XXL Lists The Best Hip-Hop Songs And Albums Of The Last 40 Years – XXL Issue 152

Cover Spread 152Da Greatest
XXL has weeded through 40 years of music to give you a year-by-year breakdown of the most essential albums and singles in hip-hop history

Compiled by Michael Gonzales, Mark Skillz and the XXL staff

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the December/January 2014 issue of XXL Magazine.

On Aug. 11, 1973, hip-hop was born in the Bronx at a party thrown by DJ Kool Herc. It may have seemed like a one-off novelty at the time, but it was just the beginning. Hip-hop has grown into a multimillion-dollar industry, which has dominated the airwaves, the Billboard charts and arenas across the country, thanks to its mainstream acceptance. The music has been both embraced and adored by the public as it’s been ingrained into everyday life and entertainment.

To celebrate four decades of rap music, XXL has put together a detailed year-by-year breakdown of the Top 10 Songs and Top 10 Albums* of each year. From 1973 to 1983 hip-hop was more about the singles and breakbeats than albums. LPs were released but became more relevant in 1984, so the XXL list doesn’t include any albums until that year. There is way more dope music that didn’t fit in the Top 10s, so narrowing the lists down was hard, but XXL likes challenges. Here, we pay homage to this 40-year anniversary with the ultimate listening guide. Without hip-hop, this would be a whole different world.

*Check out the complete lists of 10 songs and albums per year in our most recent issue.

1973 Singles*
“Apache/Bongo Rock,” The Incredible Bongo Band (break)
“I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More, Baby,” Barry White (break)
“The Champ,” The Mohawks (break)
“The Mexican,” Babe Ruth (break)
“Funky Drummer,” James Brown (break)
*The breakbeats listed under 1973 include songs spanning 1968-1973. They have been included here due to their popularity in hip-hop’s formative months.

1974 Singles
“Hit Or Miss,” Bo Diddley (break)
“Papa Don’t Take No Mess,” James Brown (break)
“Do It (’Til You’re Satisfied),” B.T. Express (break)
“Ashley’s Roachclip,” The Soul Searchers (break)
“The Payback,” James Brown (break)

James Brown

1975 Singles
“Scratchin’,” Magic Disco Machine (break)
“Love Is The Message,” MFSB (break)
“Do It Anyway You Wanna Do It,” People’s Choice (break)
“(It’s Not The Express) It’s The J.B.’s Monaurail,” The J.B.’s (break)
“The Jam,” Graham Central Station (break)

1976 Singles
“Seven Minutes Of Funk,” The Whole Darn Family (break)
“Catch A Groove,” Juice (break)
“Dazz,” Brick (break)
“Down On The Avenue,” Fat Larry’s Band (break)
“I Can’t Stop,” John Davis And The Monster Orchestra (break)

1977 Singles
“Music, Harmony And Rhythm,” Brooklyn Dreams (break)
“Trans-Europe Express,” Kraftwerk (break)
“Joyous,” Pleasure (break)
“Mambo N0. 5,” Samba Soul (break)
“Groove To Get Down,” T-Connection (break)

1978 Singles
“Dance To The Drummer’s Beat,” Herman Kelly And Life (break)
“Got To Be Real,” Cheryl Lynn (break)
“Theme From S.W.A.T.,” Rhythm Heritage (break)
“Hot Shot,” Karen Young (break)
“Shangri La,” La Pregunta (break)


1979 Singles
“Good Times,” Chic (break)
“Super Sporm,” Captain Sky (break)
“King Tim III (Personality Jock),” Fatback Band
“Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll,” Vaughan Mason And Crew
“Rapper’s Delight,” The Sugarhill Gang

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  • icon kain

    Are you serious . NOT 1! tupac song on the whole list. But This same mag gave him his own issues and declared him the grates raper of all time. but yet he isn’t on this list. How can you make a list of the best songs and albums and not add the grates rapper of all time. That makes no scenes. you contradicted your-self. And u Call yourself a hip-hop mag. Witch one of yall don’t like pac in the XXL mag office (lol).


      because pac is overrated .

      • Thomas M. Rowe Jr.

        What makes him overrated? You mean he got too much recognition and adornment ?

  • ┼ JOE GERKƎN ┼

    not a single pac mention? wtf xxl

  • R-Lene Beaulieu

    ware the hell is Pac?? ya’ll got this shit messed up! he shuda been on this list! VERY DISSAPOINTED!

  • Mr. Hall

    No Pac? TERRIBLE!!

  • biccchhh

    yall nggaz candy no pac?fuccc yall niggaz

  • Kenshinxxx

    No 2Pac, fuck your list!

  • C

    no G Thang, but like 5 Lil Jon albums n songs?

  • Ja3s0n22

    LOL, no tupac, but a lot of Lil’ Jon….weird. Nice for the older stuff though.

  • DC95

    So XXL gives Hell Hath No Fury a classic “XXL” rating, yet it doesn’t make the list for best albums in 2006?!??! Yea, that just makes perfect sense…

  • mason

    you guys seriously put soul on ice over it was written in 1996, and left off If iruled the world. And where the hell is made you look? Pass the couvoseir? Seriously.

    • Marcus Thomas

      ras kass “soul on ice” is a classic Hip Hop album. take the time and listen to it. songs like “nature of the threat”. that is what u call genius. unbelievable. also “sonset” is a dope track. just listen to the album. it is very deep. if u like nas, i think u would really like this shit.

  • Ill Tune

    you have no 2pac no eazy e and they didnt even put B.G song BLING BLING isnt even on the list for singles or lil wayne go dj

  • Ill Tune

    you have no 2pac no eazy e and they didnt even put B.G song BLING BLING isnt even on the list for singles or lil wayne go dj

  • derek

    No Tupac? wth? XXL your overated!

  • Sniffle’s Friend

    I don’t understand this list. Is this supposed to be the best albums of those years? There’s a lot of wack ish on here. Like why is Encore on the list?

  • John Raymond

    Listen guys, these lists started in the 1970s, and at the time, there were more commercial stuff than 2Pac’s music, which is what they’re looking for

  • Anthony Luis Maldonado

    No Big Pun? WTF

  • Crooked as a Lawyer

    2K99 Samples of Evaporation


  • Alleyesonme86

    Agree with a lot of the comments posted, no tupac?! Absolute shocker!! How can you have a list of all time great hip hop songs and not have one of the illest hip hop artists of all time on it?! What not even changes? Dont get me wrong some great tracks on your list but you let yourselves down xxl!! lol

  • VJ

    No 2Pac on the list really irks me. That’s an insult and travesty in and of itself. Also, I’m a die hard Eminem fan and even I know Encore shouldn’t be on that list.

  • TeaTree

    Thrift Shop?! LMAO!!! Never heard it on only Urban /Hip-Hop and R&B stations seems like you niggas just gotta appease your white masters. No Pac? EVERY Eminem album? Relapse, Recovery, and Encore shouldn’t be anywhere near this list!

  • Thomas M. Rowe Jr.

    Yea I dnt need to repeat it really but I am, yall on some bullshit.

  • Kevin DiMitre’s Pop Harrison

    This list is a horrible Misrepresentation of the west coast in the 90s I’m embarrass to share this list I need facts behind some of these choices

  • Marcus Thomas

    im glad they had my boy ras kass in there for his classic 1996 album soul on ice, but i was surprised they listed it. no 2pac, what about salt n pepa “black magic”? not even a single? they had quite a few singles that was hot off that album. no rap a lot records material either except “minds playin tricks on me” by geto boys. i thought artist was limited to one album on here cuz i woulda expected to see both dmx’s platinum albums in 1998, but then i seen almost every eminem’s albums. last thing. where the fuck was CANIBUS? 40 years of Hip Hop? u KNOW canibus was that man in his prime.