Rolling Stone hip-hop songs

I swear to Christ, lists like this exist entirely to drive me nuts. Rolling Stone, apparently not done with list season even after unveiling their mesozoic best-albums list, has now dedicated an entire issue to its list of the 50 best hip-hop songs ever. (Not “rap,” because it’s Rolling Stone, durr.) And I know that RS hasn’t exactly always been hospitable to rap, so this is a nice gesture in a lot of ways, and almost every song on the list is great. But it also does very Rolling Stone things like praising old and obvious songs and, by its very nature, losing out on a lot of the things rap does well, like immediacy and visceral impact and blast-of-the-new what-the-fuckness. When we get into arguments about subjectivity, we call into question the very existence of best-of-lists, and that’s a bigger problem. But a song like Noreaga’s “Supethug,” for instance — absolutely one of the best rap songs ever — is never going to show up on a list like this, because there are way too many quote-unquote important artists who need to be recognized. Almost all the songs here could’ve ended up on the syllabus of a rap-history class I took in college, and I graduated college more than a decade ago. It’s annoying. I’m annoyed. At least they managed not to give the Beastie Boys the #1 spot. Check below for the top 10.

10 Eric B. & Rakim – “Paid In Full”
09 N.W.A – “Straight Outta Compton”
08 Notorious B.I.G. – “Juicy”
07 Public Enemy – “Fight The Power”
06 Dr. Dre – “Nuthin’ But A ’G’ Thang” (Feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg)
05 Geto Boys – “Mind Playing Tricks On Me”
04 Run-DMC – “Sucker M.C.’s”
03 Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force – “Planet Rock”
02 Sugar Hill Gang – “Rapper’s Delight”
01 Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five – “The Message”

Check the complete list, with blurbs and audio and a ?uestlove intro, here.

Comments (64)
  1. “If you’re having list-making problems, I feel bad for you, son — we got 50 great hip-hop songs but Noreaga ain’t one.” – Rolling Stone

  2. So many things wrong with that list I can’t even. Since when did people still take Rolling Stone seriously anyway?

    • Since it became one of the most influential pop culture magazines ever. That’t not to say that I agree with the list either, but people who act all aloof/unaware of RS’s impact on the ‘zine medium need to take their head out of their ass.

      • I agree that they were one of the most influential pop culture magazines ever, but the current state of the magazine is a shadow of its former self. Back in the 60s and 70s they represented the cultural zeitgeist (as if would I know—I was born 10 years after the 70s ended), but now their priority is just trying to hold on to their aging baby-boomer audience. Look at their Top 50 albums of 2012 list and how they basically write the same cover story feature about Bruce Springsteen each time he makes an album.

        • Sure, but that’s not my point. His query was, “since when did people take Rolling Stone seriously?”. The answer is millions of people took it very seriously for decades. Millions still do. So either he’s unaware of their place as a one time “cultural zeitgeist”, not to mention their current (and perhaps less-earned) position as a very influential magazine, or he’s writing them off because they fail to cover the music he enjoys, but either way he came off looking uninformed and like a bit of a snob. I know that it’s the Internet so who cares, but if you’re going to bash something, put in the effort to know what you’re bashing.

          • reread it… his question was “since when did people STILL take rolling stone seriously?” not that it was NEVER important, just that it’s ridiculously out of touch NOW.

      • But couldn’t you argue that at this point one can be aloof/unaware of the entirety of the “‘zine medium” and not really miss much? Because of this little thing called the Internet?

      • I agree that Rolling Stone was incredibly influential in terms of pop culture, but that was twenty years ago. Their lists show a serious lack of fresh perspective. They give more coverage to the same artists that were big in the nineties (Green Day) and spend less time writing about artists that actually have influence. RS is a cultural institution, but they are seriously behind the times.

        • Definitely, and if he had phrased it more along the lines of your reasoning–”Rolling Stone has really fallen behind the current music scene, and so I doubt anyone goes to them as the authority on hip hop”–then I wouldn’t have had an issue. I don’t either way, I’m just bored. But his complete write off of a legendary publication, albeit one that’s fading, was a bit ridiculous.

        • Rolling Stone launched in November, 1967. A majority or music snobs (I use that term with affection) have been arguing that Rolling Stone doesn’t have nearly the cultural cache that it used to since, shit, probably probably January 1968, but definitely since the early ’70s. They’ve been right for most of the time, but in an odd way, their very arguments have given Rolling Stone continued cultural cache. But, as much as we may not like it, they’re going to remain the prototypical “music opinion maker” as long as they publish. They haven’t been within spitting distance of relevancy in their musical coverage in a generation, but they will always be the grandaddy of any outlet that aims to discuss music from a non-business insider perspective. That will always give them a lingering aura of relevancy to those who aren’t, well, snobs about it.

          To be fair, some of their long form non-music journalism reamins really worthwhile. I know that’s outside the parameters of the discussion, but it’s worth noting.

  3. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  4. Dad Rap

  5. This list really does look like Rolling Stone took a semester long rap history course at the local community college and suddenly felt enlightened.

  6. It seems like a lot of Stereogum’s content is aimed at ridiculing Rolling Stone Magazine’s “old man” editorial and music list content, and after a while it becomes a bit trite – it’s like you’re hanging on their every move. Why worry so much about it? This is a publication that covers Snooki and up to the minute reality TV information. They’ve become a gossip magazine, and Stereogum is, too, by association. Why does Stereogum need to keep tabs, looking over their shoulder? The “cooler, younger cousin” but only works for a short time.

    Why not just be the “bigger man” and write some good pieces yourselves. You have a lot of smart writers. This is a useless piece. Do your own list and include whoever you want.

    • I tend to agree with this…

      • crabtron  |   Posted on Dec 6th, 2012 +2

        Yeah, but technically, that horse isn’t quite dead–its eyes are still rolling around and it’s twitching. So it still needs to be beaten. Although I just now realized that it’s being beaten by a skeleton, which is rather alarming. Actually, let’s stop beating the poor horse and take out that skeleton instead. It seems like much more of a threat. Wait, does this all mean that Stereogum is the skeleton? What, then, are the implications? Perhaps only this: I shouldn’t try to analyze this GIF any further.

        • Some might say this was just the best thing I could find when I looked up “beating a dead horse animated gif” on google, but the truth is Stereogum is in fact a skeleton.

          • crabtron  |   Posted on Dec 7th, 2012 0

            It’s certainly a thought-provoking image. ‘ course if Stereogum’s a skeleton, then as a commenter, perhaps I’m part of that skeleton by association, which makes me feel pleasantly evil.

  7. “At least they managed not to give the Beastie Boys the #1 spot”

    I can think of at least a couple of Beastie Boys tracks I’d have over everything in Rolling Stone’s top 10.

  8. I almost die when I saw the picture. List ain’t too bad but, in my opinion, better. But.. Noreaga’s “Superthug”, really? I always hated most of the Neptunes’ prods, so i’m kinda biased there…

  9. Some things I’d wished to see there:

    - KRS-One, besides BDP is a key figure. e.g. easy pick: the sound of da police

    - More DJ Premier-produced stuff: Gang Starr, Afu-Ra – Defeat, Group Home, Nas – Nas is like, Rakim – When I B on the Mic…

    - Any underground act.. Dilated Peoples, Jedi Mind Tricks, Non Phixion or Cunninlynguists made gems

    - Less Jay-Z, 2Pac and P.Diddy-likes.. and “Rapper’s delight” lower. It’s a HIP-HOP list

    • But why? Maybe it’s not worth #2 and not ‘proper’ hip-hop but still, Rapper’s Delight is marvelous, fun song.

      • I do like, own and dance it too! But, again it’s a hip-hop list, so I consider there should be other songs that had more to do with it.. Hip-hop was about streets, graffiti, breakdance.. it’s “The message” for me

  10. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Lil Wayne might be an acquired taste (I like him for force of personality, unapologetic weirdness, and some serious skills in the Carter II/Drought III days), but you seriously don’t see anything to like in Kanye or Kendrick Lamar’s music? Really?

      • Not really. I tend to focus too much on musicality, so that’s why I also asked about the lyrics-thing as well. Glad someone answered my question instead of just downvoting, which I expected to be as it’s being. No hard feelings!

        • Well if you focus on musicality then I don’t see how you can’t get Kanye. That guy’s made the most purely musically appreciable hip-hop possibly ever.

    • Am I getting old?


    • ye is a rap god, ‘rick is a rap prince, wayne is a clown, frank is a king, timbo is dead.

  11. holy shit where is the south? two OutKast songs, A UGK feature, and a Geto Boys track is not nearly enough. One Day? I Seen A Man Die? International Playas Anthem? Doobie Ashtray?
    I mean I don’t really expect anything too modern out of Rolling Stone, but at least an acknowledgement that southern rap is important would be nice.

  12. Of course, because when I see Rolling Stone, I immediately think “hip-hop”.

  13. It’s been said before but deserves to be repeated: There are several Public Enemy songs that leave “Fight the Power” in the dust — “Rebel Without a Pause,” “Brothers Gonna Work It Out” to name a couple. But “Power” always gets the nod…

  14. Did Positive K make the list?

  15. The way I always rationalized the hip-hop vs. rap dichotomy is that rap refers to the verbal part of the song, while hip-hop is the combination of the rap, the hook, and the beat. Different forms of rap are gent different sub-genres of hip-hop. i.e., Gangster rap is a sub-genre of hip-hop, distinguished by the content of its lyrics. I could be totally wrong; in fact, I’m pretty sure I made this up a few years ago, but I’m okay with that.

    In the spirit of the season, I think we can all unite as one, in agreeing that the best Christmas hip-hop song is “Christmas in Hollis.”

  16. No Limp Bizkit “N 2 Gether Now”? Rolling Stone, you just lost a reader.

  17. #1 – Bob Dylan – Like A Rolling Stone

    “In many ways Bob Dylan is the greatest rapper of all time…”

  18. Nas isn’t in the top ten? MAH LORD!

  19. There’s an important distinction between the adjectives “Great,” which Rolling Stone uses, and “Best” which is how I think you guys are reading the list. Finding the “best” is largely subjective, while finding the “greatest” demands the individual to at least consider critical opinion and the kind of “importance” you ridicule in your introduction. Those ten songs represent the hip-hop version of the “great books.” People have mentioned that this seems like it’s out of a college syllabus, and they’re right. These are the “important” foundation songs on which the genre was built.

    There are plenty of songs most of us would probably consider “better,” but maybe not as great. Take the Noreaga song you mentioned. Now, I’m not an expert at all, but I’ve listened to enough ‘classic hip-hop’ to know my O.P.P.’s from my ODB’s. And I’m pretty sure I had never heard that song until today. Not taking anything away from it, it’s a good song. But it doesn’t really fit with the rest of those ten songs. Rolling Stone calling these songs important isn’t exactly newsworthy, but you choose to spotlight it here. As much fun as it is to take every opportunity to shit on Rolling Stone for being fossils, maybe we should judge them for what they are trying to do. This list isn’t bad. Predictable? Yes. Bordering on cliche? Sure. Bad for what it is? Absolutely not.

    Of course, any list of the “BEST” hip-hop songs worth it’s time would have “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” in the top 3.

  20. This isn’t a greatest or best of list. Like Rolling Stone the publication itself, it’s a nostalgia-filled look at yesteryear through rose colored lenses. Especially considering the genre has only gotten better through time with higher quality production values.

  21. Geto Boys in top 5 is perfect though.

  22. “Wu-Tang Clan coming at you, protect your neck, [Rolling Stone]!”

    • Wu-Tang always Triumphs! You better protect your neck Rolling stones because Wu Tang clan aint nuthin to fuck with. Update your list or i’ll chop you with liquid swords. Wu tang fans be ready to bring da pain on Rolling stones cuz I don’t think they can navigate the 36 chambers. Hell lets put Rolling stones in the brooklyn zoo and see if they decide to rethink their choices. other wise they’ll be stuck in the 4th chamber contemplating da mystery of chessboxing. Rolling stones is thinking “can it all be so simple?”… the answer is yes, all you have to do is add a good 20 or 30 wu tang songs and your list will be better because your causing the fans tearz.

      FYI Wu Tang fans count em up… exactly 11 references

  23. no Bob Dylan?

    • Oh god dammit someone beat me to it. Again. I’ve gotta learn to read the comments first before posting…

      Also, I find their lack of DOOM disturbing

  24. I made a Spotify playlist of the songs:

    Note: Dr. Dre and A Tribe Called Quest are not on Spotify so the list is only 48 songs. Add a couple Fat Boys songs at will.

  25. Surprised they haven’t found a way to work Springsteen into this.

  26. this is my top 10 most played songs in my iTunes from 7th grade

  27. ahhhh Superthug SHOULD have been on here, definitely one of the best rap songs from the 90′s. don’t know who they let pick, but its definitely not someone who has ever listened to rap music in their life.

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