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The best hip-hop songs of the 90s
Best hip hop songs of the 90s

The 1990s was a pivotal decade for hip-hop, marking a significant evolution from its early roots in the 70s and 80s into a global cultural force. 

The 90s saw the rise of iconic artists like Nas from Queensbridge, Tupac from East Harlem, The Notorious B.I.G. from Brooklyn, OutKast from Atlanta, and many others who pushed the boundaries of hip-hop and inspired a new wave of creativity in the genre.

Here are the 30 best hip-hop songs of the 90s that defined the era, with detailed information about each track:

1. “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” – Pete Rock & CL Smooth (1992)

Artist: Pete Rock & CL Smooth

Location: New York, USA

Year of Release: 1992

Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s 1992 single “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” is considered one of the greatest hip-hop songs ever. The track was a heartfelt tribute to their late friend Troy Dixon, with Pete Rock’s smooth production featuring a sample of Tom Scott’s “Today” and CL Smooth’s poetic flow creating a timeless masterpiece of East Coast hip-hop. The song’s impact was immediate, with its emotional lyrics and jazz-influenced sound resonating with listeners and cementing Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s status as one of the most innovative duos of the era.

2. “N.Y. State of Mind” – Nas (1994)

Artist: Nas

Location: Queensbridge, New York, USA

Year of Release: 1994

Nas burst onto the scene with his 1994 debut album Illmatic, which featured the gritty, jazz-sampling “N.Y. State of Mind”. The song’s vivid storytelling and symbolism-steeped lyrics painted a powerful portrait of life in New York City. They engaged listeners in its narratives, cementing Nas as one of the greatest rappers ever.

3. “Can I Kick It?” – A Tribe Called Quest (1990)

Artist: A Tribe Called Quest

Location: New York, USA

Year of Release: 1990

A Tribe Called Quest’s 1990 single “Can I Kick It?” exemplified the mellow, jazz-influenced sound of the Native Tongues movement. The call-and-response chorus, laid-back production featuring a sample of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”, and confident delivery from Q-Tip and Phife Dawg made it an early 90s classic. The song’s impact was significant, with its positive message and innovative sampling techniques influencing countless artists and helping define the era’s alternative hip-hop sound.

4. “Juicy” – The Notorious B.I.G. (1994)

Artist: The Notorious B.I.G.

Location: Brooklyn, New York, USA

Year of Release: 1994

The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1994 debut single “Juicy” was a breakthrough moment for East Coast hip-hop. Over a sample of Mtume’s “Juicy Fruit”, Biggie told his rags-to-riches story with vivid detail and charisma, instantly establishing himself as one of the greatest rappers ever. The song’s impact was immediate, with its cinematic storytelling and Biggie’s larger-than-life persona captivating listeners and helping to revive the East Coast sound in the face of West Coast dominance.

5. “Regulate” – Warren G ft. Nate Dogg (1994)

Artist: Warren G ft. Nate Dogg

Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Year of Release: 1994

Warren G’s 1994 hit “Regulate” was a quintessential G-funk track. Its smooth production, featuring a sample of Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near),” mellow vibe, and memorable hook from Nate Dogg, made it a breakthrough for the West Coast sound and helped bring hip-hop to the mainstream. Its impact was significant, with its laid-back groove and Nate Dogg’s silky vocals becoming a template for countless G-funk and West Coast hip-hop tracks in the years to come.

6. “Passin’ Me By” – The Pharcyde (1992)

Artist: The Pharcyde

Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

Year of Release: 1992

The Pharcyde’s 1992 single “Passin’ Me By” was an unconventional love song that showcased the group’s quirky, humorous style. The song’s jazz-tinged production and clever lyrics about unrequited love made it a standout in the alternative hip-hop scene. The Pharcyde’s impact on the genre was significant, with their innovative sampling techniques and playful approach to storytelling influencing countless artists in the years to come.

7. “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” – Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg (1992)

Artist: Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg

Location: Compton, California, USA

Year of Release: 1992

Dr. Dre’s 1992 single “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” was the quintessential G-funk anthem. Featuring a laid-back groove and Snoop Dogg’s smooth flow, the song introduced the world to the West Coast sound, characterized by its smooth, melodic beats and laid-back, funk-influenced production that helped launch Snoop’s career. The song’s impact was immediate, with its infectious hook and Snoop’s charismatic delivery becoming a blueprint for countless G-funk and West Coast hip-hop tracks in the years to come.

8. “Scenario” – A Tribe Called Quest ft. Leaders of the New School (1991)

Artist: A Tribe Called Quest ft. Leaders of the New School

Location: New York, USA

Year of Release: 1991

A Tribe Called Quest’s 1991 posse cut “Scenario” featured the group alongside Leaders of the New School, including a young Busta Rhymes. The song’s frenetic energy and Busta’s show-stealing verse made it a highlight of the Native Tongues movement. The song’s impact was significant, with its innovative sampling techniques and Busta’s explosive flow influencing countless artists in the years to come.

9. “Straight Outta Compton” – N.W.A (1988)

Artist: N.W.A

Location: Compton, California, USA

Year of Release: 1988

N.W.A’s 1988 title track “Straight Outta Compton” was a landmark moment for gangsta rap. The song’s raw, uncompromising lyrics and production captured the gritty reality of life in Compton, paving the way for West Coast hip-hop’s rise to prominence in the 90s. The song’s impact was immediate, with its controversial lyrics and confrontational attitude becoming a blueprint for countless gangsta rap tracks in the years to come.

10. “Shook Ones Pt. II” – Mobb Deep (1995)

Artist: Mobb Deep

Location: Queensbridge, New York, USA

Year of Release: 1995

Mobb Deep’s 1995 single “Shook Ones Pt. II” was a defining moment for New York’s hardcore rap scene. The song’s dark, menacing production and Prodigy’s chilling lyrics about street life made it an instant classic of the East Coast sound. The song’s impact was significant, with its gritty realism and cinematic storytelling influencing countless artists in the years to come.

11. “Hypnotize” – The Notorious B.I.G. (1997)

Artist: The Notorious B.I.G.

Location: Brooklyn, New York, USA

Year of Release: 1997

The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1997 single “Hypnotize” was a playful, danceable hit that showcased his charisma and storytelling skills. The song’s catchy hook and Biggie’s effortless flow made it one of the biggest hits of his career. The song’s impact was immediate, with its infectious groove and Biggie’s larger-than-life persona captivating listeners and helping cement his status as one of the greatest rappers ever.

12. “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” – Digable Planets (1993)

Artist: Digable Planets

Location: New York, USA

Year of Release: 1993

Digable Planets’ 1993 single “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” was a smooth, jazz-infused track that exemplified the alternative hip-hop sound. The song’s mellow vibe and clever lyrics about being “cool” made it a standout of the Native Tongues movement. The song’s impact was significant, with its innovative sampling techniques and laid-back groove influencing countless artists in the years to come.

13. “Gin and Juice” – Snoop Dogg (1993)

Artist: Snoop Dogg

Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Year of Release: 1993

Snoop Dogg’s 1993 single “Gin and Juice” was a laid-back G-funk anthem that showcased his effortless flow and charisma. The song’s mellow vibe and lyrics about partying made it one of the biggest hits of his career. The song’s impact was immediate, with its infectious groove and Snoop’s cool persona captivating listeners and helping to cement his status as one of the most iconic rappers of the era.

14. “Summertime” – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1991)

Artist: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Year of Release: 1991

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s 1991 single “Summertime” was a feel-good summer anthem that showcased their playful, humorous style. The song’s mellow production and catchy hook made it a crossover hit that helped bring hip-hop to the mainstream. The song’s impact was significant, with its positive message and infectious groove resonating with listeners and helping to break down barriers between hip-hop and pop music.

15. “Protect Ya Neck” – Wu-Tang Clan (1993)

Artist: Wu-Tang Clan

Location: Staten Island, New York, USA

Year of Release: 1993

Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 single “Protect Ya Neck” was a raw, uncompromising track introducing the group’s gritty, hardcore sound. The song’s unconventional production and each member’s show-stealing verse made it a standout of the East Coast scene. The song’s impact was immediate, with its innovative sampling techniques and confrontational attitude influencing countless artists in the years to come.

16. “Doo Wop (That Thing)” – Lauryn Hill (1998)

Artist: Lauryn Hill

Location: East Orange, New Jersey, USA

Year of Release: 1998

Lauryn Hill’s 1998 single “Doo Wop (That Thing)” was a breakthrough moment for female rappers. The song’s catchy hook, retro production, and Hill’s charismatic flow made it one of the biggest hits of the year and a landmark moment for hip-hop. The song’s impact was significant, with its positive message and innovative blend of hip-hop and R&B influencing countless artists in the years to come.

17. “Passin’ Me By” – The Pharcyde (1992)

Artist: The Pharcyde

Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

Year of Release: 1992

The Pharcyde’s 1992 single “Passin’ Me By” was an unconventional love song that showcased the group’s quirky, humorous style. The song’s jazz-tinged production and clever lyrics about unrequited love made it a standout in the alternative hip-hop scene. The Pharcyde’s impact on the genre was significant, with their innovative sampling techniques and playful approach to storytelling influencing countless artists in the years to come.

18. “Elevators (Me & You)” – OutKast (1996)

Artist: OutKast

Location: Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Year of Release: 1996

OutKast’s 1996 single “Elevators (Me & You)” was a psychedelic, genre-blending track that showcased the group’s innovative sound. The song’s mellow groove, catchy hook, and Andre 3000’s show-stealing verse made it a standout in the Southern rap scene. The song’s impact was immediate, with its unconventional production and Andre’s virtuosic flow captivating listeners and helping establish OutKast as one of the era’s most creative and influential groups.

19. “1st of tha Month” – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (1996)

Artist: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Year of Release: 1996

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s 1996 single “1st of tha Month” was a celebration of payday. This track captures the excitement and energy of the first of the month when people receive their welfare checks. It’s known for its catchy chorus and laid-back beat. The song’s emotional lyrics, harmonized vocals, and mellow production made it a standout on the West Coast scene and one of the year’s biggest hits. 

20. “Oooh” – De La Soul (1991)

Artist: De La Soul

Location: Amityville, New York, USA

Year of Release: 1991

De La Soul’s 1991 single “Oooh” was a playful, humorous track that showcased the group’s quirky, alternative style. The song’s mellow production, catchy hook, and clever lyrics made it a standout of the Native Tongues movement and a highlight of their classic album De La Soul Is Dead. The group’s impact on the genre was significant, with their innovative sampling techniques and positive message influencing countless artists in the coming years.

21. “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” – Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg (1992)

Artist: Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg

Location: Compton, California, USA

Year of Release: 1992

Dr. Dre’s 1992 single “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” was the quintessential G-funk anthem. Featuring a laid-back groove and Snoop Dogg’s smooth flow, the song introduced the world to the West Coast sound and helped launch Snoop’s career. The song’s impact was immediate, with its infectious hook and Snoop’s charismatic delivery becoming a blueprint for countless G-funk and West Coast hip-hop tracks in the years to come.

22. “Hypnotize” – The Notorious B.I.G. (1997)

Artist: The Notorious B.I.G.

Location: Brooklyn, New York, USA

Year of Release: 1997

The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1997 single “Hypnotize” was a playful, danceable hit that showcased his charisma and storytelling skills. The song’s catchy hook and Biggie’s effortless flow made it one of the biggest hits of his career. The song’s impact was immediate, with its infectious groove and Biggie’s larger-than-life persona captivating listeners and helping cement his status as one of the greatest rappers ever.

23. “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” – Digable Planets (1993)

Artist: Digable Planets

Location: New York, USA

Year of Release: 1993

Digable Planets’ 1993 single “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” was a smooth, jazz-infused track that exemplified the alternative hip-hop sound. The song’s mellow vibe and clever lyrics about being “cool” made it a standout of the Native Tongues movement. The song’s impact was significant, with its innovative sampling techniques and laid-back groove influencing countless artists in the years to come.

24. “Gin and Juice” – Snoop Dogg (1993)

Artist: Snoop Dogg

Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Year of Release: 1993

Snoop Dogg’s 1993 single “Gin and Juice” was a laid-back G-funk anthem that showcased his effortless flow and charisma. The song’s mellow vibe and lyrics about partying made it one of the biggest hits of his career. The song’s impact was immediate, with its infectious groove and Snoop’s cool persona captivating listeners and helping to cement his status as one of the most iconic rappers of the era.

25. “Summertime” – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1991)

Artist: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Year of Release: 1991

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s 1991 single “Summertime” was a feel-good summer anthem that showcased their playful, humorous style. The song’s mellow production and catchy hook made it a crossover hit that helped bring hip-hop to the mainstream. The song’s impact was significant, with its positive message and infectious groove resonating with listeners and helping to break down barriers between hip-hop and pop music.

26. “Protect Ya Neck” – Wu-Tang Clan (1993)

Artist: Wu-Tang Clan

Location: Staten Island, New York, USA

Year of Release: 1993

Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 single “Protect Ya Neck” was a raw, uncompromising track introducing the group’s gritty, hardcore sound. The song’s unconventional production and each member’s show-stealing verse made it a standout of the East Coast scene. The song’s impact was immediate, with its innovative sampling techniques and confrontational attitude influencing countless artists in the years to come.

27. “Doo Wop (That Thing)” – Lauryn Hill (1998)

Artist: Lauryn Hill

Location: East Orange, New Jersey, USA

Year of Release: 1998

Lauryn Hill’s 1998 single “Doo Wop (That Thing)” was a breakthrough moment for female rappers. The song’s catchy hook, retro production, and Hill’s charismatic flow made it one of the biggest hits of the year and a landmark moment for hip-hop. The song’s impact was significant, with its positive message and innovative blend of hip-hop and R&B influencing countless artists in the years to come.

28. “Tha Crossroads” – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (1996)

Artist: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Year of Release: 1996

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s 1996 single “Tha Crossroads” was a poignant tribute to the group’s late mentor, Eazy-E. The song’s emotional lyrics, harmonized vocals, and mellow production made it a standout of the West Coast scene and one of the year’s biggest hits. The song’s impact was significant, with its heartfelt message and innovative blend of hip-hop and R&B influencing countless artists in the years to come.

29. ​​”Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)” – De La Soul (1991)

​​Artist: De La Soul

Location: Amityville, New York, USA

Year of Release: 1991

This track is a playful, humorous commentary on the pressures of newfound fame, showcasing De La Soul’s quirky, alternative style. Its mellow production, catchy hook, and clever lyrics made it a standout of the Native Tongues movement. De La Soul’s innovative sampling and satirical approach influenced many artists, cementing their place in hip-hop history. This song, in particular, became a highlight of their classic album “De La Soul Is Dead.”

30. “Killing Me Softly” – The Fugees (1996)

Artist: The Fugees

Location: South Orange, New Jersey, USA

Year of Release: 1996

The Fugees’ 1996 cover of “Killing Me Softly” was a standout track from their critically acclaimed album The Score. Lauryn Hill’s powerful vocals and Wyclef Jean’s production put a fresh spin on the classic song, showcasing the group’s versatility and talent. The song’s impact was immediate, with its emotional resonance and Lauryn Hill’s star-making performance cementing The Fugees as one of the most influential hip-hop groups of the decade.

Best Hip-Hop Songs from Yung Lord Fine$$

Yung Lord Fine$$, an up-and-coming artist from upstate New York, has been making waves in the hip-hop scene with his unique style and compelling lyrics. 

His latest album, “Every King Needs a Queen, Every Lord Needs a Lady,” showcases his versatility and artistic vision. 

Here are some standout tracks from the album:

1. Tell Me You Love Me

Artist: Yung Lord Fine$$

Location: Upstate New York, USA

Year of Release: 2023

This track explores themes of love and vulnerability, with Yung Lord Fine$$ expressing his desires and fears in a relationship. The song features a smooth, melodic beat that complements his introspective lyrics.

“Tell Me You Love Me” has become a fan favorite for its relatable themes and catchy chorus, showcasing Yung Lord Fine$$’s ability to connect with his audience on a personal level.

2. Thinking of You

Artist: Yung Lord Fine$$

Location: Upstate New York, USA

Year of Release: 2023

A romantic track that delves into the emotions of missing someone special, “Thinking of You” combines heartfelt lyrics with a mellow, soulful production. The song highlights Yung Lord Fine$$’s talent for storytelling.

The song has received praise for its lyrical depth and smooth flow, further cementing Yung Lord Fine$$’s reputation as a versatile artist.

3. Lost

Artist: Yung Lord Fine$$

Location: Upstate New York, USA

Year of Release: 2023

“Lost” is a poignant track that touches on confusion and searching for direction in life. Yung Lord Fine$$ uses this song to express his struggles and the journey towards self-discovery.

The raw emotion and introspective nature of “Lost” have struck a chord with many listeners, making it one of the standout tracks on the album.

 

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