DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince
Back when Will Smith was still the Fresh Prince, he and Jazzy Jeff scored the ultimate summer hip-hop jam with 'Summertime,' a song about the sunny days they spent hanging out at the park and riding around the streets of Philly. In 1991, the track became the duo's biggest hit and their only No. 1 on the R&B and rap charts.
'It Was a Good Day '
In the aftermath of the 1992 L.A. riots, Ice Cube wanted to write a positive song about life in the 'hood. "Nobody I know got killed in South Central LA," he rapped. "Today was a good day." His laid-back song about playing basketball, watching MTV and hooking up with a girl he had liked since high school topped the charts.
'I'll Be There for You/You're All I Need to Get By' (Puff Daddy Mix)
Wu-Tang Clan member Method Man won a Grammy and reached No. 1 on the rap chart with this love song from his 1994 album 'Tical.' Mary J. Blige sang the chorus, which was lifted from the 1968 Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell duet 'You're All I Need to Get By,' while Puff Daddy produced the track and incorporated a notable Notorious B.I.G. sample..
LL Cool J
"Conventional methods of making love kinda bore me," LL Cool J announced at the start of 'Doin' It,' setting the stage for sultry duet with singer LeShaun in which the performers traded lines about how they plan to "make it hot" in the bedroom. The gold single was the second of three Top 10 hits from LL's 1995 album 'Mr. Smith.'
'Gin and Juice'
With meandering keyboard loops from producer Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's laid-back drawl, 'Gin and Juice' became a '90s hip-hop classic. Taken from his 1993 debut 'Doggystyle,' the song described Snoop and his homeboys indulging in alcohol and drugs and creating mayhem with no end in sight, as Snoop rapped, "Two in the morning and the party's still jumpin' cause my mama ain't home."
'Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang'
Dr. Dre's 1992 landmark debut 'The Chronic' changed the course of hip-hop with its use of slower beats and live instrumentation to go with carefully-chosen samples. On 'Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang,' Dre introduced Snoop Dogg to the world. The pair rapped over an active bassline and created a masterpiece that routinely appears on lists of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time.
A Tribe Called Quest
New York City group A Tribe Called Quest were a force on the rap charts, earning a dozen Top 20 hits and becoming one of the most innovative hip-hop acts of the early '90s. Their 1993 hit 'Electric Relaxation,' which boasted a jazzy groove with bass, piano and drums, proved that the group could make even songs with explicit sexual lyrics sound classy.
The Puff Daddy-produced 'Big Poppa' was a rhyme about the Notorious B.I.G.'s love of females, as the East Coast rapper asserted, "I see some ladies tonight that should be havin' my baby." An inspired Isley Brothers sample and the memorable hook "I love it when you call me Big Poppa" made the song one of the biggest hip-hop hits of 1995.
The hip-hop collective Wu-Tang Clan emerged in 1993 with the celebrated debut 'Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).' The album's second single, 'C.R.E.A.M.,' short for "cash rules everything around me," used a somber piano line to help tell a story about hardship, poverty and drug use. The song continues to influence modern hip-hop. Wyclef Jean borrowed some of the lyrics for his 2008 hit 'Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill).''
2Pac's 1995 hit 'Dear Mama' was a heartfelt tribute to his mother Afeni, whom the public would get to know after she made public appearances following her son's death. "A poor single mother on welfare / Tell me how you did it / There's no way I can pay you back," he rapped. 'Dear Mama' revealed 2Pac's softer side and heads our list of the Top 10 '90s Hip-Hop Songs.