Top 100 Rap Songs of 2008

op 100 Letterpress

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Do you remember your favorite rap songs from 2008? This roundup of the best songs from that year might bring back memories of your favorites and introduce you to a few you missed. Cuts from Jay-Z, Eminem, GZA, and many others make the list.

100
of 100

Jay-Z - "Jockin' Jay-Z (Dope Boy Fresh)"

Jay-Z performing live on the Pyramid stage at the 2008 Glastonbury Festival. 28th June 2008.

Photoshot / Getty Images

Backed by Kanye West's thunderous bass concoction, Jay-Z brushes the dirt off his shoulder and hurls a curve ball at Noah Gallagher. The drum-powered "Jockin' Jay-Z" is a buzz cut from "Blueprint 3."

99
of 100

Amanda Diva - "Windows Over Harlem"

Amanda Seales attends the premiere of NBC's

 Rodin Eckenroth / Getty Images

Hip-hop and soul converge beautifully on this nostalgic single from Amanda Diva's criminally underrated "Life Experience" EP. [Video]

98
of 100

Illa J - "R U Listening" (Feat. Guilty Simpson)

ILLA J performs live on stage at Under The Bridge on October 19, 2017.

 Joseph Okpako / Getty Images

Good music truly does flow in the Yancey family. Illa J, the 21-year old brother of late hip-hop icon J Dilla, is working relentlessly to keep the Yancey flag flying high. He holds his own on this nostalgic smash from the Dilla-produced debut album, "Yancey Boys."

97
of 100

Cool Kids - "Gettin' It" (Feat. Lil' Wayne)

The Cool Kids performing at Vinyl on December 14, 2007.

Julio Enriquez / Flickr 

The Cool Kids urge kids to say their ABCs not "Ay Bay Bays," while Weezy brags about treating women like *gasp* queens. Everybody wins.

96
of 100

Nappy Roots - "Good Day"

Nappy Roots perform at BET Music Matters A3c Showcase on October 10, 2014.

 Moses Robinson / BET / Getty Images

Taken from Nappy Roots' "The Humdinger," their first major album in five years, "Good Day" hardly deviates from the formula for success: hard-hitting, catchy, and absolutely inspirational.

95
of 100

EPMD - "Roc Da Spot"

EPMD performs at Irving Plaza on August 11, 2018.

Johnny Nunez / Getty Images

Fans of senior citizen rap will be ecstatic to learn that Parrish and Erick Sermon will still be rhyming well into their 60s. As long as they keep making 'em like this, no one's complaining.

94
of 100

N.E.R.D. - "Anti Matter"

Pharrell Williams and Shay Haley of N.E.R.D perform in concert during 2018 AfroPunk Festival Atlanta

 Paras Griffin / Getty Images

This rare moment of pure rapping on shows that Skateboard P can kick a mean 16 when he's not busy indulging in fashion references.

93
of 100

Wale's Brother Ali - "2nd Time Around"

Wale attends the 2019 NBA Awards

Michael Kovac / Getty Images 

Despite Wale's two-verse onslaught, Brother Ali is the real star of "2nd Time Around." Ali's verse is unsurprisingly nasty, as he hurls a plethora of insults at wankstas, "People are starving and you're talking about balling?" he raps.

The killer rhyme arrives at the end though: "You can't even scan, your fans are downloading you. There's no connection, so they're not supporting you."

92
of 100

Kidz in the Hall - "Love Hangover" (Feat. Estelle)

Rapper Naledge of Kidz in the Hall poses backstage after his performance for CMJ Music Fest at The Knitting Factory on November 4, 2006.

Roger Kisby / Getty Images

To hear Estelle and Kidz in the Hall tell it, love can be pretty freakin' awesome! [Video]

91
of 100

Big Boi - "Sumthin's Gotta Give" (Feat. Mary J Blige)

Rapper Big Boi performs on stage during the 2019 Ron Clark Academy Graduation

Marcus Ingram / Getty Images

"Sumthin's Gotta Give," the lead single from "Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty," takes stock of America's economic woes and culminates with an Obama endorsement. Indeed, 2008 was the year of Obama rap. [Audio]

90
of 100

A.C. - "New Soul"

"These dudes are making commercial songs, but they ain't doing tracks from commercials," new rapper A.C. laments at the beginning of "New Soul." A.C. then proceeds to flip Yael Naim's "New Soul," popularized by Apple's Macbook Air commercial, into a hip-hop banger. [Video]

89
of 100

Eminem - "I'm Having a Relapse"

Eminem performs during the 2018 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival on June 9, 2018

 C Flanigan / Getty Images

Eminem proves that his lyrical chops are still intact on this radio freestyle announcing his comeback album, "The Relapse." [Audio]

88
of 100

Crooked I - "Dream Big" (Feat. Akon)

Crooked I of Slaughterhouse performs during the 5 Boro Takeover Tour 2013 at Best Buy Theatre on March 7, 2013.

Jerritt Clark / Getty Images

An unlikely collaboration between the West Coast's most underrated lyricist and pop megastar, Akon yields a compelling tune about grass-to-grace ascension.

87
of 100

Breeze Evahflowin' - "Radio Song"

Badly-named Cali rapper Breez Evahflowin' pays a heartfelt tribute to hip-hop on this stripped-down banger.

86
of 100

Guilty Simpson - "Run" (feat. Sean Price and Black Milk)

Black Milk's board work on "Run" is further proof that the Detroit native was 2008's hip-hop producer of the year. [Audio]

85
of 100

Sway - "Jason Waste"

Sway performs on stage at Jazz Cafe during the Camden Crawl music festival on May 5, 2012.

Ollie Millington / Getty Images 

The courthouse jester of UK hip-hop unleashes his sociopathic alter-ego Jason Waste for an exercise in third-person rap. [Audio]

84
of 100

Skyzoo - "The Necessary Evils"

Rapper Skyzoo attends the Apple Store Soho Meet The Musician: Skyzoo.

 Mark Sagliocco / Getty Images

With its ambitious subject matter and acute delivery, Skyzoo's "Necessary Evils" should be required listening for anyone who doubts the continued relevance of cutting-edge hip-hop. [Video]

83
of 100

Freeway - "When I Die" (Feat. James Blunt)

Freeway attends day two of the 2018 BET Awards Radio Remotes on June 23, 2018.

Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images 

Freeway's breathtaking narrative about the rise and fall of Roc-A-Fella reminds us why he's everyone's favorite bearded rapper. [Audio]

82
of 100

Busta Rhymes - "I Got Bass"

Busta Rhymes performs during the Spectrum Presents Busta Rhymes Powered By Pandora event.

Cooper Neill / Getty Images

Busta Rhymes is back in fine form. Noise-poppers squelch, funk riffs whistle, and Busta Bus goes for the gusto on this trunk-rattler from "Back on My B.S." [Audio]

81
of 100

Rukus - "The Boom and The Bap"

Here, Houston rapper Rukus rocks one of the crispiest flows in years. "The Boom and The Bap" finds him reflecting on his passion for hip-hop over a jazz-rap sound bed.

80
of 100

Charles Hamilton - "Brooklyn Girls"

Recording artist Charles Hamilton attends Digiwaxx Music Meeting presents Charles Hamilton The Re-Introduction at Digiwaxx on May 5, 2010.

Johnny Nunez / Getty Images 

Charles Hamilton's playful ode to the foxy, feisty women from his favorite borough. [Video]

79
of 100

Mickey Factz - "Don't Be Light"

Rapper Mickey Factz performs at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois on JUNE 27, 2009.

 Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Anchored by the Neptunes' remix of Air's "Don't Be Light," Mickey Factz delivers a candid narrative about grabbing life by the horns. [Audio]

78
of 100

Soulbrotha - "Born for a Purpose"

Whether he's spitting over a reggae-inspired soundtrack or dishing social insight on a soul palette, Soulbrotha always has his Steve Urkel-esque eyeglasses fixed on the big picture. [Video]

77
of 100

Lil Wayne - "Mr. Carter" (Feat. Jay-Z)

Lil Wayne performs on stage at PNC Bank Arts Center on July 09, 2019.

Manny Carabel / Getty Images

Dwayne Carter meets Shawn Carter for a match made in hip-hop heaven. You know you're in for a treat when two successful rappers are spitting with the hunger of newcomers.

76
of 100

GZA - "Paper Plate"

GZA of Wu-Tang Clan performs at Shoreline Amphitheatre on June 22, 2019.

 Miikka Skaffari / Getty Images

The Genius calmly belittles 50 Cent and his camp on the heavily-buzzed about "Paper Plate" diss song, in which he proceeds to "spray the Flea-Unit with pesticide." Ouch!

75
of 100

Ill Bill - "Society Is Brainwashed"

Ill Bill

ldbergeron / Wikimedia Commons

Ill Bill gives the middle finger to greedy corporate honchos and wimpy people everywhere. [Video]

74
of 100

Little Vic - "Sister Morphine"

Little Vic story tells his way through social commentary on this marvelous track from his debut album.

73
of 100

The Game - "My Life" (Feat. Lil Wayne)

Hip-hop artist The Game

Michael Tullberg / Getty Images

The Game takes out a life-sized mirror and gets reflective for a moment, while Wayne assists with a hook so raw he had to borrow T-Pain's autotune thingy to deliver it. [Video]

72
of 100

Atmosphere - "Guarantees"

After a rough day, Slug heads to a local bar in search of company. He finds the bar empty and resorts to monologue:

"I don't want to go home yet. So I'm a talk to my cigarette and that television set. It doesn't matter what brand or station. Just anything to take away from my current situation."

Notice how the guitar plucks get increasingly louder as the tension in his voice rises. [Video]

71
of 100

Raekwon - "The G-Hide" (Feat. Ghostface Killah)

Raekwon

Weekly Dig / Wikimedia Commons

Raekwon kicks a mean 16, then hands the mic to his partner-in-rhyme who lunges into some disturbing, movie-like tale like only Tony Starks can.

70
of 100

Estelle - "American Boy"

Hip-hop artist Estelle attends BET's 'Rip the Runway' at The Manhattan Center February 21, 2008.

Brad Barket / Getty Images

British hip-hopper Estelle dreams up a world where cross-cultural love is the norm, while her American collaborator Kanye West makes like a wiseguy. [Video]

69
of 100

Murs - "Can It Be (Half A Million Dollars and 18 Months Later)"

Murs performs during the Rock the Bells concert at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, Illinois on July 19, 2008.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images 

Sometimes it's necessary to step away from a work of art and observe it from a distance to offer the best possible creative criticism. That’s exactly what Murs has done here. He took time off from rap and watched the game from the sideline. That translates into sharp, informed criticism of the hip-hop culture he loves so much on "Can It Be?"

68
of 100

Ludacris - "I Do It for Hip Hop" (feat. Nas and Jay-Z)

Rapper and actor Ludacris performs at DePaul University during DePaul Fest 2010 in Chicago, Illinois on MAY 28, 2010.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Whenever Jay-Z and Nas team up for a collaboration, something special always happens. This standout track from Ludacris is no exception.

67
of 100

88 Keys - "Stay Up" (Feat. Kanye West)

Like he does on much of "Death of Adam," 88 Keys keeps his sound drenched in atmospheric production and witty rhymes. This is the illest ode to the blue little pills yet.

66
of 100

Wale - "Go Mode" (Feat. Bun B and Pusha T)

Rapper Wale

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Armed with a ferocious Best Kept Secret beat and flanked by two veterans, Wale turns in one of the year's best odes to unparalleled superfly-ness. [Audio]

65
of 100

Fonzworth Bentley (feat. Kanye West and Andre 3000) - "Everybody"

Hip-hop artists Farnsworth Bently (L) and Wyclef Jean (R)
Hip-hop artists Farnsworth Bently (L) and Wyclef Jean (R).

William B. Plowman / Getty Images 

Fonzworth Bentley, who was introduced to the MTV audience as Diddy's umbrella-wielding butler on "Making the Band," has quietly crept in through the doors of hip-hop. His Sa-Ra-produced single strikes a balance between funky and improvisational sensibility. The video is reminiscent of OutKast's "Hey Ya!" [Video]

64
of 100

Bun B - "Damn I'm Cold" (Feat. Lil Wayne)

Rapper Chad
Rapper Chad "Pimp C" Butler (L) and Bernard "Bun B" Freeman (R) of Underground Kingz (UGK) poses for a portrait in Houston on July 25, 2001.

Pam Francis / Getty Images 

It's not unusual to hear Lil Wayne rapping about how awesome Lil Wayne is. But what makes "Damn I'm Cold" great is that Weezy actually sounds awesome on this.

63
of 100

Young Jeezy - "Put On" (Feat. Kanye West)

Hip-hop artist Young Jeezy performs on stage during Power 105.1's Powerhouse 2014.

Mike Pont / Getty Images 

Jeezy and Yeezy merge forces on this chart burner from "The Recession." [Video]

62
of 100

Ill Bill - "My Uncle"

Ill Bill

ldbergeron / Wikimedia Commons

"My Uncle," off Ill Bill’s "The Hour of Reprisal," takes an uncompromising look at his relationship with one of the most influential individuals in the rapper's life, his drug-addled Uncle Howie. [Video]

61
of 100

EMC - "Traffic" (Feat. Little Brother)

EMC and company daydream about watching women and turning New York streets into a block party.

60
of 100

The Grouch - "Artsy"

While there's a new wave of abhorrence for ringtone rap and Auto-Tune, let's not forget the true enemy of humanity: overly artsy people. [Video]

59
of 100

N.E.R.D. - "Everyone Nose (All The Girls Standing in the Line for the Bathroom)"

Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D performs in concert during 2018 AfroPunk Festival Atlanta

 Paras Griffin / Getty Images

This hilarious paean to booger sugar had all the girls, and some guys, fiending for more N.E.R.D goodness. Oh yeah, that piano break is nasty.

58
of 100

Blu - "It's Okay (Pt.1)"

The sly wit and amazing insight of Blu's lyrics are in full display on "It's Okay," as the Cali emcee recalls every single dumb activity from his teenage years. [Audio]

57
of 100

Ice Cube - "Gangsta Rap" Remix (Feat. Scarface and Nas)

Hip hop artist Ice Cube performs at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival on June 13, 2014.

Jason Merritt/TERM / Getty Images

Other rappers would be eager to bury their sordid past after becoming Hollywood bigwigs, but Ice Cube is not one to bite his tongue. Cube teams up with Nas and Scarface to defend hip-hop from its harshest critics. [Audio]

56
of 100

DJ Muggs and Planet Asia - "9MM"

Legendary producer DJ Muggs crafts an aesthetic of chaotic sonics, augmenting the concoction with horror-movie squeals and feverish drums. Planet Asia's acute lyricism is just icing on the cake. [Video]

55
of 100

The Roots - "Rising Down" (feat. Mos Def and Styles P)

The Roots perform at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois on JUNE 27, 2009.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

In this single, complacency rules, the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and these angry realists want you to care. "Between the greenhouse gases and the earth spinning off its axis / got mother nature doing backflips."

54
of 100

Foxy Brown - "Too Real" (Feat. AZ)

Hip Hop artists Foxy Brown appears at the Hip Hop Summit National Town Hall Meeting on July 12, 2006.

Jeff Fusco / Getty Images 

This AZ-assisted heater will make you forget all Foxy's previous misfires. Both Crooklyn emcees hold their own on the lyrical end, but Statik Selektah's heartwarming concoction is a show-stealer.

53
of 100

Termanology - "How We Rock" (Feat. Bun B)

Boston's own Termy Montana teams up with Texas veteran Bun B for a Premo-produced banger. If you can’t feel this, check your pulse.

52
of 100

Jay Electronica - "Exhibit A (Transformations)"

Jay Electronica performs during the Rock the Bells concert at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, Illinois on July 19, 2008.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Jay Electronica exhibits some lyrical ingenuity over this hard-hitting Just Blaze beat.

51
of 100

Scarface - "Emeritus"

Rapper Scarface of the Geto Boys performs at the Regal Theater in Chicago, Illinois in JANUARY 1992.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Scarface reminds us, figuratively and literally, that he's still in top form. "Emeritus" is a single from Face's album of the same title.

50
of 100

Royce da 5'9" - "Shake This"

Royce da 5'9

kEVVY KEV / Flickr /CC BY-SA 2.0

Don't be fooled by the shallow title, "Shake This" is not a club romp about shaking what ya momma gave ya. Rather, it's a motivational song about overcoming rumors and embarrassing moments in public. In fact, this Royce-Premo track sounds nothing like their previous collaborations ("Hip-Hop," "Boom," etc), but it's a neck-snapper regardless.

49
of 100

Snoop Dogg - "Neva Have 2 Worry"

MARCH 04: Hip-Hop artist Snoop Dogg performs at OC Fair and Event Center on March 04, 2016.

Brian Feinzimer / Getty Images 

Snoop defends his foul mouth, reflects on his shortcomings ("swimming with the sharks and I almost drowned"), and thumps his chest ("15 years in the game, man, and I'm still relevant"), without ever raising his voice.

48
of 100

Atmosphere - "You"

Slug showcases his newfound penchant for optimism, while Ant whips up a snake charmer. The morale of the story: Love your job, no matter how crappy it is. See, kids, hip-hop is mucho inspirational. [Video]

47
of 100

Statik Selektah (w/ Bun B and Cory Mo) - "Get Out the Way"

This one finds Statik pairing Cory Mo and PA’s finest, Bun B, on a mid-tempo banger. This is hot, and that’s not only because the beat has Premier’s fingerprints all over it. Hearing Pimp C’s “White Gurl” line, “You need to learn the game before you try to play,” will give you the shivers. [Video]

46
of 100

Pacewon and Mr.Green - "Children Sing"

"Children Sing" starts off like a lullaby you'd sing to a toddler, then turns into a buoyant rap gem. [Video]

45
of 100

Killer Mike - "Pressure" (Feat. Ice Cube)

Killer Mike of Run the Jewels performs onstage on Day 1 of Lovebox Festival at Victoria Park on July 15, 2016.

Ollie Millington / Getty Images

What do Killer Mike and Ice Cube have in common? Well, for starters, neither is interested in cookie-cutter music. "Pressure" is a rough, rugged, and raw cut.

44
of 100

The Alchemist - "Therapy" (Feat. Evidence, Blu, and Kid Cudi)

The Alchemist

Carl Pocket/Wikimedia Commons

This is freshly squeezed hip-hop goodness from the Alchemist. Kid Cudi continues to impress, and Blu proves he still doesn’t know how to waste a rhyme.

43
of 100

Pharoahe Monch - "Broken Heart"

Hip-hop artist Pharoahe Monch of Organized Konfusion of performs on stage during the 2009

 Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images

"Broken Heart" is vintage Pharoahe Monch; it's soulful, imaginative, and scintillating. Perfect.

42
of 100

Common - "Gladiator" (Feat. Pharrell)

Hip-hop artist and author Common

Michael Tullberg / Getty Images

Sound architects The Neptunes and rhyme lord Common effortlessly demonstrate their range while showcasing party-starter music.

41
of 100

Black Milk - "Give the Drummer Sum"

"Give the Drummer Sum" finds Black Milk stacking his much improved lyrical chops atop live horns and gritty drums. This isn't hip-hop; it's art in motion.

40
of 100

Q-Tip feat. Norah Jones - "Life Is Better"

Hip-hop artist Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest performs onstage during The 59th GRAMMY Awards.

 Kevin Mazur / Getty Images

Norah Jones continues her streak of brilliant hip-hop collaborations ("Soon A New Day" with Talib Kweli and "Take Off Your Cool" with Andre 3000) with this silky funk-jazz banger.

39
of 100

Saigon - "Believe It" (feat. Red 5)

Hip-hop artist Saigon attends the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundations Youth Holiday Party at Irving Plaza on December 11, 2006.

Brad Barket / Getty Images 

Saigon leaked this street anthem on his way out of Atlantic Records. This soulful drop finds Sai-Giddy addressing his ordeal at the label while simultaneously speaking to the struggle of America's urban youth. [Audio]

38
of 100

Joell Ortiz - "Memories"

(L-R) WQHT Hot 97 radio personality Monse and recording artist Joell Ortiz

Johnny Nunez / Getty Images 

Former Dr. Dre signee Joel Ortiz recalls his fondest hip-hop memories over Salaam Remi's sample-heavy production. [Video]

37
of 100

Joe Budden - "Who"

Recording artist Joe Budden attends Ashanti's

Ray Tamarra / Getty Images

On this 15-minute tirade (released in three separate installments), Joe Budden brilliantly dissects hip-hop's ups and downs with the stark honesty of an artist who's seen both ends of the spectrum.

36
of 100

Ludacris - "Undisputed"

Actor/Hip Hop Artist Ludacris performs at the Entertainment Lawyer Of The Year Awards Dinner.

Earl Gibson III / Getty Images

On this cut, Luda bristles with brutish bark: "I been scouring the earth. / Making my fans catch the Holy Ghost at my shows / like your grandma at church." [Video]

35
of 100

Large Professor - "The Hardest" (Feat. AZ and Styles P)

Large Professor

Bennett / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

 

Two of the hardest emcees ever, plus one of hip-hop's greatest sound architects, equals four minutes of bliss.

34
of 100

The Game - "Letter to the King" (Feat. Nas)

The Game

Elvir Omerbegovic / Wikimedia Commons

"Letter to the King" is the most compelling tracks on Game's "L.A.X." The Game pays homage to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders of the civil rights movement, with Nas riding shotgun.

33
of 100

Pacific Division - "Taste"

Set to jubilant keys and pillowy synths, Pac Div's "Taste" is an intoxicating neck-snapper.

32
of 100

B.O.B. - "Generation Lost"

Hip Hop artist B.o.B. performs during the

 Gary Gershoff / Getty Images

Note to new rappers: When all else fails, try a song about zombies.

31
of 100

The Knux - "Cappuccino" (Remix)

Hip hop artists Rah Almillio and Krispy Kream of The Knux attend Puma's 60th anniversary party

Roger Kisby / Getty Images 

While Krispy and Al Millio may look like Kid-N-Play, they actually sound like a cross between Hieroglyphics and OutKast. The OG version of "Cappuccino" is poignant, but this boom-bap remix makes the latter comparison a bit more prominent.

30
of 100

Sheek Louch - "Good Love"

Sheek Louch lets his guard down and rhymes about his fruitless search for true love. "Met a lot of women out there on tour. / Ran through 'em all, but I'm just not sure," he raps on the lead single from "Silverback Guerilla." [Video]

29
of 100

Jadakiss - "From Now Til' Then"

Hip hop artist Jadakiss attends the official Jordan brand launch of the first signature shoe for Chris Paul at Republic on February 29, 2008.

Skip Bolen / Getty Images

Mix some hard-boiled rhymes with a flawless Premo beat and you have Jada's most fascinating contribution to rap in 2008.

28
of 100

Lil Wayne - "A Milli"

Hip-hop Lil' Wayne artist sits courtside during the 2012 NBA All-Star Game at the Amway Center on February 26, 2012.

 Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

Weezy goes on a free-verse rampage, rambling about everything under the sun. But you simply can't turn it off because his flow is so infectious.

27
of 100

Q-Tip - "Gettin' Up"

Rapper and Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Hip-Hop Culture, Q-Tip.

 Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Q-Tip issued "Gettin' Up" as the lead single from "The Renaissance," effectively setting the tone for an album that delivered a non-stop joyous listening experience. 

26
of 100

Kidz in the Hall - "Drivin' Down the Block (Low End Theory)"

It's rare to find a rap song that sets out to be the ultimate car anthem and actually delivers on its promise. Thankfully, "Drivin' Down the Black" is the beautiful exception to that trend. It's big, bassy, and ridiculously addictive.

25
of 100

Wale - "The Kramer"

Recording artist Wale visits fuse TV's

Bryan Bedder / Getty Images

An usually lighthearted Wale gets serious on "The Kramer," in which he weighs in on the N-word debate.

24
of 100

J Live - "The Upgrade" (Feat. Posdnuous and Oddisee)

Sounds like it was lifted right off a contemporary jazz station. So fresh and so clean.

23
of 100

Rhymefest - "Stolen"

Hip-hop artist, songwriter and activist Che

 Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

"Stolen" is an early buzz cut from Rhymefest's sophomore album, "El Che." He weaves three different narratives of African struggle while referencing conflict-torn regions like Sierra Leone, Sudan, and Rwanda. The video is set in a classroom full of students as diverse as the countries in question.

22
of 100

Nas - "Sly Fox"

Hip Hop artist Nas

Jason Kempin / Getty Images 

Nas delivered more than just a scathing indictment of Fox News, he also teamed up with the political organization Moveon.org to deliver over 620,000 petitions against the network in protest of what Nas described as its racist attacks on the African-American community. How real is that? [Video]

21
of 100

Buckshot and 9th Wonder - "Hold It Down" (feat. Talib Kweli and Tyler Woods)

Hip hop artist Buckshot attends the Smirnoff Signature Mix Series private listening session at Apotheke on March 3, 2009.

Roger Kisby / Getty Images 

Buckshot brings the earnest lyrics. Kweli brings the sweet message, and 9th Wonder supplies the breezy tune that will surely charm any fan of good music.

20
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Black Milk - "Losing Out" (Feat. Royce da 5'9")

Two of Detroit's finest, Black Milk and Nickel Nine, combine for a volley that reminds us there's something in the Motor City water.

19
of 100

Young Jeezy - "My President" (Feat. Nas)

Hip-hop artist Young Jeezy

Brad Barket / Getty Images 

The ultimate political rap anthem of 2008 came from the Snowman's rhyme book. Who would've thunk it?

18
of 100

T.I. and Jay-Z - "Swagga Like Us" (Feat. Kanye West and Lil Wayne)

Rapper T.I. takes a tour of the Lil Trap House at the Lil Trap House Exhibition Launch Event at Delicious Pizza on July 12, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

Jerritt Clark / Getty Images

Kanye's braggart rhymes, Jay-Z's strong presence, Lil Wayne's unique delivery, and T.I.'s multi-syllabic flow make this a quadruple whammy of star power. Throw in an ingenious sample of M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes," and you have the perfect street anthem.

17
of 100

Jay-Z - "History"

Rapper Jay-Z

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Jay-Z has never been one to get political on the mic, but this year he was front and center stumping for Barack Obama's presidential campaign like his rap contract depended on it. While "History" is not directly about Obama, Jay-Z couldn't resist an opportunity to find the victory in history and release a musical counterpart to the sense of optimism Obama's campaign portrayed.

16
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Ludacris - "MVP"

Hip-hop artist Ludacris performs

Andrew Chin / Getty Images

Ludacris dismantles the apparatus of mediocrity and replaces it with his strongest cut in years.

15
of 100

T.I. - "No Matter What"

T.I. accepts Best Hip-Hop Artist award during BET Awards 2007.

 Michael Caulfield / Getty Images

In the business of turning pain into pleasure, T.I. is King. This brooding track from "Paper Trail" finds Tip patting himself on the back."Lyrics so sick with it / Set the standard in Atlanta on how to get, get, get it," he raps. Yet, he also displays strength in the face of adversity: "I lost my partner and my daughter in the same year. Somehow I rise above my problems and remain here."

14
of 100

Statik Selektah - "To the Top" (with Saigon, Cassidy, Termanology)

Statik Selektah performs at Blue Note Jazz Club on December 16, 2017 in New York City.

Johnny Nunez / Getty Images 

Statik Selektah may never win a spelling bee, but he sure knows how to assemble a team of collaborators. A true test of a good producer is how well he’s able to match the right artists with the right beat, and Statik passed that test with flying colors on "Take It to the Top."

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B.o.B. - "I'll Be in the Sky"

Rapper B.o.B. is interviewed during his visit to the WGCI-FM

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

B.o.B. is one of the brightest new rappers to emerge in 2008. And "I'll Be on the Sky" is attention-grabbing for all the right reasons—smart, funky art rap and a strong prelude to his album.

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Nas - "Black President"

Hip-Hop Artist NAS performs during the 2014.

C Flanigan / Getty Images 

"Black President" best captures the sentiment behind Barack Obama's 2008 presidential bid. In line with Obama's message of hope and optimism, Nas takes 2Pac's skepticism ("Although it seems heaven sent, we ain't ready to see a black president") and transformed it into a powerful assertion of progress in American politics. It's by far the best Obama tribute ever.

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of 100

Q-Tip - "Move/Renaissance Rap"

US hip hop artist Q-Tip performs during the second day of the Wireless Festival in Hyde Park, Central London on July 5, 2009.

BEN STANSALL / Stringer / Getty Images 

"Move" is an upbeat gem. It's bouncy enough for the club and frenetic enough for the gym. The latter half of the song reminds us of the many reasons Q-Tip is so special. With a flip of the beat, a bubbly rap song descends into a somber subway banger, as Tip recalls his days as a young MC.

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Jake One (Feat. Brother Ali and Freeway) - "The Truth"

"The Truth" slams into hip-hop perfection with its infectious beat and catchy hook. Freeway's gasoline flow alone will keep your rewind button fully employed.

09
of 100

Kid Cudi - "Day 'N' Nite"

Recording artist Kid Cudi performs onstage during the Pemberton Music Festival on July 17, 2015.

 

Andrew Chin / Getty Images

Kid Cudi crafts a trippy psych-jam for the lonely stoner who wishes to "free his mind at night."

08
of 100

Elzhi - "Motown 25" (Feat. Royce da 5'9")

This giddy lyrical back-and-forth is a good enough reason to pick up this cut. Elzhi and fellow Motor City emcee Royce engage in a fierce rhyming contest over Black Milk's sample-heavy concoction. "Motown 25" is four minutes of non-stop multisyllabic rhyme schemes.

07
of 100

Busta Rhymes - "Don't Touch Me (Throw da Water on 'Em)"

Hip-hop artist Busta Rhymes performs on stage during the 2016.

Marcus Ingram / Getty Images 

Accompanied by steady-rolling congas and glistening hi-hats, Busta Rhymes delivers a swaggering jam that explodes into an energetic romp as soon as you press play. Busta hasn't sounded this fierce since he went dread-less.

06
of 100

The Roots - "Rising Up" (Feat. Wale and Chrisette Michele)

Rapper Black Thought from The Roots performs at the Petrillo Music Shell during the 36th Annual 'Taste Of Chicago' on July 6, 2016.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

The glorious mid-tempo throb of "Rising Up" outshines everything on "Rising Down." From the go-go drums to Chrisette Michelle's soulful chorus and Wale's flawless verse, this is what a hip-hop masterpiece sounds like. [Video]

05
of 100

Lil Wayne - "Dr. Carter"

Rapper Lil Wayne

 Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Dwayne Carter dons his overalls and proceeds to stitch his ailing patients one after the other. Wayne devotes each verse to a specific element of hip-hop, doling out countless quotables along the way. Easily the year's best concept rap song.

04
of 100

Nas - "Queens Get the Money"

Hip-Hop artist Nas performs during the 2012

 Skip Bolen / Getty Images

Jay Electronica's brooding piano on "Queens Get The Money" is a perfect match for Esco's stream-of-consciousness rhyming on this dashing intro to the Queens rapper's album.

03
of 100

Reks - "Say Goodnight"

Reks' passion for hip-hop is so intense you can hear it in his voice. DJ Premier's napalm drums provide a suitable sound bed for Reks' angst-driven lyrics, as the newcomer channels Chuck D's passion on his best track yet. [Video]

02
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Jay Electronica - "Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)"

Jay Electronica (R)

Abdul Aziz / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Jay Electronica is no ordinary rapper. And "Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)" is no ordinary rap song. Jay flips the theme music from Eternal Sunshine into a gorgeous hip-hop gem. It's powerfully plumbed with acoustic guitar, though the production is lo-fi. The simplicity only accentuates the sound of Jay’s heart breaking. No hip-hop song in recent memory captured so perfectly the sentiment of despair and the possibility of hope. [Audio]

01
of 100

Big Boi - "Royal Flush" (Feat. Raekwon and Andre 3000)

Hip hop artist Big Boi performs during the halftime show

 Mike Zarrilli / Getty Images

"Royal Flush" is the perfect rap song; it's clever, fun, and memorable. Interestingly enough, it's Dre who registers the longest verse on this Big Boi gem. No one's complaining, though. How could we, when he's cranking out intoxicating rhymes like, "Crack and I have a lot in common. We both come up in the '80s and we keep that bass pumping."

Big Boi and Raekwon also post some poignant lines of their own, but Dre's verse will stick to your memory even after "Royal Rush" has pumped out its last bass. Then you hit the repeat button.