Hip-hop is a rhythmic odyssey where words are swords and beats ignite verses. Delivering empowerment, unity, and catharsis, hip-hop music brings light to marginalized struggles, narratives, and societal truths. From its incendiary cadences to its profound impact on culture, the best hip-hop songs transcend music, time, and boundaries. Sparking dialogues that catalyze societal change, the kinetic energy of the genre creates seismic waves that do more than bring us closer together.
For instance, many of the songs we grew up listening to have a significant impact on how we mature. And for many of us, music is a nostalgic vessel that transports us across time. Perhaps more interesting is how a recent study found that your brain recognizes familiar music in less than half a second. Additional findings reveal that at 100 milliseconds the brain already senses that it knows the song being played and by 350 milliseconds the brain can distinguish a familiar song from an unfamiliar one.
However, the unique discoveries and benefits of music don’t stop there. Let’s go deeper. A newer study found that people who listen to music while studying have higher GPAs. Results showed that 49 percent of respondents recall regularly listening to music while studying and 60 percent were able to study better with something playing in the background. In addition to enriching academic performance, a new study found that listening to music even helps prevent dementia. Overall, the results show that listening and practicing music can preserve cognition. This is welcoming news, considering that so many people worldwide enjoy music.
From legendary verses to transformative lyrics, the impact of music is quite extraordinary. For these reasons, the best hip-hop songs will continue to forge connections, foster broader truths, and amplify the voices of the downtrodden. To learn about the most influential and best hip-hop songs, we’ve compiled the best for you as voted by popularity, impact, and legacy. Don’t happen to see your favorite on our list? No worries, tell us more about why your track should be on our list!
The List: Best Hip-Hop Songs, According to Experts
1. “Get Low” by Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz ft. Ying Yang Twins (2002)
“Get Low” is one of the best hip-hop songs of all time. With an electrifying track, this track’s impact on hip-hop culture is undeniable. As Beats Rhymes Lists recalls, “When Get Low dropped in 2002, Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz and the Ying Yang Twins turned every club into a wild, crunk-fueled party.” Not only did this song popularize crunk music, “but it also made sure Lil Jon’s iconic ad-libs would never be forgotten.”
An anthem of revelry, “Get Low” was skillfully curated by Lil Jon and enriched with the Ying Yang twins. A staple amongst party goers, this beat draws listeners of all backgrounds closer together. As Rolling Stone breaks down, “Get Low was the Number Two hit that signaled the peak of the high-energy, high-alcohol-content, shout-happy movement known as “crunk.” Part of what makes this track so unique is how the “Ying Yang Twins popularized the hook to the windows, to the walls from a black fraternity while yowler-producer Lil Jon flipped it into over-the-top party music.”
From the window to the wall, the song’s unabashed celebration of carefree joy brings appeal to the original crunk era – despite being released 20 years ago. With bass-driven rhythms and provocative lyrics, this song can instantly transform any setting into a dance floor. As USA Inquirer reports, “Get Low was the Number Two hot that climbed to the top.” In every way, the song “reflected the peak of the high-energy alcohol-content, shout-happy movement, that was called crunk.”
2. “Shook Ones (Part II)” by Mobb Deep (1995)
Where raw beats and unfiltered narratives intertwine, “Shook Ones” immerses listeners into the gritty underworld of hip-hop. As one of the most enduring masterpieces, this track continues to resonate as a quintessential representation of authentic hip-hop. As Oprah Daily recounts, “Shook Ones (Part II) showcased Deep’s street savviness and poetic sensibilities of Havoc and Prodigy.” One of the defining rap songs of New York’s legendary ‘90s run, “Shook Ones (Part II) proves that, when done right, a sequel can be even better than the original.”
As defined in this manifesto, there’s no such thing as half-way crooks. Helping listeners grapple with uncertainties, the poetic verses of this track captures an unadulterated portrayal of life’s complexities. As Shortlist puts it, “Shook Ones (Part II) is widely considered to be one of the greatest hip hop beats ever created.” At its core, it’s “a sinister portrayal of street life in mid-90s New York – with the tracking referencing shook ones as someone who acts tough but when it comes down to it they’re a bit of a coward.” Overall, “this isn’t one for the faint-hearted – which is what the song is about anyway.”
Released in 1995, this timeless hit continues to captivate, provoke thought, and evoke raw emotions. Cementing Mobb Deep’s legacy as one of the pioneers of East Coast hip-hop, this song stands tall as one of the genre’s most iconic hits. As Rolling Stone recaps, “In the mid-Nineties, Mobb Deep came out of New York’s Queensbridge projects and boiled East Coast gangsta rap down to its rawest, nihilist essence.” As “a suspense-amping snippet from a Quincy Jones soundtrack, this rumbling song infuses a sinister hiss, while background mumbles add shady menace.”
3. “In Da Club” by 50 Cent (2003)
“In Da Club” is a chart-topping, cultural touchstone in hip-hop history. Coupled with verses that embody individuality and the spirit of living life to the fullest, this track quickly became a global phenomenon. As Music in Minnesota states, “‘In Da Club’ is a song by popular American rapper 50 Cent that topped the charts across 15 countries worldwide upon its release.” Written and produced by Dr. Dre and Mike Elizondo, “this song was released on January 7, 2003 and won the award for Best Rap Music Video at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards.”
This hit showcases the raw power of hip-hop music and its unique ability to captivate, elevate, and connect. Additionally, it solidified 50’s position as one of the most influential rappers of all time. As Music Grotto recaps, “50 Cent struck gold on this one.” To add, part of why this song is so popular is because many people can relate to the timeless verse of “get rich or die trying.”
Despite being released 20 years ago, “In Da Club” still tracks as one of the best hip-hop songs. To this day, it’s a mainstay at parties, clubs, and public gatherings. As Oprah Daily writes, “50 Cent said his plan was “to put the rap game in a chokehold,” and that’s exactly what he did with “In Da Club.” Having Dr. Dre and Eminem in his corner gave “50 instant pedigree while this song became a heat-seeking missile for the top of the charts.” More recently, “the song has rightly received acclaim as one of the great pop songs in modern music history.”
4. “Me, Myself, and I” by De La Soul (1989)
Fusing thought-provoking messaging with jazz-infused rhythms, this De La Soul hit spreads messages of self-empowerment and societal awareness in a world that nurtures conformity. Its departure from materialistic themes continues to inspire and remind artists that authenticity reigns supreme. As USA Inquirer sums up, “Me, Myself, and I is a little ditty that sparks smiles and a chorus you can’t help but to sing.”
In a world where authenticity is in short supply, this song is a guiding light for those daring to be themselves. Its ingenious wordplay and clever metaphors solidify its place as one of the best hip-hop songs of all time. As Music Grotto recounts, “Me Myself and I has a powerful aura, making it a hit song. It focuses on promoting individualism and encourages people to believe in themselves.” Best of all, “it gives one confidence in themselves as it states that loving oneself is enough.”
From the moment “Me, Myself, and I” hit the airwaves in 1989, its soulful hooks and infectious beats resonated with listeners – and still does to this day. More than a song, this track helped fulcrum a turning point in hip-hop’s evolution towards introspection and authenticity. As Rolling Stone writes, “De La Soul concocted a cosmically inclusive house-party jam.” In the end, “their eclectic Daisy Age style got them labeled hip-hop hippies, but it elevated a whole movement of Native Tongues groups.”
5. “Hypnotize” by The Notorious B.I.G. (1997)
“Hypnotize” is a cultural artifact in hip-hop that depicts Biggie’s unmatched artistry. Its mesmerizing grip on listeners effortlessly blends vivid imagery with street knowledge, further showcasing his ability to command attention through not only his words but also his voice. As Short List recalls, “The track itself is an absolute stunner, featuring the purest of head-nodding bass lines from Herb Alpert’s ‘Rise’, and finding Biggie in imperious form celebrating everything.” To add, “it’s also the track he was in LA to record the video for when he was murdered.”
This song helped immortalize Biggie as one of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time. His larger-than-life persona reverberates through the lyrics of this timeless track. As Reads-It sums up, “Hypnotize was the first single from the album Life After Death by Notorious B.I.G.” Sadly, “ the rapper died one week later at a Drive-by shooting while he became the 5th artist ever to posthumously make it to Number One on the Top 100 US charts.”
This track by The Notorious B.I.G. proves hip-hops transcends time and cultural boundaries. Helping shape hip-hop’s legacy, “Hypnotize” continues to inspire new generations of hip-hop aficionados. As Music Grotto mentions, “Hypnotize was No. 20 in the Rolling Stone and was also ranked as Top 100 Hip Hop Songs.”
You may also be interested in:
- Reads It
- Short List
- Oprah Daily
- USA Inquirer
- Music Grotto
- Rolling Stone
- Beat Rhymes Lists
- Music in Minnesota
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.