Questlove's Top 50 Hip-Hop Songs of All Time

What makes a great hip-hop song? Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson chooses his favorites.

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13. Run-DMC, "Rock Box" (1984)

Without "Rock Box," the historic "Walk This Way" would never have happened. Its importance wasn't even the way it fused rock with hip-hop in a convincing manner. Manager Russell Simmons always felt that the glitz and showbiz of post-Parliament/Funkadelic black music had diluted hip-hop's magic. All that came before Run-DMC looked like it was part of a Broadway production. Superheroes were everywhere, and for the first time in history, black heroes were on semi-status as the status quo. (Well, don't tell the ghost of Rick James this white lie.) The point was, hero worship was at an all-time high. Run's older brother was onto something decades before the reality TV generation came into its own: America wanted stars that looked and dressed like they did. That's always been the pendulum of the music biz. Half the decade you worship a godlike figure (Elvis, mop-top Beatles, Seventies Bowie, late-Eighties Madonna, Motley Crue) and the other half you get into people that look just like you do (non-mop-top Beatles, Eighties Bowie, Early Madonna, Nirvana). Even though they were the gatekeepers for the second stage of hip-hop (1982-1987), Run-DMC officially ushered in the B-boy period of hip-hop, where the everyman had a chance to escape poverty and invisibility and make it. Including this band geek of a scribe. Now the cherry on top was finding the perfect middle in which they could hit two birds with one stone – rock fans and hip-hop progressives. Of course, MTV was wide open, having let MJ and Prince in the door some two years before. So this was the perfect formula, the single that knocked down many obstacles enabling hip-hop to become the new gospel.

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