From the early pioneers to the modern icons, we’re celebrating those first bangers that introduced us to the dopest rappers in the game and shifted the culture in ways we can’t forget.
As you bounce through these jams, you’ll discover the artists who dared to be different, broke the mold, and pushed hip hop into uncharted territory. We’re talkin’ about the creative genius of De La Soul’s “Plug Tunin'” and the raw power of Method Man’s “Bring the Pain.” You’ll also come across the pioneers who laid the groundwork for entire subgenres, like Run-D.M.C.’s game-changer “It’s Like That” or Chief Keef’s drill anthem “I Don’t Like.”
So let’s get into it. From Nas’ witty punchlines in “Halftime” to the untamed spirit of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Brooklyn Zoo,” here are the 100 greatest debut rap singles of all time.
100. Chance the Rapper — “Juice”
With a soulful vibe and undeniable charisma, Chance the Rapper made waves with his debut single, “Juice.” Combining introspective lyrics and a piano-driven beat, this infectious track marked the beginning of the Chicago rapper’s independent journey in hip hop, capturing the hearts and ears of fans worldwide.
99. A$AP Ferg — “Work”
“Work” by A$AP Ferg came out swinging, its hard-hitting bass and aggressive delivery demanding attention from the very start. The single solidified Ferg’s status as a force to be reckoned with within the A$AP Mob and beyond, leaving a lasting impression on listeners with its raw energy and catchy hook. The remix version featuring ASAP Rocky, French Montana, Trinidad James and Schoolboy Q takes it up another notch.
98. The Sugarhill Gang — “Rapper’s Delight”
A game-changer from the outset, The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” occupies a legendary position in hip hop, bringing hip hop to the mainstream for the first time. The track’s funky bassline and upbeat rhythm laid the foundation for rap’s commercial success, and its catchy verses continue to resonate with fans as a seminal moment in the evolution of hip hop. Peaking at number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100, “Rapper’s Delight” became the top 40 rap song in history.
97. Canibus — “Second Round K.O.”
After the debacle that was the “4,3,2,1” situation, Canibus reemerged onto the rap scene with his fiery debut, “Second Round K.O.” The track, laden with intricate wordplay and razor-sharp lyricism, took aim at heavyweight LL Cool J, immediately establishing the verbose MC as a formidable battle rapper unafraid to challenge hip hop’s elite. While Canibus’ debut album, Can-I-Bus , didn’t live up to expectations, “Second Round K.O.” is a reminder of what could have been.
96. Tim Dog — “Fuck Compton”
Tim Dog made no apologies with his incendiary debut, “Fuck Compton.” A sonic uppercut aimed squarely at the West Coast, the track fueled the flames of the East Coast-West Coast rivalry, showcasing Tim Dog’s aggressive flow and undiluted passion for his native Bronx. Following its release, notable West Coast rappers like Snoop Dogg, DJ Quik and Compton’s Most Wanted would all respond in their own way to “Fuck Compton.”
95. Nelly — “Country Grammer (Hot Shit)”
Nelly put St. Louis on the map with his infectious debut, “Country Grammer (Hot Shit).” The track’s smooth, melodic flow and catchy chorus turned heads and quickly became a hip hop anthem, laying the foundation for Nelly’s meteoric rise to superstardom. The album, Country Grammar , would go on to sell over 10 million copies, cementing Nelly as one of the greatest hitmakers in hip hop history .
94. T La Rock & Jazzy Jay — “It’s Yours”
A seminal moment in hip hop history, T La Rock and Jazzy Jay’s “It’s Yours” introduced Def Jam Recordings to the world. The track’s innovative production and T La Rock’s rapid-fire flow set the stage for the label’s legendary run and its lasting impact on the hip hop landscape. While LL Cool J’s “I Need a Beat” was technically the first single released by Def Jam, “It’s Yours” was the first track to feature the record label’s logo.
93. Tha Dogg Pound ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg — “What Would You Do”
Tha Dogg Pound’s debut single, “What Would You Do,” featuring longtime collaborator Snoop Doggy Dogg, announced the arrival of a new West Coast powerhouse duo. Featured on the Murder Was the Case soundtrack, the track’s heavy G-funk influence and the trio’s effortless chemistry solidified Tha Dogg Pound’s place among West Coast royalty. The single went on to be nominated for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group at the 1996 Grammy Awards.
92. UGK — “Something Good”
UGK captured the essence of Houston with their debut single, “Something Good.” The smooth production, featuring a prominent sample of “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus, coupled with Pimp C and Bun B’s laid-back flow, set the stage for their reign as Southern rap legends.
91. Special Ed — “I Got It Made”
Brimming with self-assuredness, Special Ed’s “I Got It Made” showcased his prowess in clever wordplay and head-nodding beats. The track’s unapologetic swagger secured Special Ed’s place among the golden era’s standout talents.
90. Gucci Mane ft. Young Jeezy & Boo — “Icy”
The track that set off a decade-plus long beef between Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy. “Icy” introduced Gucci’s raw, trap-infused delivery, as he joined forces with the Trap or Die rapper and Boo. The hypnotic beat and Gucci’s gritty flow marked the dawn of a new Atlanta sound, heralding the rise of a future trap god .
89. Ice Cube — “Who’s the Mack?”
Ice Cube’s solo debut, “Who’s the Mack?” blended funk-infused production with scathing social commentary. This potent combo solidified Cube as a master lyricist, unafraid to tackle controversial subjects with razor-sharp wit.
88. Cam’ron ft. Mase — “Horse & Carriage”
Cam’ron and Mase’s dynamic Harlem partnership electrified “Horse & Carriage,” making it an instant hit. Their undeniable chemistry on this track foreshadowed Cam’ron’s ascent as a central figure of the iconic Diplomats crew and his long-lasting influence on hip hop.
87. XXXTentacion — “Look at Me!”
XXXTentacion’s “Look at Me!” hit the ground running with its distorted beat and aggressive delivery. The track’s raw energy resonated with a generation, catapulting X into the spotlight and paving the way for this shining young talent.
86. Capone—N—Noreaga ft. Havoc & Tragedy Khadafi — “Illegal Life”
Gritty storytelling took center stage on “Illegal Life,” where Capone-N-Noreaga joined forces with Havoc and Tragedy Khadafi. The haunting production and vivid street narratives secured their spot as heavyweights in the realm of Queensbridge hip hop.
85. Young Thug — “Stoner”
“Stoner” served as the perfect introduction to Young Thug’s eccentric style and undeniable talent. With its infectious hook and Thug’s innovative flow, the track marked the beginning of his ascent as a driving force in Atlanta’s hip hop renaissance.
84. Big Pun — “I’m Not a Player”
Oozing charisma and lyrical mastery, Big Pun’s “I’m Not a Player” became an instant classic. The smooth beat and unforgettable hook showcased Pun’s unparalleled wordplay, laying the groundwork for the Bronx rapper’s legendary status as one of the most skilled lyricists to ever touch a mic.
83. Public Enemy — “Public Enemy No. 1”
Making their entrance with a bang, Public Enemy’s “Public Enemy No. 1” signaled the rise of a revolutionary force in hip hop. Driven by Chuck D’s commanding voice and hard-hitting beats, the track laid the foundation for a new era of politically charged hip hop.
82. Young Jeezy ft. Mannie Fresh — “And Then What”
Young Jeezy and Mannie Fresh teamed up to deliver the high-octane “And Then What,” a track that brought Jeezy’s unmistakable raspy voice and streetwise lyricism to the forefront. The duo’s chemistry set the stage for Jeezy’s rise as a leading figure in Atlanta hip hop .
81. 50 Cent ft. The Madd Rapper — “How to Rob”
With his back against the wall, 50 Cent created “How to Rob” out of desperation to build up buzz for the upcoming Power of the Dollar . Featuring The Madd Rapper, the track’s tongue-in-cheek premise and the Queens rapper’s brazen approach sent shockwaves through the hip hop community, leaving no doubt that a new player had entered the game. It didn’t matter whether you were Puffy or Jay-Z, Ol’ Dirty Bastard or Big Pun, Foxy Brown or Jada Pinkett Smith, 50 was coming for everyone’s riches.
80. Kris Kross — “Jump”
Kris Kross turned the hip hop world upside down with their infectious debut, “Jump.” The track’s high-energy beat and the duo’s youthful enthusiasm resulted in an irresistible anthem that left a lasting impact on early ’90s hip hop culture.
79. DJ Quik — “Born and Raised in Compton”
With “Born and Raised in Compton,” DJ Quik delivered a West Coast anthem that showcased his production prowess and captivating storytelling. The track’s funky beat and Quik’s vivid portrayal of life in Compton solidified his place as a key figure in the evolution of West Coast hip hop.
78. Ludacris ft. Shawna — “What’s Your Fantasy”
An irresistible combination of sensual lyrics and a hypnotic beat courtesy of Bangladesh, “What’s Your Fantasy” introduced Ludacris and Shawna’s unique chemistry to the world. Luda’s animated flow and clever wordplay instantly established him as a new power in the Atlanta rap scene.
77. Xzibit — “Paparazzi”
“Paparazzi” was more than just a great debut single, it was a declaration of war against the industry’s status quo. Xzibit kicked down the door to the rap game with this track, a scathing critique of the superficial side of the music industry – the West Coast MC called out the fake and superficial elements of the rap game, painting a vivid picture of a world where image is everything. The track’s captivating beat and Xzibit’s forceful delivery made an instant impact, establishing him as a new voice on the West Coast.
76. Eminem — “Just Don’t Give A Fuck”
Sampling 2Pac’s “I Don’t Give a Fuck”, Eminem channeled his idol’s energy into a raw, unfiltered debut with “Just Don’t Give A Fuck,” laying the groundwork for his meteoric rise to fame. The track’s brazen lyrics and Em’s distinctive delivery showcased the unyielding talent and ferocity that would come to define his legendary career.
75. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince — “Girls Ain’t Nothing but Trouble”
With “Girls Ain’t Nothing but Trouble,” DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince introduced a lighthearted take on hip hop that quickly captivated audiences. The duo’s playful storytelling and infectious beat brought a fresh perspective to hip hop and transformed them into the new superstars of the rap game when the track peaked at no. 57 on the Billboard Hot 100.
74. Above the Law — “Murder Rap”
“Murder Rap” brought Above the Law’s gritty West Coast storytelling to the forefront of hip hop. The track’s menacing production and unapologetic lyrics showcased the group’s raw talent, solidifying their reputation as harbingers of the gangsta rap movement. Featuring Dre’s Midas touch, “Murder Rap” was the precursor to what would become the defining G-funk era of the ’90s.
73. Fat Joe — “Flow Joe”
Fat Joe’s debut, “Flow Joe,” highlighted his signature aggressive delivery and larger-than-life presence. The track’s booming beat and Joe’s relentless flow marked the beginning of a long-lasting career in hip hop, with the Bronx MC making huge strides following his debut in the game.
72. J. Cole — “Lights Please”
J. Cole’s captivating debut, “Lights Please,” served as a testament to his ability to weave intricate storytelling with a soulful touch. The introspective track offered a glimpse into the mind of an artist unafraid to tackle profound themes, making it clear that a new lyrical visionary had arrived. “Lights Please” became the track that convinced Jay-Z to sign Cole as the first rapper to Roc Nation .
71. Ghostface Killah ft. Raekwon — “Motherless Child”
A gripping collaboration between Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, “Motherless Child” wove a vivid tale over haunting production courtesy of RZA. The powerful lyricism and raw emotion shared by the duo demonstrated their position as storytelling titans within the Wu-Tang Clan and beyond.
70. Goodie Mob — “Cell Therapy”
Fusing haunting beats with thought-provoking lyrics, Goodie Mob’s “Cell Therapy” showcased the group’s unique Southern flavor. The track’s captivating verses and chilling production set the stage for their influential role in shaping the Dirty South’s hip hop scene.
69. Future — “Tony Montana”
With its pulsating production by Will-A-Fool and slurry, autotune-laced vocals, Future’s “Tony Montana” marked the arrival of a whole new sound in Atlanta. The catchy anthem’s energy and unmistakable flow paved the way for the rise of trap music, solidifying Future’s place as a game-changer in the industry.
68. Jadakiss ft. Styles P — “We Gonna Make It”
Jadakiss and Styles P forged a powerful alliance on “We Gonna Make It,” a gritty street anthem with an unforgettable hook. Their commanding presence, matched with hard-hitting verses, solidified their status as lyrical heavyweights in 2000s hip hop .
67. Jay—Z — “In My Lifetime”
Backed by the b-side, “I Can’t Get with That,” Jay-Z’s debut single was just a taste of his future aesthetic – unparalleled wordplay blended with his smooth delivery, marking the start of a legendary career. The track’s introspective lyrics and soulful production offered a glimpse into the mind of a future hip hop mogul. It may have taken him a couple more years to blow up, but it was clear on “In My Lifetime” that there was something special about this Brooklyn rapper .
66. Leaders of The New School — “Case of the P.T.A.”
Bursting onto the scene with a high-energy sound, Leaders of The New School delivered an unforgettable debut with “Case of the P.T.A.” The group’s playful lyricism and undeniable charisma set the stage for their future energetic performances such as on Tribe’s “Scenario.”
65. Juelz Santana ft. Cam’ron — “Dipset (Santana’s Town)”
Juelz Santana and Cam’ron joined forces for the anthemic “Dipset (Santana’s Town),” a track that showcased their undeniable chemistry and Harlem swagger . The duo’s aggressive delivery and signature Dipset sound made this debut an instant classic.
64. Styles P — “Good Times”
With a gorgeous sample of Freda Payne’s “I Get High (On Your Memory)” serving as the backbone, Styles P made his solo debut on “Good Times,” a timeless ode to Mary Jane. Styles’ precise flow and the hypnotic beat made this one of the re-introductions to the rap game ever.
63. Keith Murray — “The Most Beautifullest Thing in This World”
Keith Murray burst onto the scene with his dazzling debut, “The Most Beautifullest Thing in This World.” The Long Island rapper’s intricate wordplay and distinctive voice, combined with Erick Sermon’s ultra-funky production, made this track an instant classic and secured Murray’s place as one of hip hop’s most bizarrely talented lyricists.
62. Kanye West — “Through the Wire”
Kanye West’s raw talent was undeniable in his debut single, “Through the Wire.” Despite rapping with a wired-shut jaw after a car accident, Kanye’s heartfelt storytelling and soulful production made this track a testament to his resilience and passion for the culture. It should have been clear from this moment that nothing was going to stop Kanye from achieving anything he wanted.
61. Mac Miller — “Nikes on My Feet”
Featured on his breakout mixtape, K.I.D.S. , Mac Miller’s debut, “Nikes on My Feet,” showcased his youthful exuberance and undeniable charisma. The track’s laid-back vibe and Mac’s memorable flow made this a standout debut, signaling the arrival of a promising new talent in the budding 2010s rap game.
60. Mase ft. Kelly Price — “Feel So Good”
Mase and Kelly Price joined forces to create the feel-good anthem, “Feel So Good.” The Bad Boy rapper’s smooth flow and Kelly’s soulful vocals, combined with a catchy beat, made this debut an instant hit that solidified Mase’s position as one of hip hop’s most charismatic figures and strongest hitmakers of late ’90s hip hop.
59. Audio Two — “Top Billin'”
Audio Two’s “Top Billin'” was a game-changer in hip hop, with its stripped-down beat and instantly recognizable drums. The duo’s confident delivery and witty wordplay turned this track into a classic, influencing countless artists and producers for years to come. From Kanye to 50 Cent, “Top Billin'” has become one of the most sampled hip hop tracks of all time .
58. Waka Flocka Flame — “O Let’s Do It”
Waka Flocka Flame’s explosive debut, “O Let’s Do It,” shook the hip hop world with its thunderous beat and energetic delivery. The track’s raw intensity and Waka’s aggressive flow laid the foundation for his signature sound, contributing to the rise of trap music heading into the 2010s.
57. 2Pac — “Trapped”
2Pac made a powerful entrance with his debut single, “Trapped.” The track’s politically charged lyrics and introspective storytelling showcased Pac’s ability to captivate listeners with his raw emotion and thought-provoking themes. “Trapped” set the stage for 2Pac’s legendary career as one of hip hop’s most influential voices .
56. Lil Wayne ft. B.G. & Juvenile — “Tha Block Is Hot”
Lil Wayne, alongside B.G. and Juvenile, set the streets ablaze with “Tha Block Is Hot.” Wayne’s fiery flow and the captivating energy of his fellow Hot Boys made this debut a standout track. The infectious beat and gritty lyrics signaled the arrival of a hip hop prodigy. No-one could have foreseen this young New Orleans rapper becoming one of the greatest and most influential rappers of his generation.
55. Eazy-E — “Boyz-n-the-Hood”
Eazy-E’s legendary debut, “Boyz-n-the-Hood,” painted a vivid picture of life in Compton. With its raw storytelling, penned by Ice Cube, Dre’s booming funk and Eazy’s unmistakable voice, the track contributed to introducing the world to gangsta rap and became a cornerstone of West Coast hip hop.
54. EPMD — “It’s My Thing”
With their debut, “It’s My Thing,” EPMD brought a new flavor to the hip hop world. The track’s infectious groove, effortless back-and-forth between Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith, and their smooth delivery laid the groundwork for the duo’s legendary career.
53. AZ — “Sugar Hill”
After stunning the world with his perfect guest verse on Nas’ “Life’s a Bitch”, AZ’s smooth debut, “Sugar Hill,” doubled down on his effortless lyricism and undeniable charisma. The track’s laid-back vibe, coupled with a catchy hook and AZ’s vivid storytelling, made “Sugar Hill” an instant classic.
52. M.O.P — “How About Some Hardcore”
M.O.P burst onto the scene with their aggressive debut, “How About Some Hardcore.” The duo’s hard-hitting verses and relentless energy, paired with a gritty beat, announced their arrival as a force to be reckoned with in hip hop, cementing their reputation as a powerhouse of hardcore rap.
51. Kool G Rap — “It’s a Demo”
Released in 1986 with “I’m Fly” as a B-side, Kool G Rap’s debut, “It’s a Demo,” showcased his masterful lyricism and intricate storytelling. The track’s Marley Marl-produced beat and Kool G Rap’s effortless flow combined to create a timeless piece of hip hop history, setting the stage for a esteemed career filled with clever wordplay and vivid street narratives.
50. MC Eiht — “Streiht Up Menace”
After making a name for himself as part of Compton’s Most Wanted, “Streiht Up Menace” re-introduced MC Eiht’s signature West Coast sound and smooth delivery to the world, this time as a solo rapper. The track’s cinematic storytelling and mellow beat captured the essence of life in Compton, marking MC Eiht as a standout talent in the gangsta rap scene and setting the tone for his influential career.
49. Da Brat — “Funkdafied”
Da Brat made a huge splash with her debut single “Funkdafied.” The track’s smooth, laid-back beat and Da Brat’s unmistakable flow set her apart from her contemporaries, introducing the world to her charismatic style. “Funkdafied” became a defining hit of the ’90s, earning Da Brat a place among hip hop’s elite.
48. Too Short — “Freaky Tales”
Too Short’s debut single, “Freaky Tales,” was a pioneering moment for West Coast rap. His explicit lyrics and funky production created a lasting impression, cementing his status as a hip hop legend. The track’s raunchy storytelling and hypnotic beat contributed to the rise of the Bay Area’s distinctive sound .
47. Black Moon — “Who Got da Props?”
With their debut single “Who Got da Props?,” Black Moon delivered a raw, unapologetic boom-bap anthem that put the group on the map. The track’s hard-hitting drums and potent verses showcased the group’s undeniable talent, marking Black Moon as a major player in the ’90s East Coast hip hop scene.
46. Meek Mill ft. Rick Ross — “Tupac Back”
Paying homage to the late great 2Pac, Meek Mill and Rick Ross joined forces on “Tupac Back.” The single’s hard-hitting production and energetic delivery demonstrated Meek’s skill as a rapper and his ability to hold his own alongside the heavyweight boss, Rick Ross.
45. Migos — “Versace”
Migos burst onto the scene with their infectious debut single, “Versace.” The trio’s signature flow, combined with Zaytoven’s hypnotic beat, turned this ode to the luxury brand into an instant classic. “Versace” quickly became a cultural phenomenon, marking the beginning of Migos’ reign in the rap game.
44. Kid Cudi — “Day ‘n’ Nite”
Exploring the depths of loneliness and mental struggles and inspired by Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”, Kid Cudi’s “Day ‘n’ Nite” resonated with fans on a deeply personal level. The track’s blend of atmospheric synths and Cudi’s vulnerable lyrics provided a unique soundscape, challenging the traditional boundaries of hip hop and solidifying Cudi’s place one of the most innovative artists moving forward.
43. The Roots — “Distortion to Static”
The Roots burst onto the scene with the jazz-infused “Distortion to Static,” a track that showcased their unique blend of live instrumentation and thought-provoking lyricism. Black Thought’s insightful verses and Questlove’s impeccable drumming made it clear that The Roots were not just another rap group, but a true force to be reckoned with.
42. Boogie Down Productions — “South Bronx”
Firing shots during the notorious Bridge Wars, “South Bronx” by Boogie Down Productions redefined hip hop with KRS-One’s ferocious wordplay and Scott La Rock’s gritty beats. This anthem not only solidified their place in rap history but also shaped the culture’s trajectory by establishing the Bronx as the new powerhouse region.
41. Kendrick Lamar — “HiiiPoWeR”
Kendrick Lamar’s “HiiiPoWeR” offered a taste of the incredible talent that was about to take the hip hop world by storm. The introspective track, produced by J. Cole, featured Kendrick’s razor-sharp lyricism and thought-provoking social commentary, setting the stage for his rise to superstardom and his eventual status as one of the greatest rappers of all time .
40. The Lady of Rage — “Afro Puffs”
With a knockout blow, The Lady of Rage entered the rap arena by releasing “Afro Puffs.” The track’s heavy-hitting verses and commanding flow demonstrated her lyrical dexterity, while the West Coast-style production cemented the song as an all-time classic.
39. Three 6 Mafia — “Tear da Club Up”
Three 6 Mafia’s “Tear da Club Up” erupted onto the scene as an unapologetic party anthem. Its raucous energy, hypnotic chant, and pounding bass laid the foundation for the group’s trailblazing Memphis sound , which would go on to influence generations of rappers subsequently.
38. Puff Daddy ft. Mase — “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down”
Launching the Bad Boy domination of the late ’90s with “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down,” Puff Daddy and Mase crafted a track that flexed and strutted with charisma and swagger. The glossy production, coupled with the seamless interplay between their distinct styles, solidified the track as an iconic debut that would propel both artists to superstardom. Puff knew exactly what he was doing by sampling the legendary beat from “The Message.”
37. Pusha T — “My God”
After more than a decade of elevating coke-rap lyricism with his brother, it was time to Pusha to take the solo route. While the world had already heard the Clipse rapper on Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy , “My God” introduced the world to Pusha T’s unrelenting presence in the rap game. The haunting beat, produced by Hit-Boy, sounds like a war cry and Pusha’s razor-sharp lyrics set the stage for his unique blend of vivid street tales and intricate wordplay, commanding attention from the first listen.
36. Black Star — “Definition”
Black Star’s “Definition” showcased the undeniable chemistry between Mos Def and Talib Kweli. The track’s thought-provoking lyrics and smooth, head-nodding production were a breath of fresh air, marking a new chapter in conscious hip hop.
35. Redman — “Blow Your Mind”
With “Blow Your Mind,” Redman burst onto the scene with an infectious energy that was impossible to ignore. His animated delivery, coupled with witty punchlines and a funky beat, made this debut single an instant classic.
34. The Notorious B.I.G. — “Party and Bullshit”
With “Party and Bullshit,” The Notorious B.I.G. made his grand entrance, delivering a larger-than-life performance. Biggie’s unmatched charisma, effortless flow, and vivid storytelling on this track gave rap fans a taste of what was to come from the legendary Brooklyn MC.
33. Missy Elliott — “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”
Breaking boundaries with “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” Missy Elliott redefined the female rap game. Her innovative style and Timbaland’s cutting-edge production combined to create a track that was nothing short of revolutionary.
32. LL Cool J — “I Need A Beat”
Armed with a lyrical prowess and unmatched swagger, LL Cool J burst onto the scene with “I Need A Beat.” The raw energy in his bars, coupled with the boom-bap beat, marked the arrival of a hip hop legend and his subsequent domination over the next decade.
31. Raekwon ft. Ghostface Killah — “Heaven & Hell”
Painting vivid images of street life and struggle, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah joined forces on the gritty track, “Heaven & Hell.” Their razor-sharp storytelling, paired with a sinister beat, made for an unforgettable collaboration that demonstrated the power of this Wu-Tang duo.
30. The Game ft. 50 Cent — “Westside Story”
Bridging the gap between West Coast swagger and New York attitude, The Game’s “Westside Story” saw him teaming up with 50 Cent to dominate the airwaves. With an aggressive flow and a menacing beat, this anthem reminded the world of the West Coast’s lasting impact on hip hop culture.
29. Smif-N-Wessun — “Bucktown”
Injecting an unmistakable Brooklyn flavor, Smif-N-Wessun’s “Bucktown” brought the duo’s streetwise lyricism to the forefront. The track’s grimy beat and unfiltered portrayal of their environment solidified it as an anthem for the East Coast hip hop scene.
28. Big Daddy Kane — “Raw”
“Raw” propelled Big Daddy Kane into the limelight, demonstrating his unmatched prowess on the mic. The single’s breakneck tempo, deft rhymes, and Kane’s commanding presence marked a turning point in hip hop, heralding the arrival of a rap icon and one of the most skilled lyricists ever.
27. Prodigy — “Keep It Thoro”
A testament to Prodigy’s unapologetic style, “Keep It Thoro” remains an undisputed classic in rap history. Over an eerie, head-nodding beat courtesy of Alchemist that would make Havoc proud, Prodigy’s captivating storytelling and menacing charisma solidified his status as a true hip hop heavyweight.
26. Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg — “Deep Cover”
Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg joined forces for the classic “Deep Cover,” a track that would forever change the course of hip hop. With Dre’s sinister production and Snoop’s smooth flow, the duo forged a partnership that would come to define the G-funk era and shape the sound of West Coast rap for years to come.
25. Busta Rhymes — “Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check”
Electrifying the rap scene, Busta Rhymes exploded with “Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check.” The track’s kinetic beat and Busta’s animated delivery left listeners entranced, paving the way for his illustrious solo career over the next few years.
24. Cypress Hill — “How I Could Just Kill a Man”
Cypress Hill’s debut, “How I Could Just Kill a Man,” shook the rap world with its ominous bassline and B-Real’s nasal, haunting delivery. Tackling themes of violence and street politics, the track cemented Cypress Hill’s place as West Coast pioneers and laid the foundation for their illustrious career.
23. Pharoahe Monch — “Simon Says”
Pharoahe Monch’s “Simon Says” is a prime example of his genius wordplay and technical skill. With its Godzilla-inspired beat and commanding chorus, the track cemented Monch’s status as a top-tier lyricist, leaving listeners hanging on to every line.
22. A$AP Rocky — “Peso”
A$AP Rocky made waves with his debut single “Peso,” a moody and atmospheric track that highlighted his distinctive flow and penchant for vivid storytelling. With its hypnotic beat and Rocky’s confident bars, “Peso” introduced the world to the Harlem rapper’s unique style and set the stage for his rise to stardom.
21. Shyne ft. Barrington Levy — “Bad Boyz”
This unforgettable collaboration between Shyne and Barrington Levy on “Bad Boyz” created a gritty masterpiece that highlighted the Bad Boy’s appeal in all its glory. Shyne’s vivid street narratives, combined with Levy’s dancehall essence, produced a hard-hitting track that quickly became a rap staple.
20. Rick Ross — “Hustlin'”
Introducing the world to his boss persona, Rick Ross’s “Hustlin'” became an anthem for the grind. The track’s hypnotic production and Ross’s booming voice created an irresistible sound that captivated listeners, laying the foundation for his reign as a future hip hop mogul who was full of motivational tips and inspirational advice.
19. Lupe Fiasco — “Kick, Push”
With a fresh perspective, Lupe Fiasco’s “Kick, Push” skated into the hip-hop scene, spinning a narrative about passion and skate culture. The track’s laid-back vibe and thought-provoking wordplay marked Lupe as a distinctive voice in rap, following his standout appearance on Kanye’s “Touch the Sky” the previous year.
18. Lauryn Hill — “Doo Wop (That Thing)”
Following her break from the Fugees, Lauryn Hill’s captivating debut, “Doo Wop (That Thing),” masterfully combined elements of R&B and rap, discussing self-respect and relationships with unapologetic honesty. Lauryn’s silky voice and razor-sharp bars set a new standard for female rappers , cementing her place in hip-hop’s hall of fame.
17. Method Man — “Bring the Pain”
Unleashing a relentless energy, Method Man’s “Bring the Pain” exploded onto the rap landscape with its sinister beat and gritty lyrics. The track showcased Method Man’s raw talent and cemented his reputation as one of Wu-Tang Clan’s standout members , making the song a must-listen for hip hop aficionados.
16. De La Soul — “Plug Tunin'”
De La Soul’s “Plug Tunin'” turned heads with its innovative, offbeat sampling and rhymes that defied conventions. A genre-bending classic, the track signaled a new direction in hip hop, paving the way for the group’s seminal debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising . With “Plug Tunin’,” De La Soul gave rap fans a taste of their boundless creativity and ability to push boundaries.
15. Snoop Doggy Dogg — “Who Am I? (What’s My Name?)”
After a star-making performance on The Chronic , Snoop Doggy Dogg swaggered into the rap game as a solo artist with his charismatic debut, “Who Am I? (What’s My Name?).” A smooth, G-funk-infused anthem, the track flaunted Snoop’s distinct drawl and witty wordplay, announcing the arrival of a superstar who would forever change the hip-hop landscape.
14. Mike Jones ft. Slim Thug & Paul Wall — “Still Tippin'”
“Still Tippin'” dropped like a bombshell, cementing the Houston sound in hip-hop history. Mike Jones, Slim Thug, and Paul Wall delivered unforgettable verses over a hypnotic, chopped and screwed beat, capturing the essence of Southern rap culture and igniting a movement that would reverberate across the rap world.
13. Jeru The Damaja — “Come Clean”
Jeru The Damaja burst onto the scene with his thought-provoking debut, “Come Clean,” a track that shone a spotlight on his razor-sharp lyricism and socially conscious rhymes. Paired with DJ Premier’s sinister, hard-hitting beat that sounds like a water torture session, Jeru’s powerful message and undeniable skills secured his place as a force of the ’90s conscious, street-wise rap game.
12. Chief Keef ft. Lil Reese — “I Don’t Like”
When the menacing Young Chop beat of “I Don’t Like” dropped, Chief Keef took the hip-hop world by storm with his debut. The track’s unfiltered aggression and streetwise authenticity brought Chicago’s drill music to the forefront, etching Chief Keef’s name into the annals of rap history. At just 17-years old, the Chicago drill rapper was instrumental to shifting the power dynamics of the rap game.
11. Run—D.M.C. — “It’s Like That”
With their groundbreaking debut “It’s Like That,” Run-D.M.C. shattered musical barriers. The stripped-down, impactful beat meshed with their biting social commentary, showcasing the potential of hip-hop as a force for change and establishing the Queens duo as the leaders of the new rap generation.
10. OutKast — “Player’s Ball”
When OutKast’s “Player’s Ball” hit the scene, it was a breath of fresh air that sent shockwaves through the Southern rap game. Andre 3000 and Big Boi delivered an unforgettable debut, melding Southern funk, smooth flows, and witty lyricism that left fans begging for more. Once Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik hit a few months later, it was clear the South had something to say.
9. Craig Mack — “Flava in Ya Ear”
Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear” exploded onto the scene with an infectious, horn-heavy beat and Mack’s unmistakable, gritty flow. A pioneer of the Bad Boy Records era, the track’s energy and unique sound made it an unforgettable banger that defined the ’90s and established Craig Mack as one of the new superstars of the ’90s rap scene.
8. Eric B. & Rakim — “Eric B. Is President”
Revolutionizing rap with “Eric B. Is President,” Eric B. & Rakim displayed an unparalleled synergy between innovative beats and groundbreaking lyrical prowess. This timeless debut introduced Rakim’s complex rhyme schemes and vivid imagery along with Marley Marl’s game-changing sample-heavy production, leaving a lasting impact on the hip hop landscape.
7. Nas — “Halftime”
Nas’s lyrical prowess was unmistakable from the moment “Halftime” hit the airwaves. The Queensbridge prodigy’s dense, intricate rhymes and vivid storytelling painted a visceral portrait of urban life, setting the stage for his magnum opus, Illmatic , and heralding the arrival of one of hip-hop’s most revered lyricists .
6. Naughty By Nature — “O.P.P.”
Establishing themselves as the masters of catering to both the radio and the streets, Naughty By Nature’s infectious debut, “O.P.P.,” was an instant hit, blending catchy hooks with smooth verses. The track’s playful lyrics and funky beat made it an undeniable earworm, solidifying Naughty By Nature’s place in hip hop history and ensuring “O.P.P.” would remain a party anthem for years to come.
5. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony — “Thuggish Ruggish Bone”
“Thuggish Ruggish Bone” marked the arrival of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony with their unique blend of melodic harmonies and rapid-fire flows. The track’s haunting production and Bone Thugs’ distinct style created an unforgettable sound that captivated the hip hop world and set the stage for their illustrious career.
4. Wu—Tang Clan — “Protect Ya Neck”
Wu-Tang Clan’s debut, “Protect Ya Neck,” was a game-changer in hip hop, showcasing the raw talent and diverse styles of the legendary collective. The track’s gritty production and relentless verses from each Shaolin member displayed the group’s chemistry, making “Protect Ya Neck” an iconic anthem that set the foundation for Wu-Tang’s massive impact on the culture.
3. Warren G ft. Nate Dogg — “Regulate”
With “Regulate,” Warren G and the late Nate Dogg delivered one of the most iconic tracks of ’90s hip hop . The smooth G-funk production and Nate Dogg’s soulful hook, combined with Warren G’s storytelling prowess, turned this debut into a timeless classic that continues to resonate with fans.
2. Clipse — “Grindin'”
Clipse’s “Grindin'” is a masterclass in minimalism and raw lyricism. The Neptunes’ hypnotic, stripped-down production and the duo’s relentless flow made this debut an instant classic. Clipse’s vivid depiction of street life in “Grindin'” set the tone for their influence on the coke-rap subgenre that would become so popular in the 2000s.
1. Ol’ Dirty Bastard — “Brooklyn Zoo”
“Brooklyn Zoo” isn’t just a banger; it’s a straight-up Wu-Tang anthem that showed us what Ol’ Dirty was all about from the jump. With its raw energy, charisma, and that one-of-a-kind ODB flavor, “Brooklyn Zoo” remains a testament to individuality and creativity of the late Wu rapper. From the moment the beat drops, you know you’re in for something special. The off-kilter beat sets the stage for ODB’s distinctive flow, which hits you like a sonic tsunami. It’s gritty, it’s dirty, and it’s unapologetically authentic – just like the man himself. ODB’s lyrics are nothing short of a verbal assault that give us a glimpse into his wild, untamed mind.