100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time

What makes a great hip-hop song?

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7. Public Enemy, "Fight the Power"

Hank Shocklee, one half of Public Enemy's production team the Bomb Squad, said the group wanted their track for Spike Lee's explosive 1989 movie Do the Right Thing to have a "defiant, aggressive, I'm-not-gonna-take-it feeling." They nailed it. No band since the Sex Pistols had pushed pop music's sonic and political possibilities as far as Public Enemy did on "Fight the Power." Chuck D blasted "straight-up racist" institutions like Elvis, John Wayne and the U.S. Postal Service, as the Bomb Squad spun layer upon layer of samples (James Brown, the Dramatics, Uriah Heep) into implosive war-dance funk. Chuck D came up with the song's concept while on tour with Run-DMC in Italy, and Lee directed its frenetic protest-themed video, which was filmed on the streets of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. The result was the total in-your-face package. In the summer of '89, it seemed like it might start a full-on revolution.

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