Picking out the five best songs from a particular artist is very difficult. Attempting to pick out just five tracks as the best of an entire decade’s worth of music is almost impossible. However, today, we’ve given ourselves the task as we pick out the top 5 best songs from the 1990s.
While hip-hop first infiltrated the mainstream in the ’80s, it wasn’t until the following decade that it began to dictate culture, and the golden era truly came alive. The recent Super Bowl half-time show, which featured stars such as Snoop Dogg, and Dr Dre, proves a huge public appetite to revisit those glory days of yesteryear. Everything was fresh and exciting, and most importantly, each rapper had their own unique character and flow.
Artists were breaking ground at breakneck speed, and things were constantly evolving. If you blinked for a second, a new rapper was on the scene who was ready to take your place. There was no time for complacency, and everyone had to be on their toes.
Discussing the difference between the ’90s and now, Interscope Records co-founder Jimmy Iovine said: “I’m always looking for the lyricist and to see where the anarchy is coming from – words about social injustice, you know. I don’t see anything like that right now. I’m sure there is, but no one’s brought it to my attention, except for Kendrick Lamar.”
Below, we’ve got a classic lineup of the five best songs from the 1990s.
The five best songs of the 1990s:
‘Juicy’ – Biggie Smalls
‘Juicy’ is Biggie Smalls‘ most honest song and his best. It’s his life story and a mini-memoir that tells his rags to riches tale from the hood to one of the biggest stars on the planet as he sticks two fingers defiantly up to those who dared to doubt Biggie’s greatness. There are no real other choices for number one. This song isn’t just Biggie’s finest moment but arguably the most pivotal moment in hip-hop history.
In the first verse, Biggie leaves his eulogy as he calmly raps: “Yeah, this album is dedicated, To all the teachers that told me I’d never amount to nothin’, To all the people that lived above the buildings that I was hustlin’ in front of, Called the police on me when I was just tryin’ to make some money to feed my daughter (it’s all good).”
‘Who Am I (What’s My Name)?’ – Snoop Dogg
A defining moment in any rapper’s career, the ‘name song’ is a guaranteed Kickstarter if it goes well — ask Eminem. Still, there’s something extra special about Snoop Dogg’s declaration on the airwaves. Taken from his debut album Doggystyle, the Doggfather didn’t disappoint and confirmed his name would be on everybody’s lips for some time.
Using a sample from George Clinton’s ‘Atomic Dog’, a fitting choice if ever we heard one, Snoop reigned supreme with this track. Buoyed by the dynamic production of Dre, Snoop would cement his career in this one song.
‘Trapped’ – Tupac Shakur
Trap music is the genre du jour. It has been so widely accepted as a part of our culture that it is sometimes easy to forget from where it derives and that, in fact, the trap is no place to be. Here, Pac makes a play on the word and shows how operating as a drug dealer is, in itself, a trap.
Pac accurately captures the excitement and enthusiasm one may have for working in the trap and the series of snares ready to gobble you up should you make a wrong move. He makes it very clear that the trap is only good for keeping people caged.
‘Nuthin’ But A G Thang’ – Dr. Dre, featuring Snoop Dogg
“One, two, three and to the fo’/Snoop Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre is at the do’…” is an intro that will ring around the hip hop amphitheatre for decades to come. One of the most well-recognised intros in history; the song only gets better with every passing listen. A cornucopia of 1990s themes, the g-rap style and Dre’s effortlessly hazy production make this a seminal song, not only for Snoop but the popular culture at large.
Using Leon Haywood’s ‘I Want’a Do Something Freaky To You’, the song became Snoop’s first entry into the upper echelons of the Billboard 100. A track rightly seen as a defining moment in musical history is also the very spark that would light the Snoop Dogg firework and send him spiralling into the stratosphere.
‘C.R.E.A.M.’ – Wu-Tang Clan
In the ’90s, there wasn’t a more important collective in hip-hop than Wu-Tang Clan, who remain the rap equivalent of The Avengers. Everyone had their own role and brought a different sprinkling of spice to the equation, which plays out heroically on ‘C.R.E.A.M.’
While the track didn’t become a major success in the charts, it’s widely recognised as not just one of the definitive hip-hop songs from the era but of all time. It was their third single and offered an enticing introduction to everything Wu-Tang stood for, which people still can’t get enough of.