The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time

Jay Z, Eminem, Tupac, Biggie and more

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Nas, 'N.Y. State of Mind'
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic31/50

31. Nas, 'N.Y. State of Mind'

Illmatic, 1994

No track better sums up Nas' ability to spin dense, dazzlingly lucid verse. "N.Y. State of Mind" is no anthem or ode to the city; it's a detailed narrative about a Gotham gunfight, delivered in a nearly 60-bar run that Nas later broke up for the song. "He did the whole first verse in one take," recalled DJ Premier, who produced the track. "He stopped and said, 'Does that sound cool?' And we were all like, 'Oh, my God.' "

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