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100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time

What makes a great hip-hop song?

100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time

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We asked 33 artists and experts – from Rick Rubin to Big Boi, Mike D to Chuck D – to vote for their favorite hip-hop songs.

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Run-DMC, “Sucker M.C.’s”

In the beginning, hip-hop was club music, an offshoot of disco usually meant for dancing and partying. After “Sucker M.C.’s,” it belonged to teenagers on the street. “There was never a B-boy record made until we made ‘Sucker M.C.’s,’ ” declared the late Run-DMC DJ Jam Master Jay. Sure enough, the 1983 track – nothing but rhymes and scratches over hard Oberheim DMX beats and hand claps – seemed designed specifically with break dancers in mind. “Sucker” was conceived as a B-side throwaway to the group’s debut, “It’s Like That,” but its whiplash groove and everydude rhymes were even more radical. Run charts his creation myth, disses competitors, brags about his Caddy and his girl appeal. Then his partner introduces himself with “I’m DMC in the place to be/I go to St. John’s University!” Indeed: A new school had arrived. “I wasn’t afraid to rap about school being cool,” Darryl “DMC” McDaniels said years later. “That was empowering. That’s the legacy when people look at Run-DMC.”

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Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force, “Planet Rock”

“One of the most influential songs of everything,” says Rick Rubin. “It changed the world.” Helmed by a reformed South Bronx gang member turned punk-mystic community leader/DJ, with help from superstar producers-in-the-making Arthur Baker and John Robie, this 1982 atom bomb interpolated parts of Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express” and “Numbers,” mating synth stabs with robotic MC chants (“Rock rock to the planet rock/Don’t stop!”) on a futurist jam that circled the globe. It introduced Roland 808 beats to hip-hop, for which acts from the Beasties to Kanye West would be grateful. Just as important, it coined the sonic language of electro, Detroit techno, freestyle R&B, Miami bass and Brazilian favela funk – in other words, much of modern dance music. “At the time, we barely considered it a rap record,” adds Rubin. “It was more about a new sound.” In the words of Chuck D of Public Enemy, “There hasn’t been a song like it in hip-hop since.”

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Sugarhill Gang, “Rapper’s Delight”

It took three guys from New Jersey to put hip-hop, a still-underground New York-born phenomenon, on Top 40 radio for the first time. Bronx DJ Grandmaster Flash recalled hearing “Rapper’s Delight” on the air and asking, “The Sugarhill who? Who are these people?” Sugar Hill Records founder Sylvia Robinson got the idea for the song while watching a DJ talk over a record in a Harlem club, and she formed the Sugarhill Gang shortly thereafter. On the original 12-inch single, “Rapper’s Delight” was 15 minutes of urban-playboy bragging over a disco-rhythm track that blatantly quoted the bass line in Chic’s 1979 hit “Good Times.” Chip Shearin, who played bass guitar at the “Rapper’s Delight” session, recalled “sweating bullets” as he played the song’s body-moving lick, without changes or mistakes, for a quarter-hour. Shearin, then 17, was paid $70. Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards did much better, eventually getting writer credits and royalties after threatening legal action.

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Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, “The Message”

“The Message” was a total knock out of the park,” says Chuck D of Public Enemy. “It was the first d