10 | Afrika Bambataa - "Planet Rock" | Listen |
Bambataa was looking for the perfect beat. Instead, he found the magnetism of electro-rap and changed the game in the process. Not a bad deal.
9 | Public Enemy - "Fight The Power" | Download |
Chuck D's politically salient rhymes combined with Bomb Squad's searing, ferocious sound to yield this revolutionary soundtrack.
8 | Audio Two - "Top Billin'" | Download |
Daddy-O turns a sampling goof into a sledgehammer. Throw in the well-placed hook and you've got a masterpiece.
7 | Nas - "The World Is Yours" | Download |
Nas and Pete Rock team up to declare a revolution. Which is always a good move.
6 | Pete Rock & CL Smooth - "They Reminisce Over You" | Download |
Insane horn riffs. Shimmering cymbals. Soulful samples. You just know it's Pete Rock. On the other end is C.L. Smooth channeling controlled emotion through the mic. Melancholy elegy at its finest.
5 | Eric B & Rakim - "Lyrics of Fury" | Download |
"" Rakim never had to rely on gimmicks to grab ears. His inimitable monotone flow took care of that, as evidenced on the impeccable "Lyrics of Fury."
4 | 2Pac - "Dear Mama" | Download |
2Pac's ode to Afeni Shakur remains the unofficial Mother's Day hip-hop anthem. On this heartfelt piece, Pac pats Mama on the back for working tirelessly to put food on the table while trying to save him from the perils of street life.
3 | Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 - "The Message" | Download |
"The Message" was arguably the first hip-hop song to detail the harsh realities of the streets –- a sharp contrast to the feel good disco clubs from which the group emerged.
2 | The Sugarhill Gang - "Rapper's Delight" | Download |
It holds the dubious title of "the first hip-hop song." Its long-term influence on the culture, however, is undeniable.
1 | Common Sense - "I Used To Love H.E.R." | Download |
When Common dropped Resurrection in 1994, there was no shortage of great hip-hop albums. Still, he managed to stand out, thanks to songs like "Resurrection" and "I Used to Love H.E.R." Before Common, no one had thought to personify hip-hop. No one thought to assign a gender to it. "I Used to Love H.E.R.," a metaphor for hip-hop's evolution, would go on to prove that Common's skill, purpose, and approach to storytelling was anything but common.