Nas Creates ‘Best Lyrical Hip Hop Songs’ Playlist For Rollingstone

As part of the new Rollingstone series, Nas has created a top 10 list for the Best Lyrical Hip Hop songs of all time. Hit the jump to peep who all made it. There are a few surprising names there.


“When I said ‘hip-hop is dead’ a few years ago, I felt we’d gotten away from the great wordplay and storytelling,” says Nas. “There’s a place for the party shit and a place for the gangster shit. I focus on the guys that are always pushing themselves forward.”

1. “My Downfall” – Notorious B.I.G., 1997

The lyrics are about how he’s acing the shadows of death, despite all of his success, and he’s giving it to you in a way that makes it seem so real.

2. “If My Homie Calls” – 2pac, 1991

He’s just saying to his boys that he’s going to be a friend no matter how big he gets.

3. “Road To The Riches” – Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo, 1989

The way we’re rhyming now? He was already doing it then .

4. “A Bird In The Hand” – Ice Cube, 1991

5. “Paid In Full” – Eric B. & Rakim, 1987

6. “I’m Single” – Lil Wayne, 2010

I’m recently divorced, so I feel what he’s saying.

7. “Tears of Joy” – Rick Ross, 2010

Ross is at the pulpit here.

8 “The Moment I Feared” – Slick Rick, 1988

It’s cinematic. He’s at a hip-hop show and ices this girl who played him, then he’s in prison getting violated by some dude. This was unheard of.

9. “Empire State of Mind” – Jay-Z, 2009

This song is huge. It sounds like Broadway. It’s New York’s modern anthem.

10. “Queen Bitch” – Lil’ Kim, 1996

At the time, females rappers didn’t appeal to the street, but Kim came with the vulgarity, sexuality and gangster shit.


  • Keith

    Waynes im single is lyrical?????? foh

  • Camo shorts and bubble kush

    We can talk, she’d rather fuss

    This and that bout such and such

    Damn where is the fuckin’ trust?

    To convey that much in 4 lines and 28 syllables is damn lyrical.

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  • Mac

    haahah. Im single? Not even worth addressing. “Empire State Of Mind”? That’s the song out of Jay’s catalog he’s going to pick. Rick Ross is anywhere near a top ten for anything besides fakest background. Wow, and this is supposed to be one of the greats.

  • that is a good list.

  • AyVee

    *blank stare*

  • Kambani


  • Poindexter

    The top 5 are acceptable…
    However… jay-Z, rick ross, and lil wayne don’t deserve to be on here…

  • AyVee

    and ok Clyde yeah he said a lot in the lines but I could come up with 30+ songs that have better lyrics than those. Have you ever heard of Lupe Fiasco?

  • Wow. This is really terrible Nas. Here’s what I consider to be a more thoughtful list of the most lyrical hip hop songs of all time.

  • Arthur

    People, how you lose respect for someone because of what he chooses. Man, it ain’t y’all list they ask for. Pathetic. I think NaS has a pretty good list and he explains why he chooses the record also. So what are y’all talking about? Big ups to NaS though. Get us another album though. LOL. Been what 2 yrs?


    He picked Empire State Of Mind- a decent track but not even in Jay’s top 50- as far as lyrics go. That’s like Jay picking a Nas song- “oochie wallie wallie” . Its almost an insult like he doesn’t want ppl to know how great Jay is lyrically so he conveniently picks one of his weaker tracks

  • BayRey

    I agree with the haters. This is is like 75%-80% WHACKNESS!