This list of the top 10 rap songs of all time is bound to create some controversy. Rap has only been around as a musical genre for more than 30 years, but in that time has gone from being a fringe street fad to a multi-billion dollar industry. This list of the greatest rap songs of all time tries to include samples from the past to present, but now that I’ve written them out I’ll admit some heavy bias towards the pioneers of rap, and older selections tend to dominate. This is probably natural since I have been listening to rap music since the early 80s, and many tracks on this list of the top 10 rap songs of all time summon strong memories of my youth. I can make no claim to identify with the messages in some of these rap songs. Still, though I might have no empathetic connection with the authors of the best rap songs of all time, I can still appreciate amazing flow, lyrical poetry, and adrenaline-pumping beats. No doubt, many will disagree, but for my money these are the best rap songs so far:
10 – Wu-Tang Clan – C.R.E.A.M.
This prolific New York City based hiphop group has been cranking out hits since the early 1990s, and C.R.E.A.M. is their best offering to date. 36 Chambers is one of the greatest hiphop albums of all time, and this bluesy track really sets itself apart from the rest of this hard-hitting album.
9 – Kool Moe Dee – I Go To Work
K.M.D. on the list of the top 10 rap songs of all time? Diehard fans of the rap genre might be groaning right now, but this breath-stealing track is one of the tightest-woven rap songs ever performed. Give it a listen and appreciate Kool Moe’s lyrical mastery, and the powerful voice that is custom-made for rap music. Rap gold, I tell you!
8 – Snoop Dogg – Gin and Juice
The second single released from this west coast rapper’s debut album, Doggystyle, Gin and Juice is a laid back party song. There might not be much of a message in the lyrics, but the track is one of the best sing-along rap songs of all time.
7 – Beastie Boys – Fight for Your Right To Party
One Beastie Boys’ track had to find its way onto the list of the top 10 rap songs of all time, and that one simply has to be Fight for Your Right. The Beastie Boys are one of the few white rap groups to gain long-term industry respect by giving their rap songs a unique twist, and by not pretending to come from somewhere that they didn’t. Fight for Your Right is a party anthem and the accompanying music video is one of the best of all time.
6 – Tupac Shakur – California Love
This rapper’s incredible career was tragically cut short at just 26 years of age when died of wounds suffered in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. Before his death he provided the world with some of the most poetic rap music in the history of the genre. California Love, a collaboration with Dr. Dre, was his biggest hit, and still receives regular air time on hiphop and even mainstream radio stations.
5 – Public Enemy – Fight the Power
While some of the music on this list of the top 10 rap songs of all time might be accused of being empty, no one could ever accuse Public Enemy of fluff. Every carefully crafted P.E. song contains a message, and Fight the Power, far from being subtle, gets Public Enemy’s message across. One of the most respected rap groups in the business for more than two decades now.
4 – Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5 – The Message
One of the songs that helped bring rap music to the mainstream, The Message was the signature song of this pioneer rap group that helped deliver rap music to the ears of the mainstream music industry. In 2007, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5 became the first rap group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and The Message was the pinnacle of their Hall of Fame career.
3 – Run DMC – King of Rock
This superstar rap group could easily have a half dozen entries on the list of the top 10 rap songs of all time, but for the sake of variety I decided to settle on their very best. Grandmaster Flash may have helped pioneer rap music, but it was Run DMC, more than any other group, that really took rap from a fringe genre and started the huge wave of popularity that rap and hiphop music enjoys today.
2 – Eminem – Lose Yourself
No other rapper has dominated the charts in this millennium like Eninem, and this incredibly powerful track from his movie, Eight Mile, is by far his best performance to date, and is, without question, one of the best rap songs of all time. Brimming with talent, Eminem isn’t as prolific as many others in the genre, but the flow and the lyrical genius he exhibits in his work makes the albums he does release well worth the wait.
1 – Sugarhill Gang – Rapper’s Delight
There was really only one choice for the number 1 spot on the list of the top 10 rap songs of all time. Though they never achieved the success that many other artists on this list did, Sugarhill Gang really set the bar with their 1979 release, Rapper’s Delight. Sampling from Chic’s hit, Good Times, the song gained instant popularity and became the first hiphop song to crack the top 40 on the U.S. pop charts. At a time when rap and hiphop was being dismissed by the recording industry as a fad, this rap song was a breakthrough for the genre, establishing that rap music would be a force to be reckoned with in music for decades to come.