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As the late ’70s gave birth to the iconic “Rapper’s Delight,” the 1980s transformed hip hop into a thriving genre that would forever alter the course of music history. This vibrant era laid the foundation for rap’s ongoing evolution, shaping the lyrical, rhythmic, and thematic elements that would later inspire generations of superstars to push the envelope.

The ’80s saw unparalleled lyrical mastery from the likes of Rakim and Big Daddy Kane, innovative production techniques that put Marley Marl at the forefront, and the rebellious, game-changing energy of Public Enemy and N.W.A. This golden age not only shaped the culture’s trajectory but also left a lasting impact on the broader music landscape, solidifying hip hop’s influence for decades to come.

To celebrate the most influential decade in hip hop history, here is a list of the defining tracks from a golden era that have stayed timeless in the culture. Featuring timeless classics like Ice-T’s “I’m Your Pusher,” EPMD’s “You Gots to Chill,” Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend,” and many more, this collection showcases the crème de la crème of an era that set the stage for everything that followed.

So let’s get into it. From Ice-T’s “I’m Your Pusher” to EPMD’s “You Gots to Chill” to Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend”, here are the 50 best hip hop songs of the 1980s.

50. Biz Markie – “Vapors”

Released: April 1988

Album: Goin’ Off

Producer: Marley Marl

“Vapors” by Biz Markie tells a heartfelt, cautionary tale about the fickle nature of success and fame. His distinctive, offbeat delivery and engaging narratives over Marley Marl’s funky production make this track a standout in the genre, proving that there’s more to the Clown Prince of Hip Hop than just his comedic antics.

49. Kool G Rap & DJ Polo – “Men at Work”

Released: March 14, 1989

Album: Road to the Riches

Producer: Marley Marl

A lyrical masterclass, Kool G Rap & DJ Polo’s “Men at Work” showcases Kool G Rap’s intricate wordplay and relentless flow. DJ Polo’s dark, bass-heavy beat perfectly complements G Rap’s streetwise narratives, creating a quintessential example of the raw, unfiltered energy that defined ’80s hip hop.

48. Ice-T – “I’m Your Pusher”

Released: August 23, 1988

Album: Power

Producer: Ice-T, Afrika Islam

Ice-T’s “I’m Your Pusher” ingeniously flipped the script on the glorification of drug dealing in hip hop. With vivid storytelling and a cool, menacing delivery over a Curtis Mayfield sample, this cautionary tale resonated with fans, further establishing Ice-T as one of the culture’s most influential rappers.

47. Jungle Brothers – “Black is Black”

Released: November 8, 1988

Album: Straight out the Jungle

Producer: Jungle Brothers

Embodying black pride and unity, Jungle Brothers’ “Black is Black” is an Afrocentric anthem that showcases their innovative fusion of hip hop, jazz, and Afrobeat elements. Their socially conscious lyrics made this track a standout in the Native Tongues movement, serving as a vital reminder of the power of music to uplift and empower.

46. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – “Parents Just Don’t Understand”

Released: February 17, 1988

Album: He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper

Producer: Pete Harris, Will Smith, Jeffrey Townes, Bryan “Chuck” New

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince delivered a lighthearted, relatable anthem with “Parents Just Don’t Understand”. The Fresh Prince’s storytelling prowess and humorous lyrics over DJ Jazzy Jeff’s catchy beats made this track an instant classic, earning the duo the first ever Grammy for hip hop and paving the way for Will Smith’s illustrious career.

45. Gang Starr – “Words I Manifest (Remix)”

Released: April 22, 1989

Album: No More Mr. Nice Guy

Producer: DJ Premier

Jazz-infused and mesmerizing, Gang Starr’s “Words I Manifest (Remix)” marked the beginning of DJ Premier and Guru’s legendary partnership. Guru’s laid-back flow combined with Premier’s sample-rich, boom-bap production set the stage for the duo’s iconic run, exemplifying the essence of ’90s New York hip hop.

44. MC Lyte – “10% Dis”

Released: 1988

Album: Lyte as a Rock

Producer: Audio Two

Unleashing her ferocity on the mic, MC Lyte’s “10% Dis” is a fierce, no-holds-barred diss track aimed at fellow female MC Antoinette. Lyte’s razor-sharp wit and unrelenting flow over a gritty, King of Chill-produced beat showed that she was a force to be reckoned with, proving that gender was no obstacle when it came to lyrical warfare.

43. The D.O.C. – “It’s Funky Enough”

Released: June 16, 1989

Album: No One Can Do It Better

Producer: Dr. Dre

With “It’s Funky Enough”, The D.O.C. demonstrated his dynamic flow and Dr. Dre’s top-notch production skills, creating a West Coast classic. The aggressive delivery over a sample-driven, funk-infused beat made this track an instant hit, solidifying The D.O.C.’s position as a key player in the early days of N.W.A. and Ruthless Records.

42. T La Rock & Jazzy Jay – “It’s Yours”

Released: 1984

Album: N/A

Producer: Rick Rubin

The first rap single to ever feature the Def Jam logo, T La Rock and Jazzy Jay’s foundational hip hop classic, “It’s Yours,” played a crucial role in shaping the genre’s sound and style. T La Rock’s smooth, confident rhymes and Jazzy Jay’s slick cuts over a bouncy, Rick Rubin-produced beat made this track an iconic anthem that influenced countless artists.

41. Ultramagnetic MCs – “Give the Drummer Some”

Released: October 4, 1988

Album: Critical Beatdown

Producer: Paul C

A boom-bap masterpiece, “Give the Drummer Some” spotlights Kool Keith’s off-kilter flow and the group’s innovative sampling techniques. Legendary producer Ced Gee and Paul C’s eclectic mix of James Brown and Meters samples, combined with Kool Keith’s abstract lyricism, birthed a hypnotic head-nodder that still resonates today.

40. Kool Moe Dee – “How Ya Like Me Now”

Released: November 3, 1987

Album: How Ya Like Me Now

Producer: Kool Moe Dee, Teddy Riley

“How Ya Like Me Now” oozes confidence, showcasing his clever wordplay and fierce delivery. This infectious, horn-laced anthem, fueled by his rivalry with LL Cool J, cemented Kool Moe Dee’s reputation as a battle-tested MC. A true testament to the competitive spirit of the golden era.

39. Salt-n-Pepa – “Push It”

Released: March 8, 1987

Album: Hot, Cool & Vicious

Producer: Hurby Azor

Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It” exploded onto the scene with its infectious beat and empowering, no-nonsense lyrics. The dynamic duo’s smooth, confident flow and DJ Spinderella’s impeccable cuts made this track an instant hit, breaking down barriers for female MCs and proving that women could go toe-to-toe with the best in the game.

38. Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force – “Looking for the Perfect Beat”

Released: December 1982

Album: Planet Rock: The Album

Producer: Arthur Baker, John Robie

“Looking for the Perfect Beat” is a futuristic, electro-infused banger from Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force that took hip hop to new sonic heights. Produced by Arthur Baker, this innovative track’s eclectic mix of electronic beats, synth-driven melodies, and Zulu chants showcased hip hop’s boundless creativity and ability to push boundaries, even in the very early days.

37. Boogie Down Productions – “9mm Goes Bang”

Released: March 3, 1987

Album: Criminal Minded

Producer: DJ Scott La Rock, KRS-One, Partner Lee Smith

BDP’s “9mm Goes Bang” is a cautionary tale of street violence and gunplay that resonates to this day. KRS-One’s vivid storytelling and hard-hitting delivery over a bass-heavy beat created a haunting, unforgettable track that highlighted the harsh reality of life in the South Bronx.

36. Kurtis Blow – “The Breaks”

Released: June 14, 1980

Album: Kurtis Blow

Producer: J.B. Moore, Robert Ford Jr.

Kurtis Blow’s groundbreaking hit “The Breaks” paved the way for future hip hop success with its infectious, funky groove and catchy hook. As one of the earliest commercially successful rap songs, this party anthem helped to break down barriers and establish hip hop as a viable genre.

35. Big Daddy Kane – “Wrath of Kane”

Released: September 19, 1989

Album: It’s a Big Daddy Thing

Producer: Marley Marl

Big Daddy Kane’s “Wrath of Kane” is a lyrical tour de force that demonstrates his indomitable presence on the mic. Kane’s rapid-fire wordplay and braggadocious rhymes over a menacing, horn-driven beat proved he was a hip hop heavyweight. This timeless banger is guaranteed to make you bow down to the wrath of Kane.

34. Roxanne Shante – “Roxanne’s Revenge”

Released: 1984

Album: N/A

Producer: Marley Marl

Shante’s ferocious response to UTFO’s “Roxanne, Roxanne” turned the tables with her fierce lyrical skills and unyielding attitude. With Marley Marl on the boards, “Roxanne’s Revenge” marked the beginning of a storied career for the feisty MC and set the standard for battle raps in the golden age of hip hop.

33. Boogie Down Productions – “The Bridge Is Over”

Released: March 3, 1987

Album: Criminal Minded

Producer: Ced Gee, DJ Scott La Rock, KRS-One, Partner Lee Smith

In response to MC Shan’s “The Bridge,” KRS-One fired back with the scathing diss track, “The Bridge Is Over.” Over a haunting piano loop, KRS-One’s razor-sharp wit and unrelenting flow delivered the knockout punch in the Bridge Wars. As one of hip hop’s most iconic beefs, this track solidified BDP’s place in the pantheon of rap legends.

32. Stetsasonic – “Talkin’ All That Jazz”

Released: June 21, 1988

Album: In Full Gear

Producer: Prince Paul

Stetsasonic’s “Talkin’ All That Jazz” is a funky, jazz-infused gem that defended the art of sampling against its critics. With an undeniable groove and socially conscious lyrics, this track showcased the group’s innovative fusion of hip hop and jazz, paving the way for future genre-blending artists.

31. Stop the Violence Movement – “Self Destruction”

Released: January 15, 1989

Album: N/A

Producer: KRS-One, D-Nice, Hank Shocklee

Hip hop’s conscience came together for the Stop the Violence Movement’s powerful call to action, “Self Destruction.” Featuring a who’s who of golden age MCs, including KRS-One, MC Lyte, and Public Enemy, this track addressed the urgency of curbing violence in hip hop communities.

30. De La Soul – “Me Myself and I”

Released: April 1, 1989

Album: 3 Feet High and Rising

Producer: Prince Paul

De La Soul’s “Me Myself and I” flipped the script on hip hop norms with its quirky, psychedelic sound and lighthearted rhymes. The track’s infectious groove, provided by a clever Funkadelic sample, made it an instant hit and established the trio as key players in the burgeoning Native Tongues movement. Good vibes only with this classic.

29. Run-D.M.C. – “It’s Like That”

Released: August 10, 1983

Album: Run-D.M.C.

Producer: Russell Simmons, Larry Smith

Run-D.M.C.’s “It’s Like That” exploded onto the scene with a stripped-down beat and a fresh, unvarnished perspective on social issues. Run and DMC’s distinctive back-and-forth flow and the track’s hard-edged sound set a new standard for hip hop, marking the beginning of the genre’s transformation from the disco-infused sound of the early ’80s.

28. LL Cool J – “I’m Bad”

Released: June 13, 1987

Album: Bigger and Deffer

Producer: L.A. Posse, LL Cool J

LL Cool J’s bold declaration, “I’m Bad,” flaunts his braggadocious rhymes and untouchable confidence. Produced by the legendary Rick Rubin, the hard-hitting beat and LL’s relentless delivery turned this track into an adrenaline-pumping classic that has influenced legendary GOATs like Eminem.

27. EPMD – “You Gots to Chill”

Released: April 30, 1988

Album: Strictly Business

Producer: EPMD

On “You Gots to Chill,” EPMD brought the funk in hip hop to new heights with an undeniable groove. Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith’s effortless chemistry and laid-back rhymes, backed by a seamless blend of Zapp and Kool & the Gang samples, created an instant head-nodder.

26. N.W.A. – “Gangsta Gangsta”

Released: September 5, 1988

Album: Straight Outta Compton

Producer: Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, Arabian Prince

N.W.A.’s “Gangsta Gangsta” is a raw, unapologetic ode to life on the streets. Ice Cube’s vivid storytelling and Eazy-E’s effortless flow ride Dr. Dre’s hard-hitting beat to deliver a West Coast classic that’s impossible to forget. This track solidified N.W.A.’s position as the quintessential gangsta rap group, changing the game forever.

25. Eric B. & Rakim – “Eric B. Is President”

Released: 1986

Album: Paid in Full

Producer: Marley Marl

“Eric B. Is President” catapulted Eric B. & Rakim to hip hop royalty status. Rakim’s laid-back flow and intricate wordplay, coupled with Eric B.’s funky, James Brown-sampling production, created an undeniable masterpiece. This track marked the beginning of a new era, with Rakim’s innovative style influencing generations of MCs to come.

24. Ice-T – “6 in the Mornin'”

Released: 1986

Album: Rhyme Pays

Producer: The Unknown DJ

Ice-T’s “6 in the Mornin'” is a raw, unflinching snapshot of LA’s underworld that laid the foundation for West Coast gangsta rap. Ice-T’s vivid storytelling and cinematic details paired with a cold, minimalist beat gave birth to a sound that would come to define the West Coast scene. No sunshine here, just the cold reality of life on the streets.

23. MC Shan – “The Bridge”

Released: 1985

Album: Down by Law

Producer: Marley Marl

MC Shan’s “The Bridge” is a love letter to the gritty, vibrant streets of Queensbridge. Driven by Marley Marl’s raw beat and Shan’s confident flow, this track ignited the legendary Bridge Wars, cementing its place in hip hop history. It’s a testament to the power of place and the pride that shaped the golden era.

22. Big Daddy Kane – “Warm It Up, Kane”

Released: September 19, 1989

Album: It’s a Big Daddy Thing

Producer: Big Daddy Kane

Big Daddy Kane’s “Warm It Up, Kane” is a high-octane display of lyrical acrobatics and unyielding swagger. Kane’s rapid-fire flow and self-assured delivery over a funky, breakbeat-driven track solidified his position as the best Brooklyn MC to ever bless the mic.

21. Eric B. & Rakim – “Microphone Fiend”

Released: July 25, 1988

Album: Follow the Leader

Producer: Eric B. & Rakim

With “Microphone Fiend,” Eric B. & Rakim solidified their spot as hip hop heavyweights. Rakim’s smooth, intricate wordplay and Eric B.’s mesmerizing cuts and scratches coalesced into an intoxicating homage to lyrical mastery. A hip hop junkie’s anthem, this track leaves you fiending for more.

20. Eazy-E – “Boyz-n-the-Hood”

Released: March 3, 1987

Album: N.W.A. and the Posse

Producer: Dr. Dre, DJ Yella

Eazy-E’s seminal anthem “Boyz-n-the-Hood” delivered a gripping, unapologetic portrayal of life in the streets of Compton. With Ice Cube’s pen game and Dr. Dre’s production prowess backing Eazy’s distinct, laid-back flow, this N.W.A. precursor set the stage for gangsta rap’s emergence and still bangs hard to this day.

19. LL Cool J – “Rock the Bells”

Released: September 22, 1985

Album: Radio

Producer: Rick Rubin, LL Cool J

LL Cool J’s “Rock the Bells” hit the scene like a hurricane, showcasing his unmatched charisma and lyrical dexterity. Over a hard-hitting beat from Rick Rubin and Jazzy Jay, LL Cool J flexed his rapid-fire flow and unparalleled energy. This trailblazing joint set the stage for a career that would make LL Cool J one of the most influential MCs of all time.

18. Biz Markie – “Just a Friend”

Released: September 26, 1989

Album: The Biz Never Sleeps

Producer: Marcel Hall

Biz Markie’s endearing “Just a Friend” showcased the Clown Prince of Hip Hop’s undeniable charm and off-kilter humor. Built around a playful piano loop and Biz’s off-key singing, this lighthearted tale of unrequited love struck a chord with fans, proving that hip hop could be both fun and relatable.

17. Run-D.M.C. – “Walk This Way”

Released: July 4, 1986

Album: Raising Hell

Producer: Rick Rubin

Blurring the lines between hip hop and rock, Run-D.M.C.’s iconic collaboration with Aerosmith on “Walk This Way” smashed through genre barriers. With their signature style, Run and DMC’s powerful rhymes melded with Joe Perry’s legendary guitar riffs, creating a crossover hit that’s still rockin’ turntables and airwaves alike.

16. Schoolly D – “P.S.K. What Does It Mean?”

Released: 1985

Album: Schoolly D

Producer: J.B. Weaver Jr.

As one of the first gangsta rap tracks, Schoolly D’s “P.S.K. What Does It Mean?” flipped the script with its raw, unfiltered storytelling. Laid over a minimalist, booming beat, Schoolly D’s ominous rhymes and dark delivery captured the essence of Philly street life. This pioneering joint laid the groundwork for the gritty realism that would define hip hop’s future.

15. Public Enemy – “Fight the Power”

Released: July 4, 1989

Album: Fear of a Black Planet and Do the Right Thing: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Producer: The Bomb Squad

Public Enemy’s powerful protest anthem “Fight the Power” packs a punch that’s still felt today. Chuck D’s commanding vocals and Flavor Flav’s hype man energy combine with the Bomb Squad’s dense production to create a revolutionary classic. Unyielding and defiant, this track remains a call to arms for social justice warriors everywhere.

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

Released: July 7, 1987

Album: Paid in Full

Producer: Marley Marl

“I Know You Got Soul” is an electrifying showcase of Rakim’s groundbreaking lyrical techniques and Eric B.’s masterful turntablism. Built around a sample of Bobby Byrd’s funky classic, this undeniable head-nodder set a new standard for hip hop artistry. Pioneering and timeless, this gem still keeps the crowd moving and grooving.

13. N.W.A. – “Fuck tha Police”

Released: August 8, 1988

Album: Straight Outta Compton

Producer: Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, Arabian Prince

N.W.A.’s controversial banger, “Fuck tha Police,” tackled systemic injustice head-on, unapologetically confronting law enforcement abuses. Ice Cube, MC Ren, and Eazy-E traded barbs over a stripped-down beat, amplifying the track’s powerful message.

12. Boogie Down Productions – “South Bronx”

Released: 1986

Album: Criminal Minded

Producer: DJ Scott La Rock, KRS-One, Partner Lee Smith

BDP’s “South Bronx” is the anthem that put the birthplace of hip hop on the map. KRS-One’s fierce delivery and DJ Scott La Rock’s hard-hitting production created a sonic boom in the genre. As a crucial component of the infamous Bridge Wars, this track remains a testament to the competitive spirit that fueled the fire of hip hop’s golden age.

11. EPMD – “Strictly Business”

Released: June 7, 1988

Album: Strictly Business

Producer: EPMD

With “Strictly Business,” EPMD brought the funk to hip hop in a way that had heads bobbing and speakers shaking. Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith’s seamless back-and-forth flow, combined with a killer sample of Eric Clapton’s “I Shot the Sheriff,” made this track an instant classic. No frills, no gimmicks—just straight-up dope rhymes and a groove that won’t quit.

10. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five – “The Message”

Released: July 1, 1982

Album: The Message

Producer: Edward G. Fletcher, Sylvia Robinson

“The Message” was a game-changing track that put socio-political commentary on the hip hop map. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five painted a gritty, unfiltered picture of urban life, delivering their poignant message with unparalleled urgency.

9. Slick Rick – “Children’s Story”

Released: April 4, 1989

Album: The Great Adventures of Slick Rick

Producer: Slick Rick

Slick Rick’s storytelling prowess came alive in the hypnotic “Children’s Story,” weaving a cautionary tale with his signature wit and unmatched charisma. Over a slick beat, Slick Rick’s buttery-smooth flow and vivid wordplay captivated listeners, making this joint a bona fide hip hop classic. School’s in session, and the Ruler’s got the floor.

8. Marley Marl – “The Symphony”

Released: 1988

Album: In Control, Volume 1

Producer: Marley Marl

Marley Marl’s “The Symphony” brought together the Juice Crew’s dopest MCs—Masta Ace, Craig G, Kool G Rap, and Big Daddy Kane—for a lyrical showdown. Set to a funky piano loop taken from Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle”, this posse cut had heads nodding and rewinding their tapes.

7. Big Daddy Kane – “Ain’t No Half-Steppin'”

Released: June 21, 1988

Album: Long Live the Kane

Producer: Marley Marl

Big Daddy Kane straight flexed on “Ain’t No Half-Steppin’,” slinging silky-smooth rhymes and untouchable flow. With Marley Marl’s slick Heatwave sample, Kane dripped swagger and staked his claim as one of the illest MCs to ever rock the mic.

6. N.W.A. – “Straight Outta Compton”

Released: July 10, 1988

Album: Straight Outta Compton

Producer: Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, Arabian Prince

N.W.A.’s explosive anthem “Straight Outta Compton” hit the streets with a vengeance, defining the gangsta rap era. Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and MC Ren spit truth about their hood over Dr. Dre and DJ Yella’s hard-hitting production.

5. Audio Two – “Top Billin'”

Released: October 15, 1987

Album: What More Can I Say?

Producer: Audio Two, Daddy-O

Released in 1987, “Top Billin” is one of the last great classics from Hip-hop’s early years. The track features emcee Milk Dee dropping a b-boy freestyle over a hard breakbeat produced by Stetsasonic’s Daddy-O. It’s a street corner rap straight outta Brooklyn. “Top Billin” has been sampled, covered and quoted on countless recordings over the past three decades. Audio Two would never again match the success of the song. Soon gangster rap would change the culture for good. However, this track remains as an iconic moment in hip-hop history. Not only did “Top Billin'” one of the best hip hop songs of the 1980s, it’s one of the most iconic rap anthems of all time.

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

Released: August 13, 1985

Album: N/A

Producer: Dennis Bell & Ollie Cotton for City Slicker Productions

In 1985, before he went by Slick Rick the Ruler, Richard Martin Lloyd Walters was known as MC Ricky D of the Get Fresh Crew. That’s when hip-hop’s greatest storyteller and the legendary Doug E Fresh created this landmark recording. They stepped into the studio with two mics and no beat. They came out with this masterpiece. As one of the greatest 80s rappers, Slick Rick proved that he was also hip hop’s finest storyteller. The track has been sampled countless times since its release. Snoop Dogg famously covered the song (as “Lodi Dodi”) in 1993. Nearly 40 years after its release, this beatbox tale of Ricky D’s romantic exploits is still regarded as a definitive classic of Hip-hop. The men responsible are heralded as two of the founding fathers of the genre.

3. Eric B. & Rakim – “My Melody”

Released: July 7, 1987

Album: Paid in Full

Producer: Marley Marl

With this epic freestyle, the world met the man who many regard as the greatest rapper of all time. In 1986, Rakim’s smooth musical flow and sophisticated lyrical style set the gold standard for all future MCs. His influence can still be felt to this day. This track was originally released as the B-Side to Eric B. & Rakim’s debut single “Eric B. is President.” It has since become regarded as a classic in its own right. With a hard-as-nails beat produced by legendary New York City DJ Marley Marl, “My Melody” is a six minute hip-hop master class of technique and lyricism.

2. Run-D.M.C. – “Sucker M.C.’s”

Released: August 10, 1983

Album: Run-D.M.C.

Producer: Russell Simmons, Larry Smith

More than any other group, Run (Joseph Simmons), DMC (Darryl McDaniels) and Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell) epitomized hip-hop when this single dropped in 1983. Run’s brother Russell Simmons had just launched the iconic Def Jam record label with Rick Rubin. With the release of Run-DMC’s eponymous debut they introduced the genre to a world beyond the five boroughs. The album’s fifth track “Sucker M.C.’s (Krush-Groove 1)” is now regarded as a seminal work of hip-hop’s second wave. Originally released as the B-Side to the single “It’s Like That”, the song tells the story of the group’s rise to fame. Run’s lyrics are a veritable reference dictionary of old-school hip-hop lingo.

1. Public Enemy – “Rebel Without a Pause”

Released: July 1987

Album: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Producer: The Bomb Squad

In 1988 Public Enemy unveiled their ground shaking sophomore album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, and changed hip-hop forever. Chuck D, Flava Flav, Professor Griff and Terminator X had made waves a year earlier with Yo! Bum Rush the Show. But when their second album’s first single dropped, they unleashed a tsunami. In “Rebel Without a Pause” Chuck states his intention to, “Voice my opinion, with volume!” He fulfills that promise. The song is a harbinger of the sea change to come. PE’s music shifted the focus of the hip-hop world to subjects of Afrocentric pride and political activism. Rap was suddenly the smartest music on the radio.

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