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The 50 Best Hip Hop Songs of the 1990s

The 1990s was a golden era for hip hop, with the genre flourishing and diversifying, giving birth to an array of unforgettable tracks and albums.

This decade saw the rise of East Coast and West Coast hip hop, as well as the emergence of Southern and Midwest rap scenes, each contributing its distinct flavor to the ever-evolving sound of hip hop. This vibrant and eclectic genre, enriched by the ingenuity of masterful producers and talented lyricists, led to some of the most iconic rap songs and albums of all time.

Just think about the incredible roster of artists who made their mark in the ’90s. From the gritty, raw energy of Wu-Tang Clan to the larger-than-life personas of Biggie and 2Pac, the introspective lyricism of Nas, the socially-conscious vibes of A Tribe Called Quest, and the groundbreaking genre-blending of OutKast, the ’90s was a transformative period for the culture. It’s no wonder why we faced such a challenge in putting together our list of the best rappers of the 1990s – the decade was teeming with an abundance of exceptional talent.

Whether you were dancing along with MC Hammer or chanting “Hip Hop Hooray” with Naughty By Nature, cruising through the streets with Tupac’s “California Love” on blast, or nodding your head to Biggie Smalls’ hypnotic beats on your Walkman, the 1990s gifted us a treasure trove of unforgettable hip hop moments. In celebration of this iconic era, we present to you the 50 best hip hop songs of the ’90s.


50. Digital Underground – “The Humpty Dance”

50 Best Hip Hop Albums Of The 1990S Digital Underground

Released: January 20, 1990

Album: Sex Packets

Producer: Digital Underground

49. Onyx – “Slam”

50 Greatest Hip Hop Songs Of The 1990S Onyx

Released: March 30, 1993

Album: Bacdafucup

Producer: Chyskillz, Jam Master Jay

48. Eric B & Rakim – “Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em”

50 Greatest Third Albums In Hip Hop History Rakim

Released: June 19, 1990

Album: Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em

Producer: Eric B & Rakim

47. O.C. – “Word…Life”

50 Best Hip Hop Albums Of The 1990S Oc

Released: October 18, 1994

Album: Word…Life

Producer: Buckwild

46. Black Star – “Definition”

50 Greatest Hip Hop Debut Albums Of All Time Black Star

Released: August 26, 1998

Album: Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star

Producer: Hi-Tek

45. Wu-Tang Clan – “Triumph”

Greatest Rap Album Opening Lines Of All Time Wu Tang Forever

Released: February 11, 1997

Album: Wu-Tang Forever

Producer: RZA

44. Public Enemy – “Shut ‘Em Down (Pe-Te Rock Mixx)”

50 Greatest Hip Hop Songs Of The 1990S Public Enemy

Released: January 3, 1992

Album: Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black

Producer: Pete Rock

43. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony – “Tha Crossroads”

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Released: April 30, 1996

Album: E. 1999 Eternal

Producer: U-Neek, Tony-C

42. UGK – “Murder”

50 Greatest Third Albums In Hip Hop History Ugk

Released: July 30, 1996

Album: Ridin’ Dirty

Producer: N.O. Joe, Pimp C

41. LL Cool J – “Mama Said Knock You Out”

Rappers With The Most Platinum Albums Of All Time Ll Cool J

Released: September 14, 1990

Album: Mama Said Knock You Out

Producer: Bobby “Bobcat” Erving, Marley Marl

40. Scarface – “I Seen a Man Die”

50 Greatest Third Albums In Hip Hop History Scarface

Released: September 27, 1994

Album: The Diary

Producer: N.O. Joe, Scarface, Mike Dean

39. MF Doom – “Doomsday”

50 Greatest Hip Hop Debut Albums Of All Time Mf Doom

Released: October 19, 1999

Album: Operation: Doomsday

Producer: MF Doom

38. Craig Mack – “Flava in Ya Ear”

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Released: July 26, 1994

Album: Project Funk da World

Producer: Easy Mo Bee

37. Luniz – “I Got 5 on It”

50 Greatest Hip Hop Songs Of The 1990S Luniz

Released: May 23, 1995

Album: Operation Stackola

Producer: Tone Capone

36. Warren G ft. Nate Dogg – “Regulate”

Most Influential Hip Hop Songs Of All Time Regulate

Released: April 28, 1994

Album: Regulate… G Funk Era

Producer: Warren G

35. Eminem – “My Name Is”

Greatest Rap Album Opening Lines Of All Time Slim Shady Lp

Released: January 25, 1999

Album: The Slim Shady LP

Producer: Dr. Dre

34. Souls of Mischief – “93 ’til Infinity”

50 Best Hip Hop Albums Of The 1990S Souls Of Mischief

Released: September 28, 1993

Album: 93 ’til Infinity

Producer: A-Plus

33. Wu-Tang Clan – “Protect Ya Neck”

50 Greatest Rap Posse Cuts Of All Time Protect Ya Neck

Released: June 19, 1990

Album: Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em

Producer: Eric B., Rakim

32. KRS-One – “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know”

Greatest Sophomore Rap Albums Of All Time Krs One

Released: August 28, 1995

Album: KRS-One

Producer: DJ Premier

31. Cypress Hill – “How I Could Just Kill a Man”

Best 3 Song Run On Classic Rap Albums Cypress Hill

Released: July 11, 1991

Album: Cypress Hill

Producer: DJ Muggs

30. Raekwon – “Incarcerated Scarfaces”

Ready To Die Vs Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 1024X1024

Released: August 1, 1995

Album: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…

Producer: RZA

29. Jay-Z – “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)”

50 Greatest Hip Hop Singles Of All Time Hard Knock Life

Released: September 29, 1998

Album: Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life

Producer: The 45 King

28. Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Doggy – “Still D.R.E.”

Best Hip Hop Album Every Year Since 1986 Dre 2001

Released: November 2, 1999

Album: 2001

Producer: Dr. Dre, Mel-Man

27. Snoop Dogg – “Gin & Juice”

Every Single Hip Hop Billboard Number One Album Since 1986 Doggystyle

Released: November 23, 1993

Album: Doggystyle

Producer: Dr. Dre

26. N.O.R.E. – “Superthug”

50 Greatest Hip Hop Songs Of The 1990S Nore

Released: September 21, 1998

Album: N.O.R.E.

Producer: The Neptunes

25. Salt-N-Pepa – “Shoop”

50 Rappers Best Selling Albums Of All Time Salt N Pepa

Released: September 21, 1993

Album: Very Necessary

Producer: Mark Sparks, Salt

Pioneering female rap group Salt-N-Pepa turned up the heat in 1993 with their unapologetically flirtatious hit, “Shoop.” With its funky groove and sassy lyrics, the track made waves as a fun-loving celebration of feminine prowess. As an anthem of empowerment, “Shoop” solidified Salt-N-Pepa’s legendary status in hip hop and continues to be a fan favorite.

24. Fugees – “Fu-Gee-La”

Every Single Hip Hop Billboard Number One Album Since 1986 Score Fugees

Released: May 11, 1993

Album: Bacdafucup

Producer: Chyskillz, Jam Master Jay

With “Fu-Gee-La,” the Fugees brought forth a sound that was equal parts soulful and raw. Their 1996 smash hit showcases the undeniable synergy between Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Pras Michel, as they deliver tight verses and harmonies over a neck-snapping beat.

23. Juvenile ft. Mannie Fresh and Lil Wayne – “Back That Azz Up”

50 Rappers Best Selling Albums Of All Time Juvenile

Released: June 11, 1999

Album: 400 Degreez

Producer: Mannie Fresh

When Juvenile dropped “Back That Azz Up” in ’98, the hip hop world couldn’t help but move to its infectious bounce. With Mannie Fresh on the beat and a young Lil Wayne spitting bars, this Cash Money classic remains a staple in any throwback playlist.

22. Jeru the Damaja – “Come Clean”

50 Greatest Hip Hop Singles Of All Time Jeru

Released: October 26, 1993

Album: The Sun Rises in the East

Producer: DJ Premier

Produced by the iconic DJ Premier, this gritty East Coast banger boasts a menacing beat and razor-sharp lyrics, exemplifying the raw essence that defined 90s East Coast hip hop. The Brooklyn MC’s debut single remains a classic, reminding us of a golden era in the game.

21. Common – “I Used to Love H.E.R.”

50 Greatest Hip Hop Singles Of All Time Common I Used To Love Her

Released: September 27, 1994

Album: Resurrection

Producer: No I.D.

One of the most revered tracks in conscious rap, Common’s “I Used to Love H.E.R.” cleverly uses a love story as a metaphor for the hip hop scene in the 90s. This timeless joint, with its introspective lyrics and jazz-infused production, resonates with hip hop heads who appreciate Common’s unapologetic dedication to the culture.

20. OutKast – “SpottieOttieDopaliscious”

Best Hip Hop Album Every Year Since 1986 Aquemini

Released: September 29, 1998

Album: Aquemini

Producer: OutKast

A smoky, brass-heavy track from OutKast’s 1998 masterpiece “Aquemini,” “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” showcased the duo’s ability to fuse Southern funk with thought-provoking lyricism. The hypnotic, laid-back beat, punctuated by Stacks and Big Boi’s smooth storytelling, solidified their position as innovators within the hip hop landscape, transcending regional boundaries and redefining the Atlanta rap game.

19. Master P – “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!”

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Released: January 13, 1998

Album: Ghetto D

Producer: KLC

“Make ‘Em Say Uhh!” is an energetic, high-octane track that became a signature song for Master P and his No Limit Records label. With its infectious hook and relentless, bass-heavy beat, “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!” showcases the New Orleans rapper’s charismatic presence and features appearances from fellow No Limit artists Fiend, Silkk the Shocker, Mia X, and Mystikal. The song, which peaked at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100, remains an iconic anthem of late ’90s Southern hip hop.

18. The Pharycde – “Passin’ Me By”

50 Greatest Hip Hop Debut Albums Of All Time Pharycde

Released: March 18, 1993

Album: Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde

Producer: J-Swift

A nostalgic, soulful track, which samples both Quincy Jones and Jimi Hendrix, “Passin’ Me By” tells the story of unrequited love and the pains of adolescence. With the laid-back beat and The Pharcyde’s self-deprecating humour, “Passin’ Me By” has become a fan favorite and timeless hip hop classic.

17. OutKast – “Elevators (Me & You)”

50 Greatest Hip Hop Singles Of All Time Outkast Elevators

Released: July 9, 1996

Album: ATLiens

Producer: OutKast

Released in 1996 as the lead single from their sophomore album, “ATLiens,” OutKast’s “Elevators (Me & You)” is

A moody, introspective track that was a far cry from their funky debut, “Elevators (Me & You)” boasted spacey, atmospheric production and memorable verses from Andre 3000 and Big Boi. Exploring themes of fame, success, and personal growth, the song helped solidify OutKast as the kings of Atlanta and pioneers of Southern hip hop.

16. Naughty by Nature – “O.P.P.”

Best 3 Song Run On Classic Rap Albums Naughty By Nature

Released: August 24, 1991

Album: Naughty by Nature

Producer: Naughty by Nature

With its catchy melody, which cleverly samples the Jackson 5’s “ABC,” and its memorable chorus, “O.P.P.” showcased Naughty By Nature’s ability to blend streetwise humor and lyrical wordplay with irresistible hooks. The song not only put the New Jersey group on the map but also became a defining anthem of early ’90s rap.

15. Puff Daddy ft. Mase – “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down”

Most Influential Hip Hop Songs Of All Time Puffy

Released: February 11, 1997

Album: No Way Out

Producer: Carlos Broady, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Stevie J, Nashiem Myrick

The moment that Puff Daddy transformed from Bad Boy head honcho to a rap superstar. Released in 1997 as the lead single for Puff’s debut album, No Way Out , “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” features an iconic sample of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message,” and was responsible for kicking off Bad Boy’s legendary late ’90s run which saw them dominate the charts and the airwaves non-stop.

14. 2Pac – “Dear Mama”

100 Greatest Rap Lines In Hip Hop History 2Pac Dear Mama

Released: February 21, 1995

Album: Me Against the World

Producer: Tony Pizarro, DF Master, Tee & Moses

One of the most heartfelt tributes to mothers ever committed on wax, “Dear Mama” showcased 2Pac’s remarkable storytelling abilities and his capacity for vulnerability, as he opens up about his turbulent upbringing and the deep love and respect he has for his mother. With its soulful melody, which samples Joe Sample’s “In My Wildest Dreams” and Stevie Wonder’s “Sadie,” this highlight cut off Me Against the World remains one of the greatest ’90s rap songs ever.

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

50 Greatest Rap Posse Cuts Of All Time Scenario

Released: March 13, 1992

Album: The Low End Theory

Producer: A Tribe Called Quest

A prime example of classic 90s rap songs at its finest, “Scenario” is a masterful collaboration that showcases the talents of both Tribe and Leaders. Celebrated for its playful, energetic vibe, clever wordplay, and iconic production, the hip hop classic was an important launchpad for Busta Rhymes’ solo career off the strength of his defining guest verse .

12. Jay-Z – “Dead Presidents” / “Dead Presidents II”

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Released: February 20, 1996

Album: Reasonable Doubt

Producer: Ski

Featuring a haunting piano loop and sampled Nas vocals over boom-bap Tribe drums, “Dead Presidents” finds the up-and-coming Brooklyn MC ruminating about the pursuit of wealth and delving into the harsh realities of street life, where friends turn into foes as quickly as a blink of an eye.

11. DMX – “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem”

Dmx Intro

Released: May 5, 1998

Album: It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot

Producer: Swizz Beatz

Released in 1998 as the fourth single from his debut album, “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot,” DMX’s “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” quickly became a defining track of the late 1990s hip hop scene. With its infectious beat produced by Swizz Beatz and DMX’s unmistakable raspy voice, the song introduced a gritty, streetwise sound that snatched back hip hop from Puffy’s R&B gloves. The anthem not only solidified DMX’s status as one of the hottest rappers alive , it also brought the Ruff Ryders collective to the forefront of hip hop culture.

10. Ice Cube – “It Was a Good Day”

50 Greatest Hip Hop Singles Of All Time Ice Cube Good Day

Released: February 23, 1993

Album: The Predator

Producer: DJ Pooh

NWA’s lyrical guru took a break from his usual gang violence narratives for this fantasy tale of a perfect day in the hood. There are no drive-bys, no retaliation and no hassle from the cops. The irony of their absence made Ice Cube’s biggest hit also one of his most powerful.

9. Lauryn Hill – “Lost Ones”

Lauryn Hill Lost Ones

Released: August 25, 1998

Album: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Producer: Lauryn Hill, Vada Nobles, Che Pope

Ms. Lauryn Hill came out of the Fugees and created a masterpiece. Though her story has been a bit convoluted since its release, the multi-grammy winning The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill remains a classic. On the single “Lost Ones” she drops a scathing diss-track aimed at former band member Wyclef Jean.

8. Method Man ft. Mary J. Blige – “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By”

50 Greatest Hip Hop Singles Of All Time Method Man

Released: April 25, 1995

Album: Tical

Producer: RZA / Sean “Puffy” Combs, Trackmasters

Producer P. Diddy worked his magic on this Grammy-winning crossover hit. The track is still considered one of the greatest hip-hop love songs of all time. Queen Mary teamed up with Wu-Tang’s Method Man for this mashup of his song “All I Need” and a Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell classic.

7. The Notorious B.I.G. – “Juicy”

Most Sampled Hip Hop Tracks Of All Time Juicy

Released: August 9, 1994

Album: Ready to Die

Producer: Poke, Sean “Puffy” Combs

Biggie’s first single from his debut album Ready to Die propelled him to superstar status. “Juicy” rides an old-school hip-hop beat and a classic funk bass line for a storytelling rap about Poppa’s own rise to fame and the birth of hip-hop itself, complete with shout-outs to pioneers like Salt N Pepa and the late great Heavy D. Not only is this song arguably the most iconic Biggie song ever, it’s also one of the best 90s rap songs.

6. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)”

50 Greatest Hip Hop Singles Of All Time Pete Rock Troy

Released: April 2, 1992

Album: Mecca and the Soul Brother

Producer: Pete Rock

With their debut album Mecca And The Soul Brother , Pete Rock & CL Smooth dropped an Afrocentric message of positivity at a time when violent gangsta rap was king. On the record’s classic single “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.),” the duo recalls childhood memories and shoutout to their lost friend Trouble T. Roy of Heavy D & The Boyz. Iconic, moving and absolutely one of the best 90s rap songs of all time.

5. Wu-Tang Clan – “C.R.E.A.M.”

Most Sampled Hip Hop Tracks Of All Time Cream

Released: November 9, 1993

Album: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

Producer: RZA

The game changed when Wu-Tang Clan dropped their debut album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) . The record helped define the sound of the 90s. Its biggest hit stands to this day as a downbeat East Coast underground classic. Over 70s soul samples and a raw boom-bap beat the crew makes their priorities clear in this ode to the almighty dollar. You can’t talk about the top 90s rap songs with talking about “C.R.E.A.M.”

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

Best Hip Hop Album Every Year Since 1986 The Chronic

Released: November 19, 1992

Album: The Chronic

Producer: Dr. Dre

The impact that Dr. Dre’s debut solo album The Chronic and its lead-off single had on hip-hop is immeasurable. The song, in concert with its iconic Dre-directed house-party video, helped define the West Coast sound of the 90s and it turned a skinny rapper from the LBC into an international superstar.

3. Nas – “N.Y. State of Mind”

25 Greatest Years In Hip Hop History Illmatic

Released: April 19, 1994

Album: Illmatic

Producer: DJ Premier

“N.Y. State of Mind” is the second track and biggest hit from Nas’ now legendary debut album Illmatic . On the track the hip-hop icon paints a lyrical portrait of the city that never sleeps, over sparse piano chords, a rock & roll bass riff and a hard breakbeat rhythm. According to DJ Premier, the young Queensbridge prodigy rapped the first verse all in one take .

2. Geto Boys – “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”

Most Influential Hip Hop Songs Of All Time Geto Boys

Released: July 1, 1991

Album: We Can’t Be Stopped

Producer: Scarface

With the release of their third album We Can’t Be Stopped in 1991, Houston’s Geto Boys helped establish the South as a major force in hip-hop. The album’s huge crossover hit single “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” is an honest and emotionally complex soliloquy of a gangster worried about his own survival. Not only did Scarface produce this iconic track, he also penned most of the lyrics, drawing upon this life for the morbid tales and shocking twists. Haunting, iconic, and absolutely memorable, this Geto Boys classic is one of the greatest 90s hip hop songs.

1. Mobb Deep – “Shook Ones (Part II)”

100 Greatest Rap Lines In Hip Hop History Shook Ones

Released: February 7, 1995

Album: The Infamous

Producer: Havoc

There will never be a sound more unsettling or iconic as the siren that kicks off “Shook Ones (Part II).” Though technically sequel to the original single, this classic stands on its own as a hip hop masterpiece. Still teenagers when they released their debut album The Infamous , Prodigy and Havoc drop killer freestyles over a dark and ominous downtempo boom-bap beat, haunting electric guitar arpeggios and a simple bass line on this genre-defining classic. Not only is this Mobb Deep anthem the best 90s rap song of all time, it’s one of the greatest hip hop tracks ever.

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