Hip-hop is welcome and celebrated throughout all four seasons of the year but, for some reason, summer has always held additional weight within the culture with participants and fans alike. Whether it be the scorching weather or late sunsets and early sunrises making the days and nights seem never-ending, summer has always been synonymous with fully enjoying and appreciating all facets of the culture. However, the atmosphere wouldn’t be complete without good music to serve as the soundtrack to all of the action taking place from June through September.
Throughout rap history, one of the biggest bragging rights an artist could have is being the author of a hit song that becomes a backdrop to our daily lives and proves inescapable. Whether it be an uptempo party-starter or a more mellow groove, these songs provide timestamps to memories made and help define where we’ve been and the lessons learned along the way. Creating the perfect summer jam is a feat that many artists have attempted, but few have actually pulled off and is an inexact science, resulting in everyone from cultural icons to one-hit wonders having cracked the code and solidified their place as legends of the summer.
As the decade when rap began to fully bloom and exploded onto the mainstream, the 90s were filled with songs that would impact rap fans in a big way and dominate the radio airwaves, Billboard charts, block parties, barbeques and anywhere else hip-hop lives. Among the endless list of hit singles are a select list of songs that reigned supreme between June 21 and September 23 and are remembered as the definitive summer jams of the decade.
Being that we’re in the heat of summer, REVOLT TV looks back on the 20 biggest summer bangers of the 90s that remain timeless.
(All entries were determined by chart-position and only songs that peaked at No. 1 on the Hot Rap Songs chart were eligible.)
1 | Snap!, “I Got The Power” (1990)
Rap out of the UK has made a resurgence in recent years, but one of the first rap songs out of Britain to resonate in the States was Snap!’s 1990 international smash, “I Got The Power,” which would become one of the definitive songs of its time. Peaking at No. 1 on June 30, 1991, “I Got The Power” held fast for three weeks before being dethroned from the top spot, but was a presence within the Top 10 for twelve consecutive weeks during its reign.
2 | West Coast All Stars, “We’re All In The Same Gang” (1990)
In light of the gang violence ravaging the West Coast during the late 80s and early 90s, some of rap’s biggest names joined forces to release “We’re All in the Same Gang,” a song denouncing violence within the urban community. Produced by Dr. Dre and featuring appearances from a list of acts that included Dr. Dre, MC Ren, Eazy-E, Tone Loc, Above The Law and JJ Fad, “We’re All in the Same Gang” resonated not only in sentiment, but commercially, peaking at No. 1 on the Hot Rap Songs chart on July 21, 1990, before being dethroned four weeks later.
3 | D-Nice, “Call Me D-Nice” (1990)
KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions were long considered hip-hop royalty by the time 1990 rolled around, so when member D-Nice hit the scene with his debut album, Call Me D-Nice, in the summer of that year, it felt like the new prince of rap was on the scene. The album’s title track, which also doubled as its lead single, entered the Top 10 of the Hot Rap Songs chart on July 28, 1990 and would spend a month bubbling on radio before overtaking 2 Live Crew’s “Banned in the USA” for the No. 1 position on September 1, 1990. Ending the summer as the No. 1 rap song in the country, “Call Me D-Nice” is synonymous with ushering in a new era for the summer banger and kicking off the decade on a high note.
4 | DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, “Summertime” (1991)
In May 1991, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince released “Summertime,” the lead single from the duo’s fourth studio album, Homebase, and a song that has gone on to become the official summer anthem within the hip-hop community. While songs by the likes of 3rd Bass (“Pop Goes The Weasel”) and Chubb Rock (“The Chubbster”) also dominated radio airwaves during the summer of ’91, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s chart-topping heater has proved to be the most lasting of them all and is remembered as that year’s premier jams of the summer.
5 | EPMD, “Crossover” (1992)
After releasing three consecutive acclaimed albums, rap duo EPMD released their fourth studio album, Business Never Personal, before going on an five-year hiatus. Released on June 28, 1992, Business Never Personal was led by the single “Crossover,” which did just that, becoming the group’s highest-charting song of their career. Peaking at No. 42 on the Billboard Hot 100, “Crossover” was even more successful among rap fans, topping the Hot Rap Songs chart for three weeks and ending the summer of 1992 as one of the most popular tracks of the season.
6 | Cypress Hill, “Insane In the Brain” (1993)
Becoming the first Latin rap group to release a platinum-certified album with their 1991 self-titled debut, Cypress returned in summer 1993 with their sophomore effort, Black Sunday. Achieving triple-platinum status, Black Sunday included the smash single “Insane in the Brain,” which entered the Hot Rap Songs chart at No. 21 on July 10, 1993. “Insane in the Brain” would climb to No. 1 on the week of August 7, 1993, holding the position for three straight weeks and maintaining a spot within the Top 10 through the rest of the month.
7 | Warren G, “Regulate” (1994)
As the soundtrack to one of the more memorable rap-centric films of the 90s, Above The Rim was a pretty big deal when it hit shelves on March 22, 1994. Despite including contributions from superstars like Tupac, Tha Dogg Pund and SWV, Above The Rim‘s shining moment came courtesy of Warren G and Nate Dogg, whose single “Regulate” would become a mainstay on radio during the summer of 1994. Topping the Hot Rap Songs chart for three consecutive weeks, “Regulate” would spend much of the summer at No. 2 on the rap charts behind Da Brat’s debut single “Funkdafied,” making it one of the first songs that come to mind when people look back on that summer.
8 | Da Brat, “Funkdafied” (1994)
In a year full of landmark album releases, few were as historic as Da Brat’s debut album, Funkdafied, which became the first solo album from a female rapper to sell over one million copies. The album’s title track, which was released as its lead single, would be one of the biggest rap hits of 1994, peaking at No. 1 on the Hot Rap Songs chart on June 18, 1994 and holding off all comers for eleven consecutive weeks. Also peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, “Funkdafied” catapulted Da Brat’s career and made her rap’s reigning queen of 1994.
9 | Method Man feat. Mary J. Blige, “You’re All I Need (To Get By)” (1995)
The first member of Wu-Tang Clan to drop an album after the release of Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Method Man quickly emerged as the group’s breakout star and reluctant heartthrob. In 1995, Method Man struck gold when he teamed up with R&B superstar Mary J. Blige for “You’re All I Need (To Get By),” a duet that would prove to be unforgettable and set the standard for all thug-love duets thereafter. Topping the rap charts from late spring into early summer, “You’re All I Need (To Get By)” would be replaced by The Notorious B.I.G.’s “One More Chance/Stay With Me (Remix)” at No. 1 on June 24, 1994; it would remain in the Top 10 well into August and soundtrack every around-the-way girl’s summer romance that year.
10 | The Notorious BIG, “One More Chance/Stay With Me (Remix)” (1995)
Going from The Source‘s Unsigned Hype column to the hottest new rapper on the East Coast in the span of three years, The Notorious B.I.G. staked his claim as the King of New York with his 1994 debut album, Ready to Die, which positioned him as both a hitmaker and an elite wordsmith. Biggie’s immense popularity and star power would reach a crescendo in 1995 with the release of “One More Chance/Stay With Me (Remix),” which topped the Hot Rap Songs chart from June 24, 1994 through the week of August 19, 1994, and peaked at No. 2 on the pop charts. With the help of Faith Evans and Mary J. Blige, The Notorious B.I.G. ruled the summer of 1995 with “One More Chance/Stay With Me (Remix),” one of the greatest summer bangers of its era.
11 | Shaggy, “Boombastic” (1995)
In a year rife with summer bangers, one of the songs that ruled 1995 was “Boombastic,” the title track from reggae rapper Shaggy’s third studio album. Released right in time for summer, “Boombastic” was an immediate hit, debuting at No. 2 on the Hot Rap Songs chart on July 23, 1995, one slot behind The Notorious B.I.G.’s “One More Chance/Stay With Me (Remix), positions that both songs would hold until August 26, 1995, when “Boombastic” finally beat out “One More Chance/Stay With Me (Remix)” for Billboard supremacy. Although “Boombastic” would only top the chart for one week before being ousted for Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” at the top of September, “Boombastic” would spend two full months of the summer within the Top 5, putting it in elite territory in one of the more historic summer’s of the decade.
12 | 2Pac feat. K-Ci & JoJo, “How Do U Want It” (1996)
Following his release from prison and subsequent alignment with Death Row Records, Tupac hit the ground running, dropping his fourth studio album, All Eyez On Me, on February 13, 1996 and emerging as the biggest rap star on the planet. In addition to the album’s lead single “California Love,” All Eyez on Me also included “How Do U Want It,” a female-friendly collaboration pairing Pac with R&B duo K-Ci & JoJo that extended the Death Row free agent’s reign well into summer. Peaking at No. 1 on the Hot Rap Songs chart after knocking Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “Tha Crossroads” from the top slot on June 22, 1996, “How Do U Want It” would hold pole position for six consecutive weeks and would stay within the Top 5 for the duration of the summer, making it one of the biggest radio songs of the season, genre notwithstanding.
13 | Outkast, “Elevators” (1996)
In 1995, Outkast member Andre 3000 famously announced that “the South got something to say” during the group’s acceptance speech for Best New Artist at that year’s Source Awards, a moment that would go down as a defining moment in rap history. With all eyes planted on them, Outkast returned in a big way the following year with their sophomore album, ATLiens, which was led by the single “Elevators,” a mellow offering that was in stark contrast to anything gaining traction on the radio at the time. Debuting at No. 2 on the Hot Rap Songs chart on July 27, 1996, “Elevators” replaced 2Pac’s dominant single “How Do U Want It” atop the charts, where it would stay for four consecutive weeks before being edged out by LL Cool J’s “Loungin (Remix),” but held fast in the Top 3 for the remainder of the season, giving the iconic duo their first summer banger of their career.
14 | LL Cool J feat. Total, “Loungin (Remix)” (1996)
LL Cool J’s transition into acting, as well as his underwhelming 1993 effort 14 Shots to the Dome, left many fans wondering if he still had enough in the tank to compete in a field full of young upstarts eyeing his throne. The King from Queens would silence critics with Mr. Smith, his sixth studio album and one that would serve as the pinnacle of his run during the ’90s. Released in winter of 1995, Mr. Smith included multiple hit singles, the most successful of the bunch being the Total-assisted remix to “Loungin,” which entered the Hot Rap Songs Chart at No. 32 on July 6, 1996. Quickly racing up the charts, “Loungin” hit No. 1 on August 31, 1996, spending four weeks as the hottest rap song in the country and closing out the summer in a big way.
15 | The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Ma$e & Puff Daddy, “Mo Money, Mo Problems” (1997)
The tragic murder of The Notorious B.I.G. in March 1997 cast a dark cloud over the rap world, but the hip-hop community would band together and rally behind the Bad Boy family upon the release of his second studio album, Life After Death, weeks later. The album’s lead single, “Hypnotize,” debuted at No. 1 on the Hot Rap Songs chart on April 26, 1996, but was dethroned by “I’ll Be Missing You,” Puff Daddy’s dedicatory single in the memory of Biggie, by the time summer began. However, the summer of 1997 would be incomplete without a Biggie summer banger and the BK legend came through in spirit, as Life After Death‘s second single, “Mo Money, Mo Problems,” debuted at No. 2 on the Hot Rap Songs chart before reaching the summit August 9, 1997. Featuring guest verses from Ma$e and Puff Daddy, “Mo Money, Mo Problems” stayed at No. 1 for four consecutive weeks, making it one of the most successful Bad Boy bangers of all-time.
16 | Timbaland & Magoo, “Up Jumps Da Boogie” (1997)
Crafting hits for the likes of Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, and Ginuwine led to producer Timbaland trying his own hand at being an artist, teaming up with rapper Magoo for the 1997 single “Up Jumps da Boogie.” Entering the Hot Rap Songs chart at No. 14 on July 19, 1997, “Up Jumps da Boogie” became the dark-horse hit of the summer, quietly creeping into the Top 5 before reaching No. 1 on September 6 of that year. “Up Jumps da Boogie” would top the charts for eight straight weeks, making it not only one of the top hits of the summer, but one of the premier rap songs of the year, resulting in Timbaland & Magoo’s debut album, Welcome to Our World, achieving platinum status.
17 | Ma$e, “Looking At Me” (1998)
After blowing up off the strength of scene-stealing guest appearances on various singles by Bad Boy Records artists, Ma$e unleashed his highly anticipated debut album, Harlem World, in fall 1997. Led by the hit single “Feel So Good,” Harlem World was the arrival of rap’s next superstar, as Ma$e’s cocksure drawl would soon become inescapable. This would continue into summer of 1998, as Harlem World‘s third single, “Looking At Me,” was serviced to radio on the week in July of that year, debuting at No. 5 on the Hot Rap Songs chart. By the time the following week rolled around, “Looking At Me” was the hottest rap song in the country, a bragging right it would hold for ten consecutive weeks, making it the undisputed song of the summer and Ma$e’s most dominant hit solo hit of his career.
**18 | JT Money feat. Sole, “Who Dat” (1999)
First coming to prominence as a member of the Miami based rap group Poison Clan, after releasing four studio albums with the group, JT Money embarked on a solo career, dropping his debut solo album, Pimpin’ on Wax, in 1999. “Who Dat,” the lead single from the album, became a monstrous hit, skyrocketing up the Hot Rap Songs chart throughout spring before topping the chart for the first time on May 1, 1999. “Who Dat,” which featured female rapper Sole, would spend eight weeks as the hottest rap song in the country and maintain a slot within the Top 10 through September 4, 1999, proof of its legacy as one of the last summer bangers of the decade.
19 | Sporty Theivz, “No Pigeons” (1999)
Some songs are tailor-made for heavy rotation during the summer and are usually flattering to the women, however, one anomaly came in the form of Sporty Theivz 1999 single “No Pigeons,” which became the unlikely smash of the season. A response to TLC’s own chart-topper “No Scrubs,” “No Pigeons” takes aim at all of the women the group pegs as undesirable and would become an overnight hit, first entering the Hot Rap Songs chart at No. 17 on June 19, 1999 before shooting to No. 1 the following week, a spot it maintained for four weeks before losing traction. In a summer filled with uptempo party starters, “No Pigeons” stood alone in sentiment, but managed to make its presence felt throughout summer ’99 nonetheless.
20 | Naughty By Nature, “Jamboree” (1999)
By the time veteran rap group Naughty By Nature released their fifth studio album, Nineteen Naughty Nine: Nature’s Fury, the trio out of New Jersey were on the other side of their prime years, but were still more than capable of churning out catchy tunes, as they proved with the album’s lead single, “Jamboree.” Released just in time for summer 1999, “Jamboree” was an instant hit, debuting at No. 2 on the Hot Rap Charts, but would be held off from the top spot by Sporty Theivz (“No Pigeons”) and Will Smith (“Wild Wild West”). However, due to its immense popularity and staying power, “Jamboree” would hold on to take the No. 1 slot on the charts on August 14, 1999, and occupy the position for four weeks, evidence of its merit as a contender for the summer jam of the ’99.
All entries were determined by chart-position and only songs that peaked at No. 1 on the Hot Rap Songs chart were eligible.
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