I’m not sure I really know what a secret pleasure of hip hop is. In a pop world of careerists, copouts and mealy mouthed stooges, none of the songs here are any more blood curdling or any less seductive than a whole heap of chart stuff across the late 80’s and 90’s. All were commercial shots at instant popularity and all were big time successes, even if it was off the back of irresistible riffs and hooks shamelessly lifted from the original records. Unquestionably they all struggled with the fine distinction between crossing over and selling out but the likes of De La Soul and Naughty By Nature proved that pop rap (because that’s what all these are) didn’t have to be as cartoonish as MC Hammer or as mindless as Snoop Dogg. And yet even their records were as catchy as hell.

   Naturally my jury’s still out on some of them. Will Smith may be an all round nice bloke but as a rapper he’s well dodgy and Puffy’s not much better. And while I may well singalong to the damn thing, I still can’t decide whether Jay Z’s mix of Annie’s schmaltzy, sentimentalisation of poverty with his own hip hop reality tale is the crassest, most commercial gesture ever or a stroke of genius. But then, it doesn’t really matter what I think. As if you didn’t already know it, these tunes weren’t built for thinking.


1. Run DMC / It’s Tricky / February 1987

2. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince / Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble / October 1988

3. De La Soul / The Magic Number / December 1989

4. Tone-Loc / Funky Cold Medina / May 1989

5. MC Hammer / Have You Seen Her / October 1990

6. Naughty By Nature / O.P.P. / August 1991

7. Wreckx-N-Effect / Rump Shaker / August 1992

8. PM Dawn / Looking Through Patient Eyes / March 1993

9. Salt-N-Pepa / Whatta Man / March 1994

10. 2Pac / Mama / February 1995

11. MC Lyte / Cold Rock A Party / July 1996

12. Snoop Dogg / Snoop’s Upside Ya Head / December 1996

13. LL Cool J / Ain’t Nobody / February 1997

14. Coolio / C U When U Get There / July 1997

15. Puff Daddy / Been Around The World / November 1997

16. Mase / Feel So Good / December 1997

17. Will Smith / Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It / February 1998

18. Jay-Z / Hard Knock Life / October 1998

19. Ol’ Dirty Bastard & Kelis / Got Your Money / November 1999

20. Sisqo / Thong Song / April 2000