The 90s was a golden era of hip-hop music. With the rise of the likes of Tupac, Dr. Dre, and the Notorious B.I.G., the decade saw the genre go mainstream and become one of the most popular forms of music in the world.
To celebrate this era of hip-hop, we have compiled a list of the top 20 hip-hop songs of the 90s. From classic bangers to timeless anthems, this list is sure to get you reminiscing on the good old days. So, without further ado, let’s dive in and check out the best of the best!
The 1990s were a golden age for hip-hop music. This was the decade that saw the emergence of some of the most influential hip-hop artists. It was also a time of great innovation and experimentation, as hip-hop artists explored new sounds and styles.
The decade began with the West Coast G-Funk sound, pioneered by Dr. Dre and his seminal album The Chronic. This sound was characterized by heavy beats, samples from classic soul and funk records, and a distinct lyrical style. This sound was incredibly influential and was quickly embraced by hip-hop fans across the country.
The East Coast also had a major impact on hip-hop during the 90s. Artists such as the Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, and Notorious B.I.G. brought a harder, more confrontational sound to the genre. This sound was characterized by dense, intricate lyrics and hard-hitting beats.
In the mid-90s, the West Coast sound was embraced by the mainstream and became incredibly popular. Artists such as Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur became superstars, and their albums sold millions of copies. This sound was characterized by catchy hooks, samples from classic soul and funk records, and a more laid-back lyrical style.
In the late 90s, the East Coast sound began to take over the mainstream. Artists such as Jay-Z and the Ruff Ryders brought a harder, more aggressive sound to the genre. This sound was characterized by dense, intricate lyrics and hard-hitting beats.
The 90s also saw the emergence of a new style of hip-hop known as “conscious rap.” Artists such as A Tribe Called Quest and Mos Def explored social and political issues in their music. Their thoughtful lyrics provided a much-needed alternative to the more mainstream sounds of the time.
Our top picks:
Warren G, ‘Regulate’
‘Regulate’ is a classic West Coast hip-hop song by Warren G and Nate Dogg. It was released in 1994 as the lead single from Warren G’s debut album Regulate…G Funk Era. The song was produced by Warren G and samples Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’”. The lyrics tell the story of how Warren G and Nate Dogg come to the rescue of a woman in a dangerous situation. The song was a huge hit, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming a certified double-platinum single. It is considered one of the most influential songs of the G-funk era and has been featured in numerous films and TV shows.
Wu-Tang Clan, ‘CREAM’
“CREAM” is a classic hip-hop single by the Wu-Tang Clan, released in 1993 as the lead single from their debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The song was produced by Wu-Tang leader RZA and features the collective’s nine members—RZA, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God and Masta Killa—rapping about the hustle of the streets and the rewards of success. The song is widely regarded as one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time and has been sampled in numerous other songs.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard, ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’
“Shimmy Shimmy Ya” is a single by American rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard, released in 1995 as the lead single from his debut studio album Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version. The song was produced by RZA and features a sample from “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose” by James Brown. The single peaked at number 47 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified Gold by the RIAA.
The song is an ode to the late rap artist Eazy-E, with Ol’ Dirty Bastard paying homage to his fellow rapper in the lyrics. The song is also known for its iconic chorus, which is the phrase “Shimmy shimmy ya, shimmy yam, shimmy yay”. The phrase has become a popular catchphrase in hip-hop culture. The song has been featured in numerous films and television shows, including The Big Lebowski, The Boondocks, and Scrubs.
Salt-N-Pepa, ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’
“Let’s Talk About Sex” is a song by American hip-hop trio Salt-N-Pepa from their 1991 album Blacks’ Magic. The song addresses the taboo topic of safe sex and was a hit, reaching number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was widely praised for its frank discussion of safe sex and was seen as a breakthrough for its frank discussion of a topic that was generally considered taboo at the time. It was also seen as a challenge to traditional gender roles and was seen as a positive step towards greater openness and acceptance of safe sex. The song was also covered by various artists, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and was sampled in numerous songs.
Dr Dre, Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang
“Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” is a hip-hop classic by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, released as the lead single from Dre’s 1992 debut album The Chronic. The song is an example of West Coast G-funk, and features a laid-back, melodic beat and a memorable chorus. Lyrically, the song is about a man who is living a life of luxury and success and is proud to be a “G” (a gangsta). The song was a major hit, reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100, and has since been certified Platinum by the RIAA.
Jay Z, ‘Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)’
Jay Z’s “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” is a single off his third studio album, Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life. The song uses a sample from the musical Annie and is one of Jay Z’s most successful singles. The song is about growing up in the ghetto and the struggles of living in poverty. It is a powerful anthem that speaks to the struggles of many people in urban areas across the world. The song was a major success, reaching number 15 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and was certified Platinum in the US. It is one of Jay Z’s most popular and recognizable songs.
Beastie Boys, ‘Sabotage’
‘Sabotage’ is a 1994 single by the Beastie Boys. It was released as the lead single from their fourth studio album, Ill Communication. The song is a mix of punk and hip-hop and features a fast-paced beat and aggressive lyrics. The song’s music video, directed by Spike Jonze, features the Beastie Boys dressed up as 1970s-style cops and performing various acts of sabotage. The song was a commercial success, reaching number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. It has since become one of the Beastie Boys’ most popular and recognizable songs.
Jurassic 5, ‘Concrete Schoolyard’
‘Concrete Schoolyard’ is a song by the American hip-hop group Jurassic 5. It was released as the lead single from their 1998 debut album, Quality Control. The song samples the track “Gemini” by the jazz fusion group Weather Report.
The song is an ode to the group’s childhood and adolescence spent in the schoolyards of Los Angeles, California. It has become one of the group’s most recognizable songs and has been widely praised for its nostalgic vibes and lyrical content. The song’s chorus, “We used to be in the concrete schoolyard,” has become a widely known phrase and is often used to describe the time spent in one’s youth.
Snoop Dogg, ‘Gin & Juice’
Gin & Juice is a 1993 single by American rapper Snoop Dogg, released as the second single from his debut album Doggystyle. The song was produced by Dr. Dre and features a sample of Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story”. The song is a party anthem and is considered one of the most popular and iconic hip-hop songs of all time. The lyrics of the song detail a typical day in the life of Snoop Dogg, including smoking weed, drinking gin and juice, and partying with friends. The song was a commercial success, peaking at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was certified Platinum by the RIAA. The song has been featured in numerous movies, television shows, and video games.
Public Enemy, ‘911 Is A Joke’
“911 Is a Joke” is a 1990 single by the rap group Public Enemy. The song is a commentary on the ineffectiveness of emergency services in the United States, particularly in the inner city. It was released as the fourth single from their album Fear of a Black Planet. The song was produced by the Bomb Squad and features Chuck D and Flavor Flav on the vocals. The chorus is sung by Flavor Flav who is featured on the track. The single was a success, reaching #23 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #3 on the Hot Rap Singles chart. The song has been used in numerous films and television shows and is considered to be one of Public Enemy’s most popular songs.
Naughty By Nature, ‘Hip Hop Hooray’
“Hip Hop Hooray” is a 1993 single by American hip-hop trio Naughty By Nature. The song was a major hit, peaking at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 10 in the UK Singles Chart. It also reached number 1 on the Hot Rap Singles chart. The song was produced by Naughty By Nature and featured a sample from the 1974 song “Apache” by The Sugarhill Gang. The track is known for its iconic hook, “Hip Hop Hooray!” which has become a staple in pop culture. The song was featured in the film House Party 3 and has been sampled in various other songs.
House of Pain, ‘Jump Around’
Released in 1992, “Jump Around” is a classic hip-hop hit by House of Pain. The song is a party anthem that has become a staple of hip-hop culture and is still played at clubs and parties today. It is best known for its infectious chorus, which features the line “Jump around, jump up, jump up and get down”. The song is also notable for its sample of the classic Beastie Boys track “Time to Get Ill”. It was a major hit, reaching number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming House of Pain’s signature song.
Ice Cube, ‘It Was A Good Day’
“It Was a Good Day” is a 1992 song by American rapper Ice Cube, released as the second single from his third solo album, The Predator. The song is widely considered to be Ice Cube’s best song and one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time. The song is an ode to a perfect day in South Central Los Angeles, with Ice Cube rapping about a day with no violence, no police harassment, and no problems. The song’s chorus is derived from a sample of the Isley Brothers’ “Footsteps in the Dark.” The song peaked at number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it Ice Cube’s highest-charting single as a solo artist.
2Pac, ‘California Love’
‘California Love’ is a 1995 hip hop song recorded by 2Pac, featuring Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman. It was the lead single from 2Pac’s fourth studio album, All Eyez on Me, and was released on April 7, 1995. The song was a huge success, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming 2Pac’s most successful single. It samples Joe Cocker’s 1972 hit ‘Woman to Woman’, and features a hook sung by Troutman in his trademark talk box style. The song is a celebration of the West Coast hip-hop scene and California culture and features references to Los Angeles and its surrounding areas.
A Tribe Called Quest, ‘Scenario’
“Scenario” is a song by American hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, featuring Leaders of the New School. It was released as a single on May 7, 1991, and is the second single from their second studio album, The Low End Theory (1991). The song was produced by A Tribe Called Quest and co-produced by Skeff Anselm.
The song is widely considered a classic of the golden age hip-hop era and is known for its dynamic energy, clever wordplay, and memorable chorus. The song’s lyrics are largely concerned with bragging about the group’s skills and prowess on the mic. The beat features a heavy bassline and samples from the songs “It’s Yours” by T La Rock and “School Boy Crush” by Average White Band.
The song was a commercial success, peaking at number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 5 on the Hot Rap Singles chart. It has been featured in numerous films and television shows and has been sampled and interpolated by various artists.
Missy Elliott, ‘The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)’
Missy Elliott’s 1997 single “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” is a classic of hip-hop and R&B. The song is a celebration of Missy’s unique style and the success she achieved in the music industry. It samples Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain” and features a catchy hook and a catchy beat. The song was a huge success, reaching number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on the Hot Rap Songs chart. The song is often credited for helping to launch Missy’s career and is still considered one of her signature songs.
Digital Underground, ‘The Humpty Dance’
“The Humpty Dance” is a song by the American hip-hop group Digital Underground, released as the lead single from their debut album Sex Packets in 1989. The song was written and produced by group leader Shock G and features vocals from Shock G and Money B.
The track is a lighthearted party anthem, featuring playful and humorous lyrics about the narrator’s dance moves, as well as references to various pop culture figures such as Humpty Dumpty and Prince. It was a massive hit, reaching number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was certified gold by the RIAA. It has since become a classic of the hip-hop genre and has been sampled and covered by numerous artists.
The Notorious BIG, ‘Hypnotize’
“Hypnotize” is a song by American rapper The Notorious B.I.G., released as the first single from his 1997 double album Life After Death. The song was produced by Puff Daddy and Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie and was recorded at The Hit Factory in New York City. It samples the beat from Herb Alpert’s 1979 hit “Rise”, which was written and produced by Andy Armer and Randy Badazz Alpert.
The song features a catchy hook and boasts Biggie’s trademark witty, boastful lyrics. The song was a major success, peaking at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks and becoming one of the biggest hits of 1997. It has been certified Platinum by the RIAA and is one of the most iconic songs of the 1990s.
These are just a few of the top 90s hip-hop songs that still stand the test of time. Whether you’re a fan of old-school rap or a newcomer to the genre, these tracks are sure to get you moving.