What distinguishes a good rap bar from a great one? What elements elevate a rap bar to become one of the most memorable in hip hop’s rich history?

As we travel through the annals of hip hop, we find that several factors contribute to the making of an unforgettable rap bar. Sometimes, it’s the sheer genius of a rapper who artfully weaves layers of meaning into just a few words, reminiscent of Jay-Z’s poetic prowess, or Eminem’s dazzling multisyllabic rhyme schemes, demonstrating the boundless potential of language.

Other times, it’s the dazzling display of a rapper’s lyrical dexterity, like Big L’s mind-bending punchlines that leave fans in awe. And then there are those rap bars that, with their wit and infectious energy, command attention and linger in our minds, much like the memorable verses of 2 Chainz or Lil Wayne.

From Slick Rick’s timeless opening lines on “La Di Da Di” to Chief Keef’s menacing threats on “I Don’t Like,” we present to you: the top 100 greatest rap bars in hip hop history.

“Broken glass everywhere, people pissing on the stairs, you know they just don’t care”

Artist: Melle Mel

Song: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – “The Message”

Released: July 1, 1982

“La-di-da-di, we like to party, we don’t cause trouble, we don’t bother nobody”

Artist: Slick Rick

Song: Doug E. Fresh & MC Ricky D – “La Di Da Di”

Released: August 13, 1985

“6 in the morning, police at my door, fresh Adidas squeak across the bathroom floor”

Artist: Ice-T

Song: Ice-T – “6 in the Mornin'”

Released: 1986

“I came in the door, I said it before, I never let the mic magnetize me no more”

Artist: Rakim

Song: Eric B. & Rakim – “Eric B. Is President”

Released: 1986

“Now Peter Piper picked peppers, but Run rocked rhymes”

Artist: Run–D.M.C.

Song: Run–D.M.C. – “Peter Piper”

Released: May 15, 1986

“My Adidas walk through concert doors, and roam all over coliseum floors”

Artist: Run–D.M.C.

Song: Run–D.M.C. – “My Adidas”

Released: May 15, 1986

“Cruisin’ down the street in my ’64”

Artist: Eazy-E

Song: Eazy-E – “Boyz-n-the Hood”

Released: March 3, 1987

“It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you, without a strong rhyme to step to”

Artist: Rakim

Song: Eric B. & Rakim – “I Know You Got Soul”

Released: July 7, 1987

“I take seven emcees put ’em in a line”

Artist: Rakim

Song: Eric B. & Rakim – “My Melody”

Released: July 7, 1987

“Put a quarter in your ass ’cause ya played yourself”

Artist: Big Daddy Kane

Song: Marley Marl ft. Kool G Rap, Craig G, Masta Ace & Big Daddy Kane – “The Symphony”

Released: 1988

“Straight outta Compton, crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube, from the gang called Niggas Wit Attitudes”

Artist: Ice Cube

Song: N.W.A. – “Straight Outta Compton”

Released: July 10, 1988

“Fuck the police comin’ straight from the underground”

Artist: Ice Cube

Song: N.W.A. – “Fuck tha Police”

Released: August 8, 1988

“I never ever ran from the Ku Klux Klan, and I shouldn’t have to run from a black man”

Artist: Kool Moe Dee

Song: The Stop the Violence Movement – “Self Destruction”

Released: January 15, 1989

“Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me”

Artist: Chuck D

Song: Public Enemy – “Fight the Power”

Released: July 4, 1989

“One, and here comes the two to the three and four”

Artist: The D.O.C.

Song: The D.O.C. – “It’s Funky Enough”

Released: August 1, 1989

“Don’t call it a comeback, I been here for years”

Artist: LL Cool J

Song: LL Cool J – “Mama Said Knock You Out”

Released: September 14, 1990

“I sit alone in my four-cornered room, starin’ at candles”

Artist: Scarface

Song: Geto Boys – “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”

Released: July 1, 1991

“Verbal assassin, my architect pleases, when I was 12, I went to Hell for snuffin’ Jesus”

Artist: Nas

Song: Main Source ft. Nas, Joe Fatal & Akinyele – “Live at the Barbeque”

Released: July 23, 1991

“Back in the days when I was a teenager, before I had status and before I had a pager”

Artist: Q-Tip

Song: A Tribe Called Quest – “Excursions”

Released: September 24, 1991

“Yo, microphone check one, two, what is this? The five foot assassin with the roughneck business”

Artist: Phife Dawg

Song: A Tribe Called Quest – “Buggin’ Out”

Released: September 24, 1991

“Rawr! Rawr! Like a dungeon dragon”

Artist: Busta Rhymes

Song: A Tribe Called Quest ft. Leaders of the New School – “Scenario”

Released: September 24, 1991

“One, two, three and to the four, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre is at the door”

Artist: Snoop Dogg

Song: Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg – “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang”

Released: December 15, 1992

“I like ‘em brown, yellow, Puerto Rican or Haitian, name is Phife Dawg from the Zulu Nation”

Artist: Phife Dawg

Song: A Tribe Called Quest – “Electric Relaxation”

Released: November 9, 1993

“Ghostface catch the blast of a hype verse, my Glock burst, leave in a hearse, I did worse”

Artist: Ghostface Killah

Song: Wu-Tang Clan – “Bring da Ruckus”

Released: November 9, 1993

“Homicide’s illegal and death is the penalty, what justifies the homicide, when he dies, in his own iniquity?”

Artist: Masta Killa

Song: Wu-Tang Clan – “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’”

Released: November 9, 1993

“I grew up on the crime side, the New York Times side”

Artist: Raekwon

Song: Wu-Tang Clan – “C.R.E.A.M.”

Released: November 9, 1993

“I never sleep, ’cause sleep is the cousin of death”

Artist: Nas

Song: Nas – “N.Y. State of Mind”

Released: April 19, 1994

“Visualizin’ the realism of life in actuality, fuck who’s the baddest, a person’s status depends on salary”

Artist: Nas

Song: Nas ft. AZ – “Life’s a Bitch”

Released: April 19, 1994

“I’m out for presidents to represent me”

Artist: Nas

Song: Nas – “The World Is Yours”

Released: April 19, 1994

“Either you’re slingin’ crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot”

Artist: The Notorious B.I.G.

Song: The Notorious B.I.G. – “Things Done Changed”

Released: September 13, 1994

“Birthdays was the worst days, now we sip Champagne when we thirsty”

Artist: The Notorious B.I.G.

Song: The Notorious B.I.G. – “Juicy”

Released: August 9, 1994

“I met this girl when I was ten years old, and what I loved most, she had so much soul”

Artist: Common

Song: Common – “I Used to Love H.E.R.”

Released: September 27, 1994

“E-I-H-T, now should I continue? Yeah, you left out the G ’cause the G ain’t in you”

Artist: DJ Quik

Song: DJ Quik – “Dollaz + Sense”

Released: October 15, 1994

“I smash mics like cornbread, you can’t kill me, I was born dead”

Artist: Big L

Song: Big L – “Put It On”

Released: November 13, 1994

“I got you stuck off the realness, we be the infamous”

Artist: Prodigy

Song: Mobb Deep – “Shook Ones Part II”

Released: February 7, 1995

“And even as a crack fiend, Mama, you always was a black queen, Mama”

Artist: 2Pac

Song: 2Pac – “Dear Mama”

Released: February 21, 1995

“L’s a clever threat, a lyricist who never sweat, comparing yourself to me is like a Benz to a Chevrolette”

Artist: Big L

Song: Big L – “M.V.P.”

Released: March 28, 1995

“There’s a war goin’ on outside no man is safe from”

Artist: Prodigy

Song: Mobb Deep – “Survival of the Fittest”

Released: April 25, 1995

“Me and the RZA connect, blow a fuse, you lose, half-ass crews get demolished and bruised”

Artist: Raekwon

Song: Raekwon – “Incarcerated Scarfaces”

Released: August 1, 1995

“Through the lights, cameras, and action, glamor, glitters, and gold”

Artist: Nas

Song: Raekwon ft. Ghostface Killah & Nas – “Verbal Intercourse”

Released: August 1, 1995

“Illuminati want my mind, soul and my body, secret society, trying to keep they eye on me”

Artist: Prodigy

Song: LL Cool J ft. Keith Murray, Prodigy, Fat Joe & Foxy Brown – “I Shot Ya (Remix)”

Released: November 21, 1995

“Out on bail, fresh out of jail, California dreamin'”

Artist: 2Pac

Song: 2Pac ft. Dr. Dre & Roger Troutman – “California Love”

Released: December 3, 1995

“And even after all my logic and my theory, I add a “motherfucker” so you ignant niggas hear me”

Artist: Lauryn Hill

Song: Fugees – “Zealots”

Released: February 13, 1996

“We used to fight for building blocks, now we fight for blocks with buildings that make a killin'”

Artist: Jay-Z

Song: Jay-Z – “D’Evils”

Released: June 25, 1996

“I live by the beat like you live check-to-check, if it don’t move your feet, then, I don’t eat, so we like neck-to-neck”

Artist: Andre 3000

Song: OutKast – “Elevators (Me & You)”

Released: July 9, 1996

“I ain’t a killer, but don’t push me, revenge is like the sweetest joy next to gettin’ pussy”

Artist: 2Pac

Song: 2Pac ft. Outlawz & Prince Ital Joe – “Hail Mary”

Released: November 5, 1996

“I bomb atomically, Socrates’ philosophies and hypotheses, can’t define how I be dropping these mockeries”

Artist: Inspectah Deck

Song: Wu-Tang Clan – “Triumph”

Released: February 11, 1997

“I’m not sayin I’m number one, uhh I’m sorry, I lied, I’m number one, two, three, four and five”

Artist: KRS-One

Song: KRS-One – “Step into a World (Rapture’s Delight)”

Released: March 3, 1997

“Your reign on the top was short like leprechauns, as I crush so-called willies, thugs, and rapper-dons”

Artist: The Notorious B.I.G.

Song: The Notorious B.I.G. – “Kick in the Door”

Released: March 25, 1997

“Reunited, double LP, world excited, struck a match to the underground, industry ignited”

Artist: GZA

Song: Wu-Tang Clan – “Reunited”

Released: June 3, 1997

“I’m from where niggas pull your card, and argue all day about, who’s the best MCs, Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas?”

Artist: Jay-Z

Song: Jay-Z – “Where I’m From”

Released: November 4, 1997

“Dead in the middle of Little Italy, little did we know that we riddled some middlemen who didn’t do diddly”

Artist: Big Pun

Song: Big Pun ft. Fat Joe – “Twinz (Deep Cover ’98)”

Released: April 28, 1998

“I said, “What you wanna be?” She said, “Alive”, it made me think for a minute, then looked in her eyes”

Artist: Andre 3000

Song: OutKast – “Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 1)”

Released: September 29, 1998

“Things just ain’t the same for gangstas”

Artist: Dr. Dre

Song: Dr. Dre – “The Watcher”

Released: November 16, 1999

“So what do you say to somebody you hate, or anyone tryna bring trouble your way? Wanna resolve things in a bloodier way? Just study a tape of N.W.A”

Artist: Eminem

Song: Dr. Dre ft. Eminem – “Forgot About Dre”

Released: March 28, 2000

“Will Smith don’t gotta cuss in his raps to sell records, well, I do, so fuck him and fuck you too”

Artist: Eminem

Song: Eminem – “The Real Slim Shady”

Released: April 18, 2000

“I don’t do black music, I don’t do white music, I make fight music for high school kids”

Artist: Eminem

Song: Eminem – “Who Knew”

Released: May 23, 2000

“I’m far from broke, got enough bread, and mad hoes, ask Beavis, I get nothing Butthead”

Artist: Big L

Song: Big L – “’98 Freestyle”

Released: August 1, 2000

“Ayo, I break bread, ribs, hundred dollar bills”

Artist: Prodigy

Song: Prodigy – “Keep It Thoro”

Released: November 14, 2000

“Motherfuckers say that I’m foolish, I only talk about jewels, do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?”

Artist: Jay-Z

Song: Jay-Z ft. Eminem – “Renegade”

Released: September 11, 2001

“Don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write checks”

Artist: Diddy

Song: Black Rob, Mark Curry & Diddy – “Bad Boy For Life”

Released: November 27, 2001

“My grind’s ’bout family, never been about fame, from days I wasn’t able, there was always ‘caine”

Artist: Malice

Song: Clipse – “Grindin'”

Released: May 14, 2002

“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, there’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti”

Artist: Eminem

Song: Eminem – “Lose Yourself”

Released: October 28, 2002

“They say I walk around like I got a S on my chest, nah, that’s a semi-auto, in a vest on my chest”

Artist: 50 Cent

Song: 50 Cent – “What Up Gangsta”

Released: February 6, 2003

“Hommo shot me, three weeks later he got shot down, now it’s clear that I’m here for a real reason, ‘cause he got hit like I got hit, but he ain’t fuckin’ breathin'”

Artist: 50 Cent

Song: 50 Cent – “Many Men (Wish Death)”

Released: February 6, 2003

“If skills sold, truth be told, I’d probably be lyrically Talib Kweli, truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense, but I did 5 mill’ – I ain’t been rhyming like Common since”

Artist: Jay-Z

Song: Jay-Z – “Moment of Clarity”

Released: November 14, 2003

“Allow me to re-introduce myself, my name is Hov, OH, H-to-the-O-V”

Artist: Jay-Z

Song: Jay-Z – “Public Service Announcement (Interlude)”

Released: November 14, 2003

“She got a light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson, got a dark-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson”

Artist: Kanye West

Song: Kanye West ft. Twista & Jamie Foxx – “Slow Jamz”

Released: December 2, 2003

“Drinking sake on a Suzuki; we in Osaka Bay”

Artist: Cam’ron

Song: Cam’ron – “Down and Out”

Released: December 7, 2004

“I’m not a businessman; I’m a business, man, let me handle my business, damn”

Artist: Jay-Z

Song: Kanye West ft. Jay-Z – “Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix)”

Released: June 15, 2005

“I used to hit the kitchen lights, cockroaches everywhere, hit the kitchen lights: now it’s marble floors, everywhere”

Artist: Young Jeezy

Song: Young Jeezy – “Thug Motivation 101”

Released: July 26, 2005

“I had a dream I could buy my way to heaven, when I awoke, I spent that on a necklace”

Artist: Kanye West

Song: Kanye West – “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”

Released: May 15, 2007

“Spaceships don’t come equipped with rearview mirrors”

Artist: Andre 3000

Song: UGK ft. OutKast – “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)”

Released: June 6, 2007

“My bitch a choosy lover, never fuck without a rubber”

Artist: Pimp C

Song: UGK ft. OutKast – “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)”

Released: June 6, 2007

“If you die, tell them that you played my game, I hope your bullet holes become mouths that say my name”

Artist: Lupe Fiasco

Song: Lupe Fiasco – “Put You On Game”

Released: December 18, 2007

“I’m a venereal disease, like a menstrual bleed, through the pencil, and leak on the sheet of the tablet in my mind”

Artist: Lil Wayne

Song: Lil Wayne – “A Milli”

Released: April 23, 2008

“Safe sex is great sex, better wear a latex, ’cause you don’t want that late text, that “I think I’m late” text”

Artist: Lil Wayne

Song: Lil Wayne ft. Kanye West – “Lollipop (Remix)”

Released: June 10, 2008

“I father, I Brooklyn-Dodger them, I jack, I rob, I sin, Aw, man—I’m Jackie Robinson, ‘Cept when I run base, I dodge the pen”

Artist: Jay-Z

Song: Jay-Z – “Brooklyn Go Hard”

Released: December 1, 2008

“They call me Jay Electronica—fuck that, call me Jay Elec-Hanukkah, Jay Elec-Yarmulke, Jay Elect-Ramadan, Muhammad as-salaam-alaikum, RasoulAllah Subhanahu wa ta’ala through your monitor”

Artist: Jay Electronica

Song: Jay Electronica – “Exhibit C”

Released: December 22, 2009

“Ironic, you been sleeping on the one that you been dreaming ’bout”

Artist: J. Cole

Song: Kanye West ft. Pusha T, CyHi The Prynce, Big Sean & J. Cole – “Looking for Trouble”

Released: November 5, 2010

“Dark Knight feeling, die and be a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become a villain”

Artist: Jay-Z

Song: Kanye West ft. Jay-Z, Pusha T, Cyhi the Prynce, Swizz Beatz & RZA – “So Appalled”

Released: September 24, 2010

“Too many Urkels on your team, that’s why your wins low”

Artist: Kanye West

Song: Kanye West – “Dark Fantasy”

Released: November 22, 2010

“Had cyphers with Yeezy before his mouth wired, before his jaw shattered, climbing up the Lord’s ladder”

Artist: Rick Ross

Song: Kanye West ft. Rick Ross – “Devil in a New Dress”

Released: November 22, 2010

“Bitch, real Gs move in silence like lasagna”

Artist: Lil Wayne

Song: Lil Wayne ft. Cory Gunz – “6 Foot 7 Foot”

Released: December 16, 2010

“I’m a fuckin’ walkin’ paradox, no, I’m not”

Artist: Tyler, the Creator

Song: Tyler, the Creator – “Yonkers”

Released: February 14, 2011

“So I ball so hard, motherfuckers wanna fine me”

Artist: Jay-Z

Song: Jay-Z & Kanye West – “Niggas in Paris”

Released: September 13, 2011

“Fredo in the cut, that’s a scary sight”

Artist: Lil Reese

Song: Chief Keef ft. Lil Reese – “I Don’t Like”

Released: March 11, 2012

“Bitch, you wasn’t with me shootin’ in the gym”

Artist: Drake

Song: Rick Ross ft. Drake & French Montana – “Stay Schemin'”

Released: April 17, 2012

“She got a big booty so I call her Big Booty”

Artist: 2 Chainz

Song: 2 Chainz ft. Kanye West – “Birthday Song”

Released: July 24, 2012

“If I told you I killed a nigga at sixteen, would you believe me?”

Artist: Kendrick Lamar

Song: Kendrick Lamar ft. MC Eiht – “M.A.A.D City”

Released: October 22, 2012

“Hold up, wait a minute, y’all thought I was finished?”

Artist: Meek Mill

Song: Meek Mill – “Dreams and Nightmares”

Released: October 30, 2012

“I’m Makaveli’s offspring, I’m the King of New York, King of the Coast; one hand, I juggle ’em both”

Artist: Kendrick Lamar

Song: Big Sean ft. Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica – “Control”

Released: August 14, 2013

“I might sell a brick on my birthday, thirty-six years of doin’ dirt like it’s Earth Day”

Artist: Pusha T

Song: Pusha T – “Numbers on the Boards”

Released: May 10, 2013

“Mitch caught a body about a week ago”

Artist: Bobby Shmurda

Song: Bobby Shmurda – “Hot Nigga”

Released: July 25, 2014

“I’m a gorilla in a fuckin’ coupe, finna pull up to the zoo, nigga”

Artist: Chief Keef

Song: Chief Keef – “Faneto”

Released: October 31, 2014

“I just fucked your bitch in some Gucci flip flops”

Artist: Future

Song: Future – “Thought It Was a Drought”

Released: July 17, 2015

“I was runnin’ through the 6 with my woes”

Artist: Drake

Song: Drake – “Know Yourself”

Released: February 13, 2015

“I’m runnin’ with the rebels, it’s the three-man weave with the Lord and the devil”

Artist: Jadakiss

Song: Schoolboy Q ft. Jadakiss – “Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane”

Released: July 8, 2016

“My guillotine, drank promethazine”

Artist: Future

Song: Future – “Mask Off”

Released: April 18, 2017

“To all of my young niggas, I am your Ghost and your Rae, this is my Purple Tape, save up for rainy days”

Artist: Pusha T

Song: Pusha T – “If You Know You Know”

Released: May 25, 2018

Related Posts