1. Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang
The Hip-Hop genre before “Rapper’s Delight” was a small and unknown movement in the Bronx; however, The Sugarhill Gang completely changed that. With “Rapper’s Delight” The Sugarhill Gang were able to massively grow the genre and introduce Hip-Hop to a widespread audience. Not only was the song important for the growth of Hip-Hop, but it was also a testing ground for many new themes and styles that would later go on to influence some of the greatest artists of this generation.
2. Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A
“Straight Outta Compton” was released on July 10th 1988 by N.W.A from their debut album of the same name. The song started a conversation about the Hip-Hop genre as a whole after being banned by many radio stations in 1980s. Even with the lack of airplay, the song was able to debut at 38 on Billboard’s Hot 100 showing that Hip-Hop and N.W.A in particular were able to be influential even if the powers at be didn’t want them to.
3. The Message by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five
“The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five was the first socially conscience song from the Hip-Hop genre. In its earliest infancy, the most prominent venues for Hip-Hop groups were Bronx parties and because of this many of the early songs were party chants or based on self-centered boasts. “The Message” changed Hip-Hop forever by taking the genre from the house parties to social platforms that later developed into groups like Public Enemy and N.W.A.
4. Walk This Way by RUN DMC feat. Aerosmith
Originally a song by iconic rock band Aerosmith, “Walk This Way” was later covered by RUN DMC and received widespread commercial success. A truly revolutionary song RUN DMC’s cover brought both genres, Rock and Hip-Hop, together and helped propel Hip-Hop further into the mainstream due to the cover’s playtime on rock stations.
5. Runaway by Kayne West
Released as the second single from Kayne’s fifth studio album Dark Twisted Fantasy, “Runaway” was praised by critics for its sincere subject matter, openness and the soulful, clean production. Upon its release Runaway became one of the best reviewed singles from Kayne; which helped solidify his return to the top of Hip-Hop. This single also helped to foster more open artists and its influence can be seen in modern day artists like Juice WRLD and XXXtentacion.
Honorable mentions: Fight The Power, Power, F*** The Police, Planet Rock, and many more