5 Rap Songs The ‘90s Blessed Us With That Everyone Should Know

Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eminem are names we all recognize as being some of the biggest rap and hip-hop artists of the ‘90s. However, I’ve noticed that while many people in our generation claim to know of these legends, they’re familiar with the artists but not their art (which, in my opinion, is the MUCH more important part).


The world of ‘90s rap is vast and there are many people with deep interests in the rap and hip-hop music genre born from this decade that could give you MANY more details than I could, but I think this list is a good introduction to some of the best artists of the decade.


1. “Keep Ya Head Up” - Tupac

This song is one of my all-time favorites in the rap genre as 2Pac takes the role of an activist and encourages women (which is rare in most of the rap industry where many artists have been criticized for the way in which they regard women). He criticizes men who hurt women and even comments on the government’s unfair treatment of the poor. Tupac redefines the definition of a “man” progressively and this song was released in 1993!


2. “Suicidal Thoughts” - The Notorious B.I.G.


This is the song that sparked my interest in ‘90s rap, even though it’s nothing like any other ‘90s rap song I’ve ever heard to this day. After watching the relatively recent movie “Notorious” (a biographical film on the life of “Biggie”), I had a new appreciation for the song that I already adored. In this song, “Suicidal Thoughts”, Biggie raps in stream-of-consciousness. He’s talking to a friend on the phone while verbally contemplating killing himself. He’s in a depressed state after evaluating all the things he’s done in life as a gangster who hustled drugs on the streets and his friend desperately tries to stop him. The end of the song implies he shoots himself but, in reality, Biggie didn’t pass away until three years after this song’s release when he was murdered in 1997.


3. “It Was a Good Day” - Ice Cube


This song is actually quite uncharacteristic of Ice Cube who was known more for his angry rap than the positive perspectives that he shares in this. Nonetheless, this song became Ice Cube’s biggest hit as he changed it up for his followers and gained many more fans with the new sound. The lyrics describe Ice Cube’s ideal perfect day (which was an actual day: January 20, 1992). In multiple interviews Ice Cube has explained that he always ends his concerts with this song to mellow out the crowd. This is because they’ve been listening to lots of fiery rap during the show and this song reminds people that there are always good days ahead.


4. “Still D.R.E.” - Dr. Dre

You probably already know this classic! The infamous Scott Storch (a producer who had a terrible downfall after his rise to fame making beats for the top names in rap) made the beat and that beat is recognizable today by nearly anybody, nearly anywhere. Dre and Snoop Dogg collaborated on this song as well as another widely-known song “The Next Episode”, both of which were dropped in 1999 on the album 2001. Confusing, I know!


5. “If I Had” - Eminem

Eminem is a lyrical genius and arguably the best freestyle artist hip-hop has ever seen. He released his LP “The Slim Shady LP” in 1999 that contained several of his most famous songs including “Brain Damage”, “Guilty Conscience”, “My Name Is” and “If I Had”. In this song, Eminem raps about all the things he’s “tired of”. He wants to be famous, rich and happy. However, at the time this song was released, he was falling short in all of the above categories. It’s safe to say that Marshall Mathers has made his come-up since 18 years ago when he released the LP.


Though most of us were in diapers during this era, the music now topping the hip-hop/rap charts evolved from art from the 1990s. So, next time you’re asked about your favorite ‘90s rap song, hopefully you’ll have a genuine answer. These rappers started from the bottom and created a catalogue of songs (really an entire genre) that our generation has embraced and expanded upon. It’s only right for us to remember its roots!