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75 Best 90s Hip Hop Songs (Golden Age of Rap) 

November 8, 2023
90s hip hop songs

I’ve compiled the greatest 90s hip hop songs that defined the genre’s golden era.

This essential playlist features iconic hits, club bangers, and underground classics from rap legends.

Quick answer (author’s top picks): what are the best 90s hip hop songs?

“In my view, the best 90s hip hop songs that truly resonate with the era’s essence include “The World Is Yours” by Nas, delivering profound lyrics with a compelling narrative that speaks volumes. “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” by Pete Rock & CL Smooth holds a special place for me, blending heartfelt storytelling with an unforgettable beat. And, I can never overlook “Regulate” by Warren G and Nate Dogg, a classic G-funk track that encapsulates the rhythm of the streets and the soul of that time.”

Will Fenton, Founder of MidderMusic & Overblown music magazine

Top 10 Best 90s Hip Hop Songs

Here I’ve listed and compared the top 10 best 90s hip-hop songs:

RankSong NameArtistYear ReleasedAlbum TitleGenre
1The World Is YoursNas1994IllmaticHip-Hop
2They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)Pete Rock & CL Smooth1992Mecca and the Soul BrotherHip-Hop
3RegulateWarren G and Nate Dogg1994Regulate…G Funk EraG-Funk
4C.R.E.A.M.Wu-Tang Clan1993Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)Hip-Hop
5Let’s Talk About SexSalt-N-Pepa1991Blacks’ MagicHip-Hop
6Shimmy Shimmy YaOl’ Dirty Bastard1995Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty VersionHip-Hop
7SabotageBeastie Boys1994Ill CommunicationHip-Hop/Rock
8Check The RhimeA Tribe Called Quest1991The Low End TheoryHip-Hop
9Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)Jay Z1998Vol. 2… Hard Knock LifeHip-Hop
10O.P.P.Naughty by Nature1991Naughty by NatureHip-Hop

1. “The World Is Yours” by Nas 

“The World Is Yours” is taken from Nas’ debut studio album “Illmatic” released in 1994.

It’s arguably one of the most iconic 90s hip-hop album songs. 

The lyrics, vibes, music video, the beat… It’s pure 90s hip hop.

2. “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” by Pete Rock & CL Smooth 

This catchy tune is a top hip hop song of the 90s.

It was inspired by the death of Troy Dixon (Trouble T. Roy) who was Pete Rock’s and CL Smooth’s close friend.

3. “Regulate” by Warren G and Nate Dogg

“Regulate” is a smooth, easy-going track.

It’s also one of the most popular old school hip hop songs.

The song has a rather classic story – Nate comes to the Warren’s rescue when he’s being robbed in Long Beach.

4. “Cream” by Wu-Tang Clan

While talking about the best 90’s hip hop songs, I can’t skip Wu-Tang Clan.

As you probably already know, their signature song “Cream” stands for ‘Cash Rules Everything Around Me.’

It’s East Coast hip-hop at its finest.

5. “Let’s Talk About Sex” by Salt-N-Pepa

Of course, an essential 90s hip-hop playlist can’t go without Salt-N-Pepa.

After all, they were the first ladies of the 1990s hip hop.

And their “Let’s Talk About Sex” is a 90s classic.

6. “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” by Ol’ Dirty Bastard

Speaking of hip hop classics…

Released in 1995, this is arguably one of the top 90s rap songs.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard was one of the founding members of Wu-Tang Clan, but his distinctive rapping style can also be heard in his solo hits.

Sh-Shimmy shimmy ya, shimmy yam, shimmy yay…

7. “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys

“Sabotage” is an ultimate rap rock hit.

Beastie Boys released it in 1993, and the music video (popular on MTV) was directed by Spike Jonze.

And the song actually had a rather moderate commercial success when it came out.

Nevertheless, it eventually became one of the most memorable 90s rap songs.

8. “Check The Rhime” by A Tribe Called Quest 

This popular 90’s hit is taken from one of the most successful hip hop albums ever made – “Low End Theory.”

One thing is for sure: A Tribe Called Quest made a huge impact on the 90s music scene.

9. “Hard Knock Life” by Jay Z

Although he is still active and famous, Jay Z also did a lot of work in the 90s.

And “Hard Knock Life” is one of his best hip hop songs from the 90s.

The song features a sample of the song “It’s the Hard Knock Life” from the 1977 musical ‘Annie’ – and it fits perfectly.

10. “O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature 

After it was released in 1991, “O.P.P.” became a chart-topping hit.

In fact, it was one of the first rap songs to become a pop hit after reaching number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.

11. “I Used To Love H.E.R.” by Common

Common’s “I Used To Love H.E.R.” is one of the best golden age rap songs.

And it’s basically a love song – but a life-changing one, at least for Common.

12. “Gin And Juice” by Snoop Dogg

And what’s a 90s hip-hop playlist without Snoop Dogg?

His “Gin And Juice” is a second single from his debut studio album “Doggystyle.”

“Doggystyle” was also included in the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of Essential Recordings of the ’90s.

13. “911 Is A Joke” by Public Enemy

Public Enemy was one of the most important rap acts of the 80s.

They continued to thrive in the 90s, and their track “911 Is A Joke” is one of the proofs.

14. “Nuthin’ But A G Thang” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg 

“Nuthin’ But A G Thang” is one of the most popular 90s rap songs.

After all, Dr. Dre is one of the greatest rappers of all time.

And he played an important role in shaping the 90s music scene.

15. “Hypnotize” by Notorious BIG

When thinking about the most memorable 90’s hip hop songs, “Hypnotize” is one of the songs that comes to mind. 

It’s the last song released before the rapper’s death in a drive-by shooting a week later.

Biggie was a true hip hop legend.

16. “Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” by Digable Planets

This 90s song has a cool, laid-back vibe.

It’s not a typical 90s rap song, but its place on this list is well-deserved.

The song won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group at the 36th Grammy Awards.

17. “California Love” by 2Pac and Dr. Dre

There’s no doubt about it: “California Love” is one of the most popular 90s hip hop songs.

And it’s still frequently played on the radio stations around the world.

It’s just one of the songs that never gets old.

18. “It Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube 

Ice Cube was a former member of NWA, just like Dr. Dre.

And one of his solo breakthroughs was this 90s hip hop classic.

It was a good day for Ice Cube.

19. “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” by Missy Elliott

Is it raining outside?

Turn the volume up, put this Missy Elliott’s record, and dance it away.

“The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” is taken from the rapper’s debut album and it marked the beginning of her career.

20. “I Ain’t Mad At Cha” by 2Pac

2Pac’s sensual, piano-driven hip hop tunes still live on.

“I Ain’t Mad At Cha” was the first song released after his tragic death.

It talks about reconciling with some people from his past.

21. “Jump Around” by House Of Pain

Pack it up, pack it in, let me begin…

Jump Around” is an iconic old school hip hop song.

It was a huge hit in 1992, and it’s still one of the hip hop favorites.

22. “Luchini” by Camp Lo

If you’re looking for some tunes to expand your 90s hip hop playlist, this one’s for you.

Luchini” is taken from the duo’s debut album, and it remains one of their biggest hits.

23. “Player’s Ball” by Outkast 

Before he released one of his signature songs “Hey Ya” in 2003, Outkast recorded some classic 90s hip hop tunes.

And his “Player’s Ball” is a great example.

24. “My Name Is” by Eminem

Although he was active before, Eminem gained popularity in the late 90s.

And one of his most life-changing albums was “The Slim Shady LP.”

“My Name Is” is the opening song and a lead single of the album.

25. “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL COOL J

LL COOL J released this classic hip hop track in 1990.

And the song got him a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. 

26. “The Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground

If you need something to cheer you up, just listen to “The Humpty Dance.”

It’s one of the most iconic hip hop songs from the 1990s.

And it’s also one of the most sampled songs recorded by a hip hop/rap artist – it boasts over 100 usages in other songs. 

27. “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” by DMX

DMX released “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” on his debut studio album in 1998.

Considering it’s one of his first singles, he sounded pretty good.

The song was even ranked at number 79 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop

28. “Sound Of Da Police” by KRS-One

Another rapper with a successful debut studio album is KRS-One.

His song “Sound Of Da Police” criticizes police brutality and systemic racism.

And it’s considered one of the top hip hop songs of the 90s.

29. “Mass Appeal” by Gang Starr

If you’re making the best of East Coast hip hop compilation, you have to include Gang Starr.

Their “Mass Appeal” is one of the most iconic 90s rap songs.

Money’s growin’ like grass with the mass appeal…

30. “Slow Down” by Brand Nubian

Brand Nubian’s “Slow Down” is another 90s tune you can easily jam to.

The song samples a couple of other tunes such as “Let’s Take It to the Stage” by Funkadelic.

31. “Burn Hollywood Burn” by Public Enemy

Another notable song by Public Enemy is “Burn Hollywood Burn.” 

As their songs are known for all kinds of samples, this one is based on the 1973 song “Hot Wheels (The Chase)” by Badder Than Evil.

32. “Time’s Up” by O.C.

This unique tune should also be a part of your 90’s hip hop music playlist.

There’s something very captivating about the song’s repetitive riff and the whole atmosphere.

It works.

33. “Rosa Parks” by Outkast

Another song that marked Outkast’s career is “Rosa Parks.” 

The song also made an impact on the 90s hip hop scene in general.

Of course, the song’s title is referring to civil rights movement activist Rosa Parks.

34. “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince

Did you think that this list would go without the Fresh Prince?

“Summertime” won this iconic duo a Grammy.

And it marked Will Smith’s hip hop career in the 1990s.

35. “93 ‘til Infinity” by Souls Of Mischief

Many believe that “93 ‘til Infinity” remains an underappreciated classic in the hip hop community. 

The song is a quite popular 90s hip hop tune though.

Nevertheless, it’s the group’s only single to end up on the US Billboard Hot 100.

36. “Crossroads” by Bone Thugs N Harmony

Released in 1996, “Crossroads” was the highest-debuting rap single

It’s dedicated to the group’s mentor, the late gangsta rap icon Eazy-E

And it won a Grammy in 1997. 

37. “Playaz Club” by Rappin’ 4-Tay

Me and my homies, we tighter than a glove…

Playaz Club” is one of the classic West Coast hip hop songs.

It appeared on many compilations including Snoop Dogg’s 2010 compilation The West Coast Blueprint.

38. “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” by Geto Boys 

Mind Playing Tricks On Me” deals with mental issues such as paranoia and PTSD.

To be more precise, it describes the hardships and mental consequences of the life of a gangster.

39. “Renee” by Lost Boyz 

Most 1990’s hip hop songs have a cool, laid-back vibe.

And “Renee” by Lost Boyz is a nice example.

Here’s a tune about this honey named Renee…

40. “NY State Of Mind” by Nas

But some 90s rap songs also have a badass vibe.

This popular track by Nas is one of them – it will immediately put you in a NYC rap state of mind.

41. “Passin’ Me By” by The Pharcyde

“Passin’ Me By” by The Pharcyde is another beloved hip hop classic.

And it’s actually a rather gentle tune among all the gangsta rap that emerged as a part of the East Coast hip hop scene.

42. “Shook Ones Pt 2” by Mobb Deep

East Coast hip hop was also affected by Mobb Deep and his album “The Infamous” released in 1995.

And “Shook Ones Pt 2” is the lead single from the album.

43. “Definition” by Black Star 

Many agree that Black Star’s “Definition” is one of the best hip hop songs of the 1990s.

And I can see why – Black Star’s Mos Def and Talib Kweli knew how to make music with quality and depth.

44. “All That I Got Is You” by Ghostface 

All That I Got Is You” is a sentimental hip hop song from 1996.

It’s actually a heartbreaking autobiographical song about the struggles of growing up. 

45. “Mathematics” by Mos Def 

Besides making music with Talib Kweli, Mos Def also created great music on his own.

His debut solo album “Black On Both Sides” is definitely one of his best works.

46. “Love’s Gonna Getcha (Material Love)” by Boogie Down Productions

This classic hip hop track is all about thoughtful lyrics and dope vibes.

It’s a good example of conveying an important message through hip hop songs.

47. “Know The Ledge” by Eric B and Rakim 

You should also include “Know The Ledge” on your hip hop essentials playlist.

It’s taken from the soundtrack for the ‘Juice’ movie with Tupac Shakur.

48. “If I Rule The World” by Nas

Another song by Nas that made an impact on the 90s hip hop scene is “If I Rule The World.” 

Just sit back, relax, and let the vibe of this song take over.

49. “Stakes Is High” by De La Soul

And if you’re making a road trip playlist, why not include this catchy tune by De La Soul?

After all, “Stakes Is High” is one of De La Soul’s best tracks.

50. “I Got 5 On It” by Luniz

Another iconic hip hop/rap song from the 90s is “I Got 5 On It” by Luniz.

It’s a powerful song, and it definitely withstands the test of time.

51. “All I Need DIRTY” by Method Man and Mary J Blige 

This song is actually a legendary hip hop remix.

It also features a remake of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s 1968 hit, “You’re All I Need To Get By.”

52. “Protect Ya Neck” by Wu-Tang Clan

I have one more Wu-Tang Clan track for you.

It’s a debut single from Wu-Tang’s classic first album “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).”

53. “Simon Says” by Pharoahe Monch

Pharoahe Monch’s “Simon Says” wasn’t just one of the big surprises of the 1990s that eventually became classic. 

It was also a popular party banger – and it still is.

54. “Ebonics” by Big L

Released in 1999, “Ebonics” by Big L announced the beginning of the new music era.

But it sounds like 90’s hip hop nevertheless.

55. “What They Do” by The Roots

Let’s not forget about The Roots and their smooth, soulful hip hop track from 1996.

Never do what they do, what they do, what they do…

56. “Liquid Swords” by GZA

This hip hop gem from the 90s was created by Wu-Tang Clan member GZA.

He recorded the whole album also called “Liquid Swords” in RZA’s basement studio in New York City. 

57. “How Could I Just Kill A Man” by Cypress Hill 

The beginning of the hip hop golden age was marked by Cypress Hill’s music.

In fact, they are considered to be one of the main progenitors of West Coast and 90’s hip hop. 

58. “Dear Mama” by 2Pac 

Dear Mama” is often categorized as one of the best hip hop songs of all time.

And that’s understandable.

It’s a timeless hip hop classic.

59. “Ready Or Not” by The Fugees 

“Ready Or Not” is also one of the 90s biggest hits.

The song uses a sample of “Boadicea” (1987) by Irish singer Enya.

And it still sounds amazing.

60. “Brooklyn’s Finest” by Jay Z

Don’t mess with Jay Z.

The lyrics of his track “Brooklyn’s Finest” are straight to the point.

After all, he’s one of Brooklyn’s finest. 

61. “Concrete Schoolyard” by Jurassic 5 

Many huge hits of 90s hip hop have either a cool, laid-back atmosphere or hard rap beats..

But this 90’s tune has a very positive vibe – it’s a feel-good hip hop classic.

62. “I Seen A Man Die” by Scarface

Some people claim that Scarface was an underrated hip-hop artist.

Either way, his track “I Seen A Man Die” has a well-deserved spot on the list of the best 90s hip hop songs.

63. “Keep It On The Real” by 3X Krazy

“Keep It On The Real” has that recognizable old school sound.

And 3X Krazy is another artist that the hip hop community tends to call underrated.

64. “Holla Holla” by Ja Rule

“Holla Holla” was Ja Rule’s debut single in 1999.

And many see it as one of the most memorable 90s hip hop hits, despite the fact that the rapper received much criticism based on his personal life.

65. “Come Clean” by Jeru The Damaja 

This is yet another great throwback.

Come Clean” really has a unique sound.

It appeared on many compilation albums later on.

66. “Flava In Ya Ear” by Craig Mack

“Flava In Ya Ear” has a classic old school atmosphere – and I love it.

The American rapper Craig Mack passed away in 2018, but his music still lives on.

67. “Above The Stars” by Gang Starr 

Listening to “Above The Stars” will immediately put you in a better mood.

It’s laid-back and easy to listen to.

And it has interesting lyrics.

It has come to our attention that a mysterious force is loose somewhere in outer space…

68. “Crush On You” by Lil’ Kim 

In the 1990s, Lil’ Kim paved a path for female rappers.

“Crush On You” is taken from her debut studio album in 1996.

It was a game changer. 

69. “Doo Woop (That Thing)” by Lauryn Hill

Released in 1998, Lauryn Hill’s album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” changed how people see hip hop.

In a way, her music was crucial for the development of conscious rap.

70. “One In A Million” by Aaliyah

Aaliyah is a legendary female hip hop artist I will always remember.

She was one in a million.

71. “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice 

“Ice Ice Baby” turned out to be surprisingly enduring.

Vanilla Ice released this hip hop tune based on an iconic “Under Pressure” sample in 1990.

Who would have known it would become such a hit? 

72. “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” by Busta Rhymes 

Busta Rhymes also gained popularity in the 1990s.

And this tune is taken from his second studio album.

The music video is homage to the 1988 film ‘Coming to America’ with Eddie Murphy.

73. “Make ‘Em Say Ugh” by Master P

Make ‘Em Say Ugh” can be found in numerous 90s hip hop playlists.

It’s one of those songs that every hip hop music lover has to know.

74. “Brooklyn Zoo” by Ol’ Dirty Bastard 

Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s distinctive style can also be recognized in “Brooklyn Zoo.”

It’s one of his hit singles along with “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” I mentioned earlier.

75. “Scenario” by A Tribe Called Quest

Let’s wrap things up with one more song from A Tribe Called Quest.

After all, they are one of the most important groups in the history of hip hop. 

Here we go yo, here we go yo

So what, so what, so what’s the scenario?

Wrapping Up My List of the Best 90s Hip Hop Songs (Golden Age Of Rap)

I hope you enjoyed my pick of the best 90s hip-hop songs!

All of these artists and songs made a huge impact on the 90s music scene and culture in general.

And most of them are still popular today.

The 90s were evidently the best era for hip hop.

Similar Playlists: Best 2000s Hip Hop Songs & Best Rap Songs of All Time

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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