The 90s gave us Tupac, Wu-Tang Clan, and a record number of other rappers and singers. However, with such a variety of great artists, it’s difficult to name which ones were the best and brightest. Nevertheless, we have scoured the web and found the diamonds among the gems of best 90’s songs, based on listener count, acclaim and awards, and how well it has aged into the 21st century:
“The World Is Yours” By Nas (1994) – Best Songs From The 90s
Probably one of the best rap songs of all time, Nas’ hit from his most-listened-to album, Illmatic (originally titled Stillmatic and The Lost Tapes), presents us with a story that many of us can identify with about overcoming poverty, racism, and violence. And we can’t even talk about the tragic irony of this song, which spins the idea of the world being our oyster into something sadder and grimmer when he renames the big apple with the moniker of “the rotten apple.”
“No Scrubs” By TLC (1999) – Best Songs From The 90s
Now let’s talk about “No Scrubs,” because this song puts into words every thought every wronged woman has experienced about dating a lazy, desperate man. It’s also a song that empowers women to say no to these men who are constantly, “Hanging out the passenger side of his best friend’s ride/Trying to holler at [them].” There’s so much more to say about this 90’s hit, but let’s leave it with this: the spunky lyrics definitely a 9/10, the fact that it still sits as no.1 in Billboard’s Chart History a solid 10/10, and their MJ and Janet Jackson-esque “Scream” look from their music video a close 8/10, thus making this song one we’ll never forget.
“Killing Me Softly With His Song” By Fugees (1996) – Best Songs From The 90s
Based on Roberta Flack and Lori Lieberman’s 1973 song of the same name, “Killing Me Softly With His Song” brought us to our knees and drove grown men to weep over its words of grief. While the lyrics were not written by the Fugees, Lauryn Hill sings it as if the words and the pain in it were her own.
When the song first came out, in the summer of 1996, over 3 million people bought it, and all they could do was listen to it to drown out the summer heat and exorcise the pain of lovers that “kill[ed] them softly.”
“No Diggity” By Blackstreet ft. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen (1996) – Best Songs From The 90s
You know that song Anna Kendrick started rapping (and surprisingly killing) in Pitch Perfect, well apparently it was by Blackstreet and once you listen to the original, you’ll understand why it’s on this list. Talking about a girl he has feelings for, Blackstreet comes complimenting this girl, saying, “no means average/She’s on when she’s got to have it/ Baby, you’re a perfect ten” and has all of us wanting a man to go gangsta and gives us his game.
“C.R.E.A.M.” By Wu-Tang Clan (1993) – Best Songs From The 90s
For all you anti-capitalist aficionados, you’ll find yourself in good company with “C.R.E.A.M” (Cash Rules The World Around Me); the song reveals the hopeless reality of capitalism, which traps many into a life of either crime or poverty.
Of the videos that the Wu-Tang Clan have uploaded to their YouTube channel, “C.R.E.A.M.” is by far the most loved, with over 90 million views. And their popularity is also matched by the fact the song was their highest-charting single hitting No. 60 in 1994.
“Say My Name” By Destiny’s Child (1999) – Best Songs From The 90s
Another song that’s made its round into Hollywood films, namely last year’s iteration of The Candyman, is Destiny Child’s “Say My Name.” This song is an anthem for all strong Queens who just want Kings to see their worth, and it’s also a song for those who just long for the times of black girl groups and their color coordinating styles.
Plus, we cannot forget to thank Queen B. for giving us her Gold Pick and Drop braids, cause this inspired countless looks throughout the years.
“The Boy Is Mine” by Brandy and Monica (1998) – Best Songs From The 90s
Brandi has treated us with her color-blind casting of Cinderella (i.e. the only Cinderella that exists to me) and some of the best songs, including I Wanna Be Down and Baby, but nothing compares to “The Boy Is Mine”. It has everything we need in a song: drama, a perfect hook, and beautifully blended vocals.
And while it’s not played as much today, it had a chart-topping run, during its prime with it spending 13 weeks at no.1 in the US, which made it the all-time no.1 female duet in US chart history.
“Hit Em Up By 2Pac ft. Outlawz (1996) – Best Songs From The 90s
Ok, anybody that knows me knows that I’m a hardcore pacifist and not interested in hearing the “n” word being shouted in my ears, but when I first heard 2Pac belting about cutting young ‘n-word’ ass up and “leaving [them] in pieces,” I had to bob my head along, cause his tracks were that good. This song and all of his others have lived with us, since his tragic death in 1996.
And if you’re really feeling nostalgic for his sound, you may get a chance to see him (or at least his hologram) at the next Coachella.
“Otherside of The Game” By Erykah Badu (1997) – Best Songs From The 90s
“Otherside of The Game” comes to us as a beloved house single. If you’re feeling tired or dragged down by life, you’ll find a kindred soul in Erykah Badu. From talking about her questionable job to questioning whether or not she wants her baby, Badu exposes us to the reality of what life can be, but also makes all of us, with our repressed pain and sad circumstances, feel seen and heard.
“SpottieOttieDopaliscious” By Outkast (1998) – Best Songs From The 90s
While Outkast has since broken up, we still have this beloved single, which seems to hit us like the highest high we’ve ever felt. Not too fast and not too slow, this song is just right, and is spoken like poetry, “Taste of nightlife, me? Well, I’ve never been there, well perhaps once
But I was so engulfed in the “E”/I never made it to the door you speak of hard core/While the DJ sweating out all the problems and troubles of the day.”
And unlike the words in this song, listeners won’t be wasting their time with the humdrum of nightlife when they have this diamond in the rough.
The best songs from the 90s is a list comprising songs of our childhoods and adolescence, and, if you’re anything like me, these songs will stay with you for the rest of your life.