101 Hip-Hop Classics Everyone Should Hear (Part 2)

Part 2 of our *very* thorough list of classics everyone should hear! As a reminder,  we were inspired to create a list of 101 hip-hop classics everyone should listen to in their lives.  Part 2 covers the early 90's through 2015.

Whether you’re a lifelong hip-hop head or a curious music lover who wants to stretch your ears, consider our list a primer for the musical genre. We picked 101 classic hip-hop songs from the past four decades, trying to be as representative as possible of all eras and styles. Some clear MVPs emerged: in our opinion Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, and the Wu-Tang Clan are the most important hip-hop artists of all time, with many close seconds we invite you to discover and debate.

And... back to the music!

52. Insane in the Brain by Cypress Hill (1993)

53. Gin & Juice by Snoop Doggy Dogg (1993)

54. ’93 ‘Til Infinity by Souls of Mischief (1993)

55. Dwyck by Gang Starr feat. Nice & Smooth (1994)

56. Come Clean by Jeru the Damaja (1994)

57. N.Y. State of Mind by Nas (1994)

58. Juicy by The Notorious B.I.G. (1994)

59. Liquid Swords by the GZA (1995)

60. Shook Ones Pt. II by Mobb Deep (1995)

61. Ice Cream by Raekwon feat. Ghostface Killah, Method Man & Cappadonna (1995)

62. Dear Mama by 2Pac (1995)

The Third Decade (1996-2005)

At the start of the new millennium, hip-hop reached middle age and introduced some of the most technically and stylistically virtuosic rappers and producers (creators of the musical accompaniment) the world has known. After 20 years of musical contributions and innovation, hip-hop and its growing audience fully captured corporate America’s attention and became a commercial juggernaut. This was a mixed blessing.

For those musicians poised to reap the benefits of increased exposure and global domination—such as Puff Daddy, Jay-Z, and Eminem—this larger platform granted production and promotional budgets that were comparable with rock music. These hip-hop artists also achieved a superstardom and financial success that eluded many of their predecessors. Another positive development from its third decade: hip-hop broke free of the stronghold that NYC and LA had on the music. The music industry began to spotlight rappers from across the country, and hip-hop’s geographical center began to shift to the self-appointed Dirty South and others parts of flyover country like Chicago and Detroit.

63. Fu-Gee-La by the Fugees (1996)

64. Dead Presidents II by Jay-Z (1996)

65. 2 of Amerikas Most Wanted – 2Pac feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg (1996)

66. Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See by Busta Rhymes (1997)

67. Hypnotize by the Notorious B.I.G. (1997)

68. It’s All About the Benjamins (Remix) by Puff Daddy feat. The Notorious B.I.G., Lil’ Kim & the Lox (1997)

69. Triumph by Wu-Tang Clan (1997)

70. Slippin’ by DMX (1998)

71. Doo Wop (That Thing) by Lauryn Hill (1998)

72. Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) by Jay-Z (1998)

73. Definition by Mos Def & Talib Kweli (1998)

74. Rosa Parks by Outkast (1998)

75. Forgot About Dre by Dre. Dre feat. Eminem (1999)

76. Simon Says by Pharoahe Monch (1999)

77. The Next Movement by The Roots (1999)

78. The Light by Common (2000)

79. The Real Slim Shady by Eminem (2000)

80. Southern Hospitality by Ludacris (2000)

81. Shake Ya Ass by Mystikal (2000)

82. B.O.B. by Outkast (2000)

83. Get Ur Freak On by Missy Elliott (2001)

84. Grindin’ by Clipse (2002)

85. Lose Yourself by Eminem (2002)

86. Get Low by Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz feat. Ying Yang Twins (2002)

87. Made You Look by Nas (2002)

88. In Da Club by 50 Cent (2003)

89. 99 Problems by Jay-Z (2003)

90. Jesus Walks by Kanye West (2004)

91. Hate It or Love It by the Game feat. 50 Cent (2005)

The Fourth Decade (2006-2015)

With the arrival of its fourth decade, some fans bemoaned that contemporary hip-hop was selling out to the corporate backers of its growth. It’s hard to say if the art form was actually in decline or if these old-schoolers were simply unwilling to change with the times. Hip-hop heavyweights engaged in the argument, with Nas naming his 2006 album “Hip Hop is Dead.” At the other end of the spectrum, Kanye West released “Yeezus” in 2013, a play on his nickname (Yeezy) and reference to Jesus who delivered eternal life. In these ways, hip-hop began to confront some of the same challenges that jazz and rock faced as they aged.

For an ever-growing audience of hip-hop fans, there was an abundance of outstanding music released over the past decade. Newer artists including Lil Wayne, Odd Future (led by Tyler, the Creator), Drake, and Kendrick Lamar challenged and thrilled audiences with their unique musical approaches. That said, it becomes tougher to pick classic hip-hop songs the closer we get to the present. For purposes of our list below, we chose one song for each of the years 2006-2015 and felt this was a good place to w(rap) the story…for now.

92. What You Know by T.I. (2006)

93. Int’l Player’s Anthem by UGK feat. Outkast (2007)

94. A Milli by Lil Wayne (2008)

95. Bastard by Tyler, the Creator (2009)

96. Power by Kanye West (2010)

97. Nigg*s in Paris by Jay-Z & Kanye West (2011)

98. M.A.A.D City by Kendrick Lamar feat. MC Eiht (2012)

99. Worst Behavior by Drake (2013)

100. I Don’t F*ck with You by Big Sean feat. E-40 (2014)

101. i by Kendrick Lamar (2015)