The 100 Greatest Rap Songs of All-Time

100. Spaghetti Junction ? Outkast (Stankonia)

Andre 3000 and Big Boi share the spotlight in this rap powerhouse about police overreach, gangsters, robbers, and drugs: Keep it between us, but Big Boi got Andre on this one.

99. Daydreamin? (feat. Jill Scott) ? Lupe Fiasco (Lupe Fiasco?s Food & Liquor)

The best song off of Lupe Fiasco?s classic debut album features what he sees from project buildings and rap videos. It also has a killer Jill Scott hook.

98. Keys Open Doors ? Clipse (Hell Hath No Fury)

Virginia brothers Pusha T and Malice chat about their drug dealing exploits on a beat by The Neptunes that jumps at you like an alarm clock. It?ll make your skin crawl.

97. Ice Cream (feat. Method Man, Ghostface Killah & Cappadonna) ? Raekwon (Only Built 4 Cuban Linx)

Raekwon, along with guest stars Method Man, Ghostface Killah, and Cappadonna, rap with virtuosity about women of all races. Shoalin?s finest can rap about ladies too!

96. Get Down ? Nas (God?s Son)

Nasir weaves in New York drug kingpin history and 3 different stories all in one song. Beware of the beat switch. Don?t give him PCP, he?ll turn around and punch you.

95. Go Crazy (Remix) (feat. Jay-Z) ? Young Jeezy (Let?s Get It: Thug Motivation 101)

A lot of Jay-Z fans (guilty) make it seem like Hov completely took this song from Atlanta?s own Young Jeezy. That isn?t completely true (??It?s kinda hard to be drug free/when Georgia Power won?t give a ni**a lights for free). With that being said, Hov is a more than a hustler, he?s the definition of it.

94. Tears of Joy ? Rick Ross (Teflon Don)

Rick Ross (born William Leonard Roberts II) created a rich negro spiritual with this. He dishes on racism, punching enemies (??A punch in the face will get you 300k/ask Vlad now he back to making minimum wage??), and emptiness. Let us not forget about No I.D. though: The production on this track is unreal.

93. Mantra ? Earl Sweatshirt (I Don?t Like Shit, I Don?t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt)

Earl raps about his past relationship on this banger of a track. We?ve never seen him quite this open with us.

92. Murder to Excellence ? Jay-Z & Kanye West (Watch the Throne)

Before their relationship went a bit frosty, Jay-Z and Kanye gave us joints. Both men rap about crime in their neighborhoods, and then segue into how great and lonely (??Now please, domino, domino/only spot a few blacks the higher I go??) it is being black and rich.

91. Touched ? UGK (Ridin? Dirty)

Bun B and Pimp C have a story to tell: Don?t mess with them (??B***h, your old man talkin? to me like I?m in school/He don?t know I hang with killers we?ll erase that fool??).

90. Money Trees (feat. Jay Rock) ? Kendrick Lamar (good kid, m.A.A.d. City)

Kendrick?s tales on Compton, money, and crime are never more haunting on this one (??Two bullets in my Uncle Tony head/He said one day I?ll be on tour, ya bish). Kendrick?s labelmate Jay Rock steals this from him though: (??Imagine Rock up in them projects/where them ni***s pick your pockets/Santa Claus don?t miss them stockings, liquor spilling, pistols popping??).

89. I Wonder ? Kanye West (Graduation)

The Chicago native is as sharp as ever on this track (??The smokescreens, the chokes and the screams, you ever wonder what it all really means???). His beats have never been quite as anthemic as this one is.

88. Codeine Crazy ? Future (Monster)

Future?s ode to drinking away all your problems with lean made him into a cultural phenomenon. He doesn?t get enough credit for his angst and sadness on this song (??Too many days gone by/Sittin? by the phone, waitin? ?til I reply/Drying my eyes, believe it or not/I could never see a tear fallin?/Water drippin? off of me like a faucet??).

87. Exhibit C ? Jay Electronica

We haven?t really heard from him since, but we might not need to. This track lets your imagination run wild on what his career would be like if he cared. Jay Elec outlines a whole African-American subculture (??Question 14, Muslim Lesson two: Dip diver, civilize a 85er/I make the devil hit his knees and say the ??Our Father??). Just Blaze?s production isn?t too shabby either.

86. Streets Is Watching ? Jay-Z (In My Lifetime, Vol 1)

From the first bar on (??Look, if I shoot you, I?m brainless/but if you shoot me, then you famous, so whats a ni**a to do), Jay-Z raps with a smooth but serious tone that pulls the listener in. Things aren?t sweet for the Brooklyn rapper on this song.

85. Ambitionz Az a Ridah ? 2Pac (All Eyez On Me)

2Pac?s ode to the thug life hits you in the chest. You get the sense that he wants it to be a different way, but he has to do it (??My murderous lyrics equipped with the spirits of the thugs before me/Pay off the block, evade the cops ?cause I know they comin? for me??).

84. True to the Game ? Ice Cube (Death Certificate)

In one of his sociopolitical accounts, Ice Cube?s raps about people that have forgotten where they come from. Stay true to the game like he says because he doesn?t need you to correct his broken english.

83. New Slaves ? Kanye West (Yeezus)

When this came out, Kanye proclaimed the second verse as the greatest verse in hip-hop history. It isn?t quite that, but its pretty great (??See they?ll confuse us with some bullshit, like the New World Order/Meanwhile the DEA, teamed up with the CCA, they tryna lock ni***s up, they tryna make new slaves??). Kanye says rather be a d*ck than a swallower, and I?m glad he feels that way.

82. Summertime ? Vince Staples (Summertime ?06)

Vince?s coming-of-age song. He doesn?t know how to be himself around the person he loves (??Hope you understand, they never taught me how to be a man, only how to be a shooter, I only need the time to prove it??). Rarely has a rapper let go of his ego and emotions quite like that.

81. Bonita Applebum ? A Tribe Called Quest (People?s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm)

One of the most famous hooks in hip-hop history (??Bonita Applebum, you got to put me on??) doesn?t enough credit for its tranquil beat. Q-Tip remains an inspiration to every single future rapper.

80. Rock The Bells ? LL Cool J (Radio)

LL Cool J was the perfect rapper when he first came out. Not many rappers conveyed aggression as well as he did. Rick Rubin stakes his claim to be one of hip-hop?s greatest producers with this beat also.

79. All Falls Down ? Kanye West (The College Dropout)

Some of The College Dropout has aged poorly, but this hasn?t: Kanye talks about racism, class, and materialism on this soulful arrangement. He leaves us with one main message: They?ll have always think of you as just a black guy (??Even if you a Benz, you still a ni**a, in a coupe??).

78. Hustler Musik ? Lil Wayne (Tha Carter II)

Young Weezy had that hustler music, didn?t he? This song features a message to his Stepfather, Rabbit (??See I be riding, just riding alone/With my Daddy on my mind like you gotta be kidding/How the hell you ain?t here to see your prince do his thing/Sometimes I wanna drop a tear but no emotions from a king??). The New Orleans native was inconsistent at times in his career, but when he connected, it was a knockout.

77. Dreams and Nightmares ? Meek Mill (Dreams and Nightmares)

Meek?s contribution to the history of hip-hop will always be this song. He transforms from a grateful for his riches man, to a stone cold Philly gangster (??If you diss me in your raps track, I?ll get your p***y ass stuck up, when you touch down in my hood, no, that tour life ain?t good??). As Safaree can tell you, he means it.

76. Lost Ones ? Lauryn Hill (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill)

Ms. Lauryn Hill statement to a ex-lover is the anthem for every person that was done wrong by someone (??Now don?t you understand man universal law? What you throw out comes back at you, star/Never underestimate those who you scar/Cause karma, karma comes back to you hard!??).

75. Perfect Circle/God Speed ? Mac Miller (GO:OD AM)

Mac Miller?s drug addiction/depression is laid out in full on this track. This is the best song he has ever made and for good reason (??Yeah, blame the drugs, got me sinning on the weekday/Drunk as f*ck, doing buck sixty on the freeway??). It also features a chilling voicemail from his brother during one of his depressed days. This is soul crushing and soul uplifting at the same time.

74. m.A.A.d. City ? Kendrick Lamar (good kid, m.A.A.d. City)

Kendrick describes his city for us (??When you hop on that trolley, make sure your colors correct, make sure you?re corporate or they?ll be calling your mother collect??). The stakes are high, and for no good reason at all, you may not be living the next day. Scary stuff.

73. It Ain?t Hard To Tell ? Nas (Illmatic)

Rap has never been expressed so crisply before (??My mic check is life or death/Breathin? a sniper?s breath/I exhale the yellow smoke of buddha through the righteous steps??). Not one bar was wasted by Nasir on this album, and this song exemplifies that.

72. Murder Was The Case (feat. Daz Ni**a Daz )? Snoop Dogg (Doggystyle)

??Dear God, I wonder can you save me? I can?t die, my boo-boo?s about to have my baby?? is what Snoop cries out on this song about a murder and ressurection. Doggystyle is a party that often breaks out on gang violence and no song proves that more than this track.

71. Aquemini ? Outkast (Aquemini)

Andre?s best performance on a track, bar none. His first verse is chilling (??Let?s walk to the bridge, meet me halfway/Now you may see some children dead off in the pathway/It?s them poor babies walkin? slowly to the candy lady??) and second verse is masterful (??My mind warps and bends, floats the wind, count to ten/Meet the twin Andre Ben/welcome to the lion?s den??). No duo/group was better than Outkast when Andre was rapping like this.

70. Early ? Run the Jewels (Run the Jewels 2)

Killer Mike and El-P speak out about police brutality, governemnt surveillance and more police brutality. Everyone loves Mike?s story, and its great, but El-P?s bars sneak the message by you (??And I find you odd, so convinced in the truth of y?all/that the true?s truth truly gone/And yes, there?s a they, any time a man say there?s not/then you know that he lost the plot??). The police have the power to kill people with impunity (??Go to home, go to sleep, up again early??), and these two men know it.

69. Warning ? The Notorious B.I.G. (Ready To Die)

The greatest story ever told. Biggie tells us about a time when two jealous guys wanted to end his life, so he just ended there?s. The threats on this song were so detailed (??Call the coroner! There?s gonna be a lot of slow singing and flower bringing, if my burglar alarm starts ringing??). Don?t threaten Christopher?s life, it will not end well.

68. Public Service Announcement ? Jay-Z (The Black Album)

This song is a staple in live Hov concerts and you can understand why. Just Blaze?s drums and narration provided the extra punch that matched Hov?s lyrics (??Let me tell you dudes what I do to protect this, shoot at you actors like movie directors??).

67. Mural ? Lupe Fiasco (Testuo & Youth)

This is 8:48 minutes of prodigal rapping. Listen and let Lupe fill images and metaphors in your head. Not many rappers as lyrically sharp as Mr. Fiasco is.

66. The Glory ? Kanye West (Graduation)

On what might be the finest lyrical performance of his career, Kanye packs an extra punch (??Can I talk sh*t again? Even if I don?t hit again? DOG ARE F*CKING KIDDING?!??). He compares himself to Charles Barkley, Gnarls Barkley, Dwyane Wade, Dwayne Wayne, Hugo Boss, Big L, Big Pun, and even The Notorious B.I.G.

65. Oh Boy (feat. Juelz Santana) ? Cam?ron (Come Home with Me)

Just Blaze is the real MVP on this track but it wouldn?t be what it is if Cam wasn?t such a charismatic figure. This song was blasting out of every car in Harlem for a very long time.

64. Guess Who?s Back (feat. Jay-Z & Beanie Sigel) ? Scarface (The Fix)

The Fix is one of the most underrated rap albums of all-time and this is the best song on it. Hov, Scarface, and Beans all trade bars in this Kanye West produced masterpiece.

63. Ruff Ryders Anthem ? DMX (It?s Dark and Hell is Hot)

Before the drug rehab stints, and the paternity suits, DMX was the biggest thing on the East Coast. He shines brightly on this ode to violence, and pain (??All I know is pain/All I feel is rain/How can I maintain/with that sh*t on my brain/I resort to violence, my ni***s move in silence, like you don?t know what my style is/New York ni***s the wildest??).

62. Xxplosive ? Dr. Dre (2001)

This is what happens when you combine a classic hook, Nate Dogg, genius production, and Kurupt. This beat was so good that it inspired careers. West Coast rap at its finest.

61. Bring The Noise ? Public Enemy (It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back)

Chuck D inducts himself into Hip-Hop lore with this track (??Bass! How low can you go? Death row, what a brother know/Once again, back is the incredible, rhyme animal??). The Bomb Squad?s production was innovative at the time and still is.

60. Devil In A New Dress (feat. Rick Ross) ? Kanye West (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy)

Kanye?s verses on this song are fine (??Hood phenomenon, the LeBron of rhyme/Hard to be humble when you?re stuntin? on a jumbotron??). However, this song belongs to Rick Ross, who has the finest moment of his career with his rags to riches verse (??I never needed acceptance from all you outsiders/Had cyphers with Yeezy before his mouth wired/before his jaw shattered, climbing up the Lord?s latter/we still speeding, running signs like they don?t matter??).

59. Renegade (feat. Eminem) ? Jay-Z (The Blueprint)

Jay-Z and Eminem ask the important questions on this track: Who are we and are we as bad as you guys say we are? Despite popular belief, Eminem (??Now who?s the king of these rude, ludicrous, lucrative lyrics? Who can inherit the title/Put the youth in hysterics??) doesn?t kill Hov on this (??I had to hustle, my back to the wall, ashy knuckles/Pockets filled with a lot of lint, not a cent??). Both of them shine.

58. Nosetalgia (feat. Kendrick Lamar) ? Pusha T

King Push and Compton native Kendrick Lamar have one verse each on this and they?re both perfect. Pusha raps about drug dealing in high school, acquaintance?s going to jail and their girlfriend?s becoming his girlfriend?s. Kendrick paints the picture of his city for us in a new way we?ve never heard him do (??You wanna see a dead body? Instrumentals from my mama?s Christmas party/Trouble?s on my mind, I still smell crime, my little brother crying??).

57. No Vaseline ? Ice Cube (Death Certificate)

Ice Cube absolutely destroys Eazy-E, MC Ren, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E?s manager on this scorched earth diss track. Rap has never been as disrespectful and hateful as this.

56. Nas Is Like ? Nas (I Am?)

Nasir has an abundance of similes from comparing him style to whatever comes his mind (??Nas is like, earth wind and fire, rims and tires/Bulletproof glass, inside is the realest driver??).

55. Rolling Stone (feat. Petite Noir) ? Danny Brown (Atrocity Exhibition)

Danny Brown is a rap version of Lou Reed or Cobain: He raps about drugs, depression, and pain. Not even money and fame can ease his angst (??Feeling like I got money/know I?m just ni**a rich/Even if she f*ck me/I still know life a b*tch/Bought a nightmare, sold a dream/Happiness went upstream/Blame myself, I had no control/Now I?m living with no soul).

54. I Ain?t No Joke ? Eric B. & Rakim (Paid in Full)

??I ain?t no joke, I used to let the mic smoke/Now I slam it when I?m done and make sure it?s broke?? is Rakim?s first bars on this classic off of Paid in Full. Rakim is awesome, but we can?t forget about Eric B?s virtuoso production. Those scratches are sublime.

53. Ten Crack Commandments ? The Notorious B.I.G. (Life After Death)

Christopher gives us the terms and conditions of the crack game (??Never trust nobody, your moms?ll will set that ass up, properly gassed up/Hoodied and masked up, sh*t, for that fast buck/She?ll be laying in the bushes to light that ass up??).

52. Ebonics ? Big L (The Big Picture)

Big L speaks about African-American slang as if it was in the thesaurus. One of the most underrated beats in the history of Hip-Hop.

51. Hail Mary (feat. Outlawz) ? 2Pac

Pac is sounding like he knew what was going to happen to him. This features the best writing of his career (??Picture paragraphs unloaded, wise words bein? quoted/Peeped the weakness in the rap game and sewed it??).

50. So Appalled (feat. Swizz Beatz, Jay-Z, Pusha T, Cyhi Da Prynce, and RZA) ? Kanye West (My Beautiful Dark Fantasy)

This ??posse cut?? features the best Jay-Z verse in years, and a killer Pusha T verse (Success is what you make it/Take it how it come/A half of mill in twenties is like a billion where I?m from/An arrogant drug dealer, the legend I become/CNN said I?d be dead by 21/Blackjack, I just pulled an ace??).

49. Reagan ? Killer Mike (R.A.P. Music)

Atlanta native Killer Mike, with the help of future rap partner El-P, discuss all of the bullsh*t that America puts black folks through. El-P?s beat gives us a spooky consciousness that ties in with Mike?s militancy.

48. Set It Off ? Big Daddy Kane (Long Live the Kane)

Kane was as good of a natural rhymer as you?ll ever see. This is 4:06 of pure bars. Not one line was wasted. Your favorite rapper could never.

47. Heart of the City ? Jay-Z (The Blueprint)

On one of Kanye?s best beats ever, Jay dishes about rivals, jealousy, and his paranoia (??Ni***s pray and pray on my downfall/But every time I hit the ground I bounce up like roundball). Soulful and anthemic.

46. They Reminisce Over You ? Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth (Mecca and the Soul Brother)

This is a track that is only done in your wildest dreams. Pete Rock is a genius. The lyrics are nothing to scoff at also. Play this in memory of all your dead homies.

45. Survival of the Fittest ? Mobb Deep (The Infamous)

The Infamous is the darkest rap album ever made and this song is one of the reasons why (??New York gotta ni**a depressed/So I wear a bulletproof underneath my Guess??). Prodigy?s (RIP) verse is chilling.

44. Nutmeg (feat. RZA) ? Ghostface Killah (Supreme Clientele)

Ghostface is one of the more forgotten legendary rappers the game has ever seen. That?s unfortunate: ??Nutmeg?? holds up against any other member of the Wu-Tang Clan. Supreme Clientele is a classic.

43. D?evils? Jay-Z (Reasonable Doubt)

Hov tells a tale of a criminal underworld and an inability to escape the aura of it (??Life ills, poison my body, I used to say fuck mic skills, I never prayed to God, I prayed to Gotti??). Preemo?s finest production job also.

42. Rusty (feat. Domo Genesis & Earl Sweatshirt)? Tyler, the Creator (Wolf)

Tyler?s verse on Rusty is introspective and he talks about the past. He also disses his friend?s Mom (??Look at that Mom who thinks I?m evil, holds a grudge against me/Though I?m the reason that her motherf*ckin? son gets to eat??).

41. The World Is Yours ? Nas (Illmatic)

Lost in the uplifting hook is that depression and bleakness is the center of this song. It?s like a Charles Dickens novel (??I need a new n*gga, for this black cloud to follow, cause while its over for me, its too dark to see tomorrow/Trying to maintain, I flip, fill the clip to the tip??).

40. Black Steel in the Hour of Choas ? Public Enemy (It Takes a Nations of Millions to Hold Us Back)

Chuck takes names on this powerful track raging against The United States of America (??I got a letter from the government, the other day/I opened and read it, it said they were suckers??).

39. Nuthin? But a G Thang (feat. Snoop Dogg) ? Dr. Dre (The Chronic)

Everything that Andre Young (Dr. Dre) did on The Chronic, especially this song. Snoop Dogg?s verse is one of the most famous guest verses ever (??Give me the microphone first so I can bust like a bubble/Compton and Long Beach together now you know you?re in trouble??).

38. U Don?t Know ? Jay-Z (The Blueprint)

Just Blaze was working on this song for a while. The finished product is a beat that sounds like it should be a score to a gangster flick. Hov?s rhymes about how great he is at making money and his neighborhood of Marcy, Brooklyn (??They say that we are prone to violence, but its home sweet home, where personalities clash and chrome meets chrome??).

37. Alright ? Kendrick Lamar (To Pimp a Butterfly)

Kendrick?s hook will not live only live on in rap history, but in the general black community as well (??And we hate po-po, wanna kill us dead in the streets for??). Terrace Martin?s alto saxophone gives it a funeral vibe. ??Alright?? is when you?re tired of the crap, you just want to lay it all out on the table, but somehow, you still have a little bit of hope.

36. Scenario (feat. Leaders of the New School) ? A Tribe Called Quest (The Low End Theory)

This posse cut features a young Busta Rhymes spitting one of Hip-Hop?s most memorable verses. The Tribe brought the best out of everybody.

35. Straight Outta Compton ? NWA (Straight Outta Compton)

Starting from Ice Cube?s opening few bars (??Straight Outta Compton, crazy motherf*cker named Ice Cube/from the gang called ni***s with an attitude??) you knew that this was a group that was going to do some real damage in the world.

34. Criminology (feat. Ghostface Killah) ? Raekwon (Only Built 4 Cuban Linx)

Along with his guest star, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon the Chef raps about crime and the ability to do it. The consistently underrated RZA?s shines the most with his excellent production.

33. Crack Music (feat. The Game) ? Kanye West (Late Registration)

Kanye dishes on rap, crack cocaine, and racism (??From the place where the father?s gone, the mother?s is hardly home/and the Madigan?s lock us up in the Audy home??).

32. Unbelievable ? The Notorious B.I.G. (Ready To Die)

If the universe asked me to give them a perfect rap song, it would be this one. Biggie is unfairly smooth (??My forte causes caucasians to say/He sound demented/Car weed scented/If I said it, I meant it/Bite my tongue for no one/Call me evil or unbelievable??). No one was as effortless with it as Christopher Wallace.

31. Passin? Me By ? The Pharcyde (Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde)

The most underrated group in Hip-Hop history speak on lost love. This is as big of a tear jerker as you?ll listen to in Hip-Hop.

30. The N*gga You Love to Hate ? Ice Cube (AmeriKKKa?s Most Wanted)

Ice Cube is rap?s ultimate heel. With the help of the Bomb Squad, O?Shea sneds out threats and disses to whomever will listen. Payback is a motherf*cking ni**a.

29. Shootouts ? Nas (It Was Written)

Nas shares stories from his time his Queensbridge neighborhood. One about a cop that had to be dealt with and another about dice game gone awry. Shootouts are similar to the wild west.

28. Doomsday ? MF Doom (Operation: Doomsday)

MF Doom?s coming out party is still his best song. You could hear his lyrical talent right off the jump. He made the beat also! The Sade sample fits right in perfectly.

27. Can?t Tell Me Nothing ? Kanye West (Graduation)

As defiant as Mr. West is usually, this is still the most defiance we have ever seen from him (??Let up the suicide doors/This is my life homie/You decide yours??). This is the one song that defines his whole career.

26. Tearz ? Wu-Tang Clan (Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers)

??After laughter, comes tears?? is what RZA and Ghostface are explaining to us. Things aren?t rosy in the slums of Shoalin and this song will put you in a bleak mood for a while (??I ran frantically, then I dropped down to his feet/I saw the blood all over the high concrete/I picked him up, then I held him by his head/His eyes shut, that?s when I knew he was?Aw man!??). Heavy stuff.

25. Green Island ? Redman (Dare Iz A Darkside)

The Newark Native brought a wild flow not utilized much before him. It?s no why Eminem called him one of the 10 best rappers ever: ??Green Island?? is as skillful as you?ll ever see.

24. Where I?m From ? Jay-Z (In My Lifetime, Vol 1.)

Hov?s describes his neighborhood in evocative detail (??I?m from where the hammer?s rung, news cameras never come, you and your mans hung, in every verse of your rhyme??). Home sweet home.

23. Verbal Intercourse (feat. Nas & Ghostface Killah) ? Raekwon (Only Bult 4 Cuban Linx)

With all due respect to Raekwon and Ghostface, Nasir is in a class by himself. This is the greatest guest verse in Hip-Hop history (??Through the lights, cameras, and action glamour glitters and gold/I unfold the scroll, plant seeds to stampede the globe/When I?m deceased, by then the beast arise like yeast??).

22. Children?s Story ? Slick Rick (The Great Adventures of Slick Rick)

British born rapper Slick Rick tells a bedtime story of a boy who went towards the wrong path and paid for it. The story is fine, but the beat is what always draws me in. Slick Rick has aged wonderfully.

21. C.R.E.A.M. ? Wu-Tang Clan (Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers)

Wu-Tang?s ode to money/capitalism and the pitfalls of it. Insepctah Deck and Raekwon understand who chasing money can make you become (??No question I would flow off and try to get the dough all/Stickin? up white boys in ball courts??).

20. F*ck Tha Police ? N.W.A. (Straight Outta Compton)

N.W.A.?s verbal assault against racist police are one of the music?s most important songs. Sometimes the main idea is so important that people forget how strong Ice Cube?s verse is (??F*ck that shit, cause I ain?t the one/For a punk motherf*cker with a badge and a gun/To be beating and thrown in jail/We can go toe to toe in the middle of a cell??). It inspired the black community and brought about a letter from the FBI. They were shook, as they should?ve been.

19. B.O.B. ? Outkast (Stankonia)

Andre and Big Boi tell the future using electric guitars, Morris Brown College Gospel choirs, and earth shattering drums. Andre?s verse has an adeptness to it that you won?t see every day (??Inslumnational, underground/Thunder pounds when I stomp the ground??).

18. Can I Kick It? ? A Tribe Called Quest (People?s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm)

The Lou Reed sample works extremely well on this laid back track that asks if Q-Tip and Phife Dawg (RIP) can kick it to us. The Tribe were as cool as the other side of the pillow.

17. Can I Live ? Jay-Z (Reasonable Doubt)

??My pain/wish it was quick to see/from selling caine ?till brains is fried to a fricassee?? is what Jay-Z tells us on this song. He knows what he is doing is right, but he hasn?t been able to stop. This sounds like it is straight from a therapy session. He?s paranoid (??I don?t sleep, I?m tired, I feel wired like coedine/These days a brother gotta admire me from four fiends away??). All of those emotions make for the best song Shawn Carter ever made.

16. Microphone Fiend ? Eric B & Rakim (Follow the Leader)

The God MC was sharp on this one. Rakim feels the way about rap that drug addicts feel about drugs and it shows (??I was a fiend before I became a teen/I melted microphones instead of cones of ice cream??). He means it.

15. Stakes Is High ? De La Soul (Stakes Is High)

De La Soul wonders where the world has gone. It is far different from the usual music that they made. It makes wonder what they could have been like if they had done this all the time.

14. Daytona 500 (feat. Raekwon and Cappadonna) ? Ghostface Killah (Ironman)

Raekwon, Ghost, and Cappadonna battle each other in this rap masterpiece. Nothing was better than when the Wu competed with each other on tracks.

13. Trife Life ? Mobb Deep (The Infamous)

Mobb Deep was the best when they made you feel the blood flowing through your body. ??Trife Life?? is a song about drug dealing, murder, and paranoia. It ain?t easy living life like that.

12. Suicidal Thoughts ? The Notorious B.I.G. (Ready To Die)

Picture this scene: Biggie doesn?t want to live anymore. He calls his friend Puff and tells him that. Puff is trying to talk him down but can?t. Biggie has made his decision (??When I die, fuck it, I want to go to hell/Cause I?m a piece of sh*t, it ain?t hard to f*ckin? tell??). This is heartbreaking and shocking.

11. Knuckleheadz (feat. Ghostface Killah and U-God) ? Raekwon (Only Built 4 Cuban Linx)

Raekwon the Chef paints us this movie: ??Lay on the crime scene, sipping fine whines, pulling nines on UFO?s taking they fly clothes, they eyes closed.?? Ghostface Killah and U-God?s grimy raps give us another Wu-Tang classic.

10. Juicy ? The Notorious B.I.G. (Ready To Die)

??Birthdays was the worst days/Now we sip champagne when we thirsty?? is how he described it. ??Juicy?? is Biggie?s ode to making it. This is the ultimate rags to riches song.

9. Life?s a Bitch (feat. AZ) ? Nas (Illmatic)

This is the only song on Nas?s early career where he was outshined. Brooklyn emcee AZ has one of the best cameos in rap history (??Visualizin? the realism of life in actuality/F*ck who?s the baddest, a person?s status depends on salary??). It also features a beautiful trumpet solo by Nas?s father.

8. It Was A Good Day ? Ice Cube (The Predator)

Ice Cube raps a different tune on this song: He is fortunate today. Things are going his way. His Lakers beat the Sonics, he had a triple double, and no one tried to kill him today. His flow is relaxed, and content for once. It?s a sweet thing to hear.

7. Who Shot Ya ? The Notorious B.I.G. (Ready To Die)

This is mistakenly known as a diss to 2Pac. It isn?t. But, it is one of the best lyrical performances you?ll ever see (??Saw me in a drop, 3 and a quarter, slaughter, electrical tape around your daughter??). Biggie kills more beats than your favorite rapper.

6. Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik ? Outkast (Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik)

Outkast?s best cut off of their debut album. They weren?t quite as refined as they were on ??Spaghetti Junction?? or ??Babylon??, but that?s part of the appeal. These are two young cats rapping above their age level expects them to.

5. Memory Lane (Sittin? In Da Park) ? Nas

??It?s real, grew up in the trife life, did times or white lines/The hype pipes, murderous nighttimes/And knife fights and blight crimes?? is what Nas describes Queensbridge as. Part of Nasir appeal was how despondent he was about his neighborhood (??My window faces shootouts, drug overdoses/Live amongst no roses, only the drama/For real, a nickel-plate is my fate, my medicine is the ganja??). Living without hope is one of the key descriptions of the projects in rap. Nas laids it down beautifully on this track.

4. Welcome to the Terrordome ? Public Enemy (Fear of a Black Planet)

Chuck?s powerful voice never loomed larger than this. This song gets harder and harder as his voice goes on. He talks about blackness, murder, and America?s fallen heroes. Chuck had enough and this is what came of that. It is often forgotten how great Chuck was at evocativeness. When you listen to this, you?ll remember.

3. Shook Ones Pt. II ? Mobb Deep (The Infamous)

Prodigy was the master (??I?m only 19 but my mind is older, when things get for real, my warm hearts turns cold/Another n*gga deceased, another story gets told??). Mobb Deep is one of the biggest examples of what the New York experience gets you. Prodigy and Havoc went to public art school in Manhattan, but were also from Queensbridge. They had a lot to say about their neighborhood. It is a place where you grow up quick and cold blooded. The sharpest aspect of this song is the delivery in which Prodigy and Havoc deliver there rhymes. A lot of this is just another Monday for them. It is what comes with the place they are from. It is what comes with the company they kept. It is what comes with the environment.

2. N.Y. State of Mind ? Nas (Illmatic)

Nas?s ode his hometown. He has bullet holes in his peepholes, shootouts with cops (??I ran like a cheetah with thoughts of an assassin, picked the Mac up, told brothers back up, the Mac spit, lead was hittin? n*ggas, one ran, I made him backflip??), and life is parallel to hell. On the surface, you just think of this as a rap song, but there?s a type of sociopolitical climate to this. The government and their urban politics made black people like Nas rot in this neighborhood. This is Nas talking about it in a way that shows how bleak living in the ghetto is, and how proud he can be for making it out.

  1. Everyday Struggle ? The Notorious B.I.G.

The main idea of Ready To Die is said in its title: He is ready to die. What we don?t know is that, is it because he, himself, is a bad person or is it because of his environment? In the album, Biggie, makes several claims that it is the former (see, ??Gimme the Loot?? or ??Suicidal Thoughts??). He?s just a bad person, and he has to go so the people around him don?t have to deal with his drug dealing, sinning, and cheating. On the flipside, ??Everyday Struggle?? is his case that this is not only on him. He genuinely has to do this (??I know how it feels to wake up f*cked up, pockets broke as hell, another rock to sell/People look at you like you?s the user/Selling drugs to all the losers/mad Buddha user/But they don?t know about the stress filled days/Baby on the way, Mad bills to pay/That?s why you drink Tanquerway/so you can reminisce/And wish, you wasn?t living so devilish, shit??). This is masterful story about your back being against the wall, doing what you have to do to survive, and having your soul taken away because of it. He is smoking packs of Newports because he caught an assault case upstate. He has his ??lady friend?? on train with drugs in her buttocks (??I got my honey on the Amtrak, with the crack in the crack of her ass, two pounds of hash in the stash, I wait for hon? to make some quick cash, I told her she could be lieutenant/b*tch got gassed??). This isn?t a good person, but you get the feeling that it is because of something. It is because of where he came from, and how desperate he was for a life that wasn?t food stamps and welfare. The paranoia, the hurt (??Seeing syringes in the veins, hard to explain how I maintain/The crack smoke make my brain feel so strange), and the pride in this is what makes it the greatest rap song ever. It?s multi layered. You want to hate this character but you want him to survive and feed his daughter. This isn?t a party that violence sometimes breaks out in. This is pain, regret, and loneliness. This is dreams of addicts being high off of the drugs you gave them. This is being scared of imprisonment, poverty, and not being help your family. It?s also murder, abuse, and cheating. Biggie channeled all of that, and he didn?t miss one single bar, or leave one thought not explained. He was a maestro and this was his masterpiece.

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