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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Wu-Tang Clan,
Bob Berg/Getty Images19/50

19. Wu-Tang Clan, "Protect Ya Neck" (1993)

"Protect Ya Neck" is the purest uncut entry on this entire list. There is no hook. No bridge. No easy to remember melody. Which really demonstrates the magic that a five-minute catalogue display works on all levels based on charm and cleverness. In my opinion, Wu-Tang was the smartest boy band: the battler, the street smart, the heartthrob, the hood, the crazy one, the charming schizophrenic, the wise sage, and yes –the genius. They dropped more pop culture references than the beastie boys. Movie quotes, Broadway showtunes, cartoon references, soul quotes. When my cousins and neighborhood friends would have sleepovers at grandma's on Saturday, the order of each one who woke up earliest got priority seating for the color TV and got first rights to claim which superfriend they were that day. (I was always last and was left either claiming Wendy and Marvin, or worse, Wonderdog.) I imagine the Clan woulda been us had we grown up together and started a business in which all of our childhood experiences and memories were a marketable franchise. Sadly, this single represents a closing chapter for hip-hop as well: This would mark the last time hip-hop so uncut was successful. Can it be that it was all so simple then?


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