The Best 90s Hip Hop Songs & Old School Gangsta Rap Of All Time

The 90s were an amazing decade for music, and there was a meteoric rise of Hip Hop and Rap throughout the decade. Breaking into the mainstream, we got some of the most recognizable and legendary tracks the genre has ever produced.

In this list, we check out a premium selection of tracks. Whether you need new tunes for your next party or just need some music to dance to when taking care of things at home, we have you covered.

Table of Contents

Warren G – Regulate

Released in 1994, the collaboration between Warren G and Nate Dogg produced one of the best 90s songs of the decade. It takes you on a journey of life on the streets inspired by Warren G’s experiences. Twists and turns are delivered in a chill and cruisey way that oozes style.

The exceptional use of a few critical samples and a thick and chunky bassline solidify its status as one of the most defining tracks of the era. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard charts and hit several top 10s worldwide. Often imitated but never replicated.

Snoop Dogg – Gin & Juice

If you are talking 90s rap, there is an icon that exploded onto the scene and continues to be relevant to this day. Snoop Dogg was at the forefront of many popular releases, and Gin & Juice is among the best Snoop Dogg 90s songs.

Recounting a wild party, this laid-back track is a staple of any best-of list. Also released in 1994 (what a year!) Gin & Juice peaked at #8 on the Billboard charts and cemented Snoop Dogg as a superstar of the era.

Pete Rock & CL Smooth – They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)

This powerful track is arguably one of the greatest hip-hop tracks of all time. While far from popular upon release in 1992, only peaking at #58 on the Billboard charts, it has since grown into one of the defining hip-hop tracks of the era.

It hits hard and features a jazz-influenced bassline and sax samples while delivering a deeply personal recount of growing up and doing it tough. But it isn’t bleak. Instead, it’s a thank you letter to people that believe in you, a format that many future rappers emulated.

Wu-Tang Clan – C.R.E.A.M.

No conversation about hip hop is complete without talking about one of the most successful and creative hip hop groups of all time. The Wu-Tang Clan. Exploding onto the scene in 1993 with their debut album Enter The Wu-Tang Clan, C.R.E.A.M was the third single released and entered the charts in 1994, eventually peaking at #60.

While its success was moderate then, its influence continues to inspire a new generation of artists and is considered one of the greatest hip-hop tracks of all time. Weaving an origin story, it eloquently establishes all of the members, and that leading hook is one of the most catchy from that era.

Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg – Nuthin’ But A G Thang

Dr. Dre’s debut solo album, The Chronic in 1992, was a touchstone moment that instantly became a success. Nuthin’ But A G Thang with Snoop Dog reached #2 on the Billboard charts and went platinum.

It’s not hard to see why this track was so popular. With a catchy beat and bassline, it is a perfect example of the funk style of hip-hop from the 90s. Such a great track it made it to our Dr. Dre songs from the 90s list. Both Dre and Snoop went on to continue to have illustrious careers throughout the coming decades.

2Pac – Dear Mama

Having already cemented himself as one of the shining stars of the hip-hop scene 2Pac released his third studio album in 1995, and no one was prepared for the powerfully emotional debut single, which peaked at #9 on the Billboard charts. Dear Mama recounts 2Pac’s upbringing paying homage to his mother’s good and bad aspects.

The slower pace and deeply revealing lyrics showcased a level of vulnerability that often hip-hop and rap artists avoided. A touching tribute to growing up poor and the difficulty of being a single mother. Grab the tissues because this one pulls hard on the heartstrings.

Salt-N-Pepa – Let’s Talk About Sex

Perhaps one of the most influential all-female hip-hop acts was firing on all cylinders at the start of the 90s. The release of Let’s Talk About Sex in 1991 was a tongue-in-cheek dig at the mainstream media’s aversion to talking about the topic.

Focusing on safe sex and the trials and tribulations of the dynamics of a sexual relationship, it struck a chord and managed to hit #13 on the Billboard charts. While it is a very commercialized hip-hop track, its influence on shifting perceptions around sex is undeniable.

Mary J Blige – I Can Love You

Mary J Blige was already a force to be reckoned with when her third album was released in 1997. Peaking at #28 on the Billboard chart, many may only be familiar with the radio edit, which doesn’t include the fantastic rap segment from Lil’ Kim.

The powerful voice of Mary J Blige sets the scene. Seriously, what a fantastic voice. An anthem for all those times you’ve looked longingly at the object of your heart’s desire. So much so that it’s featured on our Mary J Blige songs from the 90s list.

Ice Cube – It Was A Good Day

Ice Cube is another juggernaut of the hip-hop and rap scene of the 90s. But his second single from his third album took many by surprise. After an endless stream of tracks featuring gang violence, drug use, and women, here was a laidback track with a simple, catchy tune brimming with positivity.

Detailing a day filled with small and simple pleasures and wins while maintaining an undercurrent of the issues he normally raps about. This track just brings a smile to your face, even better if you are actually having a good day. And considering it peaked at #15 on the charts, it appears many felt the same way.

The Notorious B.I.G. – Juicy

Much like 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G is another 90s rapper that died young. But in 1994, when his debut album was released, he was on top of the world. The debut single Juicy was an instant success and reached #27 on the Billboard charts.

Produced by Poke and the one and only Sean “Puffy” Combs, this catchy tune details Notorious B.I.G’s rise from poverty and is an inspirational track for anyone that feels underappreciated. 

Nas – N.Y. State of Mind

Another hip-hop masterpiece that deserves its slot on this list. N.Y State of Mind harkens back to a raw and innovative period of the 90s. Released as part of the debut album Illmatic in 1994, it has become one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time.

An aggressive and chunky beat and intelligent use of samples combine effortlessly with the lyrical power of Nas’s vocals. A perfect slice of life on the hard streets of New York.

Bone Thugs N Harmony – Crossroads

There is no understating how popular Crossroads was in the 90s. Released in 1995, it was a smash hit and reached #1 on the Billboard charts. But the accolades didn’t end there, with it winning the Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.

For some, it’s a sad song about loss. But for others, it’s a spiritual anthem that highlights how we never know when it is our time, but that doesn’t mean we’ll never see our loved ones again. A welcome change of pace from the usual topics that rappers cover.

Naughty By Nature – Hip Hop Hooray

In 1992 Naughty By Nature dropped one of the greatest hip-hop tracks of all time. This banging party track netted them a #8 position on the charts, and it has been a party anthem ever since. The iconic chorus chant is always a crowd-pleaser with its infectious and catchy simplicity.

While the focus and nostalgia tend to focus on the chorus, there are some stunning back-and-forth rapping sections. They highlight the lyrical talents of the group and solidify this track as a must-have in your collection.

Eminem – My Name Is

As the decade was closing, a new generation of stars was on the rise. Among them was a pasty white guy that was the total opposite of the image of 90s rappers. Irreverent and with a bad attitude, he connected with a generation disillusioned with the world. And the backing of the legendary Dr. Dre made people pay attention.

The first release from his second album, My Name Is in 1999, reached #36 in the USA but experienced greater success overseas. It also scored him a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. While not to everyone’s taste, Eminem’s impact on the rap and hip-hop scene is undeniable.

LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out

LL Cool J is an icon of the hip-hop scene with an illustrious career that began in 1985 and went from strength to strength. But with a new generation of rappers hitting the scene, some considered that LL Cool J was no longer as relevant. The result? A banging track released in 1991 inspired by his Grandmother.

This hard-hitting track highlights the best of hip-hop. Tough and gritty lyrics that are perfectly executed and creative and innovative use of samples. And seeing how LL Cool J’s career evolved over the years, I’m glad he didn’t succumb to his insecurities. Thanks Grandma!

The Golden Age

Whether you were a fan of the west coast G-Funk style or the east coast Hip-Hop movement, there is no denying the 90s brought an era of amazing creativity.

It seemed like stunning new albums were dropping at a blistering pace. And in this list, we have only scratched the surface. There is much more to discover, but this list is an excellent introduction to this golden age of rap and hip-hop. Enjoy your musical journey!

Watch The Full Playlist

The full playlist with every song in this post can be watched via the video below or directly on our YouTube channel.

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Article by Robert Calabrese
Article by Robert Calabrese

Robert has over 15 years of experience working in the digital marketing industry. From a very young age he was influenced by music theory as part of his education and played a variety of instruments. From there, his passion moved into electronic music and the equipment used to create it. Using his education and experience, Robert started his own digital marketing company and successfully operates his business in the music industry.

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