Phila's Top 100 Hip-Hop Songs Of All Time

It wasn't easy, but 11 different people have created a list that represents what "we" like to think are the Top 100 Hip-Hop Songs of All-Time. Sure this list can be picked apart within seconds as every other "best of" list, but our process was slightly complex, which should allows this list to relate to the masses. Each contributor had to provide a list of their 40 favorites, giving us a total of 440 songs in our bank.

Then the other contributors would allow 20 passes from that particular list to advance to the next round. We all had to do this for everyone's list except our own.

We then gathered the selections and voted from the 220 song bank and the results are below. Like I said, it wasn't easy agreeing and I'm sure a few of us still aren't happy with some particular tracks ending up on the final list; however as a whole we pretty much came together like the Breakfast Club to deliver what we'd like to think is a damn good list. Be sure to check out the individual "40 Favorite" link to see what we each brought to the table.

So without further ado, I present to you Philaflava.com's Top 100 Hip-Hop Songs of All-Time. 

1. Eric B. & Rakim - Paid In Full
Arguably the most influential emcee of all-time, Rakim's lyricism took Kool Moe Dee's new rap language to the Pyramids and back. Illustrating New York street life during the mid 80's, Ra recounts the tale of a stick-up kid turned Five Percenter on the search for righteous math. Lines like "Maybe I might just search for a 9 to 5/ If i strive, then maybe I'll stay alive" do much to describe the hopelessness many inner city youth subscribed to regarding the low minimum wage and unimpressive job prospects of the time. The beat is a fresh rework of Dennis Edwards "Don't Look Any Further," arranged by Eric B. Well, apparently...

2. Geto Boys - My Minds Playing Tricks On Me
On one of the most unlikely crossover hits in the history of modern music, Scarface, Willie D and Bushwick Bill provide violent tales of paranoia (creating what has become the quintessential song on the subject) over an Isaac Hayes sample that the Geto Boys made sound eerie. The fact that such a violent song was the group's sole pop hit speaks volumes to the overall quality of the track's imagery and the mood that is created as soon as Scarface finishes the first line of the intro. Bill's final verse, coupled with a perfectly dark video, ensure that this song will always be remembered come late October.

3. N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton
The album defined gangsta rap in 1989. It's influence would go on to explode across the 90s through inspiration, biting and pop culture parody. Receiving little to no airplay, its lead single "Straight Outta Compton" sent word of mouth shockwaves across America from it's epicenter at the Slauson Swapmeet. Ice Cube's dominant delivery was the perfect match for Dr Dre's East Coast influenced guitar licks and vinyl scratching. While not as chaotic as the Bomb Squad sound, Dre founded a middle ground that would eventually birth a nation of g-funk. Hip-hop would never be the same.

4. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth - T.R.O.Y.
This loving tribute to the memory of Heavy D.'s dancer and close friend Trouble T-Roy is both bittersweet and uplifting without delving into exploitative sentimentality. C.L. touches upon the issue at hand briefly in the last verse but spends the rest of the song on a tour of memory lane, documenting the people and places that figured prominently in his eventful life. Pete Rock's production is positively beautiful, an evocative street banger that sounds appropriately poignant for funerals or class reunions, topped by the most memorable smooth jazz horn sample of all time.

5. Nas - NY State of Mind
The lead-off song from arguably the greatest hip-hop album of all-time ranks also as one of the flagship cuts from the LP. Flowing flawlessly over a DJ Premier juxed bassline, Nas personifies the gangster fantasy navigating a post-Reaganomics ravaged Queensbridge, lucidly detailing crackheads, stick-up kids and street corner drug deals. The eerie piano notes serve as the perfect soundscape to his Goines-esque story of life "in the P.J.'s, my blend tape plays, bullets are strays/ Young bitches is grazed each block is like a maze." This despairing enviroment and struggle for survival is exemplified best with one of Nas' most critically acclaimed quotables: "I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death."

6. Wu-Tang Clan - Protect Ya Neck

7. A Tribe Called Quest - Scenario (Remix) feat. L.O.N.S. & Kid Hood

8. Boogie Down Productions - My Philosophy

9. Nas - Halftime

10. Public Enemy - Shut Em' Down (Pete Rock Remix)
A lot of MCs try to wax political, but there's a very thin line between inspiring the masses for change and alienating them with tireless rhetoric. Chuck's no sucker; he knows that knowledge is best received when it's accompanied by a great chorus and slammin beats. Shut ‘Em Down's no exception. The rhyme rebel's booming anti-corporate verses were the focus, but Pete Rock's production smoothed out listeners who were taken aback by the Bomb Squad's raucous blitzkrieg and the chorus helped grab the picket line, the ball court, and the street.

11. Gang Starr - Mass Appeal
Gang Star were real assholes when you think about it. On Mass Appeal, Guru crushes fake emcees, chastises them for selling out, relentlessly snubs the entire music industry and calmly explains why he's so much better than you. Meanwhile Premo cuts up an obscure Swedish pop record into a rough and ready jam, causing many a sleepless night among crate diggers. All player hating aside however, the secret to Gang Starr was that no matter how misanthropic, they always found a way to make their all-business strictly-hardcore lifestyle appealing to kids who'd usually be wilding out. As Hiphop headed towards excess, their approach on this single seemed all the more singular.

12. Wu-Tang Clan - C.R.E.A.M.

13. Ultramagnetic MC's - Ego Trippin'

14. Big Daddy Kane - Raw

15. RUN-DMC - King of Rock

16. LL Cool J - I'm Bad

17. Gang Starr - DWYCK feat. Nice & Smooth
It doesn't get much simpler than this classic. To this day the jury is out on the meaning of the acronym. Whether or not DWYCK stands "Do What You Can Kid" is irrelevant as the current popularity of lemonade, because the song is a timeless classic and a certified party anthem. The lyrics may be elementary, but that doesn't stop any of us from yelling out "Lemonade was a popular drink and in still is, I get more props and stunts then Bruce Willis" everytime Guru spit s. In 2006, Bruce may not get the props, but this song certainly does.

18. Slick Rick - Children's Story
The first most surreal moment for me as a hip-hop fan arrived when I picked up and read Poetry Out Loud, a compilation I had in my collection, containing literature's greatest oral presentations. Whitman, Plath, Hughes, Slick Rick....wait, what? Yes, you read right: one of the first poems in the book just so happens to be "Children's Story", complete with bio and analysis on the sides of the page. The inclusion came as a surprise to me, and ushered in my new appreciation for Rick the Ruler. Simply put, he is a master storyteller, a category that half the rappers on this entire list cannot contest. KRS may be the teacher, and Chuck D may be a revolutionary, but Slick Rick really was the true poet. This song is perfect from start to finish.

19. Mobb Deep - Shook Ones Pt. 2

20. Souls of Mischief -'93 Til Infinity
Though young in their years at the time, the Souls of Mischief managed to construct a perfect example of carefree music to make heads nod without the pretentious fluff. "93 Til Infinity" shouldn't be timeless due to the dated title, but thanks to A-Plus's mesmerizing production, there is a sheer timelessness which cannot be contested. Instead of reminiscing over ones lost, or enstilling fear in the heart of the listener, the Souls of Mischief were all about looking forward

21. O.C. - Time's Up

22. Nas - Memory Lane
A truly standout track on one of the most quintessential records in music history. Over a mesmerizing DJ Premier track which samples "We're In Love" by Reuben Wilson, Nas first verse displays the most lucid lyrical performance ever in depicting the misery of street life; from seeing his best friend murdered over a "Sheep Coat" to crooked police officers arresting young minorities to meet their quota. While the second verse is not only the most potent demostration of lyricism ever heard on a rap record, it also was the rhyme that made Big Punisher (Another legendary MC) want to begin writing rhymes and following in the foot steps of one of his musical idols. The song ends with Primo immaculate scratches of Craig G's 'Droppin Science" and Biz Markie's "Picking Boogers", leaving us one of the most influential and perhaps the only flawless record ever created in this genre.

23. The Notorious B.I.G. - Machine Gun Funk
The Notorious B.I.G. wasn't a very politically conscience MC. Moreover, he wasn't one to be too concerned with the plight of society as much as he was with being the reason for the street's corruptive nature (Drugs, Guns, Violence) while explaining his personal philosophies on why life is "Fucked up' in unparralled descriptive detail. Machine Gun Funk gives us a perfect glimpse into Biggie's Smalls view of life and the streets over an incrediblely groovy record produced by Easy Moe Bee. Biggie lays some of the most braggadocious rhymes while intricately weaving in humor and still maintaining his hardcore persona ("Just cause I joke and smoke a lot/Don't mean I don't tote the glock") with an unmistakable voice and flow that is hypnotic. No, Biggie Smalls Machine Gun Funk isn't a fluffy, emotional record you'd find your milquetoast-like crowds bumping. It's a funky and yet a hardcore showing of what great lyricism matched up perfectly with a dope beat can produce to the musical world.

24. Main Source - Looking At The Front Door

25. Kool G. Rap - Ill Street Blues

26. A Tribe Called Quest - Scenario feat. L.O.N.S
Growing up, this was the track that all of my friends and I worked hard to memorize the entirety of. It might have been the first rap I ever learned, come to think of it. There are so many timeless lines in here that it deserves its own Top 10. The irony I always noticed was how Q-Tip really took a back seat to the rest of the emcees on the track, as his verse was nothing short of run of the mill, while L.O.N.S. and Phife managed to tear shit apart. Imagine what would have happened if he decided to overshadow his fellow contributers.

27. The D.O.C. - Funky Enough

28. Ice Cube - My Summer Vacation

29. Brand Nubian - Slow Down

30. Boogie Down Productions - The Bridge Is Over
Fuck what you think. This is the quintessential diss song made by the Blastmaster himself where he puts the whole Juice Crew on blast, especiallly MC Shan for calling Queens the birthplace of Hip-hop. Well Kris Parker was not having that and decided (with the help of Scott LaRock) to crush a whole borough with 2 verses.

31. Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick - Lodi Dodi

32. Schoolly D - PSK, What Does It Mean?

33. Raekwon - Verbal Intercourse feat. Ghostface Killah & Nas

34. The Juice Crew - The Symphony

35. Black Moon - Who Got The Props?

36. Goodie Mob - Cell Therapy
Very few songs capture the feelings of despair and entrapment felt everyday by the ghetto youth of America like Cell Therapy. Before Cee-Lo hired a financial analyst with an eye for the Gap's marketing plan he was using his formerly trademarked sing-song flow to describe the willful segregation of the New World Order over a haunting Organized Noize production. This song embodies the Goodie Mob's identity at the time; angry, articulate and most importantly unafraid to buck the conventions of what Southern hiphop was supposed to sound like.

37. Eric B. & Rakim - Know The Ledge

38. Mobb Deep - Survival of The Fittest
Darwin wouldn't have approved of a sickle-cell having midget appropriating his well known phrase. But that's okay with Prodigy, he could give a fuck, and in this song he makes that clear. P's grimy gothic narrative is one of the best street verses of all time, but one line from Havoc, a fellow traveler through Hell on Earth, succinctly sums up why Mobb Deep were heralded by duns and backpackers: “No matter how much loot I get, I'm staying in the projects…forever!”

39. LL Cool J - Rock The Bells

40. Cypress Hill - How I Could Just Kill A Man
While MTV was quick to paint Cypress Hill as LA gangster rappers in the vein of Compton's Most Wanted and NWA, their first hit was nothing if not a hardcore battle record. Drawing on their gang experience, B-Real and Sen Dog deliver over the top threats to nameless enemies, the cops and any suckas willing to stand in their way. By the time they're through, the entire Cypress Hill mission has been stated: smoke weed, take out punks and fuck up the police. Meanwhile, using the Bomb Squad's noise, Marley Marl's drums and a stoner's record collection as inspiration, DJ Muggs set a new benchmark in rap production, merging Hiphop's funk contingent with its harder wall-of-sound adherents.

41. Public Enemy - Fight The Power
This wasn't just a song off the soundtrack from "Do The Right Thing"(It appeared 15 times in the film) but the anthem of 1989. Chuck D drops knowledge over Hank Shocklee's endless barrage of soul and funk samples, especially this controversial dandy--"Elvis was a hero to most/ But he never meant shit to me you see/ Straight up racist that sucker was/ simple and plain/ Motherfuck him and John Wayne/ Cause I'm Black and I'm proud."

42. Big Daddy Kane - Ain't No Half-Steppin'

43. Eric B. & Rakim - I Know You Got Soul

44. Jay-Z - Dead Presidents (Original)

45. RUN-DMC - Sucker MC's

46. De La Soul - Stakes Is High
“His mind got congested, he got the 9 and blew it/Neighborhoods are now hoods cause nobody's neighbors/Just animals surviving with that animal behavior of the I/ Who be rhyming to dark to light sky/Experiments when needles and skin connect, No wonder where we live is called the projects!” Still don't think Posdnous is a top 10 MC?
This verse, combined with Dave's run-on diatribe against the tired trappings of mainstream rap and one of Jay-Dee's best beats, made every “conscious” track since seem inconsequential.

47. Common Sense - I Used To Love H.E.R

48. Ice Cube - Bird In The Hand
The power within this song's message is just as relevant today as it was in 1991. With A Bird In The Hand, Ice Cube delivers a short but sweet socioeconomic rant that extoles the benefits of slangin birds over Big Macs. Backed by a brand of hard drums that went missing sometime around 99 and a BB King sample, Ice Cube weighs the pros and cons of a legit life, concluding that taxes are for chumps. The streetlife is a double edged sword for Cube though, as selling crack will buy his baby similac but in the government's eyes Mr. Jackson was only cool while filling out a W-2. It is an idea that most everyone in hiphop today tries to sell in some way or another but lack the power to articulate. 15 years later, a bird in the hand may still be worth more than a Bush.

49. Jeru The Damaja - Come Clean
Jeru utilizes his unusual but highly original off beat flow and no-nonsense lyrics to dare fake gangstas, presumably from points out West, to venture to the jungles of the East and face a critical beatdown. All the while he emphasizes that a truly noble battle is one where musical talent, not street cred, ultimately reign supreme. It's a potentially hypocritical move, but DJ Premier's unforgettable Chinese Water Torture-esque sample and TNT-packed drums drive the point home clearly: “leave your nines at home and bring your skills to the battle.”

50. Ras Kass - Soul On Ice (Remix)

51. Nas - Represent

52. Redman - Tonight's The Night

53. Ghostface Killah - Daytona 500

54. The Notorious B.I.G. - Kick In The Door
While parts of Life After Death alluded towards greater pop inspirations, "Kick In The Door" was Big's declaration that he was still a grimey motherfucker and also functioned as his triumphant coronation as The King of New York. It's never been made completely clear who the specific target of Big's assualt was - Nas or Jeru or the Wu or if he was just carpetbombing all of the above - and this ambiguity only adds to the tracks appeal.

55. A Tribe Called Quest - Check The Rhime

56. Biz Markie - Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz
Make The Music with Your Mouth Biz re-imagines the original school rap routine as a dusted, gutter party record. Featuring some of the hardest drum programming and beat boxing ever put to tape, Marley Marl strips the production down to near-distorted percussion and a classic Isaac Hayes piano loop while Biz Markie and TJ Swan trade echo drenched lyrics to get the crowd pumped. Biz's best moment is the definitive document of the 88 party scene, blending "having fun" with a beat so hard it still knocks nearly 20 years later.

57. Nas - The Message

58. Showbiz & A.G. - Soul Clap

59. Raekwon - Incarcerated Scarfaces

60. Intelligent Hoodlum aka Tragedy - Grand Groove (Remix)
While Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth's “T.R.O.Y.” is probably true school rap's most famous elegy, “Grand Groove” is quite possibly the most moving. Queensbridge's original rap prodigy puts aside all tough talk and shoots straight from the heart, paying humble poetic tribute to deceased friends and relatives. K-Def's slept-on production is typically flawless in this instance, as his simple yet powerful beat closely follows Tragedy's affecting verses, with a beautifully aching vocal sample capturing the pain, catharsis and eventual serenity felt in the wake of loss.

61. Jay-Z - D'Evils

62. OutKast - Player's Ball
Songs like Player's Ball serve as a painful reminder of how spectacularly talented Andre 3000 is. Big Boi had yet to come into his own at this point in Outkast's development, but Andre's first verse is a ridiculous display of cadance as he ingeniously weaves Christmas references into an arrogant tale of his ghetto rep. Hopefully Outkast gets a chance to bookend their career with a final single that is as equally impressive as their first, but sadly, it looks like Andre is intent on continuing to hold his elite rhyme skills hostage in an effort to torture his long-time fans.

63. Crooklyn Dodgers - Return of The Crooklyn Dodgers

64. Black Moon - I Gotcha Opin (Remix)
Coming out with a rowdy, bass heavy sound that set the stage for Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep and the entire borough of Brooklyn, few expected Black Moon to do a 180 and come with a whole new style on their remix to I Got cha Open. That's exactly what they did however, looping a classic Barry White sample into the blueprint for Biggie and Jay-Z's smooth playalistic personas. Buckshot's singsong flow meanwhile inspired more than a few future emcees that'd benefit from the pop-ready approach. It's the lyrics that separate the track from a dozen jiggy throwaways however: Buckshot narrates an average day in the hood with such detail and finesse that even the most suburban listener could feel the BK energy on wax.

65. Kool G. Rap - On The Run (Trackmasterz Remix)

66. Brand Nubian - Wake Up (Reprise In the Sunshine)
Grand Puba is renowned to this day for the spectacular vocals and witty rhymes he displayed on Brand Nubian's debut LP One For All. While the ladies were attracted to his mack game and the fellas dug his clever wordplay, those in the know respected the fact that Puba was just as able to communicate a bold political stance. Quoting liberally from the Actual Facts, Student Enrollment, Lost-Found Muslim Lessons, and English C Lesson of the Nation of Gods and Earths (5%ers), Puba solidifies his place in history and delivers a message of uplift and optimism over the SD50s' brilliant assemblage of samples, including most famously a lovely flip of Roy Ayers' “In The Sunshine.”

67. GZA - 4th Chamber

68. Special Ed - I Got It Made

69. Audio Two - Top Billin'

70. EPMD - Headbanger feat. Redman & K-Solo

71. Nas - It Ain't Hard To Tell

72. Smif n Wessun - Bucktown

73. Too $hort - Freaky Tales
Originally conceived as an ode to the 75 girls that were his then label's namesake, Sir Todd Shaw spends ten minutes running down some thirty-odd sexual conquests by name. As you'd expect, much hilarity ensues. But what the track really gets by on is it's bassline, which, in the words of KMEL radio personality turned MTV veejay Sway, can only be described as Siineester.

74. Boogie Down Productions - Still #1

75. X-Clan - Grand Verbalizer, What Time Is It?

76. Fab 5 - Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka

77. Black Moon - Buck 'Em Down (Remix)

78. Bone Thugs N Harmony - Thuggish Ruggish Bone

Many remember Krayzie, Layzie, Wish, and Bizzy because of songs like "First of The Month" and "The Crossroads" but neither song exemplified the gangsta rap group better then their first single, "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" off their debut EP "Creeping Up Ah Come up". DJ U-neek lays down a beat that was heavily influenced by the west coast (which was dominating the airwaves at the time) for BTNH to lay down their rapid fire raps over with Bizzy Bone playing the anchor and killing it at the end.

79. Wu-Tang Clan - Triumph

80. The Pharcyde - Runnin'
The same appreciation the Pharcyde got for waxing serious tones on "Passin Me By" off their classic debut returned on "Runnin" off their lesser appreciated follow-up. Thanks to a relative up and comer by the name of Jay Dee (he produced a third of the album's tracks), the song's somber lyrical tone is complimented by a lush Joćo Gilberto guitar sample. "Runnin" is a classic, no thanks to The Pharcyde by themselves, but due to the excellent production they recieved. It's a collective effort from all parties.

81. Snoop Doggy Dogg - Ain't No Fun
In the history of Hip Hop, there probably isn't a song that objectifies women more then this joint. However, being at a few parties in my heyday (believe it or not), I don't think most women really care. This song is waaaaaay too funky to deny. Kurrupt drops quite possibly a classic verse in which the amount of times he uses the term "bitch" or words that are similar in definition goes beyond the double digit mark. Plus with Nate Dogg on the hook, you know you got a hit.

82. Eazy-Z - Boys In The Hood (Remix)

83. Showbiz & A.G. - Runaway Slave

84. The Luniz - I Got 5 On It
Yukmouth and Knumskull are more than adequate as emcees, but the real appeal of I Got 5 On It lies in Tone Capone's classic production and the incredibly catchy Michael Marshall chorus. The thumping bassline and eerie keyboard chimes create the perfect laid-back atmosphere for Yuk and Knum to craft an instantly recognizable anthem for stingy weed smokers across the nation.

85. Spoonie Gee and The Treacherous Three - New Rap Language

86. A Tribe Called Quest - Jazz (We've Got)

87. GZA - Shadowboxin' feat. Method Man

88. X-Clan - Fire & Earth

89. UMC's - One To Grow On

90. Edo G. - I Gotta Have It

91. T-La Rock and Jazzy Jay - It's Yours
Driven by Rick Rubin's proto-bass 808 massacre, T-La turns a typical braggadocios rap into a cosmic ode to soundwaves and simultaneously births LL Cool's style. Commentating / Illustrating / Description giving adjective expert. It may sound simple compared to the verbal linguistics of some of todays rappers, but at the time it was surely some futuristic shit. Arguably the first super scientifical rap record and probably the only one that also rattles trunks. And it's the first rap record with the Def Jam logo on it.

92. Showbiz & A.G. - The Next Level (Remix)

93. Lords of The Underground - Chief Rocka

94. Orgnaized Konfusion - Stress (REMIX) feat. Large Professor

95. AZ - Rather Unique

96. Ghostface - Mighty Healthy
Over haunting chimes and a classic break beat, the artist formally known as Ghostface Killah defiantly planted his idiosyncratic flag in hip-hop's stale pre-millennium landscape with Mighty Healthy, the first song released off of Supreme Clientele. Ghost resurrected his clan, according to some fair weather fans, starting with one long stream of conscious verse that sounded like what hip-hop must have sounded like when it came onto the scene, albeit in an alternate universe where one could have crazy visions. “We lay low, glitter wax, full bangles/Priceless ropes, lay around the God get tangled!/Wooly hair, eyes fiery red, feet made of brass/Twelve men following me, it be the God's staff.”

97. Group Home - Livin' Proof

98. Outkast - Wheelz of Steel

99. The Roots - Clones

100. Organized Konfusion - Releashing Hypnotical Gases
The Southside, Jamaica Queens duo's self-titled 1991 debut was an ambitious if uneven blend of D.A.I.S.Y. age whimsy and '87-era scientifical wordiness. “Hypnotical Gases” covers all of those grounds and then some: Monch and Po drop militaristic imagery and comic book allusions while showing skills mostly unmatched in any era. It doesn't hurt that the music is a funky, mystical-magical masterpiece, every bit as hard and complicated as the rhyming itself.

Contributors: Jason Gloss, Blastmaster, Gregg Popabitch, Magneto, Funk Docta Bombay , SYMantiks, Icesickle, clark bent, Req, multsanta & Paragraph President (Thun).


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