The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time

Jay Z, Eminem, Tupac, Biggie and more

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Eric B. and Rakim, 'Paid in Full'
David Corio/Redferns10/50

10. Eric B. and Rakim, 'Paid in Full'

Paid in Full, 1987

Exhibit A in the case for Rakim as hip-hop's John Coltrane: His incandescent thought-bubble rap – barely a minute long – is all iced flow and sly beat-dodging, a good-vs.-evil meditation that calmly frames thug life inside real-life economics (an appetite for "a nice big plate of fish/Which is my favorite dish") and a novelist's eye for detail ("Ain't nothin' but sweat inside my hands"). The primordial beat, taken from the Soul Searchers' "Ashley's Roachclip," inspired U.K. DJ team Coldcut to craft "Paid in Full (Seven Minutes of Madness)" – arguably the best remix in hip-hop.


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