The future of music

34 Best 80s Rap Songs (1980s Hip Hop Tracks)

January 11, 2024
80s rap songs

Step into the world of the best 80s rap songs, a handpicked selection I’ve put together to celebrate the golden era of hip-hop.

This playlist is your ticket to reliving the groundbreaking tracks that shaped the vibrant and revolutionary landscape of 1980s rap.

Table of Contents

Top 80s rap songs

  • “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five (1982)
  • “Sucker M.C.’s” by Run-D.M.C. (1984)
  • “Microphone Friend” by Eric B & Rakim (1988)
  • “Rock The Bells” by L.L. Cool J (1985)
  • “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy (1989)
  • “My Philosophy” by Boogie Down Productions (1988)
  • “Peter Piper” by Run-D.M.C. (1986)
  • “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos” by Public Enemy (1988)
  • “Rappers Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang (1980)
  • “The Show/La-Di-Da-Di” by Doug E. Fresh & Get Fresh Crew (1985)

1. “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five (1982)

“The Message” is one of the first hits that come to mind when talking about the best 80s rap songs. 

The classic hooks made it a fan favorite.

And many artists have since sampled the rhythm track, including Ice Cube and Puff Daddy. 

Released in 1982, the song featured on Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s debut album as one of the first hip-hop songs to address social issues. 

2. “Sucker M.C.’s” by Run-D.M.C. (1984)

One of the best rap songs from the 80s is about a guy showing off his rapping skills. 

The 1984 hip-hop song finds the rapper putting himself above anyone he considers a sucker MC.

“Sucker MC’s” became one of the most popular 80s rap songs, occupying the #37 spot on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

It was from Run-D.M.C.’s eponymous album and stood out with its distinct production style that set the trend in the rap music scene.

3. “Microphone Friend” by Eric B & Rakim (1988)

The hip-hop duo Eric B & Rakim released “Microphone Friend” for their 2nd studio album, Follow the Leader.

The almost perfect beat and lyrics made it a beloved tune at the time. 

And even today, it’s still recognized as one of the best 80s rap songs. 

4. “Rock The Bells” by L.L. Cool J (1985)

New school hip-hop lovers consider L.L. Cool J one of the best rappers from the 80s.

Even those who disagree love the two-time Grammy award winner’s signature song from the 1980s.

Rock the bells was a popular phrase in the 80s, and L.L. Cool J thought it could be a great title for his new song. 

And it surely was, exemplifying everything you may need from a classic rap song. 

The thumping backbeat is one of the reasons many people fell in love with the rap song. 

Then, there are the distinct samples that inspired many 80s hip-hop artists. 

5. “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy (1989)

We could safely assume this was Public Enemy’s best-ever song.

And many will agree.

“Fight The Power” is one of those universally accepted protest songs that resonated with many listeners around the world.

It also became a soundtrack for Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing film and one of the best rap songs from the 80s.

Fight The Power” topped the Hot Rap Singles chart and peaked at #20 on the Hot R&B Singles chart. 

6. “My Philosophy” by Boogie Down Productions (1988)

Hip-hop wasn’t probably as popular in the 80s as it is today.

But “My Philosophy” by Boogie Down Productions still caught everyone’s attention, thanks to its powerful message about fake rappers and the commercial aspect of the music genre.

The message makes more sense today than ever before.

And it’s fair to say “My Philosophy” ranks highly among the best 80s rap songs for a good reason. 

7. “Peter Piper” by Run-D.M.C. (1986)

Run-D.M.C.’s legendary 80s rap song was a tribute to the celebrated disc jockey Jam Master Jay.

If we were to establish the roots of old-school hip-hop, we’d start with this song.

It was part of the group’s successful album, Rising Hell, which had put them among the industry’s best with hits like “Walk This Way” and “It’s Tricky.”

The song became even more popular after the legendary DJ was murdered in 2003 at his studio. 

“Peter Piper” is still one of the best 80s rap songs. 

8. “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos” by Public Enemy (1988)

It’s hard not to include this track when mentioning Public Enemy’s best 80s rap songs.

Some will even call it the most influential song by the American hip-hop group. 

The hard-hitting lyrics targeted the American government and its jail system.

The song is based on a prison escape story inspired by Isaac Hayes’ piano sample. 

9. “Rappers Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang (1980)

“Rappers Delight” exemplified the old school rap and is one of the best rap songs from the 80s.

It was the first rap record to reach the U.S. Hot 100.

And even though that happened in 1979, we’ve included it in this list because it became increasingly popular in the 80s.

This wasn’t an ordinary rap song about drugs, guns, sex, and money.

It was a beautiful song where the hip-hop duo only wanted to treat their fans to some good rap music. 

10. “The Show/La-Di-Da-Di” by Doug E. Fresh & Get Fresh Crew (1985)

The legendary 1985 song by Doug E. Fresh & Get Fresh Crew brings authentic vibes of 80s rap music.

It’s still one of the coolest hip-hop songs you can listen to today. 

11. “6 In The Mornin’” by Ice-T (1986)

Another great rap song from the 80s is Ice-T’s “6 In The Mornin’” from the Rhyme Pays studio album. 

It is one of the first songs that introduced the world to gangsta rap, with lyrics about the thug life of many young males in LA. 

12. “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” by Beastie Boys (1986)

The truth is that many listeners never completely understood Beastie Boys’ message in “Fight for Your Right.”

But that didn’t stop party lovers from grooving to it in the late 80s and early 90s.

Band member Adam Yauch has stated that this hit merely mocked rock songs for the usually boring style and the fact they are always sung at noisy parties.

Whichever way you interpret the lyrics, this is one of the best 80s rap songs and peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

13. “Walk This Way” by Run-D.M.C. (1975)

Run-D.M.C. truly popularized rap music.  

And “Walk This Way” is another proof of their dominance in the 80s rap music scene.

It was one of the most impactful rap songs of the 80s and introduced many people to Rap-Rock as a cultural and musical force.

The lyrics about teenage lust were perfect for Aerosmith’s youthful fan base. 

14. “Bust A Move” by Young MC (1989)

“Bust A Move” is a song from Young MC’s Stone Cold Rhymin’ debut album released in 1989.

The song is a wonderful choice for a taste of everything that made the 80s rap music special, including the hilarious lyrics and the memorable beats.

Young MC was making his steps in an era dominated by the likes of N.W.A.

And he did it perfectly, judging by this song alone.

15. “F***Tha Police” by N.W.A. (1988)

“F***Tha Police” has to be one of the most controversial rap songs in history, if not the most controversial.

Known for their hard-hitting and sometimes violent lyricism (plus their hatred for the police), N.W.A. was never going to spare anyone in their 1988 rap song. 

What’s shocking is that most of the lines about police in the song were true.

Even sadder is that the situation hasn’t changed much since the American hip-hop group released this song. 

16. “Shake Your Rump” by Beastie Boys (1989)

“Shake Your Rump” is enough proof that Beastie Boys were one of the best rap groups of the 80s.

The lyrics take on a humorous look at the rap industry, with a message about living your life to the fullest.

It was part of the group’s Paul’s Boutique album that also contained hits such as “Car Thief,” “Ask for Janice,” and “Hey Ladies.”

17. “So Whatcha Sayin’” by EPMD (1989)

The hip-hop duo of EPDM was active between 1987 and 1993 before breaking up under controversial circumstances.

One of their best rap songs at the height of their career was “So Whatcha Sayin,’” the opening track for their Unfinished Business album. 

The rap song was awesome, like most other songs from the 1989 album. 

18. “The Bridge” by MC Shan (1987)

Many aren’t aware that MC Shan’s “The Bridge” created the first-ever beef in hip-hop music, even though it was unintentional.

The song was a tribute to Queensbridge as the one true origin of hip-hop music.

But the inviting lyrics forced an instant response from KRS-One, creating a beef that would only make the 80s rap scene even more competitive. 

19. “Dopeman (Original)” by N.W.A. (1987)

Forget the song that made them a controversial figure in the rap world.

N.W.A. announced their rival to the rap industry with a beautiful song about drug dealing. 

The infectious beat was the work of a young Dr. Dre, hinting at his limitless potential as a multitalented hip-hop star.

20. “Move The Crowd” by Eric B & Rakim (1987)

If the rap music genre ever needed a song to move the audience, it had to be “Move The Crowd.”

And Rakim did it perfectly, captivating the audiences with his powerful lyricism and effortless delivery.

The lyrics call on all rappers to always make a lasting impression on their crowds.

The repetitive chorus with the line “Move the crowd” made everyone fall in love with the song. 

The best part is that the duo didn’t need explicit lyrics or needless bragging to drive their message home.

The true definition of 80s rap music. 

21. “Boyz-N-The-Hood” by Eazy-E (1987)

Eazy-E’s hit about ghetto life is also one of the greatest 80s rap songs.

The straightforward lyrics describe thug life as narrated by one of the best gangsta rappers of his time. 

Many people resonated with the tale of gangsta life, including a certain Ice Cube, who wrote the song’s lyrics as part of N.W.A.  

22. “Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A. (1988)

N.W.A.’s debut album was a gift to the 80s hip-hop fans.

It was the epitome of the 80s gangsta rap sound with an opening track of the same name earning the hip-hop group many new fans.

The titular song was platinum certified in the US and has been covered by several artists.

23. “Beats To The Rhyme” by Run-D.M.C. (1988)

“Beats To The Rhyme” was an ode to the hip-hop culture. 

The hip-hop group showcases their unique rapping style and lyricism, spitting verses as they live up to their status in the 80s rap scene.

The narration doesn’t end without paying tribute to DJ Jam Master Jay 

24. “Self-Destruction” by The Stop The Violence Movement (1989)

The Stop The Violence Movement was formed after the violence against KRS-One in the hip-hop community.

And the group’s only song was “Self Destruction,” a commercially successful track from the East-Coast all-stars. 

Its message still resonates with many people today. 

25. “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa (1986)

Anybody who listened to 80s rap music probably remembers Salt-N-Pepa and one of their most popular rap songs. 

Many assume “Push It!” is a song about sex, even though the group maintains it is about dancing. 

26. “I Don’t Need Your Love (Part One)” by The Sequence (1982)

It’s such a shame that The Sequence never gets much attention from hip-hop music lovers, despite releasing some of the best 80s rap songs.

One of their best hits from the decade was “I Don’t Need Your Love (Part One),” which cemented the group’s name in rap history. 

Perhaps we should call them one of the most underrated female rap groups of the 80s. 

27. “Me Myself and I” by De La Soul (1989)

De La Soul’s only track to top the Billboard R&B chart is also one of the best 80s rap songs.

“Me Myself and I” is a self-love anthem encouraging everyone to be themselves without caring about what anyone thinks. 

The song’s rhythmic rap and powerful beat made it a fan favorite. 

28. “Somebody For Me” by Heavy D and the Boys (1989)

“Somebody For Me” stayed on the charts for 18 weeks, besides topping the Billboard Rap Singles chart.

Through this song, Heavy D proved to be one of the best hit makers of the 80s and beyond.

29. “It’s Funky Enough” by The D.O.C. (1989)

“It’s Funky Enough” was The D.O.C.’s single from his 1989 No One Can Do It Better debut album. 

It stayed on the U.S. Top Rap Songs Chart for 18 weeks and is regarded as one of the most popular rap songs from the 80s. 

30. “Smooth Operator” by Big Daddy Kane (1989)

Big Daddy Kane is one of the most influential figures in hip-hop history and one of the best MCs of his time.

That’s why it would be great to have one of his best pieces on your playlist. 

31. “Square Dance Rap” by Sir Mix-a-Lot (1988)

Sir Mix-a-Lot poking fun at country music gave him his early success.

That’s how “Square Dance Rap” became one of the best 80s rap songs.

32. “Pump It Up” by MC Hammer (1988)

MC Hammer released some of his best songs in the 80s and 90s, including “Pump It Up,” which set the tone for one of his most successful tracks, “2 Legit 2 Quit.”

33. “Paul Revere” by Beastie Boys (1986)

The 3rd single from Beastie Boys’ Licensed to III debut album was one of their most successful tracks.

The song is a fictional story hinting at how the group members first met.

34. “You Gots to Chill” by EPDM (1988)

This is EPDM at its best, releasing a timeless classic that influenced many upcoming rappers. 

“You Gots to Chill” made everybody aware of the unique style of the American hip-hop duo. 

“Relax your mind, let your conscience be free.”

Everybody remembers the iconic opening line from the 1988 rap song three decades later. 

Best 80s Rap Songs – Final Thoughts

The 80s was a decade when hip-hop music became a true cultural force. 

It was a time for iconic superstars and hip-hop groups like The Sugarhill Gang to shine.

And as more and more artists battled for the crown, they released countless singles, from The D.O.C.’s “It’s Funky Enough” to MC Hammer’s “Pump It Up.”

Most of these songs influenced the genre, paving the way for future stars who ruled the charts.

From Grammy-winning songs to chart toppers and lighthearted hits, we’ve highlighted the 34 best 80s rap songs to complete your playlist. 

Enjoy the distinctive rapping style of the 80s with these timeless hits. 

You may also like: Best 80s Rappers

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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