“After 12 I’m worse than a Gremlin, feed me hip hop and I’ll start trembling.”
I’ve had an intense love affair with hip hop music since it’s birth. I grew up listening to Run DMC, Public Enemy, Slick Rick, LL, The Beasties and Big Daddy Kane. In the early 90’s I spent my free time mixing records on Technique 1200’s.
This is a subject I’m very passionate about and have spent decades studying. I was originally gonna simply list the top 50, but I figured that would be a cop out.
To do this right I had to put them in order and count them down.
As such, this post took me longer than any other in the history of this blog; twenty-six years and fours to be exact.
Some very tough decisions had to be made.
For those who don’t know, Old School Hip Hop is technically anything up to 1995. So anything released after that will not be included on the list.
Here we go…
50) Time to Flow: D-Nice ft. Treach
This record was slept on big time. Not a lot of people know about it or remember it but it’s definitely worth adding to your warm up mix.
49) I’m Bad: LL Cool J
Long before he was a cast member of NCIS, LL was B-A-D.
48) Bring Da Ruckus: Wu Tang Clan
Perfect for the ride to the gym when you’re about to bring the ruckus on the weights.
47) Scenario: A Tribe Called Quest
Tied with Public Enemy as the greatest hip hop group of all time, Tribes music never really packed the aggressive beats and lyrics to make it gym worthy. But this one definitely gets you amped.
46) Raw: Big Daddy Kane
Arguably one of the top five lyricists of all time, Kane brings it with fury.
45) Time 4 Sum Aksion: Redman
The chorus alone makes it a great workout song.
44) Momma Said Knock You Out: LL Cool J
The title is all you need to hear. LL at his best.
43) How I Could Just Kill a Man: Cypress Hill
Perfect for the warm up part of your training mix to get you ready to kill weights.
42) Follow the Leader: Eric B. & Rakim
Rakim slays it over a dark Eric B beat.
41) 19 Naughty III: Naughty By Nature
Very few people remember this one since it was just a lowly intro track but Treach goes all out and kills it as usual.
40) Criminology: Raekwon
Raekwon’s debut record blew peoples minds when it came out. This was the standout training song.
39) Buck Em Down: Black Moon
“To the weak, what we do, buck em down, word life.” Don’t be weak.
38) You’re Gonna Get Yours: Public Enemy
25 years later this still sounds better than almost anything else out there.
37) Wrath of Kane (Live): Big Daddy Kane
Nasty flow. Great for some high intensity conditioning or hill sprints.
36) I Aint Goin Out Like That: Cypress Hill
I used to challenge the weights in my head when this song was playing. I aint going out without dominating you.
35) Know the Ledge: Eric B & Rakim
The classic track from Juice.
34) Portrait of the Artist as a Hood: 3rd Bass
3rd Bass was always very underrated in my opinion but they were both very formidable MC’s and had some strong beats backing them. This one’s a prime example.
33) Jeep Ass Nigguh: Masta Ace
“Brainiac dumb, dumbs, bust the scientifical, approach the course and the force is centrifugal.” Who says that? Ace could rhyme with the best of ‘em.
32) So Whatcha Sayin: EPMD
31) Craziest: Naughty by Nature
30) Run For Cover: Eric B. & Rakim
29) I Go to Work: Kool Moe Dee
By far and away KMD’s best work on record. Outstanding flow, great training song.
28) Set it Off: Big Daddy Kane
27) Judgment Night: Onyx & Biohazard
26) NY State of Mind: Nas
Nas blew people’s minds on this entire album. I love this song to start a workout.
25) Deep Cover: Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg
Snoops first appearance on a record had jaws dropping.
24) Burn Hollywood, Burn: Ice Cube, Chuck D & Big Daddy Kane
Those three on one record is a tough combo to beat.
23) Nuff Respect: Big Daddy Kane
This is a lesser known BDK cut from the Juice soundtrack, but DAMN can he flow!
22) Shook Ones PT. II: Mobb Deep
One of the rare tracks that can get a workout started and blow up a party.
21) Wordz of Wizdom: 3rd Bass
20) Shamrocks & Shenanigans (Boom Shalock Lock Boom/ Butch Vig Mix): House of Pain
Great rock/rap combo. Everlast’s voice was always one of my favorites. He got significantly better in the La Coka Nostra days but that’s not old school.
19) Last Wordz: 2Pac ft. Ice Cube & Ice T
This is another very hard triple threat combo to beat.
18) Let the Rhythm Hit Em: Eric B. & Rakim
17) Welcome to the Terrordome: Public Enemy
“Refuse to lose.”
16) Headbanger: EMPD ft. K-Solo & Redman
Crank this on a day you’re going heavy and need to get a little angry.
15) Survival of the Fittest: Mobb Deep
The title and chorus say it all. This dark, grimy beat is perfect to warm up to. The calm before the storm.
14) Real Estate: Cypress Hill
13) Endangered Species: Ice Cube & Chuck D
12) Who Shot Ya: Notorious BIG
You can’t have any list in hip hop without Biggie. This was his best track for intense training.
11) Terminator X to the Edge of Panic: Public Enemy
Just seeing the title of that song makes me start shaking. The Bomb Squad sirens and Chuck’s vicious rhymes can make any workout better. Great for a workout with minimal rest periods.
10) No Sleep Til Brooklyn: The Beastie Boys
Rock/hip hop classic.
9) King of Rock: Run DMC
The guys who started rap-rock.
8) Uptown Anthem: Naughty By Nature
Like Shook One’s, a track that has the rare ability to blow up a workout or a party.
7) Wicked: Ice Cube
Cube takes out all in his path on this one. Crank this before a big set of squats.
6) 100 Miles & Runnin: NWA
5) Holler if Ya Hear Me: 2Pac
Pac brings the fury like only he could. This song makes any workout better.
4) Lost at Birth: Public Enemy
A lot of people reading this are probably thinking, WTF? Most don’t even know this intro track exists but once you hear it you’ll thank me. Unfortunately you only get one minute of Chuck rhyming but it’s among the best 60 seconds in rap.
3) Bring That Noize ft. Anthrax: Public Enemy
The greatest rap-rock song ever made.
2) Straight Outta Compton: NWA
The guys who started gangsta rap changed everything on this one back in ’88. To this day I don’t know of too many other songs that get me more jacked up.
1) Rebel Without a Pause: Public Enemy
The all time classic Bomb Squad track that will never be beaten. Nobody kills it on a record like Chuck D did on this. Nobody. Listen to this if you want to get strong.
Now it’s your turn.
What songs did I miss?
What songs shouldn’t have been on there?
What should have been ranked lower or higher?
And most importantly, what are your top 10?
Remember, it’s gotta be 1995 or before.