The Popular Music of the 90s Music Revived –
Reviving the classic hits of the 90s


February 2, 2009

Popular Rap Music Of The 90s – The Beats That Live On and On and On

'90s Rap Legends

Remember the days before T-Pain and Nelly? Back when Sean Combs was still Puff Daddy? Back when two kings of the game ruled supreme? When rap still sounded like rap? If you haven’t figured it out yet, this article is dedicated to ’90s rap music. Rap in the ’90s brought widespread popularity to the genre. In the late 80s, Public Enemy, Run-D.M.C. and N.W.A. built a foundation for the gangster rap genre. They paved the way for what would be arguably the best decade the genre has ever seen.

With the exit of Ice Cube in 1989, N.W.A. continued to feud and eventually disbanded in 1991. The stage was set for an epic battle of rap supremacy in the early 90s. An East-West Coast divide had formed with Bad Boy Records on the East Coast, and Death Row Records on the West Coast. Tupac threw gasoline on the fire when he accused Biggie and Combs of being involved with the shooting he fell victim to in a NYC recording studio in 1994. With each record after that, the drama escalated and I think we all know how this story ends.

I think it was summed up best by The Notorious B.I.G. when he said:

I was in shock of everything. I wasn’t shocked about him getting shot. ‘Pac is a strong dude, yo. He’s real strong, so when he got shot I was just like, ‘Again?’ You know, he’s always getting shot or shot at, he gonna pull through, make a few records and it’s going to be over. But when he died it took me by surprise. Even though we were going through our drama I would never wish death on nobody. ‘Cause there ain’t no coming back from that.

Unfortunately for everyone, the feud turned to violence and two of the greatest rappers ever were both assassinated, within six months of each other. The rivalry that sparked some of the best rap music ever was officially over and the game was forever changed.

That is your history lesson for today.

’90s rap is not something that I am a expert on but I know my fair share. That is why I have complied my top five songs from each year of the 90s. The rules are the same as the two previous lists and in case you forgot them, I have explained them below.

How it works:
For each genre of music I will rank the top 5 singles from each year in the 90s. I will provide a link for each song (either imeem or youtube, depending on availability) for your listening pleasure.

Disclaimer: These rankings are based on my personal preferences, not on actual popularity. I think of these lists as recommendations. Hopefully these songs will bring back some good memories, and if you have never heard them before, maybe create some new ones.

Interested in ’90s Pop and Rock as well? Be sure to check out these lists as well.
90s Pop Music
90s Rock Music

Starting with 1999:
1. “Still D.R.E.” by Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg
2. “What’s My Name” by DMX
3. “You Can Do It” by Ice Cube feat. Mack 10 & Ms. Toi
4. “My Name Is” by Eminem
5. “Deception” by Blackilicious

1. “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” by Jay-Z
2. “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” by DMX
3. “Changes” by Tupac Shakur
4. “You Got Me” by The Roots
5. “Doo Wop (That Thing)” by Lauren Hill

1. “Hail Mary” by Tupac Shakur
2. “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” by Puff Daddy feat. Mase
3. “Hypnotize” by The Notorious B.I.G.
4. “Feels So Good” by Mase
5. “Burbons and Lacs” by Master P featuring Silkk The Shocker & Gotti from The Gambino Family

1. “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” by Tupac Shakur feat. Snoop Dogg
2. “Tha Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony
3. “California Love” by Tupac Shakur feat. Dr. Dre & Roger Troutman
4. “Hit ‘Em Up” by Tupac Shakur feat. Outlawz
5. “What They Do” by The Roots

1. “One More Chance” by The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Faith Evans and Mary J. Blige
2. “Keep Their Heads Ringin'” by Dr. Dre
3. “1st of tha Month” by Bone Thungs-n-Harmony
4. “I Got 5 On it” by Luniz
5. “Shook Ones Pt. II” by Mobb Deep

1. “Gin and Juice” Snoop Dogg feat. Daz Dillinger
2. “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” by Outkast
3. “C.R.E.A.M.” by Wu-Tang Clan
4. “Juicy” by The Notorious B.I.G.
5. “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony feat. Shatasha Williams

1. “Nuthin’ but a “G” Thang” by Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg
2. “It Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube
3. “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” by Snoop Dogg (with Dr. Dre & Jewell)
4. “Down With The King” by Run-D.M.C.
5. “Hip Hop Hooray” by Naughty by Nature

1. “So What’Cha Want” by Beastie Boys
2. “Deep Cover” by Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg
3. “The Phuncky Feel One” by Cypress Hill
4. “Uptown Anthem” by Naughty By Nature
5. “Take It Personal” by Gang Starr

1. “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J
2. “O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature
3. “Shut ‘Em Down” by Public Enemy
4. “O.G. Original Gangsta” by Ice-T
5. “Check The Rhime” by A Tribe Called Quest

1. “100 Miles and Runnin'” by N.W.A.
2. “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” Ice Cube
3. “Around the Way Girl” by LL Cool J
4. “Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em” by Eric B. & Rakim
5. “Streets of New York” by Kool G Rap & DJ Polo

Similar to my 90s pop and 90s rock lists, this is only a small sampling of the genre. I just tried to represent all of the most influential acts of the decade and remind you of some the classic jams of the ’90s. While this blog tends to focus on alternative rock, it is nice to take a step back and reflect on another great genre.

Hope you enjoyed this collection of music.

Agree or disagree with my selections? Feel free to share your opinion by making a comment below.

About the Author



  1. bone thugs!! miss 90s rap. a lot of new music are crap. (and i just rhymed)

  2. Anonymous

    u guys should put the lighter shade of brown

  3. Anonymous

    you forgot Big L

  4. Matt

    You completely missed De La Soul and Illmatic, and mentioned Outkast and Tribe once each. Those, in my eyes, are some major oversights. Pac and Biggie were big, but they certainly weren’t everything. Also, in defense of today’s rap: The good stuff is still out there, you just have to look underground for it.

  5. John

    Where is Nasty Nas?

  6. Rick

    Nice. The 90’s was the golden era for rap.

  7. ziricote

    Nice list but how can you leave out the sickest flow of all…….Wu-Tang Clan!!!

  8. ABE

    good list but u should put sum more jay..JIGGA!!!!!!!

  9. Mike

    Souls of mischief – 93 till infinity

    missed that one

  10. jack

    What sucks is you have hip-hop artists like slick rick and masta ace who laid (some of) the foundation, walking around somewhere today broke as a joke, while soulja boy is stacking major moolah. That’s life I guess.

  11. J-Xile

    I’m all about the 90’s.

  12. Alan

    Arrested Devolpment !!! ‘Tennesse’ Whats up dog!!!!!!!!!

  13. Alan

    Arrested Devolpment MR WENDAL


    Ya those people did lay a foundation. if they are broke now that’s there fault. any one man the spends up millions and millions of dollars before his lifetime is even up. deserves to be broke. They shoulda been smarter with there careers> You def cant hate on the ent icons of today. aint got to like em but dont hate. The best music and most impacting music will always and forever come from the underground. Our hits of the 90’s we love so much weren’t hits made by cats with major money and drug money. these were the hungry streets. a way for people to get out. Now all you got is dope boy music sending the wrong messg to our youth


    Think about it. Soon your gonna hear, who is pac? who is biggie

  16. Jc

    There are a lot of songs missing from that list. A lot.

  17. marspdx74

    How about DJ Jazzy Jeff and THE FRESH PRINCE???

  18. 90sGFUNK

    90s gfunk rap for life.. Yes the writer missed many greats in the article but there were so many back in the day they all wouldn’t fit on the one page! Rap has gone down hill and I would not classify anything other than snoop being the only real stuff still going around.

  19. jlill

    whats that pop rap song with the dinosaurs in the background??? 97 or 98 i think…

  20. tiffany

    sure do miss the way music was then. i try to listen to the new stuff but it just doesnt get to the heart like the 90s.

  21. josh

    Man what about Nas it 94! Illmatic… arguably the greatest hip hop album ever! Also Big L and Big Pun man! I mean even some Redman, you know muddy waters! Maybe this needs revising?

  22. […] article that attracted me was entitled, “The Beats That Live On and On and On.” This article gives an in-depth look of the impact ’90s rap had on the rap of today, and how […]

  23. great list – these are classics, i still get chills when i listen to ‘you got me’ or ‘hit em up’ (any of the late tupac – changes…). in my eyes, ‘forgot about dre’ was eminem’s entrance into the circle of legit rappers. before then (‘my name is’), he was just some skinny white kid being a dork. also, ‘rosa parks’ was legit – 1998? but i would say stankonia (2000) is an album that was such a departure from the norm that it was a revelation.
    what about three 6 mafia? late nite tip, weed is got me high?

    im putting together a list of throwbacks – nostalgic – from the late 90s and trying to get the edited versions…here are a few – intended to be funny rather than serious:
    juvenile: back that thing up
    master p: goodbye to my homies and i miss my homies (two rips off of boyz II men?)
    nelly: country grammar (i think it might have been 2000).
    twdy: players holiday?
    rappin 4tay: players club

  24. Mastashonuff

    No Wu , no cypress hill , no house of pain (jump around) but you put master p who plunged rap music into the abyss so now they have people out there like little Wayne who claim to be rap artist . Idiot

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