The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time

14

Public Enemy, 'Rebel Without a Pause'

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, 1988

Opening with a Jesse Jackson sample ("Brothers and sisters, I don't know what this world is coming to!") and upping the agit-pop ante with Chuck D's broadcaster-baiting ("Radio/Suckers never play me"), this 1987 single perfected PE's hand-grenade attack. "A statement of purpose for the PE to come," says Rick Rubin. The signature siren squeal is a looped horn from the JB's 1970 obscurity "The Grunt," the groove grabs James Brown's "Funky Drummer" and Terminator X scratches the chorus of Chubb Rock's "Rock 'N Roll Dude" ("We use samples like an artist would use paint," said co-producer Hank Shocklee). When Chuck D heard the finished track, he was so stoked he said, "I could die tomorrow."

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