The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time

Jay Z, Eminem, Tupac, Biggie and more

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N.W.A, 'Straight Outta Compton'
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic9/50

9. N.W.A, 'Straight Outta Compton'

Straight Outta Compton, 1988

"A murder rap to keep you dancin' with a crime record like Charles Manson," the explosive first track on N.W.A's 1988 debut combined multi-layered, amped-up, Public Enemy-style production with a raw menace like nothing anyone had heard before. It almost single-handedly shifted hip-hop's focus from New York to South Central Los Angeles, despite MTV's refusal to air the video for "Compton" because of its gun-happy imagery. "Kids were just waiting for it," said Bryan Turner of Priority Records, which sold 2 million copies of the single. One of those kids was Chris Rock, who brought a copy from L.A. for his dumbfounded East Coast friends to hear: "[N.W.A were] bigger than Madonna or Nirvana," he said. "It was kind of like the British Invasion for black people."

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