K-Ci and Jojo|
|74.||Nothin’ On You||Bruno Mars|
|75.||Cross The Border||Philly’s Most Wanted|
|76.||Get Low||Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz feat. Ying Yang|
|77.||It’s Goin’ Down||Young Joc|
|78.||Da’ Dip||Freak Nasty|
|79.||Big Poppa||The Notorious B.I.G.|
|80.||Treat ‘Em Right||Chubb Rock|
|81.||Walk It out||Unk|
|82.||Bounce With Me||Lil Bow Wow feat. Xscape|
|83.||Ghetto Cowboy||Mo Thugs Family feat. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony|
|84.||Live Your Life||T.I. feat. Rihanna|
|85.||I Got 5 On It||Luniz|
|86.||I Like Dem Girlz||Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz|
|87.||I Want It All||Warren G. feat. Mack|
|88.||No Hands||Waka Flocka Flame feat. Roscoe Dash & Wale|
|89.||Up Jumps Da Boogie||Magoo and Timbaland|
|90.||The Humpty Dance||Digital Underground|
|92.||Moment 4 Life||Nicki Minaj feat. Drake|
|93.||One More Chance||The Notorious B.I.G.|
|94.||Me So Horny||The 2 Live Crew|
|95.||Look At Me Now||Chris Brown feat. Lil Wayne & Busta Rhymes|
|96.||Bedrock||Young Money feat. Lloyd|
|97.||Who Dat||JT Money feat. Sole|