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Nas' Guide to 10 Key Tracks From Hip-Hop's Eighties Golden Age

Public Enemy, De La Soul, Queen Latifah and more

May 13, 2014 4:00 PM ET
Nas performs at the Opening Night Concert in New York City.
Nas performs at the Opening Night Concert in New York City.
Larry Busacca/Getty Images for the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival

"Hip-hop has had so many golden ages, but I picked the Eighties," Nas says. "That's when it turned from rock-sounding, disco-sounding shit to the essence of rap."

Nas' Life in 20 Songs

1. "Rebel Without a Pause" (Public Enemy, 1988)
The track was running wild, and the raps were prophetic. When Chuck D rapped, it sounded like a leader was speaking.

2. "My Melody" (Eric B. and Rakim, 1987)
One of the greatest rap songs ever made. The beat has a whistle, which makes it sound like a Western, and underneath that there's a whole other dynamic happening. Then Rakim comes in with his voice, his style, his poise, his genius. Just incredible.

3. "My Adidas" (Run-DMC, 1986)
The Adidas shell-toe was the sneaker, and it had a theme song. That's bananas! As good as the sneaker was – which was arguably the best sneaker around – the song was just as good.

4. "It's My Thing" (EPMD, 1988)
Two masters of music, laying it down to you with a style that spoke for the guys walking on the corner every day. It had a smoothness about it.

5. "The Show" (Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick, 1985)
There weren't too many people who could hang with the sound of a Run-DMC record – but "The Show" stepped in that lane. It helped push rap music forward.

6. "Ain't No Half-Steppin'" (Big Daddy Kane, 1988)
At this point, we already knew Kane was nothin' to mess with. He was comin' for people's heads with songs like "Raw." But on this song he landed into his throne – you knew he was the king of rap.

7. "Plug Tunin'" (De La Soul, 1988)
Their style was so different. It was like, "Who are these guys?"

8. "Hey Young World" (Slick Rick, 1988)
This song changed my life. Slick Rick got personal and he got introspective. The melody was like a lullaby, but it was still hardcore.

9. "Nightmares" (Dana Dane, 1987)
Dana Dane had the English accent, but through a Fort Greene, Brooklyn, microphone. You could sit down and groove to the record, just entranced.

10. "Ladies First" (Queen Latifah feat. Monie Love, 1989)
I was in love with Monie Love and Latifah. They were demanding respect for women from not just hip-hop, but the world.

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