If this came on in the club, everybody just rushed the dance floor. Rakim had a distinct voice and incredible skills; no other MC had been showcased like this. And Eric B. was aloof, but also just the coolest DJ you could have.
The Playlist Special: Top Artists Pick Their Personal Top 10
"Back then, it was incredible just to go to the record store," says Mike D of the Beastie Boys. "Every month there was a new 12-inch that was gonna completely change the game. These songs are among the most innovative moments in music, not just rap."
Listen: Mike D's Top Classic New York Hip-Hop Songs
1."Eric B. Is President" | Eric B. and Rakim, 1986
2."Bring The Noise" | Public Enemy, 1987
3."Fight The Power" | Public Enemy, 1989
These two songs rank up there with the most urgent rebel political music of any genre of all time. Cars would go screaming down the street, those songs blasting. They felt like the soundtrack to a wet, hot, angry summer in New York City.
4."Me Myself and I" | De La Soul, 1989
One of the happiest party tracks of all time – it just comes on and there's instant good vibes. But De La Soul were really innovative, too. If any group came out tomorrow with this song, everybody would freak out over it.
5."Raw" | Big Daddy Kane, 1987
Big Daddy Kane was just that: raw. No one was coming out with a track that seemed so fast and hard.
6."Sucker M.C.'s" | Run-DMC, 1983
One of the most groundbreaking records in any genre, ever. They perfected an aesthetic that was at hip-hop's roots – just a DJ and two MCs. When we got to tour with them in 1986, it was a dream come true.
7."Top Billin'" | Audio Two, 1987
Perhaps not as groundbreaking as some of the other songs, but, damn, this was good.
8."Rock The Bells" | LL Cool J, 1985
LL comes with such ferocity. A lot of great vocal takes are like this – Lennon's "Mother," for example – where it sounds like they've done 20 takes and their voice is just about to go out.
9."South Bronx" | Boogie Down Productions, 1986
That was a real friggin' anthem. People would rush the dance floor just to fuck things up. If the DJ played it at the right moment in the night, somebody was gonna get punched in the face.
10."Don't Stop..Planet Rock" | Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force, 1982
This was a New York City breakdance classic. Bambaataa was such a brilliant hip-hop architect – of course he would put Kraftwerk next to Incredible Bongo Band, or whatever.
11."Jimbrowski" | Jungle Brothers, 1987
It's about someone's penis, but it's also Friday-night party music in the absolute best sense.