Oldest School Hip Hop Songs In The World

12 Beloved Old School Hip Hop Songs

Old school hip hop is responsible for some of the most beloved songs in pop culture. From the rapid growth of the genre in the 1970s to its golden age in 1990s, hip hop has provided smart rhymes, catchy hooks, and social commentary to fans for decades. Read the list below to rediscover some old songs and, possibly, find some new artists.

12. Work It

Artist: Missy Elliot
Year: 2002
Top Billboard Rating: 2/100
Sample Lyrics: “Is it worth it? Let me work it/I put my thing down, flip it and reverse it/Ti esrever dna ti pilf, nwod gniht ym tup”

photo source: Goldmind Inc., Elektra Records

Missy Elliot is one of (if not, the) most recognizable women in rap. Her hit song “Work It” encapsulates her fun spirit with its clever lyricism and backwards hook. For years, “Work It’s” hook has captivated listeners since it sounds like gibberish. In actuality, it’s the line: “Let me put my thing down, flip it and reverse it” reversed. While now iconic, Missy Elliot admitted that it was an engineering error she thought sounded good with the beat. Her number two Billboard spot proved her right.  Like many other female hip hop artists, Missy Elliot raps about her own desires in “Work It,” providing women with a stronger voice in a sexist industry.

11. Ex Factor

Artist: Lauryn Hill
Year: 1999
Top Billboard Rating: 1/100
Sample Lyrics: “No matter how I think we grow/You always seem to let me know/It ain’t workin’, It ain’t workin’ (No, it ain’t workin’)”

Ex Factorphoto source: Ruffhouse Records, Columbia Records

“Ex Factor” is the number one hit single from Lauryn Hill’s critically acclaimed album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” The 90s song discusses the frustrations of unrequited love and a struggling relationship, emotions that most people can relate to at one point in their lives. The universality of Hill’s song has lasted for decades. Just as she borrowed from Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple,” “Ex Factor” has been sampled by multiple artists, including Drake, Cardi B and Kehlani.

10. Gin and Juice

Artist: Snoop Dogg
Year: 1994
Top Billboard Rating: 5/100
Sample Lyrics: “Rollin’ down the street, smokin’ indo/Sippin’ on gin and juice, laid back/With my mind on my money/And my money on my mind”

Gin and Juicephoto source: Death Row Interscope Atlantic

“Gin and Juice” is a fun party song with a slower beat that demonstrates Snoop Dogg’s laidback attitude. The song’s popularity is most likely due to its catchy hook that describes the joys of drinking gin and juice as well as the memorable phrase “With my mind on money/And my money on my mind.” The phrase comes from “Gotta Get Mine” by Tupac. “Gin and Juice” ranked in Billboard’s top 10 in 1994, solidifying itself as one of Snoop Dogg’s classic songs. Snoop Dogg also makes reference to fellow rap icon Dr.Dre in “Gin and Juice,” probably because he produced the song.

9. Whatta Man

Artist: Salt-N-Pepa with En Vogue
Year: 1994
Top Billboard Rating: 3/100
Sample Lyrics: “So here’s to the future ’cause we got through the past/I finally found someone that can make me laugh/You so crazy, I think I want to have your baby”

photo source: Next Plateau London

“Whatta Man” is one of Salt-N-Pepa’s most iconic songs, although its hook comes from a different artist named Linda Lyndell and her 1968 song “What a Man.” Salt N Pepa updated the song with rap lyrics and invited group En Vogue to perform the lines from Lyndell’s song. Their efforts to revamp the 1968 original were successful. “Whatta Man” peaked at number four on the Billboard charts and won multiple MTV Music Awards.

8. Ruffneck

Artist: MC Lyte
Year: 1993
Top Billboard Rating: 35/100
Sample Lyrics: “ I need a ruffneck/I need a dude with a attitude/Only needs his fingers with his food/Karl Kani saggin’ timbos draggin’”

photo source: East West Records

MC Lyte is one of the major influences for women in hip hop. Her hit “Ruffneck,” which was Grammy nominated, has a strong beat as well as her signature strong voice. She goes through the song describing her ideal partner, a ruffneck, a hypermasculine sort of man. “Ruffneck” is particularly important to hip hop history as it flips sexual objectivity from women to men, placing women’s sexual desires at the forefront.

7. No Scrubs

Artist: TLC
Year: 1992
Top Billboard Rating: 1/100
Sample Lyrics: “I don’t want no scrub/A scrub is a guy who can’t get no love from me/Hangin’ out the passenger side of his best friend’s ride/Tryna holler at me”

No Scrubsphoto source: LaFace, Arista

TLC’s “No Scrubs” is a classic for several reasons. Its catchy tune, futuristic music video, and shared sentiments about dating “scrubs” (lazy men) allowed it to withstand the test of time. Its subject matter was fairly revolutionary since many popular hip hop songs of the era had misogynistic lyrics or music videos. TLC reversed the standards placed on women to express their frustrations with men and, as the cherry on top, stayed number one on the Billboard charts for four weeks.

6. Protect Ya Neck

Artist: Wu-Tang Clan
Year: 1992
Top Billboard Rating: Unknown
Sample Lyrics: “I smoke on the mic like smokin’ Joe Frazier/The hell-raiser, raising hell with the flavor/Terrorize the jam like troops in Pakistan/Swinging through your town like your neighborhood Spiderman”

Protect Ya Neckphoto source: Loud Records

It’s hard to imagine hip hop without the Wu-Tang Clan. “Protect Ya Neck” introduced the iconic rap group to the world, featuring all eight of their members (the ninth one had yet to join the band). The band boasts of their musical prowess through clever rhymes and references to pop cultural, biblical stories, and other songs. The Wu-Tang Clan’s pride was well founded as they became one of the most recognizable names in rap.

5. Bring the Noise

Artist: Public Enemy and Anthrax
Year: 1991
Top Billboard Rating: 56/100
Sample Lyrics: “Once again, back is the incredible/The rhyme animal/The uncannable D, Public Enemy Number One/Five-O said, “Freeze!” and I got numb”

photo source: Island Records, Ltd.

Public Enemy originally recorded “Bring the Noise” in 1988, but the version that’s most remembered is an unlikely collaboration between Public Enemy and the heavy metal band Anthrax. Anthrax approached Public Enemy about the collaboration in 1991 and, although they were met with some skepticism, Public Enemy said yes. The new version of the song went on both bands’ albums, hit the the UK hot 100 charts and became a classic at live performances.

4. Slow Down

Artist: Brand Nubian
Year: 1990
Top Billboard Rating: Unknown
Sample Lyrics: “She loves men that trick like Halloween and treat/You ain’t paid, then your grade is incomplete/You’ve got to flash dollars to prove her”

photo source: Elektra Records

“Slow Down” is an original single from the group “Brand Nubian,” but it borrows from various artists through samples and riffs. In particular, Edie Brickell’s “What I am” features heavily and also forms part of the song’s chorus. The song details different personalities who the rappers make fun of with their lyrics.

3. Roxanne, Roxanne

Artist: UTFO
Year: 1983
Top Billboard Rating: Unknown
Sample Lyrics: “I said “I’d like to speak with you, if I can/And if I’m correct, (I) hear your name is Roxanne.”/She said “How’d you know my name?” I said “It’s getting around/Right now, baby, you’re the talk of the town”

Roxanne, Roxannephoto source: Select Records

While “Roxanne, Roxanne” is a hit on its own, it’s remembered for beginning the “Roxanne Wars.” These wars involved multiple artists responding to UTFO’s original track about a girl named Roxanne who does not return their affections. This resulted in the most answer tracks in history and featured songs like “Roxanne (is my Girl)” and “The Saga of Roxanne.” Some artists chose to diss Roxanne back, others acted as if she preferred them to UTFO, and others took on Roxanne’s perspective— generating a Roxanne musical universe of sorts.

2. The Message

Artist: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
Year: 1982
Top Billboard Rating: 62/100
Sample Lyrics: “Don’t push me, ’cause I’m close to the edge/ I’m trying not to lose my head/It’s like a jungle sometimes/It makes me wonder how I keep from going under”

The Messagephoto source: Sugarhill Records, Ltd.

“The Message” showed that hip hop and rap was not just party music, but could maintain a flow while discussing pertinent social issues. In particular, “The Message” deals with the difficulties of living in the inner city. “The Message” also has a slower paced sound compared to other hip hop songs at the time. Originally, the band scoffed at the song, thinking no one would like it due to its depressing subject matter, but they were incorrect. The song has lived on since the 1980s, still appearing in media to this day.

1. Rapper’s Delighte

Artist: The Sugarhill Gang
Year: 1979
Top Billboard Rating: 4/100
Sample Lyrics: “I said-a hip, hop, the hippie, the hippie/To the hip hip hop-a you don’t stop the rock”

Rapper’s Delightephoto source: Sugarhill Records, Ltd.

The 1970s was the decade that welcomed rap into the pop cultural mainstream and the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” was the song that solidified rap’s popularity. It was the first rap song to enter the Billboard 100 charts, due to its upbeat tempo and fun lyrics. They were also one of the first groups to sample a song (although their sample would have copyright claims now), which began a sampling trend in rap and hip hop from then on.



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