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Top 140 Best 90s Hip Hop Songs

Ah, the 90s…Neon was in, and so were Tamagotchis. But, arguably, the biggest thing to shake the music and fashion world in the 90s was Hip Hop.

Growing out of the simple beginnings of 80s rap, Hip Hop exploded into a huge range of varying styles. Artists boomed in popularity, and the whole culture took the front seat on the national and even the world stage.

So, What are the Best 90s Hip Hop songs?

Everyone’s going to have their answer to this question. But, if we want to look at the songs that made the most impact, got the most exposure, and were the biggest tracks around, we can come up with a list that most people can more or less agree on.

So, let’s look at the progression of the best Hip Hop songs of the 90s year by year. Here’s my Top 140.

Best 90s Hip Hop Songs


Top 140 Best 90s Hip Hop Songs


1 Fight the Power – Public Enemy

OK, the first song on my list, and I’m already cheating. “Fight the Power” was released in July 1989 as a single. But, since it was included on the legendary Fear Of A Black Planet album in 1990, I’m still counting this track as one of the best 90s Hip Hop songs ever.

It deserves a place on this list…

It was a huge Hip Hop hit in the 90s thanks to that perfect combination of an incredible groove with perfectly delivered lyrics. Chuck D is on point here, angry and defiant, and Flavor Flav helps out by hyping it up better than ever before.

This track calls out oppression and racism plain and simple. The chants “Don’t believe the hype” and “Fight the Power” inspire and empower as only Public Enemy can.

2 U Can’t Touch This – MC Hammer

If you don’t think of MC Hammer as being a 90s star, you’re not alone. His signature song, “U Can’t Touch This,” came out on the smash hit album, Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em, in early 1990. While it felt like more of a late 80s jam, rules are rules, and this track did squeak into the 90s.

The song sold millions, hit #1 on the Billboard Hot R&B listings, and won two Grammys. Hammer shares songwriting credits with Rick James and Alonzo Miller since he was rapping over an extensive sample of James’ “Super Freak.”

While Hammer’s rapping might be a bit cheesy, the track had a slamming beat and an exciting chorus that got people up out of their seats and doing the Hammer Dance.

3 Humpty Dance – Digital Underground

If you’re like me, you still prefer the “Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground, even if it lost out on the Grammy for Best Rap Video to “U Can’t Touch This.” This is another early 1990 track that is legendary. It climbed to #1 on the Billboard Rap Singles chart and got huge recognition.

However, it’s the quality of the rap here that makes it stand out. Humpty Hump, the rapper on this track, is the Digital Underground’s Shock G in disguise, and his lyrics here are fresh and downright hilarious.

This unforgettable 90s Hip Hop song also has samples from Sly and the Family Stone and Parliament, so you know it’s funky. And it has been sampled on over 100 songs since. Plus, it had its own dance craze, the Humpty Dance, to go along with it. What’s not to love?

4 Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice

If we’re talking about massive Hip Hop hits in 1990, there’s no way we can overlook Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby.” This was the first rap song ever to top the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and it went on to go platinum in several countries as a single.

While it might not be the most advanced cut lyrically, there’s no doubt that this was one of the biggest songs of the era.


“Ice Ice Baby” owes a huge part of its success to the sample it used from the Queen/David Bowie song “Under Pressure.” This sample basically was the song, and Vanilla took heat for it later once the song was a success.

I also haven’t ever met a 40-something white man yet who doesn’t know at least the whole first verse. Myself included. That alone makes it one of the best 90s Hip Hop songs.

5 Let’s Talk About Sex – Salt-n-Pepa

The scene in 1990 wasn’t just about the homeboys. The ladies also got in on the action, and none got into it like Salt-n-Pepa. This rap duo, with their DJ Spinderella laying it down, had a huge hit with “Push It” back in 1987.

But, when they came out with their third album, Black’s Magic, and the single “Let’s Talk About Sex,” they said what was (and always has been) on everyone’s mind.

The beat and the music here were still very 80s influenced, full of synth bass, funky scratching, and drum machine beats. But, it’s the content that got the world’s attention.

Touching on taboos…

Salt and Pepa’s lyrics are straight up and clear – they’re talking about sex, the good and the bad. Like unwanted pregnancy, STDs, and especially the dangers of AIDS in that era. The catchy chorus is also ear candy.

“Let’s talk about sex, baby – Let’s talk about you and me – Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things – That may be.” Well, they did, and people listened.

6 Mama Said Knock You Out – LL Cool J

“Don’t call it a comeback – I been here for years,” LL tells his critics at the start of this track. And, it’s true. Starting his career in 1985, LL Cool J wasn’t staging a comeback in 1990, just a change of style.

Responding to the rise of gangster rap, he went for a harder, tougher edge sound. And it worked with this track. “Mama Said Knock You Out” became a huge hit and even won Ll Cool J a Grammy award. This was a heavy style that featured the rapper laying it out hard in a departure from his 80s work.

The music here is a funky mix of the beat from “Funky Drummer” by James Brown and samples from Chicago Gangsters and Sly & the Family Stone. This is a slamming track that brought LL Cool J back into the spotlight and helped him transition to the changing scene of 90s rap.


7 Summertime – DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince

The 1991 album, Homebase, saw DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince drop their neon jackets and boy shorts to present a new grown-up look. Their sound also got more sophisticated, and the track “Summertime” presents a mature groove and lyrics that are a lot less comedic than their past work.

This track borrows a sample from Kool & the Gang’s “Summer Madness,” which gives it some funk even against the chill backdrop of a hot summer song.

Aside from the theme song to “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” this is probably the only song of the duo’s that still gets some play. Especially at your uncle’s BBQs.

8 O.P.P. – Naughty by Nature

While the Fresh Prince was trying to grow up in 1991, Naughty by Nature was already talking about, um, mature themes. “O.P.P.” is one of those songs that comes on and gets butts out of seats in seconds.

It’s got a great funky drum break and a killer groove thanks to samples from Melvin Bliss’ “Synthetic Substitution” and “ABC” by the Jackson 5. This is an instant party wrapped up in a single old-school jam.

This popular Hip Hip song of the 90s is about cheating; it’s true. But, it’s lighthearted and funny and gives both the gents and the ladies equal credit and blame. So, what is O.P.P.? Other People’s p-things are rhymed pretty obviously in the song. So figure it out, and you’ll be down with a discount.

9 Mistadobalina – Del tha Funk Homosapien

Cousin of notorious gangster rapper Ice Cube, Del the Funky Homosapien, may have gotten a leg up into the industry. But his skills on the mic and fresh style are what made him a big hitter. “Mistadobalina” is a single off Del’s first album, I Wish My Brother George Was Here.

Del gets funky here with a 70s-sounding funky drum break characteristic of early hip hop. Other horns and vocal samples, including the repeated “Mr. Bob Dobalina” from The Monkees’ song, “Zilch.” Del’s rhymes rip apart the poser Dobalina, a character he made up just to tear apart.

Through this track, he took shots at clowns, fakes, snakes, and groupies. All in a flurry of rhyming action. This is a voice that would go on to be heard in collaborations all over the musical map, from Gorrilaz to Kid Koala, and Oakland’s Hieroglyphics.


10 Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang – Dr. Dre (Feat. Snoop Dogg)

When N.W.A. disbanded in 1991, all the members went on to make their marks in successful solo careers. And Dr. Dre is probably the most successful of all.

He co-owns Death Row Records, developed Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, and founded Aftermath Entertainment. All in addition to being a Grammy-award-winning recording artist.

1-2-3 and to the 4…

“Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang” starts with Snoop Dogg on the mic even before dropping his solo work that would make him famous. This track has a lush beat with a detailed bass line and high synth sounds, and a hell of a lot more all worked in.

Dre’s rhymes are solid and confident here, even if Snoop upstages him. But, the chorus is what makes this such a well known 90s Hip Hop song. How’s it go? “It’s like this and like that and like this and uh.” Oh, yeah… that’s one of the best 90s Hip Hop songs you’re ever going to hear.

11 Hip Hop Hooray – Naughty by Nature

Naughty by Nature is back with one of the best crowd pleasing Hip Hop tracks of the 90s. This song went platinum in the US, and for good reason.

The lyrical style here is smooth and fresh, harder than the group’s earlier work. The beat is killer, with a deep kick and flowing bass line complement the samples from James Brown, Five Stairsteps, and Peter Gabriel.

There’s a perfect homage to hip hop here. “I live and die for Hip Hop – This is Hip Hop for today – I give props to hip-hop so – Hip Hop hooray.” But, the best part of this song is the simple “Hey! -Ho!” chorus.

Trust me. Put this on in any club anywhere and see if there are any arms not waving back and forth during the chorus. Go on; I dare you.

12 So What’cha Want – Beastie Boys

The Beastie Boys went through a continual transformation throughout their decades-long career. They tried out everything from Punk Rock to scratching, to joke rap.

But, with 1992’s Check Your Head, they were working with a more aggressive, edgier style that seemed to combine all their musical tastes.

You can’t front on that…

“So What’cha Want” comes at you with a hard, heavy beat and distortion on the vocals, plus squealing guitars to give it even more of a hard edge. But there’s also a funky organ there to keep things from going overboard.

The three MCs spit hard over samples from Big Daddy Kane and Southside Movement. Their unique voices and style are expressed here as well as in any of their 90s tracks.

13 Jump – Kriss Kross

Come on, I know you love to hate on it, but secretly you love this track. When it came out in February 1992, how many of your homies started wearing their clothes backward like the cool Kriss Kross kids?

Yeah, those kids were just 12 and 13 years old, but they had skills. And, on top of their high-pitched, lightning-fast rapping, the track was pretty dope.

It was put together from a collection of samples from all over the place, like The Jackson 5, James Brown, Ohio Players, Cypress Hill, and even Naughty by Nature.

Have you heard this track yet?

“For all you suckas that don’t know – Check it out – Some of them try to rhyme – But they can’t rhyme like this.”


14 Gin & Juice – Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg is now a smooth godfather of Hip Hop. But, back in the 90s, he was a young, fresh new talent that sounded like nobody else. His 1993 debut album, Doggystyle, brought his talent and unique voice and style into the spotlight, where he remains to this day.

Even when he was 22…

Snoop’s voice was already cooler than cool, and that’s what made him stand out. On “Gin & Juice,” he brings you into his life of partying, cruising, smoking, and just being chill all over the place.

The track was produced by Dr. Dre, who gave it a funky beat and synth sounds that were all over West Coast records at that time. And the chorus, “Rollin down the street smoking indo – Sippin on gin and juice,” is about the most memorable hook from 90s hip-hop.

It still makes me thirsty every time I hear it. So, I better go fix myself a drink because I just got done listening to one of the greatest Hip Hop songs from the 90s.

15 Check Yo Self – Ice Cube

Ice Cube left N.W.A. with a bad taste in his mouth. But, that didn’t stop this West Coast legend from building a successful solo career shortly afterward. His 1993 album, The Predator, was a big boost to his career, which continued to go onward and upward.

The track “Check Yo Self” has an old-school sound, using the beat and music from Grandmaster Flash’s hip hop classic “The Message.”

Why is this one of the best 90s Hip Hop songs? Cube’s hard rhymes bring a new flavor to this classic beat, giving it a harder edge, and guest MC Das EFX brings more style and flair to rock on this old-school beat.

16 C.R.E.A.M. – Wu-Tang Clan

When the Wu-Tang Clan dropped their debut album, Enter The Wu-Tang 36 Chambers, it changed everything in Hip Hop. As a result, it became one of the signature 90s Hip Hop songs.

The New York style came up to the front row. It was hard and edgy but also rough and dirty. And the tracks on it were deep and cinematic. This was a lot more than just some DJ spitting over a beat.

Dollar dollar bill, y’all…

In “C.R.E.A.M.” (Cash Rules Everything Around Me), the Wu-Tang Clan shows off their mad skills with no holding back. This track has a thick, juicy beat, soulful samples, including The Charmels’ “As Long As I’ve Got You,” and more compliments of the RZA.

Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, and Method Man are all on point on this song, spitting about coming up hard in NYC. And, of course, you’ve got ODB making strange sounds in the background.

That bouncy hook, “Cash rules everything around me – Cream – Get the money – Dolla Dolla bill yall” is also unforgettable Wu-Tang magic. In 1993, nobody else was doing anything else like this.

17 Insane in the Brain – Cypress Hill

Southern California was the center of the West Coast style of Hip Hop, and Cypress Hill was one of the main acts that helped to get it all started.

This group got together in 1988, so by the 90s, they were already veterans on the scene. And when they came out with their second album, Black Sunday, in 1993, their distinct sound hit the airwaves and shook things up.

Don’t you know I’m loco?

“Insane in the Brain” is built from a host of samples, including James Brown, Sly & the Family Stone, Lee Dorsey, The Youngbloods, and even Cypress Hill’s own song “Hole In the Head.” The whole thing comes together with a hard style full of energy up in your face.

This is a dis song aimed at Chubb Rock, a New York rapper the group felt had dissed their style first. The verses bring the group’s distinct voices to the foreground. And, as usual, there are plenty of references to cannabis from this smoke-promoting group.

18 Sound of da Police – KRS-One

KRS-One (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone) is also known as “The Teacha,” and for good reason. His skills on the mic are legendary, and he’s also one of the first American rappers to incorporate a Caribbean sound into his music (he has Jamaican and Trinidadian heritage).

Stand clear! Don man a-talk…

This comes out in “Sound of da Police,” a single off his debut solo album, Return of the Boom Bap, in 1993. This track is loud, aggressive, and right up in your face. The song kicks off with a “Whoop whoop!” which KRS-One tells us is the sound of the police and the sound of the beast.

From there, he breaks into a rap with a Jamaican-styled accent which fades in and out on different parts giving it a slight Dancehall flavor. His lyrics are about police harassment and brutality, subjects that were just as prevalent then as they are today, or maybe even more so.

This track is big and angry, and the music slaps just as hard. If you want one of the best 90s Hip Hop songs, don’t sleep on this track.


19 Electric Relaxation – A Tribe Called Quest

Q-Tip and Phife put out some of the smoothest Hip Hop tracks of the 1990s by choosing slick, jazzy beats and rapping over the top like melting on the butter.

One of their chilliest, smoothest, and sexiest tracks from the 90s is “Electric Relaxation” from their 1993 album, Midnight Marauders.

Smooth like butter…

Apparently, this track was put together by Q-Tip in Phife Dawg’s grandma’s basement. But this jazzy, groovy beat that samples Ronnie Forester’s jazz piano track “Midnight Brew” is as professional as it gets.

This cut is chilled out, laid back, and asks you to “Relax yourself girl – Please settle down.” And this smooth track helped another Quest album to get certified platinum.

20 Regulate – Warren G (Feat. Nate Dogg)

It wasn’t just A Tribe Called Quest who were putting out smooth Hip Hop in 1994. Warren G’s track “Regulate” is a masterpiece of rap and R&B mixed to produce a G-Funk gangster twist.

Warren G is another West Coast rapper with clear ties to Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. He’s the one who introduced them. And, if you hear some Dr. Dre in the music on “Regulate,” that’s intentional. This was a part of the G-Funk style and also sampled Dre’s “Let Me Ride.”

It was a clear black night…

Warren G provides a story of street life, gambling, partying, and getting jacked with his lyrics. But, Nate Dogg comes to his rescue with his smooth vocals.

Nate’s singing makes this track even smoother, and the whole thing comes together funky and slick. The different parts and layers of this track work perfectly to make this a true masterpiece of 90s Hip Hop.

21 Juicy – Notorious B.I.G.

Biggie Smalls, the Notorious B.I.G., hit the big time in 1994 when he dropped his debut album, Ready To Die. Biggie’s voice is about as phat as he was fat, and this comes through with his hard gangster style. His voice is big and full and, well, juicy.

The track is one of Biggie’s best. It shows off his rhymes perfectly, with his bouncy, old-school style still coming through. The music uses a funky sample from funk group Mtume’s 1983 song “Juicy Fruit” and mixing by Poke and Puffy.

This track and this album put Biggie on the map, kicking off a short and tragic but huge. “And if you don’t know, now you know,” it was also one of the most successful Hip Hop songs of the 90s.

22 N.Y. State of Mind – Nas

Another New York rapper came out with a bang in 1994, dropping one of the most acclaimed rap albums of all time, Illmatic. The debut was such a massive success that we’re still talking about it now, nearly 30 years late. And for good reason.

This is one of the first and best East Coast hardcore rap albums to come out, featuring Nas going full-tilt. His rhymes are intelligent and full of skill while he spins stories about growing up on the hard streets of Queens.

Monkey flip ’em with the funky rhythm…

“N.Y. State of Mind” is probably the most memorable track on the Illmatic album. This track combines jazz samples from Joe Chambers and Donald Bryd over a Kool & the Gang beat. The beat is heavy, and the jazz piano loop gives the whole track a dark feel.

Then Nas breaks in with a mature voice and skillful rhymes. He weaves a story of gun and drug violence on the street, completely flipping the classic Billy Joel song, “New York State Of Mind,” on its head.


23 Drop – The Pharcyde

“Drop” came down from The Pharcyde’s second album, Labcabincalifornia, and this track got up to #5 on the charts. But, this is one of the group’s best tracks and certainly one of their most memorable. That’s partly because of the video, which was directed by Spike Jonze.

The group rapped the entire song backward, and then the footage was played forward, “Twin Peaks” style, giving it a crazy weird atmosphere that was unforgettable. But, the song is also one to remember.

Let me freak the funk…

It’s held down by a strong beat and filled out with strange synth noises and scratching. There’s also the titular sample from the Beastie Boys song, “The New Style,” with a catchy hook, “mmmm… drop!”

The lyrical stylings of all the members come together here to create what I think is The Pharcyde’s masterpiece. Overall, it’s smooth and funky but also disorienting at points and a fun crowd pleaser at others.

24 Shimmy Shimmy Ya – Ol’ Dirty Bastard

Ol’ Dirty Bastard was one of the most unique rappers in history, hands down. His style was raw, vicious, and, of course, dirty, with off-kilter rhymes and half-rapped-half-sung vocals. As the originator of this style, ODB is the OG of dirty rap.

The best 90s rap song to exemplify this style is “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” a cut off his first solo album after success with the Wu-Tang Clan, Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version. This track is pure ODB.

The beat is slow and funky, with strange drunken-sounding piano and other samples. Dirty’s vocals are rough and raw, and pretty much all over the place. When this came out in 1995, I don’t think anyone had ever heard anything even remotely like it. Well, you know he likes it raw.

25 Fu-gee-La – The Fugees

The Fugees only put out two albums during their short time in the sun, but their second, The Score, was full of fresh sounds and some pretty tight tracks. “Fu-gee-la” is probably their most memorable rap song. Although, their version of “Killing Me Softly” is one of the great 90s covers as well.

We used to be number ten…

With “Fu-gee-la,” the group combined a sample of “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right)” by Ramsay Lewis with a nod to “Ooo La La La” by Teena Marie to create a dope jam with a great hook.

Wyclef Jean’s rhymes shine with his somewhat unusual Haitian delivery. Pras is on point, and Lauryn Hill more than holds her own as a rapper while also providing the hook with her strong singing voice.

Together, this group made some stupendous music and went their separate ways far too soon, in my opinion.

26 Shook Ones (Part II) – Mobb Deep

Prodigy and Havoc, the duo known as Mobb Deep, are probably the originators of the East Coast hardcore style.

They rapped about the struggle and the gritty life growing up on the streets in Queens, New York. And they got into the big time when they dropped their second album, The Infamous, in 1995.

One cut from that album stands out…

“Shook Ones (Part II)” is a sequel of sorts to the track “Shook Ones” off their first album. This track features a similar storyline but with slightly less hardcore lyrics, talking about the struggle and fighting over turf.

The music is built around samples from Herbie Hancock on piano, slowed down and toned down to make it creepier, as well as Quincy Jones and the Daly-Wilson Big Band. The beat is tight, and the music sparse to leave a lot of tension and room for the lyrics to stand out.

27 How High – Method Man & Redman

The power of the Wu-Tang Clan continues with Method Man collaborating with Def Squad’s Redman to produce “How High.”

This track has a thick beat and a chorus that any smoker can relate to, “How high? – So high that I could kiss the sky.” Of course, it features the flow of Meth and Red, coming at you hard and ill as usual.

If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because this was also the title of a movie also made by Red & Mef in 2001. Have a guess what it’s about. They also put out a sequel to this track called “Part II” in 1999.


28 Stakes Is High – De La Soul

De La Soul has been around since the early days of Hip Hop and is one of the only groups still going. Why? Maybe because instead of pursuing wealth and fame, they focused consistently on their music and keeping it real.

Some of their biggest hits like “Me Myself And I” and “Oooh.” with Redman bracket the 90s. But their best 90s track, I think, is “Stakes is High.”

As we’d expect from De La…

This track has a fat, juicy beat and some funky, jazzy samples to set the backdrop. Then the three MCs spit about the problems currently affecting the Hip Hop industry. Everything from gun violence, sexual exploitation, and materialism in the culture is called out in the typical De La Soul style.

29 Tha Crossroads – Bone Thugs-n-Harmony

The Cleveland, Ohio crew Bone Thugs-n-Harmony is one of the best hip-hop groups of all time. They’ve worked with some of the biggest rappers in the game, like 2Pac, Biggie, Big Pun, and Eazy-E. But, the Bone boys can hold their own, both with their signature melodic hip-hop and straight-up rap.

“The Crossroads” is a tribute they made to Eazy-E, their mentor and biggest fan. But, this 1996 song was a huge hit because anyone who’s lost a friend or a family member can relate to it instantly.

It’s soulful, with more of an R&B feel than straight-up Hip Hop. The rapping here is fast but smooth and shows off the group’s talent perfectly. That’s why it hit #1, sold double platinum, and also won the group a Grammy.

30 No Diggity – Blackstreet (Feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen)

Is “No Diggity” a Hip Hop song? Blackstreet is more of an R&B group, but this track crosses borders and breaks through barriers. This song has everything. Tight raps with both male and female MCs, smooth R&B vocals, call and response, doo-wop woops, and one of the slickest choruses ever.

The beat was put together by none other than Dr. Dre and uses an extensive sample from Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands.” The beat is solid Hip Hop, but it also has a chain gang overtone to it.

The raps from Queen Pen and Dr. Dre bring in a hard edge to contrast with the smooth Blackstreet singing. And the “Hey yo – Hey yo – Hey yo” chorus is the sweetest part of this incredible track.

31 I’ll Be There For You / You’re All I Need to Get By – Method Man (Feat. Mary J. Blige)

The Wu-Tang Clan members spread out their wings and took flight during the 1990s, creating solo material that was as big or bigger than the group’s work.

Of all the members…

Method Man was probably the most successful solo. He had the flow, the style, the charisma, and the personality to shine as an artist.

With “I’ll Be There For You – You’re All I Need to Get By,” Method Man and Mary J. Blige take a classic Marvin Gaye song and make it their own. Mary J. Blige’s vocals are clear and strong as always, and Method Man’s rhymes are fresh and powerful as usual.

The music was produced by the RZA to make a dark, dreamy track that somehow disturbs the ear even while it entertains. There’s also a Puff Daddy mix that’s a lot more poppy and radio-friendly, in case you want that option, too.

32 Woo Ha!! Got You All In Check – Busta Rhymes (Feat. O’ Dirty Bastard)

Busta Rhymes was a member of Leaders of the New School. But, when he burst out as a solo artist with his ’96 album, The Coming, the Hip Hop scene was floored by his sound.

No one since Ol’ Dirty Bastard had presented such a unique, intentionally off-beat-off kilter jagged style that still had incredible flow. Maybe that’s why these two go together like birds of a feather.

Let me cash my check…

With “Woo Ha!! Got You All In Check”, Busta Rhymes put himself on the Hip Hop map. His voice was off the chain, and he showed with this breakout single that he had nothing but game. The music is a sample from “Space” by composer Galt MacDermot and a funky phat beat that sets Busta up perfectly.

He put forward not only this crazy, exciting hyped-up manic sound but also a bizarre and hilarious visual style as well. And, in the version featuring ODB, well, things get downright raw and nasty on one of the dirtiest tracks of 90s hip hop.

33 I Ain’t Mad At Cha – 2Pac Shakur

2Pac is one of the most legendary rappers who ever came into the game. Both because of his talent and also his tragically early death.

He recorded four albums during his lifetime; the last one, All Eyez On Me, came out in 1996, just two days after he was killed. This album included what is arguably his best song with his dopest verses, “I Ain’t Mad At Cha.”

Do your thing boy…

This track has 2Pac talking about change, losing friends, and catching a felony. He recorded this track the day he got out of prison, going straight from the cell to the studio to lay down rhymes he had been working on while inside.

His lyrics also give a creepy prediction of his death, wondering when it will all end. 2Pac left early but lived fast and large, and if there’s a heaven for a G, that’s where he must be.


34 Hypnotize – Notorious B.I.G.

The big man is back with his last big single of the 90s. “Hypnotize” was released as a single from his album, Life After Death, only a week before Biggie was shot and killed in a drive-by. Biggie holds nothing back here, with rhymes about his life with sex, cars, drugs, money, and all sorts of big living.

The track was built by Sean (Puff Daddy, Puffy, P.Diddy, whatever) Combs around a sample from Herb Alpert’s 1979 hit “Rise” but also tips a hat to Slick Rick’s song “La-Di-Da-Di.”

The vocal hook, “Biggie, Biggie, Biggie, Biggie, Biggie can’t you see? – Sometimes your words just hypnotize me,” sung by Total’s Pamela Long, is also unforgettable. It’s one of those sing-along tracks that every woman in the club knows.


35 Doo Wop (That Thing) – Lauryn Hill

Coming off the success of The Fugees, Lauryn Hill dropped The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in 1998, showing off her singing and rap skills in Soul, R&B, and Hip Hop songs that made a huge splash. One of the biggest tracks on that record wasn’t even intended to be a single but ended up being a big hit anyway.

“Doo Wop (That Thing)” has Hill singing and rapping on a funky soul and doo-wop-inspired track that shot up to #1 in the charts. Hill’s lyrics are about women giving up that thing and, in general, just selling themselves out.

She sings, “Girls you know you better watch out – Some guys are only about – That thing.” But, she also warns men to keep themselves out of trouble. The whole thing can come across as angry, but the overall message shines through, “How you gonna win when you ain’t right within?”

36 Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) – Jay-Z

Jay-Z has been around in Hip Hop longer than most anyone else. So, it’s hard to remember what he was doing back in the 90s when he wasn’t quite as massive a figure in the game as he is now. Well, he was recording unique tracks that made him stand out and make a name for himself.

Jay-Z came out with three volumes of work called “Hard Knock Life,” and the second one, Vol. 2, Hard Knock Life, revealed where that title came from. The track “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” is a total departure from what was going on in hip hop at the time.

It samples the song “It’s the Hard-Knock Life” from the 70s Broadway musical “Annie” to create a chorus. Jay-Z’s slick flow reigns over this track, and he speaks about the struggle, which kind of makes the whole thing work together with a sample of orphans singing.


37 Hot Boyz – Missy Elliot

Missy Elliot came out from the group Sista and went solo in 1997 with Supa Dupa Fly. And while she just seems to be getting better and better, the 90s were a time for Missy to get things together and figure out what kind of artist she was going to be.

The 1999 song “Hot Boyz,” off her second album, Da Real World, showed the world that Missy wasn’t somebody to play with. She got serious here (she got more playful later), producing an extremely professional track.

This is a remix and features some heavy hitters. Missy gets Nas, Eve, and Q-Tip up to the mic to lay down some bars for her over a lush beat. And Missy’s vocals showcase her powerful voice and unique style as a sign of further greatness yet to come.

38 My Name Is – Eminem

The real Slim Shady stood up in 1996, getting propped up by his discoverer and producer Dr. Dre. And in 1999, when he dropped The Slim Shady LP, Eminem got the world to stand up and take notice. Not to mention becoming one of the best 90s Hip Hop songs ever.

Can I have the attention of the class…

A surprising rapper who turned things on their head and got a lot of attention. This was for his talent and his incredibly weird style. No need to mention his skin color, right?

With “My Name Is,” Eminem gives us a thick beat composed of a sample of Chas & Dave mixed in with Labi Siffre’s “I Got The…” This becomes a fun, grooving track that you can get down to, while at the same time, it’s covered with in-your-face lyrics and Eminem’s distinct piercing voice.

His style is mixed up and comical, but also there’s a serious undercurrent of anger that runs through all of his music. That’s one reason why this song resonated so much with so many unhappy and disenfranchised youths when it came out.

39 Mathematics – Mos Def

You might know Mos Def more from his career as an actor. But, this rapper has a long history in the game, with groups like UTD, De La Soul, Da Bush Babies, and Black Star. He came out solo in 1999 and snuck in his debut solo album, Black on Both Sides, just before the end of the millennium.

The track “Ms. Fat Booty” may have done better in the charts, but it’s on “Mathematics” where Mos Def’s lyrical genius comes through.

Eight million stories to tell…

“Mathematics” is a song about numbers. The basic numbers and stats tell a whole lot about life. Mos Def works through his numbers, telling a story of poverty, racism, violence, and inequality, saying, “You wanna know how to rhyme – you better learn how to add – It’s mathematics.”

The track is held down by a phat beat compliments of DJ Premier. It also has a scratchy bridge filled with samples from everyone from Eryka Badhu, Fat Joe, Lady of Rage, Ghostface Killah, The Fatback Band, and James Brown. That’s one hell of a backing band.

40 Rosa Parks – Outkast

Big Boi and Andre 3000 came back off the success of their first album with Aquemini, their follow-up album that made Outkast a household name.

This duo seemed to have almost nothing in common except talent, but that’s part of their appeal. And, with the track “Rosa Parks,” these southern boys make the whole club get crunk.

Big Boi lays down a tight verse with his off-kilter rhymes, followed by Andre 3000 hitting it smooth. The chorus here is bumpin’, and so is the hand-clapping breakdown at the end of the song.

Sorry, Miss Jackson…

But surprisingly, Rosa Parks sued Outkast over this song. They’re kind of telling everyone to get to the back of the bus cuz that’s where the party’s at, but this isn’t what Ms. Parks’ story was all about. Still makes for a heck of a tight jam, though.

More 100 Best 90s Hip Hop Songs

    1. Tearz – Wu-Tang Clan
    2. All For One – Brand Nubian
    3. U.N.I.T.Y. – Queen Latifah
    4. Ain’t No Fun (If The Homies Can’t Have None) – Snoop Dogg feat. Nate Dogg, Warren G, Kurupt
    5. Nann Nigga – Trick Daddy feat. Trina
    6. What’s My Name? – DMX
    7. U Can’t Touch This – MC Hammer
    8. Elevators (Me & You) – OutKast
    9. Doin’ It – LL Cool J
    10. Ruff Ryders’ Anthem – DMX
    11. Tennessee – Arrested Development
    12. California Love – 2Pac feat. Dr. Dre
    13. Flava In Ya Ear (Remix) – Craig Mack feat. The Notorious B.I.G., Rampage, LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes
    14. No Diggity – Blackstreet feat. Dr. Dre, Queen Pen
    15. Hip Hop Hooray – Naughty By Nature
    16. Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me – Geto Boys
    17. The Symphony – Marley Marl feat. Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Craig G
    18. Eazy-Duz-It – Eazy-E
    19. Electric Relaxation – A Tribe Called Quest
    20. Freak Like Me – Adina Howard
    21. Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang – Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg
    22. Funky Cold Medina – Tone Loc
    23. Fight The Power – Public Enemy
    24. Summertime – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
    25. Mama Said Knock You Out – LL Cool J
    26. C.R.E.A.M. – Wu-Tang Clan
    27. Dear Mama – 2Pac
    28. No Sleep Till Brooklyn – Beastie Boys
    29. Top Billin’ – Audio Two
    30. Money Ain’t A Thang – Jermaine Dupri feat. Jay-Z
    31. Fu-Gee-La – Fugees
    32. I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need To Get By – Method Man feat. Mary J. Blige
    33. The Breaks – Kurtis Blow
    34. Jump – Kris Kross
    35. Passin’ Me By – The Pharcyde
    36. Hip Hop Junkies – Nice & Smooth
    37. Hey Lover – LL Cool J feat. Boyz II Men
    38. Big Poppa – The Notorious B.I.G.
    39. N.Y. State of Mind – Nas
    40. Shimmy Shimmy Ya – Ol’ Dirty Bastard
    41. Can I Kick It? – A Tribe Called Quest
    42. My Name Is… – Eminem
    43. The Humpty Dance – Digital Underground
    44. Who Am I (What’s My Name)? – Snoop Dogg
    45. Misdemeanor – Foster Sylvers
    46. Nuthin’ But a G Thang – Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg
    47. Gin and Juice – Snoop Dogg
    48. It Was a Good Day – Ice Cube
    49. I Get Around – 2Pac feat. Digital Underground
    50. Can’t Truss It – Public Enemy
    51. Mind Playing Tricks on Me – Geto Boys
    52. Protect Ya Neck – Wu-Tang Clan
    53. 93 ‘Til Infinity – Souls of Mischief
    54. Scenario – A Tribe Called Quest feat. Leaders of the New School
    55. I Ain’t Mad At Cha – 2Pac feat. Danny Boy
    56. Keep Ya Head Up – 2Pac
    57. Insane in the Brain – Cypress Hill
    58. Who Am I? (What’s My Name?) – Snoop Dogg
    59. Get At Me Dog – DMX feat. Sheek Louch
    60. Ruffneck – MC Lyte
    61. It’s All About the Benjamins (Remix) – Puff Daddy feat. The Notorious B.I.G., Lil’ Kim, and The Lox
    62. I Got 5 on It – Luniz
    63. One More Chance – The Notorious B.I.G.
    64. Passin’ Me By – The Pharcyde
    65. Thuggish Ruggish Bone – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
    66. Crossroads – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
    67. Triumph – Wu-Tang Clan
    68. Player’s Ball – Outkast
    69. I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By – Method Man feat. Mary J. Blige
    70. Doo Wop (That Thing) – Lauryn Hill
    71. I Shot Ya – LL Cool J feat. Keith Murray, Prodigy, Fat Joe & Foxy Brown
    72. Street Dreams – Nas
    73. Award Tour – A Tribe Called Quest
    74. My Mind’s Playing Tricks On Me – Geto Boys
    75. Ain’t No Half Steppin’ – Big Daddy Kane
    76. Ready Or Not – The Fugees
    77. Flava In Ya Ear – Craig Mack feat. The Notorious B.I.G., Rampage, LL Cool J & Busta Rhymes
    78. Big Pimpin’ – Jay-Z feat. UGK
    79. They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.) – Pete Rock & CL Smooth
    80. Put It On – Big L
    81. The World Is Yours – Nas
    82. Mass Appeal – Gang Starr
    83. Crossover – EPMD
    84. I Got It Made – Special Ed
    85. Flavor Of The Month – Black Sheep
    86. Streets Of New York – Kool G Rap & DJ Polo
    87. Take It Personal – Gang Starr
    88. You Can’t Stop The Reign – Shaquille O’Neal feat. The Notorious B.I.G.
    89. Player’s Anthem – Junior M.A.F.I.A. feat. The Notorious B.I.G.
    90. Dead Presidents II – Jay-Z
    91. Regrets – Jay-Z
    92. Self Destruction – The Stop The Violence Movement
    93. Stakes Is High – De La Soul
    94. Respiration – Black Star feat. Common
    95. New York, New York – Tha Dogg Pound
    96. Ruff Ryders’ Anthem – DMX
    97. All About The Benjamins – Puff Daddy & The Family feat. The Notorious B.I.G., Lil’ Kim & The Lox
    98. Mistadobalina – Del Tha Funkee Homosapien
    99. Vivrant Thing – Q-Tip
    100. The Choice Is Yours – Black Sheep

Looking for More Great Hip Hop Tracks?

If so, take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Kanye West Songs of All Time, the Best Lil Wayne Songs of All Time, the Best Ja Rule Songs Of All Time, the Best Drake Songs of All Time, and the Best Sad Rap Songs for more bangin’ beats.

Also, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Bass Earbuds, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best JBL Wireless Headphones, and the Best iPhone Earbuds you can buy in 2023.

The Top 140 Best 90s Hip Hop Songs

So that’s my list of the biggest, baddest jams from 90s Hip Hop. You may agree with me, or you may have your own favorites. But, there’s no denying that these are some of the biggest songs and biggest artists that came out of Hip Hop in the 1990s.

This was a time when rivalry, experimentation, and raw talent pushed Hip Hop into the biggest thing in international music. While the 90s were over 20+ years ago, the influence of this era on today’s hip hop is alive and well.

And, you’ll still see all the people get up out of their seats when these jams come on. So enjoy the classics.

Until next time, let your head bop, get your hands up, and happy listening.

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About Corey Hoffman

Corey is a multi-instrumentalist who has played in numerous bands over the years, some good, some not so good. He has also written countless songs and recorded five albums in professional studios across America. Today he is a hobby musician but still loves the guitar after over 15 years of playing.

He considers his writing as a way to share what he has learned over the decades with younger generations ad always can't wait to get his hands on the latest gear.

He lives just outside New York with his wife Barbara and their two German Shepherds, Ziggy and Iggy.

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