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Top 10 Decade Defining Rap Songs of the 1990s

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Tiffany Ezuma. This decade saw the development of hip-hop’s golden age, gangsta rap, the East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry and the mainstream breakthrough of the genre. This is part of a series of videos from the birth of rap music to the 2000s. For this list, we’re choosing what we feel are the most iconic rap songs of the decade based on a mix of their popularity, commercial success, production and lyrical quality, and cultural impact. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 rap songs of the 1990s. Special thanks to our users Liz Boch, Jaime Enrique Gutierrez Pérez, thenewjord50, arguemental, Rolando Royster and Mario Cisternas for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Transcript
Script written by Tiffany Ezuma.

This decade saw the development of hip-hop’s golden age, gangsta rap, the East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry and the mainstream breakthrough of the genre. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 rap songs of the 1990s.

This is part of a series of videos from the birth of rap music to the 2000s. For this list, we’re choosing what we feel are the most iconic rap songs of the decade based on a mix of their popularity, commercial success, production and lyrical quality, and cultural impact.

#10: “Scenario” (1991)
A Tribe Called Quest feat. Leaders of the New School

We can thank this song for really bringing Busta Rhymes, a former member of the Leaders of the New School, to the forefront. Busta spits some rhymes in here that we’re still repeating more than 20 years later. Besides his verse, “Scenario” has to be one of the best efforts from A Tribe Called Quest, as it’s got multiple rappers breaking out rhymes over a playful beat. Meanwhile, the track’s call and response style is so infectious you can’t help but sing along.

#9: “Regulate” (1994)
Warren G feat. Nate Dogg

Originally released on the “Above the Rim” soundtrack, this west coast hip-hop and G-funk number helped Warren G and Nate Dogg achieve their first taste of mainstream success. Rising quickly up the charts, “Regulate” peaked at the Billboard Hot 100’s second spot and features the artists rapping about fighting and chasing women. Sampling Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin,’” the tune shares the same smooth feeling and was accompanied by a popular MTV music video.

#8: “Mass Appeal” (1994)
Gang Starr

With this single, Gang Starr went straight for the jugular and called out all those fake MCs. Speaking of those rappers who sell out to gain a larger audience and their lack of respect for such MCs, it’s a bold statement to make. But the duo backs it up with their intricate wordplay and original flow. While we shouldn’t ignore DJ Premier’s trademark production on the track, “Mass Appeal” also helped Gang Starr’s words live on and earn their spots as real MCs.

#7: “N.Y. State of Mind” (1994)
Nas

As one of the best hip-hop artists out there, Nas has contributed a lot to the game – case in point: “The World Is Yours.” But it’s “N.Y. State of Mind” that’s got our vote. Influenced by Kool G Rap’s “Streets of New York,” this Illmatic track has the artist rapping about the tough streets of the Big Apple and his musical skills. He’s introspective and catchy, two qualities that evade lesser talents, and the song itself is a prime cut of east coast and hardcore hip-hop.

#6: “Gin and Juice” (1993)
Snoop Doggy Dogg

This ode to a cocktail may not sound like the hardest song out there but “Gin and Juice” is definitely no softie. In his depiction of the more laid-back side of street life, Snoop raps of hanging out, smoking weed, and drinking. The 3-and-a-half minute track is at its catchiest when Snoop wails the lines of the chorus. Reaching the Hot 100’s top ten, it also earned a Grammy nod for Best Rap Solo Performance.

#5: “Shook Ones (Part II)” (1994)
Mobb Deep

Think sequels are never as good as the originals? Think again. This sequel to Mobb Deep’s promo single “Shook Ones” doesn’t only equal the original but betters it. “(Part II)” may have fewer curse words, but it’s undoubtedly a classic in east coast and hardcore hip-hop. Earning loads of critical acclaim, the lead single from the group’s sophomore effort is 5-and-a-half minutes of the Queensbridge duo’s finest hour.

#4: “C.R.E.A.M” (1993)
Wu-Tang Clan

With artists like Nas, Common and Biggie referencing it in their own work, this tune has to be one of the most influential rap songs out there. The Enter the Wu-Tang single is notable for memorable verses from Raekwon and Inspectah Deck about running the streets and prison life. But it’s the chorus from Method Man that won’t quit as he breaks down the meaning of “C.R.E.A.M.” While Method Man’s duet with Mary J. Blige “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By” is also great, it’s this Wu-Tang number that continues to be one of the group’s highest-rated singles to date.

#3: “California Love” (1995)
2Pac feat. Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman

Pac showed that being locked up didn’t slowed him down with this single that was his first release after his stint in jail. This ode to California has Tupac spitting about the superiority of his adopted home. Its laid-back vibe and beat are so infectious that listeners can’t help but imagine the perfect California day. The song became a chart-topping hit and was honored with a posthumous Grammy nomination, making it the biggest hit of the rapper’s career.

#2: “Hypnotize” (1997)
The Notorious B.I.G.

Biggie Smalls had already passed by the time “Hypnotize” reached number one but its impact has outlived the artist by a mile. Produced by Puff Daddy, the tune samples Herb Alpert’s “Rise” to achieve its cool, chilled-out ‘70s vibe. Meanwhile, Biggie is at his best with lyrical references ranging from couture designers to “Star Wars.” While “Juicy” and “Mo Money Mo Problems” are also awesome Biggie songs, it’s this platinum-certified and Grammy-nominated track that is one of the best examples of pure East Coast hip-hop.

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)” (1991) Black Sheep
- “No Diggity” (1996) Blackstreet feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen
- “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” (1997) Busta Rhymes
- “Gangsta’s Paradise” (1995) Coolio feat. L.V.
- “Ready or Not” (1996) The Fugees
- “O.P.P.” (1991) Naughty by Nature

#1: “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” (1992)
Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg

Our pick for rap song of the decade and one of the best hip hop collaborations out there, this single has a sound many have tried to replicate but with little success. It has all the elements a rap song should contain, including a smooth beat, a life manifesto and a code of the streets. Thanks to Dre’s production talents, Snoop Dogg’s guest vocals and so much more, “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” was the The Chronic’s highest charting entry and continues to live on in popular culture today.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your top rap song of the 1990s? For more can’t miss Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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