1995 was another monumental year for Hip Hop, and a pivotal one as well. Because of infamous speeches by Deathrow representatives Suge Knight and Snoop Dogg on the 1995 Source awards in New York City, animosity between East- and West Coast Hip Hop reached a boiling point – more specifically between Deathrow Records and Bad Boy Records – which would have tragic consequences in the years to come.
It would also not be long before the big money people would really step in to create generic, mindless rap that would become a bane to the genre. But in ’95 the Golden Age still was in full swing, with a bunch of all-time classic albums being released.
For this list, we have selected 40 of the best and most important songs of 1995. Agree? Disagree? Disqus!
1. 2Pac - Dear Mama
2Pac was able to switch from a violent thug to an intelligent, sensitive guy like no other. Dear Mama is a heartfelt tribute to his mother and one of Pac’s most celebrated and most famous songs. Classic.
2. Mobb Deep - Shook Ones Pt 2
Classic Mobb Deep rhymes over a signature sinister Havoc beat – this song is not just Mobb Deep’s best, but one the very best in the history of Hip Hop. THE centerpiece of the all around epic album The Infamous, which was a big part of the ‘renaissance’ of East Coast Hip Hop. A masterpiece.
3. KRS One - MCs Act Like They Don't Know
The perfect symbiosis of the KRS-One – DJ Premier collaboration. Over Premo’s masterpiece instrumental, interpolating Kurtis Blow’s classic “The Breaks”, KRS once again lets other rappers know what’s the deal. The lesson to be learned here: you’re not a real emcee if you can not rock a crowd. No one better suited to make that claim than one of the best live performers Hip Hop has ever seen.
4. Luniz - I Got 5 On It
“I Got 5 On It” is a mega hit by Oakland duo Luniz. It was released in May 1995 as the lead single from their debut album, Operation Stackola, and is one of those rare songs that has stayed on rotation worldwide to this day.
“I Got 5 On It” brilliantly samples Club Nouveau’s “Why You Treat Me So Bad” (1987), Kool and the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” (1973) and Audio Two’s “Top Billin’” (1987).
5. Method Man - I'll Be There for You / You're All I Need to Get By ft Mary J Blige
“I’ll Be There for You / You’re All I Need to Get By” is a brilliant remix of Method Man‘s “All I Need” (which appears on his 1994 debut album Tical), and a beautiful remake of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s 1968 hit, “You’re All I Need To Get By”. Timeless.
6. Ol' Dirty Bastard - Shimmy Shimmy Ya
“Shimmy Shimmy Ya” is the second single and arguably best-known track of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, from his solo debut album Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version. It was produced by fellow Wu Tang Clan member RZA. A perfect testament to ODB’s crazy brilliance.
7. GZA - Liquid Swords
“Liquid Swords” is the title track and second single released from GZA‘s Liquid Swords album, one of 1995’s best albums. With RZA in top form on the boards and with GZA proving he is one of the best Wu-Tang emcees, “Liquid Swords” is a monument in Hip Hop – the song and the album alike.
Regarding the song GZA later commented “Usually I take a beat home and write to it for a few days, but it wasn’t like that with this track. I think RZA played the beat for me and I just spit to it right there. The hook was actually a routine from around ‘84 that me RZA and Ol’ Dirty would do: ‘When the emcees came, to live out the name.’ Just like that.”
8. The Pharcyde - Runnin'
“Runnin'” was released as the first single from The Pharcyde’s underrated second album Labcabincalifornia in 1995, and remains one of Pharcyde’s most recognizable and most popular songs.
9. Raekwon - Ice Cream ft Method Man, Ghostface Killah & Cappadonna
Hard to pick favorites from 1995’s best album: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…. “Ice Cream” surely is one of the top tracks of the album, though. With help from Method Man in the intro, chorus and outro, Ghostface Killah in the first verse, and Cappadonna in the third, Raekwon crafted an epic track with that classic Wu-Tang feel.
10. Dr Dre - Keep Their Heads Ringing
11. 2Pac - So Many Tears
Arguably one of 2Pac’s most emotional and depressing songs (and that’s saying something). Meaningful, haunting and deep, So Many Tears in an underrated classic.
12. Bone Thugs N Harmony - 1st Of Tha Month
Despite the kind of questionable lyrical content (celebrating the day welfare checks are paid out), this track is incredibly catchy and the one that really put BTNH on the map as one of Hip Hop’s newest sensations. The perfect warm-up for their 1996 mega hit “Tha Crossroads”.
13. Raekwon - Verbal Intercourse ft Nas & Ghostface Killah
Just one of the highlights of Raekwon‘s masterpiece Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…. Great bars by Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, but it is guest emcee Nas who steals the show here, with an epic verse that’s up there with his best.
14. Ice Cube - Friday
Next to Dr Dre’s “Keep Their Heads Ringing”, this track is the other big banger from 1995 Friday Movie Soundtrack. This track was the start of the beef between Ice Cube and Cypress Hill (who claimed Cube stole the hook of the song after being with Cypress Hill in the studio).
15. Big L - Street Struck
This classic cautionary tale warning listeners of the dangers of the hustler’s lifestyle on the inner city streets, would 4 years later become a tragic reality for Big L himself as he was shot and killed in a (still unsolved) drive-by shooting on his home-turf in Harlem.
16. Goodie Mob - Cell Therapy
Real and raw, Goodie Mob’s classic debut album Soul Food has that genre-bending musicality reminiscent of OutKast with true lyrical depth. Soul Food is one of those albums that age like fine wine and only get better as times goes by. Cee-Lo, T-Mo, Big Gipp, and Khujo dropped a real gem with this album, “Cell Therapy” is one of many excellent tracks the album contains. Southern Hip Hop at its finest.
17. Mobb Deep - Survival Of The Fittest
One of the singles of the super classic The Infamous, with hard-hitting rhymes and an addictive chorus over another typical Havoc instrumental. Vintage Mobb Deep.
18. Coolio - Gangsta's Paradise
“Gangsta’s Paradise” was 1995 biggest selling single – in any musical genre – and even one of the biggest selling singles ever. The huge mainstream success of this song pretty much ended Coolio’s Hip Hop career, but this song has to be recognized as a classic (even if you’ve heard it a thousand times too many…).
19. OutKast - Benz Or Beamer
Appearing on the 1995 New Jersey Drive Soundtrack, “Benz Or Beamer” is one of the many classic OutKast joints we all have come to love, and one that would have fitted perfectly on the duo’s monumental 1996 sophomore album ATLiens.
20. Channel Live - Mad Izm ft KRS One
Channel Live dropped a dope if somewhat unremarkable straight boom bap album with Station Identification, no frills, no gimmicks. Hakim and Tuffy, considered proteges of KRS-One, come with dope rhymes over dark and heavy beats. This track is the undisputed highlight of the album.
21. Raekwon - Incarcerated Scarfaces
Yet another classic song off Raekwon’s solo debut, arguably the best solo album from all Wu-Tang members, ever. “Incarcerated Scarfaces” wasn’t one the official singles of the album, but stands as one of its big tracks nevertheless. It’s also one of the few tracks off the album with no guest spots from fellow Wu-Tang members.
22. LL Cool J - Doin' It
Like LL Cool J‘s 1987 smash hit “I Need Love” this song is another ‘guilty pleasure’. Massive mainstream appeal and one of LL’s biggest hits, this raunchy song just can not be hated on. The bass is thumping and the vibe is just right. Just gotta love this one. Also props for the use of the ‘Go Brooklyn’ chant, which is sampled from Audio Two’s classic Top Billin’ song.
23. E-40 - Sprinkle Me
Bay Area pioneer and legend E-40 released A LOT of albums in his 30-year career, 1995’s In A Major Way may just be his very best. Smooth and funky, and with a load a star guest rappers – like 2Pac and Spice 1 – guarantee a great listening experience. Not everybody digs E-40 rapping style, but there’s no denying the classicness of the album. “Sprinkle Me” is one of the hits off the album.
24. Ol' Dirty Bastard - Brooklyn Zoo
Ol’Dirty Bastard debut solo single borrows its eminently recognizable hook (“Shame on you when you step through to the Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Brooklyn Zoo!”) from “Protect Ya Neck” from Wu-Tang Clan’s epic debut album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
“Brooklyn Zoo” is one of the stand-out tracks from ODB’s solo debut.
25. Crooklyn Dodgers '95 - Return Of The Crooklyn Dodgers
The Crooklyn Dodgers are a Hip Hop supergroup from Brooklyn, New York City, consisting of rotating members. The first group was composed of Buckshot, Masta Ace and Special Ed. Their only record is this classic 1994 cut “Crooklyn,” produced by Q-Tip.
The second Crooklyn Dodgers line-up consisted of Chubb Rock, Jeru the Damaja and O.C. Their one and only joint recording is “Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers,” with classic production by DJ Premier. The song was featured on Spike Lee’s “Clockers” Movie Soundtrack.
26. The Roots "Distortion To Static"
“You are all about to witness some organic Hip Hop Jazz”. There is no better description possible of The Roots’ second album Do You Want More?!!!??! as Black Thought’s own introduction to the album.
“Distortion To Static”, was released as the first single for the album in 1994, and together with “Mellow My Man” became one of the lead tracks from Do You Want More?!!!??!
The jazz vibes and live instrumentation make this track one of The Roots’ signature songs and a perfect tone-setter for what would turn out to be an epic career.
27. Skee Lo - I Wish
“I Wish” is a hit song by Skee-Lo, who may just be one the biggest one-hit-wonders in Hip Hop. “I Wish” is a refreshing track with self-deprecating humor in a time when tough-guy posturing was the norm. A lot of ‘pop appeal, but dope anyway.
28. AZ - Uncut Raw
Why AZ never made it bigger than he did will forever be one of Hip Hop’s biggest mysteries. Universally recognized as one of the best emcees (and somewhat paradoxically one of the most underrated emcees) in the game, AZ has released a series of good to excellent albums.
Doe Or Die, his debut, is one of his best. Short and tight, it pioneers the mafioso subgenre, together with releases from Raekwon and Kool G Rap in this year. “Uncut Raw” is one our favorite tracks off the album, but the whole album is dope a.f.
29. Jurassic 5 - Unified Rebelution
This early Jurassic 5 joint was a great prelude of much more excellent Hip Hop to come from this L.A. underground crew. “Unified Rebelution” succeeds admirably in capturing that old school vibe with throwback style rhyming and vintage scratches by Cut Chemist.
30. The Pharcyde - Drop
“Drop” is The Pharcyde‘s first single from their second album, Labcabincalifornia. The single contains a vocal sample of the Beastie Boys song “The New Style”, using the titular “mmm….. drop” line delivered during a drop to create its hook. Dope track, epic video.
31. Kool G Rap - Fast Life ft Nas
The lead track of Kool G Rap‘s underrated 4,5,6 album, displays dope verses from the Kool G Rap himself and guest rapper Nas. “Fast Life” is a prime example of the mafioso sub-genre that was popular in Hip Hop during the mid-nineties and of which Kool G Rap would become one of the main representatives.
32. Junior Mafia - Players Anthem
The lead single from Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s 1995 Conspiracy album, features group founder and Junior M.A.F.I.A. mentor Notorious B.I.G. on the chorus, one of the reasons the song became a big hit.
33. Group Home - Livin' Proof
DJ Premier gave some of his best ever beats to Group Home, a group that was part of the Gang Starr Foundation family. On their debut album, the Group Home emcees can nowhere match the quality of Premo’s production, but this track is a timeless banger nonetheless.
34. Smif N Wessun - Wrekonize
Smif N Wessun members Tek and Steele first appeared on Black Moon’s classic 1993 album Enta Da Stage. Their own debut album Dah Shinin’ has become one of the most heralded NYC Hip Hop albums from the mid-1990s, famous for its hardcore lyrical content and dark, dusty production. “Wrekonize”, together with the underground smash “Bucktown” (released in 1994), is one of the many highlights of the album.
35. Method Man & Redman - How High
Produced by Erick Sermon, “How High” is the first official collaboration from longtime friends Method Man of Wu-Tang Clan and Redman, marking their debut as a duo. “How High” was originally featured on the soundtrack to the 1995 Hip Hop documentary The Show.
36. Eightball & MJG - Space Age Pimpin'
Legendary Memphis duo Eightball & MJG have been representing the South since their debut in 1993. In 1995 they already dropped their third album, On Top Of The World – one of their best. “Space Age Pimpin'” is one of the centerpieces of the album and one of the duo’s signature songs.
37. Naughty By Nature - Feel Me Flow
Naughty By Nature always had the talent for creating catchy tracks with massive mainstream appeal, “Feel Me Flow” is the lead single from 1995’s Poverty Paradise, a dope jam in the tradition of “O.P.P.” and “Hip Hop Hooray“, the mega hits from their previous albums.
38. 2Pac - Temptations
“Temptations” is the third single by 2Pac from his 3rd and best album: Me Against the World.
The song’s music video does not have any shots of 2Pac, since he was incarcerated at the time. Instead, the video features many celebrities such as Coolio, Ice-T, Warren G, Adina Howard and Kenya Moore. Taking place in a hotel, the video opens and closes with the concierge (Ice-T) complaining about Coolio (a bellboy). The main plot of the video follows Coolio while he is working in the hotel.
39. Mobb Deep - Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mines) ft Raekwon & Nas
Talk about an epic collaboration. Nas and Raekwon at their peak adding to the weight Prodigy and Havoc already bring to the table, makes for one of the best posse cuts ever. Classic track.
40. KRS One - Rappaz R N Dainja
- Raekwon – Wu Gambinos
- Raekwon – Glaciers Of Ice
- Raekwon – Criminology
- GZA – Shadowboxin’
- GZA – 4th Chamber
- GZA – B.I.B.L.E.
- GZA – Cold World
- GZA – Living In The World Today
- 2Pac – Old School
- 2Pac – Me Against The World
- Goodie Mob – Dirty South
- Goodie Mob – Soul Food
- Goodie Mob – Thought Process
- Mobb Deep – Drink Away The Pain
- Mobb Deep – Q.U. Hectic
- Mobb Deep – Cradle To The Grave
- Big L – Let Em Have It L
- Big L – I Don’t Understand It
- Big L – M.V.P.
- Smif N Wessun – Cession At Da Doghillee
- Smif N Wessun – Stand Strong
- The Pharcyde – Moment In Time
- The Pharcyde – Hey You
- The Roots – Proceed
- The Roots – The Lesson Pt 1
- Bone Thugs N Harmony – Crossroad (Original)
- Bone Thugs N Harmony – East 1999
- Tha Alkaholiks – Daaam
- Three 6 Mafia – Tear Da Club Up
- Show & AG – Check It Out
- Show & AG – Next Level
- Show & AG – Got The Flava
- AZ – Sugar Hill
- AZ – Doe Or Die
- AZ – Gimme Your’s
- KRS One – Hold
- KRS One – The Truth
- KRS One – Wannabemceez
- KRS One – Represent The Real Hip Hop
- E-40 – Dusted ‘n’ Disgusted
- E-40 – The Bumble
- E-40 – Sideways
- Aceyalone – All Balls Don’t Bounce
- Aceyalone – Mic Check
- Eightball & MJG – On Top Of The World
- WC & The MAAD Circle – Curb Servin
- WC & The MAAD Circle – West Up!
- Mack 10 – Take A Hit
- Tha Dogg Pound – New York New York
- DJ Quik – Safe + Sound
- DJ Quik – Dollarz + Sense
- LL Cool J – Hey Lover
- LL Cool J – I Shot Ya
- Cypress Hill – Illusions
- Cypress Hill – Funk Freakers
- Cypress Hill – Boom Biddy Bye Bye
- Cypress Hill – Killafornia
- Funkdoobiest – Superhoes
- King Tee – Dippin’
- K-Rino – Verbal Execution
- Masta Ace – Sittin’ On Chrome
- Too Short – Cocktales
- Das EFX – Real Hip Hop
- Fat Joe – Bronx Tale
- Fat Joe – Bronx Keeps Creating It
- Master P – 99 Ways To Die
- Miilkbone – Keep It Real
- Erick Sermon – Welcome
- Erick Sermon – Bomdigi
- Onyx – Last Dayz
- Nine – Whut’cha Want
- Group Home – Supa Star
- Souls Of Mischief – No Man’s Land
- Mic Geronimo – The Natural
- Mic Geronimo – Time To Build
- B.G. Knocc Out & Dresta – Everyday Allday
- Brotha Lynch Hung – Season Of Da Sicc
- FaceMob – Facemob ft Scarface
- Ol Dirty Bastard – Ol Dirty Is Back
- Wu-Tang Clan – Let Me At Them
- Mystic Journeymen – Sammy’s Song