5. Mobb Deep - "Temperature's Rising"
Havoc and Prodigy wrote this song in the form of a letter, much like Nas' "One Love." The boys keep their friend updated on shady street dealings, while the singer Crystal Johnson adds a soothing touch. (Trivia: Crystal Johnson did a considerable amount of songwriting in the 2000s, notching credits for her work on Janet Jackson's "So Much Betta" and Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body.")
4. AZ - "Sugar Hill"
Following his captivating guest appearance on Nas' Illmatic, AZ built his own solo buzz on the strength of this dose of ghetto pop. "Sugar Hill" dominated the airwaves in summer of '95, thus paving way for AZ's debut LP, Doe or Die, in October of the same year. (Trivia: Former R&B singer and current radio personality Miss Jones sang vocals on "Sugar Hill.")
3. Coolio - "Gangsta's Paradise" (Feat. L.V.)
The mid-90s ushered in a second wave of conscious hip-hop. The game was primed for Coolio's self-criticism "Gangsta's Paradise." Musically, "Gangsta's Paradise" shares its DNA with Stevie Wonder's 1976 gem "Pastime Paradise." Wonder performed the chart-topping song with Coolio and L.V. at the 1995 Billboard Awards.
2. Pharcyde - "Runnin'"
J Dilla and Pharcyde minted a few hits in the 90s, including this dose of motivation. Every couplet in "Runnin'" is ready for summertime reflecting, as the rhymes challenge us to face our challenges head-on.
1. 2Pac - "California Love" (Feat. Dr. Dre)
You don't have to be from Cali to love this song. It's great for warming up a summer party, and it's sure to fill the dance floor in no time.