scorecardresearch Skip to main content

50 years, 50 songs: A hip-hop playlist of history-makers

From left: Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Queen Latifah.Wire Images

Journalist and cultural critic Candace McDuffie is the author of “50 Rappers Who Changed the World,” a book that encompasses hip-hop’s earliest pioneers, current hitmakers, and most influential and enduring artists. “I feel like everybody in this book, you cannot deny their impact, culturally, internationally, locally,” McDuffie told the Globe in 2020, the year her book was published. “I feel like everyone who was mentioned or featured in this book has changed hip-hop music in some way, shape, or form.”

To mark hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, we asked McDuffie, formerly based in Boston and now a senior writer for The Root, to create a playlist by choosing a signature song from each artist featured in her book. These are her choices.


Da Brat, “Funkdafied”

Big Daddy Kane, “Ain’t No Half-Steppin’”

De La Soul, “Me, Myself and I”

Mobb Deep, “Shook Ones (Part II)”

Eve, “Who’s That Girl?”

The Roots, “You Got Me”

Ice-T, “6 ‘N the Mornin’”

Salt-N-Pepa, “Push It”

Nate Dogg & Warren G, “Regulate”

Megan Thee Stallion, “Savage”

Geto Boys, “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”

LL Cool J, “Rock the Bells”

Slick Rick, “Children’s Story”

Nas, “One Mic”

J.J. Fad, “Supersonic”

Trina, “Da Baddest Bitch”

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, “The Message”

Snoop Dogg, “Gin and Juice”

Lauryn Hill, “Lost Ones”

The Notorious B.I.G., “Juicy”

Wu-Tang Clan, “C.R.E.A.M.”

MC Hammer, “U Can’t Touch This”

Nicki Minaj, “Super Bass”

UGK & Outkast, “International Player’s Anthem (I Choose You)”

Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”

MC Lyte, “Cha Cha Cha”

Busta Rhymes, “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See”

Run-DMC, “Sucker M.C.’s”

Missy Elliott, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”

Drake, “God’s Plan”

KRS-One, “The Bridge Is Over”

Foxy Brown & Jay-Z, “I’ll Be”

Three 6 Mafia, “Stay Fly”

Lil Wayne, “A Milli”

Outkast, “Rosa Parks”


Lisa Lopes, Lil’ Kim, Da Brat, Missy Elliott, Angie Martinez, “Ladies Night”

Jay-Z, “99 Problems”

The Sugarhill Gang, “Rapper’s Delight”

Eminem, “Lose Yourself”

Cardi B, “Bodak Yellow”

N.W.A., “[Expletive] Tha Police”

A Tribe Called Quest, “Can I Kick It?”

Roxanne Shanté, “Roxanne’s Revenge”

2Pac, “Dear Mama”

2 Live Crew, “Me So Horny”

Kanye West, “Jesus Walks”

Lil’ Kim, “No Time”

Eric B. & Rakim, “Paid in Full”

Public Enemy, “Fight the Power”

Queen Latifah, “U.N.I.T.Y.”