50 Tracks For 50 Years Of Hip-Hop

50 songs that have defined hip-hop’s rich history so far…

To celebrate 50 years of hip-hop culture, we’ve gone back through the years to compile a playlist of 50 songs that have defined its rich history so far.

From the abstract internal rhymes of DOOM to Soulja Boy’s ringtone snap, the punch-you-in-the-face sparsity of Run DMC to the luxurious maximalism of Kanye West, this is our tribute to a sub-culture that started life in Bronx block parties and reached pop culture omnipotence. Hip-hop is the defining art movement of our generation. It’s hard to find another sound that it hasn’t influenced, and its reach has changed the face of creative culture in general, from fashion and film to fine art and contemporary dance – even technology and language have evolved through hip-hop’s lens.

To articulate all of this in 50 tracks is an impossible task, and we’re under no pretence that this playlist is all-encompassing. If we sat down to make this another day it would easily be a completely different playlist. But the sentiment would be the same. While each song represents several that could just as easily stand in its place, it also showcases just how thriving and sonically diverse hip-hop has become over the past 50 years.

Each of us have our own distinct relationship with it, and lean towards the sounds that shaped us, the moments in our lives that were punctuated by a particular era, region or sub-genre. It’s all testament to the awe-inspiring greatness of every artist that has contributed to, and made their impact on, 50 years of hip-hop – whether their names appear on this playlist or not.

Here’s to 50 years of hip-hop! We look forward to many more….

Note: Where possible we have chosen a song to represent each year. In the earliest years of hip-hop there is little to no recorded music, and therefore in some of the later years, where there were several concurrent movements we wanted to represent, you may find two (or even three, in the case of 1998) tracks.

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.