I’m just going to be real: If you were born after 1996, this article is for you. Not only did you miss out on possibly the peak of modern hip-hop, you missed out on an entire culture. Do you remember when Tupac died? If so, this article might not be for you. I was at a football game when we got the news that he had passed. My buddy and I sat that night and blasted him through the speakers of my old ’82 Dodge. So, let me school you on what I believe are the best songs you missed.
10. DR DRE FEAT. SNOOP DOGG, "Nuthin But a 'G' Thang"
In the ’90s, listening to Dre was the absolute tops: on-point lyrics, on-point beats. This was the first single off 1992's iconic The Chronic album, one of the all-time best.
9. THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G., "Juicy"
As a major Tupac fan, I was still extremely saddened to hear of B.I.G. being killed; he’s the other rap great from that time period that we lost to violence. “Juicy” is pretty much the quintessential come-from-nothing song. The lyrics reflect selling drugs to feed Biggie's daughter — the struggle. I’m still waiting to get my money-green sofa.
8. OUTKAST, "Rosa Parks"
A civil-rights anthem that rings true to this day, "Rosa Parks" puts into perspective what humans still feel when discriminated against. The incident with the actual Rosa Parks was seen as the start of the Civil Rights movement and is remembered as a turning point in the country. This single, from the album Aquemini, reflects on past oppression — but it's also a great jam.
7. TUPAC, "Keep Ya Head Up"
Basically, this man was a poet. This song is geared toward the struggle of women, African-Americans and everyone else who is struggling. “Trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents, it’s hard to be legit and still pay the rent." That, and respecting the women in our lives, pretty much sums this song up.
6. ICE CUBE, "It Was a Good Day"
Listen, everyone wants a perfect day. According to science, the good day referenced in this song is January 20, 1992 — maybe correct, maybe not, but it’s a tradition at my home. This song essentially describes the most perfect day ever. A drop-top, switches, some basketball, hooking up with someone you’ve wanted since the twelfth grade. Cheers with a 40 to a good day.
5. TUPAC, "Dear Mama"
Do you love your mother? If you say no, then stop reading this article, because you are a soulless individual. “Dear Mama” is another poem from Tupac about how much he appreciates the sacrifices his mom made while he was a child, even though his family was poor. He also talks about how hard it was when he messed up as an adult. “Through the drama, I can always depend on my mama.” We should all be that lucky. “If you can make it through the night, there’s a brighter day.” Classic stuff right there.
Read on to continue your pre-millennial mainstream hip-hop education.
4. BONE THUGS-N-HARMONY, "Tha Crossroads"
As an album, E. 1999 Eternal could warrant an entire article, but this song is a standout. A tip of the hat to the people who have gone before, as well as a prophetic anthem to the people who are still here, the song is a classic. It still sounds as good as it did on the Walkman in 1996.
3. SNOOP DOGG, "Murder Was Tha Case"
To appreciate this song in its entirety, you should have watched the 1994 MTV VMAs. The performance is stellar, and, based on the premise of the song, it is perfect. Snoop had just been acquitted on murder charges, and the song basically puts that in perspective. Kids, just try to stay out of jail.
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2. WARREN G FEAT. NATE DOGG, "Regulate"
I’m not going to lie: I might be the whitest person possible to write this article, but back in 1995 I remember jamming to this in a convertible driving through the desert. The smooth beats and combo of Warren G's lyrics and Nate Dogg's silky hook makes this one of the best hip-hop songs ever.
1. LUNIZ, "I Got 5 on It"
I was listening to this song before I knew what “having a 5 on it” meant, but it’s a classic hip-hop song you need to know, and then know some more. It’s been sampled numerous times and used in multiple movies and television shows. “I’m the type that likes to light another joint like Cypress Hill” or “Suck up the dank like a slurpee”? They’re both pretty great.
Did we miss a song? Hit us up in the comments section with your opinions.