In 2023, hip-hop fans found themselves wondering whether small leaps in evolution can be as satisfying as the giant steps of the past.
The Best Rap Singles series began in 2020 and has undergone changes in the years since. This list of entries shows what’s been removed.
In an era when hip-hop was at a commercial peak, it was common for vital new voices to spend years working towards international attention.
From Ras Kass to De La Soul, the year 2003 brought plenty of announcements for albums that never appeared in stores.
As the industry slowly crumbled, action figures like 50 Cent and Lil Jon rolled off the assembly line with muscular, eardrum-popping sounds.
These nine artists were early sprouts of what would soon be called the “new school,” a generation of musicians who’d remake hip-hop culture.
In a year defined by electro kingdoms and fresh wild styles, Run-D.M.C., Afrika Bambaataa and others sought to explore rap’s future.
Most of the best hip-hop of 1981 didn’t appear on rap records — with Grandmaster Flash’s “Wheels of Steel” a gloriously historic exception.
While Missy Elliott and the Neptunes dominated 2002, the rise of 50 Cent, Dipset, and Southern rap promised to transform the culture.
While 9/11 and Jay-Z vs. Nas defined the year, global forces began disrupting the cloistered rap industry, whether it was ready or not.
In the first year of the 21st century, hip-hop mutated in unusual ways, and a canyon grew between the haves and the have-nots.
In 1979, hip-hop as a regional culture was irrevocably changed when “Rapper’s Delight” introduced it to the outside world.