Best Rap Songs of the 80s

Best Rap Songs of the 80s. A decade of big hair, neon colors, and iconic music. And when it comes to rap music, the 80s were a golden era. It was a time when rap started to gain mainstream attention and established itself as an art form that spoke to people across the world. In this blog post, we will take a deep dive into the best 80s hip hop songs and explore how they shaped modern hip-hop.

From iconic rap albums like Run DMC’s ‘Raising Hell’ and N.W.A’s ‘Straight Outta Compton’ to standout solo artists like LL Cool J and Big Daddy Kane, we’ll cover it all. We’ll also look at the impact of female rappers like MC Lyte and Salt-N-Pepa on 80s rap music. But it’s not just about the music; we’ll also examine how 80s rap music influenced modern hip-hop by looking at the development of East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry and conscious political rap. So let’s get ready to travel back in time to relive some of the greatest moments in hip-hop history!

Best Rap Songs of the 80s

The Golden Era of Rap

The 80s birthed hip hop, defining music history and laying the global foundation for hip hop artists. Often referred to as the “Golden Age” of rap music, its enduring impact resonates with listeners today. The emergence of rap music influenced fashion, art, and language, solidifying its cultural force.

Setting the Stage for Hip-Hop: The Early 80s

The early 80s marked a significant evolution for hip hop, transitioning from Bronx block parties to mainstream recognition. This era was characterized by innovative artists and grassroots movements, with pioneers like Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow, and LL Cool J shaping hip hop music. Notably, hip hop’s influence spread nationwide beyond New York City, heralding the genre’s golden age that would continue to shape the music industry for years to come.

The Mid-80s: Rise of New Artists and Styles

The mid-80s saw hip hop artists pushing boundaries, bringing in fresh styles and sounds. It was a period of experimentation, leading to the diversification of rap music. This era also marked the advent of rap groups and solo acts, along with innovations in music production and sampling techniques, which defined hip hop. Notably, influential rap groups like De La Soul and Beastie Boys emerged during this period, shaping the landscape of rap music.

Best Rap Songs of the 80s

Late 80s: Rap Goes Mainstream

The late 80s marked rap music’s breakthrough into the mainstream, captivating a broader audience. Achieving commercial success, rap songs entered the Billboard Hot 100, propelling artists like LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and Run DMC to widespread popularity. Reflecting societal issues, late 80s hip hop sparked cultural conversations and became a global phenomenon, transcending cultural barriers. The era witnessed a fusion of societal commentary and rhythmic storytelling, solidifying the genre’s position in popular culture.

Iconic Rap Albums of the 80s

The 80s birthed timeless rap albums with a lasting impact on today’s music scene. These albums, a reflection of societal and personal experiences, continue to inspire contemporary artists. The era witnessed an outpouring of innovative musical narratives, paving the way for today’s rap landscape. Artists like Biz Markie, Slick Rick, and others set the stage for rap’s evolution with their iconic album, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, leaving an indelible mark on the industry. Their albums embody the essence of the 80s, shaping the trajectory of rap music and leaving a legacy that continues to influence modern hip-hop.

Run DMC – ‘Raising Hell’ (1986)

In ’86, Run DMC’s “Raising Hell” revolutionized rap, blending rock and hip hop. The album redefined the genre’s sound and solidified their pioneer status, inspiring future artists. The title track propelled them to global fame, embodying the 80s rap spirit.

N.W.A – ‘Straight Outta Compton’ (1988)

N.W.A’s ‘Straight Outta Compton’ (1988) marked the rise of gangster rap, including the legendary track ‘Boyz-n-The-Hood’ by Eazy E, stirring both controversy and acclaim. The album fearlessly portrayed urban life in the south bronx, challenging societal norms and sparking public discussions. It remains a cultural touchstone, addressing systemic issues and cultural experiences with unapologetic honesty. The impact of ‘Straight Outta Compton’ propelled N.W.A to the forefront of rap music, with emcee Milk Dee dropping a b-boy freestyle over a hard breakbeat produced by Stetsasonic’s Daddy-O, leaving an indelible mark on the genre that reverberates through the decades, firmly cementing its place in rap music history.

Public Enemy – ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back’ (1988)

Public Enemy’s “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” reshaped rap, intertwining activism with creativity. The album’s bold lyrics and sonic exploration pushed boundaries, prompting societal change. Serving as a megaphone for marginalized voices, it inspired a movement. Public Enemy’s innovative fusion of music and messaging, including their first single “Rebel Without a Pause,” from their second album “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back,” secured their place in hip hop history, blazing a trail for future artists.

Females in 80s Rap

The 80s saw a rise of pioneering female hip hop artists, reshaping the rap landscape. MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, and Roxanne Shante with her iconic track “Roxanne’s Revenge” shattered stereotypes in 80s rap. Women in rap music asserted their presence, addressing gender inequality and showcasing their talent through tracks like “Roxanne’s Revenge,” also known as the groundbreaking track “Roxanne’s Revenge.” It marked a turning point for female rappers in a male-dominated industry, paving the way for future generations. These female hip hop artists left an indelible mark on rap music, carving out their own space and asserting their influence.

Best Rap Songs of the 80s

MC Lyte – ‘Lyte as a Rock’ (1988)

MC Lyte’s ‘Lyte as a Rock’ album in 1988 truly showcased her exceptional lyrical skills, solidifying her as a rap icon. The themes of empowerment and self-expression resonated powerfully with audiences, further elevating MC Lyte’s influence in the hip hop community. This debut album broke new ground by challenging gender norms and celebrating authenticity, leaving a lasting impact on the genre. ‘Lyte as a Rock’ remains a timeless testament to MC Lyte’s profound influence on rap music, inspiring and influencing subsequent generations of artists. The album’s enduring legacy underscores MC Lyte’s significance in the history of hip hop.

Salt-N-Pepa – ‘Hot, Cool & Vicious’ (1986)

Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Hot, Cool & Vicious’ album from 1986 was a game-changer as it brought female rap groups to the forefront. Their unique style and lyrical prowess opened doors for future female rap artists. The album featured hits that broke new ground in rap music, setting the stage for Salt-N-Pepa’s trailblazing career in hip hop. This debut album played a pivotal role in showcasing the influence and talent of female rap groups, leaving an indelible mark on the rap landscape.

Pioneering Rap Groups of the 80s

The 80s birthed rap groups that laid the groundwork for today’s hip hop collectives, reshaping the genre’s cultural impact with new beats and storytelling. These trailblazers diversified rap’s sound and message, influencing the next generation of hip hop artists. From Beastie Boys to N.W.A, these groups like Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions revolutionized the rap scene, setting the stage for modern-day rap. Their influence on the genre is undeniable, making them pioneers in their own right, shaping the future of hip hop.

Beastie Boys: Breaking Stereotypes

The Beastie Boys defied stereotypes in the hip hop world, breaking racial and musical boundaries. Their debut album, ‘Licensed to Ill,’ made history by topping the Billboard 200, setting a new standard for rap music. Blending rock and rap, they carved a unique identity in the hip hop landscape. The iconic “Fight for Your Right” music video became an anthem of rebellion, resonating with diverse audiences. The Beastie Boys’ eclectic style and bold attitude transcended traditional norms, leaving an indelible mark on the rap genre.

Public Enemy: Making a Statement

Public Enemy shook up the rap scene with politically charged lyrics, elevating social issues within the genre. Their album ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back’ is hailed as a classic, confronting racial injustice and systemic oppression head-on. The group’s bold protest songs sparked vital conversations about race and power, using their platform to amplify the voices of marginalized communities. Public Enemy’s impact was profound, making them a force in rap music and beyond.

Best Rap Songs of the 80s

N.W.A: Pioneers of Gangsta Rap

In the 80s, N.W.A’s debut album, ‘Straight Outta Compton,’ stirred controversy and gained critical acclaim for addressing police brutality, gang violence, and urban life in Los Angeles. Their unapologetic lyrics, including the iconic line “life ain’t nothing but bitches and money,” shed light on the realities of inner-city America, propelling gangsta rap into the mainstream and leaving a lasting legacy. N.W.A’s impact on rap music and culture cannot be overstated, as they paved the way for the genre’s evolution with hits like “Gangsta Gangsta” and “Ice Cube.”

Standout Solo Artists of the 80s

The 80s saw the emergence of solo artists who each brought a unique style and perspective to the rap genre. These trailblazers, including LL Cool J, Marley Marl, Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One of Boogie Down Productions, DJ Polo, and Kool G Rap, left an indelible mark on hip hop history. Their innovative approach, lyrical prowess, and musical evolution reshaped the trajectory of rap music, setting the stage for the solo rap legends of the decades to come. Each artist carved their own path, showcasing their distinct talent and contributing to the rich tapestry of 80s rap.

LL Cool J: From ‘I Need a Beat’ to ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’

LL Cool J burst onto the rap scene with his debut album, ‘Radio,’ featuring the production talents of DJ Jazzy Jeff and T La Rock. Instantly making waves, LL Cool J established himself as a prominent figure in rap music. His sophomore album, ‘Bigger and Deffer,’ further solidified his status as an iconic rapper. LL Cool J’s authenticity and charisma endeared him to fans across generations, making him a beloved figure in the industry. His track “Mama Said Knock You Out” became an anthem of resilience and determination, showcasing his enduring impact and longevity in the rap industry.

Big Daddy Kane: Smooth Operator of Rap

In his debut album, ‘Long Live the Kane,’ Big Daddy Kane displayed his exceptional lyrical skills, setting a new standard for rap. Renowned for his smooth delivery and charismatic persona, he redefined the aesthetic of the genre. Kane’s influence on storytelling and flow continues to resonate across hip hop, captivating audiences worldwide. His stage presence and charisma remain unparalleled, inspiring aspiring artists and fans alike.

Boogie Down Productions’ KRS-One: The ‘Teacha’ of Hip Hop

KRS-One’s debut album, ‘Criminal Minded,’ revolutionized storytelling in rap, while his socially conscious lyrics addressed pressing issues. As a pioneer of conscious rap, he emphasized knowledge and empowerment, shaping hip hop’s ethos. KRS-One’s impact as a rapper, activist, and educator inspired artists to use their platform for social change, cementing his status as the ‘Teacha’ of hip hop. His legacy continues to resonate, influencing generations of rappers and activists.

Rap Songs that Defined the 80s

The 80s witnessed the emergence of rap songs that became anthems of a transformative era in music, capturing the spirit of cultural and social shifts. These songs exemplified innovation, bold narratives, and sonic experimentation, transcending boundaries to resonate with diverse audiences globally. They left an indelible mark on hip hop history. Also shaping the evolution of rap music and influencing modern hip-hop in profound ways. From “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five to “Wild Thing” by Tone-Lōc, “Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A, and “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa, these songs continue to define and inspire the rap genre.

‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five

In the early 1980s, ‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five emerged as a trailblazing hip hop track that boldly delved into social and economic issues. And also featured powerful lyrics from Eric B such as “White lines, don’t do it.” This iconic song not only influenced future artists but also showcased the storytelling aspect of rap, defining the golden age of hip hop. Its success on the Billboard Hot 100 chart underscored rap music’s growing popularity and paved the way for socially conscious rap music. ‘The Message’ holds a significant place in the history of rap, setting a precedent for introspective and impactful lyrical content, just like DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s hit song “Parents Just Don’t Understand”.

‘Fight the Power’ by Public Enemy

Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’ became a rallying cry for a whole generation of hip hop enthusiasts. Resonating with its bold and unapologetic lyrics. The song not only made a significant impact on rap music. But also set a new standard in terms of production and lyrical content. Public Enemy fearlessly addressed political and social issues. Carving a unique space for themselves in the rap music landscape. With the song being specifically created for Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing. ‘Fight the Power’ by Public Enemy remains an enduring anthem of cultural resistance and activism. Standing the test of time as a powerful expression of empowerment.

‘Straight Outta Compton’ by N.W.A

N.W.A’s ‘Straight Outta Compton’ was a game-changer for gangster rap, captivating audiences with its unfiltered depiction of street life. The track’s bold storytelling revolutionized the genre, solidifying N.W.A’s influence and reshaping hip hop culture. With its raw and unapologetic approach, the song propelled gangster rap into the mainstream. Leaving an indelible mark on the music industry. ‘Straight Outta Compton’ not only showcased N.W.A’s prowess but also set the stage for a new era in rap music, making it a seminal work in the history of hip hop.

The Influence of 80s Rap on Modern Hip-Hop

The early pioneers of 80s rap, including iconic artists like Biz Markie, Slick Rick, and Kool Moe Dee. Also had a profound impact on the genre. Their influence shaped the evolution of rap music in the 80s, giving rise to socially conscious and politically charged tracks. This era continues to influence modern hip-hop artists, from sampling techniques to thought-provoking lyrical content. The importance of 80s rap, including the iconic collaboration between Doug E Fresh and MC Shan on “La Di Da Di,” in shaping the cultural landscape is undeniable. With tracks like “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang and “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five remaining relevant today.

The Development of East Coast vs. West Coast Rivalry

The 80s marked the emergence of hip-hop, impacting the music industry. The East Coast and West Coast rap scenes rose with distinct styles and sounds. Tension brewed between the coasts, fueled by rivalries like Tupac and Biggie. The tragic deaths of these rap icons shook the industry. Despite the rivalry, both coasts produced influential rap songs that continue to shape the genre. This rivalry remains a defining aspect of 80s rap, influencing its evolution and impact on modern hip hop.

The Emergence of Conscious and Political Rap

In the 80s, socially conscious rap rose with artists like Public Enemy and KRS-One addressing political and social issues. The crack epidemic and Reaganomics deeply impacted the black community, inspiring rap artists to speak out against systemic oppression. Female rap artists like Queen Latifah and MC Lyte broke barriers, paving the way for future women in hip hop. Old school rap influenced the sound and style of contemporary hip hop. With modern artists paying homage to the genre’s pioneers. A definitive playlist features classic tracks from Run-DMC, LL Cool J, and more.

The Legacy of 80s Rap

The 80s saw the emergence of rap as a dominant genre, with early pioneers like Grandmaster Flash and Run-DMC shaping its foundation. Socially conscious rap gained prominence through artists like Public Enemy, while mainstream crossover success was achieved by LL Cool J and Beastie Boys. The influence of 80s rap on modern hip hop and popular culture is undeniable, as it laid the groundwork for the development of the genre and continues to inspire artists today.

The Transformation of Rap Music and Culture

The 80s was a pivotal time for the evolution of rap music and culture. Significant changes in rap music reflected societal, political, and cultural shifts. Leading to a fusion of diverse influences that shaped its unique identity. This transformation contributed to the global impact and appeal of rap music. Not only did it affect the music itself, but also fashion, language. And ultimately reshaped popular culture, leaving a lasting imprint.

How Different Would Modern Hip-Hop Be Without the 80s?

The influence of the 80s on modern hip-hop cannot be overstated. It laid the foundation for the genre, shaping its sound, style, and attitude. Without the innovations of this era, hip-hop would have taken a completely different path.


In conclusion, the rap songs of the 80s have left an indelible mark on the music industry. From the early pioneers who set the stage for hip-hop to the rise of new artists and styles. The 80s was truly the golden era of rap. Iconic albums like Run DMC’s ‘Raising Hell,’ N.W.A’s ‘Straight Outta Compton,’ and Public Enemy’s ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back’ defined the genre and pushed boundaries.

Female artists like MC Lyte and Salt-N-Pepa made their mark. While groups like Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, and N.W.A pioneered new sounds and messages. Standout solo artists like LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, and KRS-One further elevated the art form. Songs like ‘The Message,’ ‘Fight the Power,’ and ‘Straight Outta Compton’ became anthems of a generation. The influence of 80s rap can still be felt in modern hip-hop. From the development of the East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry to the emergence of conscious and political rap.

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