Deconstructing Rolling Stone’s “The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time”


(Image via Rolling Stone)

Jelani Dupon, Media Manager

Everyone has different opinions about music, whether it’s about a certain artist being better than another, or an album being better than another. There will always be a debate about music. Those debates can be found in the hip-hop community, especially when it comes to the best hip-hop songs. So why not deconstruct the source that usually gives pretty valid opinions about music, and see what they have to say about the best hip-hop songs of all time. Obviously, the music juggernaut I’m talking about is the Rolling Stones who, a couple of years ago, made a list compiling the 50 best hip-hop songs of all time. To deconstruct every single song in the list would take more than an excellent attention span to read through, so instead, I’m going to look at the top ten, and deconstruct any of those that stand out to anyone who listens to them. 

However, before that, we have to look at some of the songs that didn’t reach the top ten. A clear mention is number 40 on the list, Kurtis Blow’s ‘The Breaks’. Kurtis Blow was a hip-hop superstar in the 1980s because, well, there weren’t many hip-hop artists. As hip-hop was found in the late 70s, and became popular from a song that is in the top ten of this list. Blow took hip-hop to another level, from his complex (at the time) rhyme schemes and his revolutionary instrumentals, and the song definitely deserves a higher rank when you look into the context of when it was written. Another that isn’t in the top ten is Tupac Shakur’s ‘Dear Mama’. Rolling Stones placed this song number eighteen on the list, which it is believed to be a little bit too far from the top ten. The reason for this is the emotion the song can get out of anyone who listens to it, as it explains his rough childhood and briefly unstable relationship with his mother. He explains that he never meant to cause harm and he understands how much his mother was there for him even if at the time it wasn’t clear. This song touches the hearts of many, and on places like Youtube, you can see anyone of any age shed tears.

N.W.A is one of the most popular rap groups of all time, which consisted of very recognizable faces, like Dr. Dre, Eazy E., and Ice Cube. Their most popular song, ‘Straight Outta Compton’ is the title track for one of the most popular rap albums of all time, and for good reason. This song was written in the late 1980s, and rage can be clearly heard toward the police, their peers, and their situation in general. Anyone who says the song is violent doesn’t know the struggle they went through. Tupac explained this in an interview with E!, saying “What we’re doing is using our brain to get out of the ghetto, anyway we can, so we tell these stories that tend to be filled with violence because our world is filled with violence.”

Another group, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five earned the number one spot on the list with their title track song, ‘The Message’. ‘The Message’ talks about the struggles of the ghetto, and how it’s hard to get out of it. In the chorus, Grandmaster Flash says, “It’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.” Songs talking about police brutality or anything negative in hip-hop was unheard of, and the group paved the way for groups like N.W.A to openly be able to express themselves through Grimm stories. Just like ‘The Breaks’, this song was absolutely revolutionary for hip-hop music, from the message behind the words to the delivery of the lyrics, this is a song that will never be forgotten. Songs have had deeper meanings, better instrumentals, and better rhyme schemes, but this song paved the way and is completely deserving of the number one spot.