Kanye West
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back


Rap's germination is sometimes attributed to the righteous street poetry of the Last Poets and the Watts Prophets, but it didn't begin to take full shape -- and earn its tag -- until after the Sugarhill Gang released "Rapper's Delight" in 1979. Since then, rap spread from its New York epicenter throughout the remainder of the U.S. (with each region taking on its own specific flavor) and then to countless countries. Rap's core components are beats and rhymes, but that simplicity belies the wide range of sounds that have sprung from them. Instrumentalists, a sampled breakbeat, or a drum machine can form the backbone of a track, while an arrangement can be spaciously spare or chaotically dense, and a chorus can range from atonal shouting to a sweet melody. Detractors were still calling rap a fad in 1985, when LL Cool J released his first single. They were doing the same thing when, roughly 20 years later, the same MC released his tenth album, and they'll probably continue to do so as long as the genre exists. Should rap ever die, which isn't likely, it would be far too late to prevent its effect on most other music forms, from R&B to rock to jazz.

Rap Song Highlights

Title/Composer Performer Stream
Fight the Power Public Enemy
It Was a Good Day Ice Cube
Nuthin' But a "G" Thang Dr. Dre / Snoop Dogg
Big Poppa The Notorious B.I.G.
California Love 2Pac
The Message Duke Bootee / Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five / Grandmaster Melle Mel / Melle Mel
The Breaks Kurtis Blow
Straight Outta Compton N.W.A
Ms. Jackson OutKast
Planet Rock Afrika Bambaataa
C.R.E.A.M. Wu-Tang Clan
Monster Kanye West
The Humpty Dance Digital Underground
Me, Myself and I De La Soul
Push It Salt-N-Pepa
Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg TLC
Gimme the Loot The Notorious B.I.G.
Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe Kendrick Lamar
Rapper's Delight The Sugarhill Gang
Peter Piper Run-D.M.C.
Liquid Swords The Genius / GZA
Shimmy Shimmy Ya Ol' Dirty Bastard
Bust a Move Young MC
It Takes Two Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock
Rump Shaker Wreckx-N-Effect
Jump Around House of Pain
Jump Kris Kross
Forgot About Dre Dr. Dre / Eminem
Just a Friend Biz Markie
I Know You Got Soul Eric B. & Rakim
Insane in the Brain Cypress Hill
How Ya Like Me Now Kool Moe Dee
Don't Believe the Hype Public Enemy
Going Back to Cali LL Cool J
How I Could Just Kill a Man Cypress Hill
911 Is a Joke Public Enemy
B.O.B. OutKast
Big Pimpin' Jay-Z
O.G. Original Gangster Ice-T
Ladies First Queen Latifah
(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party) Beastie Boys
You Must Learn Boogie Down Productions
It's Tricky Run-D.M.C.
Gold Digger Jamie Foxx / Kanye West
Got Your Money Kelis / Ol' Dirty Bastard
Jesus Walks Kanye West
Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos Public Enemy
Day N Nite (Nightmare) Kid Cudi
Gangsta Gangsta N.W.A
Lyrics of Fury Eric B. & Rakim

Rap subgenres and styles [+]