Our favorite 90s hip-hop.
PUBLIC ENEMY – “Fight The Power” – as described by yanni dahmani
Mother fuck Trump and John Wayne
HOUSE OF PAIN – “Jump Around” – as described by ena alvarado
Who else watched Mrs. Doubtfire obsessively as a kid? I can’t remember how many times I danced recklessly to this song on top of my mother’s precious dining table, home alone in our apartment on a Sunday afternoon. To call it a classic would be an irresponsible understatement. “Jump Around” is a funk fest, and all that remains is to hail Robin Williams!
BEASTIE BOYS – “Body Movin'” – as described by nick burns
I wasn’t not going to choose a Beasties track. My love for the holy trinity of Ad-Rock, MCA, and Mike D is well known, and in any case I don’t think I have to make any pronouncements on the sheer manic dopey 90s genius of the three middle-class Jewish boys from Manhattan who improbably become early hip-hop stars and even more improbably kept producing album after groundbreaking album until cancer took MCA from us in 2012. 1989’s Paul’s Boutique is canonized as the best of the Beasties, but I’ve always been most partial to 1998’s Hello Nasty, the peak of the Boys’ mature work (no pun intended), and from which album I present to you the characteristically over-the-top, Nathanial Hörnblowér–directed music video for “Body Movin’.”
RAPPIN 4-TAY – “I’ll Be Around” – as described by phill giliver
This song simultaneously exudes some of the most corny aspects of 90s rap music (a non-sequitur sketch involving a phone call to a record company at the beginning of the song) while combining some of the most essential ones: a kickass soul chorus, impeccable lyrical flow, and a glimpse at a political/social climate which, unfortunately, is not too unfamiliar to us nowadays. “I’ll Be There” is pure 90s rap, concentrated.
LAURYN HILL – “Lost Ones” – as described by angelica jopling
Lauryn Hill is an emblem off 90s rap spearheading the female rap scene and ‘re-educating’ the people by showing them rap is not single-gendered. Lost One is peppered with soul, hip-hop and reggae rhythms. This is the first song on her album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and it packs in the most aggressive, conscious, poetic lyrics into one powerful rap track.
SOULS OF MISCHIEF – “Step to My Girl” – as described by katie lan
This song my Souls of Mischief contains all of the elements that makes 90’s rap so classic: a jazzy backdrop, a storytelling rapping style, and the record scratching. Vampire Weekend’s “Step” was actually inspired by this 90’s classic. The beats are bouncy n’ fun and every time I listen to this song, I can’t help but bob my head. To me, 90’s rap is all about juxtaposition: in this song, I just love the way melody in the back pairs with A-Plus, Opio, Phesto, and Tajai’s voices.
Nas – “N. Y. State of Mind” – as described by brandon truong
It’s funny how he starts the track off saying, “I don’t know how to start this shit, yo,” and then lays down one of the sickest and most iconic verses on Illmatic (and I guess in his entire repertoire).
Lauryn Hill – “Doo Wop (That Thing)” – as described by kevin garcia
“The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” is, without a doubt, the best album from the 90s. Hill’s lyrics are so genuine that the honesty she drops in her lines (“Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem”) sometimes feels like a call-out post from a good friend. Thanks for keeping me humble, Ms. Hill.
MOBB DEEP – “Shook Ones, Pt. II” – as described by sophia laurenzi
This gets so in my head every time I hear it, I’m convinced I’m still only 19 (but my mind is older).
CAMP LO – “Luchini Aka This Is It” – as described by anthony milki
This track is pure exhilaration, and you can’t come down from it.
BIG PUN feat. JOE – “Still Not A Player” – as described by alejandra salazar
- This song is directly related to Ariana Grande’s “The Way”. Both records’ hooks depend on a timeless, lynchpin sample from a 1970s Brenda Russell record and, as such, all purveyors of hip-hop — and Ariana’s entire pop music career, tbh — are forever indebted to this woman.
- Big Pun was a genius whose work spotlighted the role of Latinos in the evolution of hip-hop right alongside Black communities across the country. It’s a really fascinating history.
- This is, objectively to anyone with ears, one of the greatest songs ever made, hands down. Once you hear it, you’ll never forget that sweet, rhythmic “boricua, morena” harmony at 3:30, and your life will be better because of it.
Image from here.