Da 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)

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