Check out the best hip hop songs of the 90s, the decade when we learned to get down and jump around. From high-octane dance tunes to hardcore rap hits, the many different genres of 90s hip hop songs here will take you back to a time when we heard some of the greatest voices of hip hop and not just autotune:
“Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang” by Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Dogg – It’s all good in the hood with one of the best hip hop songs of the 90s for cruisin’ to. You’ve got to love the lyrical talent of Dr. Dre, and I seriously could listen to Snoop’s smooth voice all day. Oh yeah, I also love how one of the best rap songs of the 90s definitely dates itself: “I’m creepin’ but I damn near got caught because my beeper kept beepin'”.
“California Love” by 2Pac featuring Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman – And it’s a Dre double feature for the best hip hop songs of the 90s, as he joins another of the decade’s greatest artists. You can argue all day about which of 2Pac’s rap songs are the greatest, but to me this toast to the West Coast has withstood the test of time, as 2Pac keeps dance floors packed with one of his most amazing rhymes. It also seems that 2Pac was way ahead of a major rap trend, featuring a touch of that electronic sound that would eventually bring the hip hop songs of today down (but he can be forgiven: it was innovative for the 90’s and it was only used for a very small slice of the song).
“Jump Around” by House of Pain – When you hear that horn-heavy opening transition to the screeching and squealing backbeat, you know that House of Pain is about to get you all pumped up with one of the best (and most surprising) hip hop songs of the 90s. Sure the dance move created by these Irish boys with a love of making noise might be a simple one, but that’s what helps make this supercharged song one of the most popular of the 90s: just about everyone can get down by jumping around.
“It Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube – Somewhere in between Compton and starring in kids’ movies, Ice Cube created one of the best hip hop songs of the 90s about life being good in the hood for one day. So what made his day so great? Ice had a hot date; shot some hoops and played craps; didn’t get stopped by one cop; didn’t see anyone get shot; and didn’t have to use his own gun. And it’s pointing out that what constitutes a good day is not needing to use your A.K. in South Central L.A. that makes this one of the best rap songs of the 90s; even though the song is about the good times, it still manages to reveal just how rough life once was for the star of ‘Are We There Yet’?
“Killing Me Softly” by Fugees – I love the original by Roberta Flack, but it’s hard to not also love the Fugees’ smooth and soulful track. Lauryn Hill can definitely kill with her amazing voice, capturing the same ache and angst of the original with a more upbeat, hip hop flare. So when it comes to the best women’s songs of 90s hip hop, this sultry songstress is definitely on top.
“Doo Wop (That Thing)” by Lauryn Hill – I know she’s the only woman from the 90s whose songs have made this list, but she’s the only female hip hop artist of the decade that really seemed to stand out and go her own way instead of trying to compete with or imitate the boys. Here the miseducated one warns girls and boys to not get lost in life focusing on a “thing” that doesn’t really matter, and it’s her powerful message, amazing vocals, and learned lyrics that help make this one of the best hip hop songs of the 90s.
“Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot – Love it or hate it, this is one of the hip hop songs of the 90s that has definitely endured, so I think it deserves a spot on this list. It’s humorous; was controversial when released; and is a great anthem against being anorexic (“so Cosmo says your fat; well I ain’t down with that!”). Plus you just can’t beat Becky’s Valley girl beginning and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s fruit-filled video. Oh yeah, he’s also another of the hip hop artists here with songs ahead of their time (I wonder what he thinks of Booty Pop panties?).
“Gin and Juice” by Snoop Dogg – This is one of the best hip hop songs of the 90s about partying all night and day, but only Snoop D-O double-G does it in such a laid back way (complete with a bottle of Tanqueray).
“Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” by C+C Music Factory – What makes this perspiration-inducing tune one of the best hip hop songs of the 90s is the effortless way it blends hip hop, dance, and rock to create a musical masterpiece that will definitely leave you drenched after getting down on the dance floor.
“The Message” by Nas – One of the best rap artists of the 90s brings us one of the best hip hop songs of the era with a message. Nas loads this song with lyrics about thug life, and he would likely be referred to in the same breath as the 90s rap stars most known for their rhymes, 2Pac and Biggie, if he wasn’t still alive.
So from the best 90s rap songs about life on the streets to dance club hits and even a little hip hop humor, the best hip hop songs of the 90s are definitely an amazing mix of sounds (ah, the days of celebrating musical diversity when autotune wasn’t around…).