In our LOUD but also humble opinion ...
The 1980s is when hip hop was at its golden age. This was the time it started to blow up. From the streets of Harlem, New York to Compton California, hip hop quickly started spreading throughout the world. Early on, it was all about parties and jam sessions propelled by bootleg cassettes. Soon after it was about stars and singles, disco loops and breakbeats, drum machines, and ultimately, albums. Below we’ve mentioned some of the top hip hop songs to come out in the 80s, which will help you embrace a trip down memory lane during the golden age of hip hop.
1. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – Parents Just Don’t Understand
is the second single from DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s second studio album, He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper. The song won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance at the 1989 Grammy Awards. According to DJ Jazzy Jeff “…once he [Will] had a concept, he could come up with lyrics in 15 minutes. And that’s literally how long it took him to come up with those. A lot of those stories were from Will’s real experiences.”
2. NEWCLEUS – JAM ON IT
Newcleus was an American electro and old school hip hop group that gained popularity in the early 1980s. The group is primarily known for its 12-inch single “Jam-On’s Revenge” (re-released as “Jam on Revenge (The Wikki-Wikki Song)” (1983)) and “Jam on It” (1984). “Jam on It,” did well on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching #56. The 12″ single version of “Jam On It” by Newcleus clocks in at around 8 minutes.
3. RUN DMC – Run’s House (Official Video) (1988)
“Run’s House” was a single released by Run–D.M.C. from their fourth studio album Tougher Than Leather. It was released in 1988 through Profile Records. Contrary to what most hip-hop heads and the group themselves will tell you, this album wasn’t just about making something new for the listeners. It was about destroying the competition and making a statement: “We’re the kings so you better understand that.”
4. The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper’s Delight (Krush Groove 1) (1980)
Although “Rapper’s Delight” was a track created in 1979 it’s well credited for introducing hip hop music to a wide audience in the 80s. The Sugarhill gang turned the high-quality production of the disco show into rap’s first music video. As Wonder Mike explained to HipHopDX. “A good record is a good record, but when it simultaneously ushers in a new genre of music, history was bound to be made.
5. LL Cool J – I Need Love (1987)
“I Need Love” is the second single from LL Cool J’s second album, Bigger and Deffer. After taking hip-hop by storm in 1985 as a 17-year-old with his precociously hard-toned debut album, Radio, LL Cool J returned with a softer style which gave birth to an improbable new form, the rap ballad. While LL Cool J had already established a loyal b-boy following enamored with his hard-edged delivery, this softer performance struck a nerve with female audiences.
6. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble
“Girls Ain’t Nothing but Trouble” is the debut single by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, from their 1987 debut album Rock the House.The Prince, a.k.a. Will Smith, tells a couple stories, ironically and with his particular humor, that prove how much troubles a girl can cause.
7. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – The Message (1982)
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five‘s “The Message” was the first prominent Hip Hop song to provide a lyrical social commentary. It took rap music from the house parties to the social platforms later developed by groups like Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, N.W.A, and many more.
8. Kurtis Blow – Basketball (1984)
Without Kurtis Blow, it’s safe to say not only that hip-hop as we know it wouldn’t exist, but perhaps the NBA league we know wouldn’t exist, either. “Basketball” is a song that was recorded by Kurtis Blow released in 1984 from his album Ego Trip. It’s a celebration of the game’s past and present, referencing everyone from Magic and Bird to Willis Reed.
9. RUN DMC – Walk This Way (1986)
“Walk This Way” felt like the best chance Run-D.M.C. had to take a leap, to become rap’s first superstars. Run-D.M.C. fused rock and rap with the cover of the Aerosmith song, recording it with the actual band instead of simply sampling the original. This song proved to be a smash hit, causing Run-D.M.C. to be the first hip-hop group to make the Billboard top 5, as well as relaunching Aerosmith’s career.
10. Public Enemy – Rebel Without a Pause (1988)
Public Enemy’s “Rebel Without a Pause” was released as a single for It Takes a Nation and has become one of the group’s signature songs. The title is a play on the name of the 1955 James Dean film Rebel Without a Cause.
11. Slick Rick – Hey Young World (1988)
“Hey Young World” was the third single released from Slick Rick‘s debut album, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. It was the follow-up single to Slick Rick’s popular “Children’s Story” and was both written and produced by Slick Rick himself. On this song, he’s telling the youth to show respect for themselves by also respecting their parents and education while staying on a straight and narrow path away from wrongdoers.
12. Kurtis Blow – The Breaks (1980)
Kurtis Blow was one of the first rap superstars when he was the first of the genre to record for a major label (Mercury) and the 12. His song was a major hit for its breakbeat style, which still sounds terrific. And it’s all original, which meant Kurtis Blow wasn’t just sampling but inventing.
13. Salt-N-Pepa – Push It (1986)
“Push It” is Salt-N-Pepa’s first hit song and one of their most famous. “Push It” was nominated for a Grammy Award, and as far as the story goes Pepa said in an interview, “For 30 years, we have been telling people that Push It isn’t about sex, but no one ever believes us. Honestly, for us, as young girls, it was about dancing.”
14. Biz Markie – Just A Friend (1989)
“Just a Friend” might just be one of hip-hop’s most beloved songs and certainly one of the genre’s most famous singles. Written, produced and performed by American hip hop artist Biz Markie, it was released in September 1989 as the lead single from his album, The Biz Never Sleeps. Biz Markie created an endearing song about unrequited love that resonated with listeners from all over the world.
15. Slick Rick – Children’s Story (1988)
British-American hip hop artist created a classic cautionary tale for children with his second single “Children’s Story” from his album The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, . He tells the story of two kids who decide to start robbing people. One of the kids becomes addicted and can’t stop. One day he robs an undercover detective. After a long chase with the cops, he is shot dead.
16. Eazy E – Boyz-n-the-Hood (1988)
Boyz-n-the-Hood is the solo debut by rapper Eazy-E as a part of N.W.A. Ice Cube wrote the song, and originally intended it to be for H.B.O., another group signed by Ruthless, but after they rejected it Eazy was convinced to rap it. Like the LP, Straight Outta Compton, the song never charted in the 1980s, largely due to Billboard charting regulations and lack of airplay, as N.W.A was banned from many radio stations.
17. Big Daddy Kane – Aint No Half Steppin (1988)
The prestigious Rolling Stone Magazine voted this as the 25th best hip hop song of all time. Released as a single from Big Daddy Kane’s debut album Long Live the Kane, it peaked at No. 53 on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart. Big Daddy Kane’s rapidfire wordplay influenced a whole generation of MCs, including the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Nas, and Raekwon.
18. De La Soul – Me Myself And I
It was the group’s only number one on the U.S. R&B chart and only top 40 on the Hot 100. It also reached the top 30 in the UK and was later ranked #46 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop. The track is a self-love anthem, celebrating individuality and being proud to be yourself. The song also acts as a commentary mixing with dry humor, which became the De La Soul’s signature sound.
19. Beastie Boys – (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) (1986)
“(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)” is a song by American group the Beastie Boys, released as the fourth single released from their debut album Licensed to Ill (1986). The song was co-written by Beastie Boys, Rick Rubin, and Tom Cushman.
20. RUN-DMC – Sucker M.C.’s (1984)
“Sucker M.C.’s” is a song by American hip hop group Run–D.M.C. It was first released in 1983 on a cassette as B-side to “It’s Like That”. The two-sided release marked the start of Run-D.M.C.’s career as their first single, and it is widely regarded as ushering in a new school of hip hop artists with a street image and an abrasive, minimalist sound that marked them out from their predecessors.
21. N.W.A. – Express Yourself (1988)
“Express Yourself” is a song recorded by American hip hop group N.W.A, a Dr. Dre solo number that samples and updates Charles Wright’s 1970s song of the same name. Notable for being one of the controversial group’s “clean” songs, and for Dre’s lyrical disavowal of weed, only a few years before his album-long celebration of the drug.
22. N.W.A – Fuck Tha Police (1988)
“Fuck Tha Police” was one of the most controversial songs in music history. In 1988, N.W.A. was in the midst of their hostile takeover of the rap world off the strength of their debut album, Straight Outta Compton, which helped establish Los Angeles as the next epicenter for rap, pioneering gangsta rap as we now know it.
23. Audio Two – Top Billin’ (1988)
“Top Billin’” is a single by American hip-hop duo Audio Two, released as the B-side of the single “Make It Funky” from the album What More Can I Say? In 2012, the song was ranked 43rd as Rolling Stone’s 50 Greatest Hip Hop Songs of All-Time. The beat samples the drumbreak from The Honey Drippers’ “Impeach the President”, but rearranged in a very unexpected fashion.
24. RUN DMC, Jason Nevins – It’s Like That (1984)
“It’s Like That” is the 1984 debut single by American hip hop group Run-DMC. It had a new version by American producer Jason Nevins which was released in 1997 and topped the pop charts in many countries, including the United Kingdom. The remix gained notoriety for breaking the Spice Girls’ run of consecutive number-one hits on the UK Singles Chart, keeping their song “Stop” from claiming the top spot. The music video for the remix featured male vs. female breakdance crews battling each other. The video was shot in downtown LA in 1998 after the song became a hit in Europe. Jason is in the beginning of the video wearing his ‘well known yellow tinted glasses’ and holding a boom box.
25. Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh – La Di Da Di (1985)
“La Di Da Di” was a song performed by Doug E. Fresh, who provides the beatboxed instrumental, and Slick Rick, who performed the vocals. It’s a classic storytelling track, and one of the most influential rap songs of all time. It was originally released in 1985 as the B-side to “The Show.” The song has since gained a reputation as an early hip hop classic, and has been sampled or referenced in numerous other hip hop songs since its release, figures suggesting over 500 times!