14. “What You Know?” (2006)


T.I.’s King was the only rap album of 2006 that went platinum. The work was particularly propelled by its first single “What You Know.” Over a rousing DJ Toomp beat, T.I.’s anthemic hook, call-and-response structure, and well-crafted verses created the most perfectly accessible platform for his Atlanta style. Plus, music critics absolutely lost their minds for the song, which is no surprise, considering the complex internal rhyme structures on lines like, “But you’s a scary dude/ Believed by very few/ Just keep it very cool/ Or we will bury you.” -Chaz Kangas

13. “Planet Rock”  (1982)

Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force

It’s impossible to overstate the impact of “Planet Rock” upon its arrival on Earth in 1982. From the East Coast to the West, all the way down South, dancefloor denizens promptly became convinced that hip-hop was sliced-bread great. It doesn’t sound much like rap music today; its interpolation of Kraftwerk’s “Trans Europe Express” hints more at its massive (simultaneous) influence in the realm of dance music. But it almost single-handedly propelled the hip-hop movement, and in a hundred different directions. That it created something so huge shouldn’t be surprising; the track simply feels huge, and remains a party-starter even today. -Ben Westhoff

12.  “C.R.E.A.M.” (1993)

Wu Tang Clan

Money is almost all that gets talked about in hip-hop these days, but Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M” was fairly novel at the time of its release. Cash Rules Everything Around Me, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, and Method Man explain, over RZA’s smooth flip of a Charmels beat. In the song, the members speak on the broken environments where they grew up; Raekwon admits that robbery and drugs weren’t the path to happiness. As soulful as it is gritty, “C.R.E.A.M” plays like a coming of age, wrong-to-right journey that nonetheless sounds incredible at a party. -Jake Paine

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