I swear to Christ, lists like this exist entirely to drive me nuts. Rolling Stone, apparently not done with list season even after unveiling their mesozoic best-albums list, has now dedicated an entire issue to its list of the 50 best hip-hop songs ever. (Not “rap,” because it’s Rolling Stone, durr.) And I know that RS hasn’t exactly always been hospitable to rap, so this is a nice gesture in a lot of ways, and almost every song on the list is great. But it also does very Rolling Stone things like praising old and obvious songs and, by its very nature, losing out on a lot of the things rap does well, like immediacy and visceral impact and blast-of-the-new what-the-fuckness. When we get into arguments about subjectivity, we call into question the very existence of best-of-lists, and that’s a bigger problem. But a song like Noreaga’s “Supethug,” for instance — absolutely one of the best rap songs ever — is never going to show up on a list like this, because there are way too many quote-unquote important artists who need to be recognized. Almost all the songs here could’ve ended up on the syllabus of a rap-history class I took in college, and I graduated college more than a decade ago. It’s annoying. I’m annoyed. At least they managed not to give the Beastie Boys the #1 spot. Check below for the top 10.
10 Eric B. & Rakim – “Paid In Full”
09 N.W.A – “Straight Outta Compton”
08 Notorious B.I.G. – “Juicy”
07 Public Enemy – “Fight The Power”
06 Dr. Dre – “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” (Feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg)
05 Geto Boys – “Mind Playing Tricks On Me”
04 Run-DMC – “Sucker M.C.’s”
03 Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force – “Planet Rock”
02 Sugar Hill Gang – “Rapper’s Delight”
01 Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five – “The Message”
Check the complete list, with blurbs and audio and a ?uestlove intro, here.