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Best Gangsta Rap Songs of the 90s

Nas, Tupac, Biggie, and Snoop all produced some of the best gangsta rap songs of the 90s.

By Jacob SchneiderPublished 6 years ago 5 min read

Music is always changing, artists and genres evolve over time, and rap is no exception. In the late 80s, the world was introduced to a new sub-genre of rap called gangster rap, in large part by hit group NWA.

NWA gave birth to the likes of Tupac, Snoop Dogg, and of course Dr. Dre's solo career. Gangsta rap dominated the 90s, from coast to coast, and here are the ten best gangsta rap songs of the 90s.

Craig Mack made a name for himself jumping onto the rap scene with 1994's "Flava in Ya Ear" but even the original hit fails in comparison to this remix. This song features all the big names on Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs Bad Boy Records, one of the most successful hip hop record companies ever created, and with these mega-stars, this song certainly does not disappoint. Craig Mack starts the song off with his spooky "Bad boys, come out to play," and Biggie Smalls takes it from there delivering rhyme after rhyme like only Biggie can, and the song only flows from there.

Nas is either loved or loathed by hip-hop fans but it's hard to deny that he brings the heat on "NY State of Mind," off his most popular album Illmatic. Thissong isn't an ode to his city like Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind, this song chronicles a gunfight in the streets of his city, which seemed to happen far too often. The most popular line from the song? "I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death," just says it all about Nas, making this one of the best gangsta rap songs of the 90s.

Ladies Love Cool J, and if you don't love him, his momma said to knock you out. After a brief rap hiatus, even though he said "don't call it a comeback," LL Cool J had the hottest rap comeback in history. Featuring a sample from Sly and the Family Stone's "Trip to Your Heart," you can't listen to this song and not vibe with the beat.

Tupac really captivated his audience, from his fierce rhymes to the way he handled the media, it was impossible to keep your eyes and ears off of Pac. When Tupac teamed up with Dr. Dre for "California Love" they had everybody shaking it. "Out on bail, fresh out of jail, I'm California dreaming," Tupac declared on his first song after his prison sentence for sexual abuse and he shot right back to the top of the rap charts, making "California Love" one of the best gangsta rap songs of the 90s.

Long before they were rapping about President Trump, A Tribe Called Quest was owning the rap game. "So what, so what, so what's the scenario?" The opening line hooks you right into this song and listeners just have to know what this song's about. Two verses on this song shot Busta Rhymes into superstardom at the age of 19, so it definitely earns a spot on the list of best gangsta rap songs of the 90s.

"Cash rules everything around me," one phrase, broken down into four letters, and it became the anthem of what rap is all about. "Dolla Dolla bills y'all," rap, and music, in general, is mostly about making that money and Wu-Tang said it plain and simple. Now, Wu-Tang is getting into the TV industry, because that's where the cash is.

Arguably the most feminist song ever written by a man, "Keep Ya Head Up" is an ode to all the females in your life. "Since we all came from a woman/got our name from a woman/ and our game from a woman/ I wonder why we take from our women/ why we rape our women/ do we hate our women?" Tupac was definitely very culturally aware of the times, and I'm sure he'd be disappointed to see times haven't changed all that much.

Written for the Spike Lee joint Do the Right Thing, "Fight the Power" is the quintessential song about fighting oppression. The song accuses many white celebrities, including Elvis and John Wayne, as being "straight up racist," Public Enemy delivered a major blow to pop culture. The music video, which revolves around public protests, was so popular, some thought it could actually start a revolution, certainly earning this song a spot on the list of the best gangsta rap songs of the 90s.

The hit single off Biggie Smalls debut album Ready to Die, "Juicy" is THE rags to riches story. "It was all a dream," Biggie starts and from there he just takes you on his life story in perfect rhythm. The song's producer, Sean Combs, added the sample from Mtume's "Juicy Fruit," to let people know that Biggie wasn't just a gangsta rapper but Biggie still takes you on the story of his gangster lifestyle. From selling drugs, eating sardines for dinner, and smoking copious amounts of weed, he still made it to the top of the rap world with this one single. "I never thought hip-hop would it take this far," well B.I.G. it certainly took you to the highest of highs, and then, unfortunately, the lowest of lows.

One of the best gangsta rap song of the 90s put Snoop Dogg on the map, and established that Dr. Dre could have a solo career after NWA. "One, two, three, and to the four," and right from there Snoop Dogg became a household name for rap fans. Before "G" Thang," rap was pedal to the floor, high speed all the time, but Dre slowed it down on this track. As rapper/producer Chuck D put it: "Dre came with "G" Thang' and slowed the whole genre down. He took hip-hop from the crack era to the weed era." Any song that launches the career of one of the best rappers to ever speak into a mic, and propels the career of the greatest rap producer ever, certainly deserves the top spot on the list of best gangsta rap songs of the 90s.

90s music

About the Creator

Jacob Schneider

Sports fanatic, movie watcher, avid reader. I write about things I know which are sports, movies and books.

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