50. Outkast – ‘BOB’ (‘Stankonia, 2000)
Outkast have welcomed the 21st century with a single that will probably still sound ahead of its time in the 22nd century: Big Boi and Andre 3000 articulate turn-of-the-millennium fears over a seriously insane beat of jackhammer drums, guitars à la ‘Hendrix At Monterey ‘ and choirs singing ‘Power Music, electric revival’ like a gospel choir led by Afrika Bambaataa.
49. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – ‘Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel’ (1981)
Using three turntables and a cross-fader (a device he invented), 23-year-old Flash created a consistent party hit from songs by Chic, Blondie, Queen and more. He presented frenetic steel wheel moves and established the DJ as a new type of pop musician.
48. Marley Marl – ‘The Symphony’ (‘In Control, Volume 1’, 1988)
Magic producer Marley Marl created a beat for the ages – a heavy drum break with an Otis Redding piano loop – and gathered the crème de la crème of his Juice Crew colleagues. The result is the first truly great posse cut. The strongest couplet: Kool G Rap (“Making veterans run for medicine/’Cause I put out more lights in a fight than Con Edison”). Most Valuable Player: Marley Marl.
47. Funky 4 + 1 – ‘That’s the Joint’ (1980)
Almost ten minutes and god knows how many bars of exhortations and boasts spread out over a highly tuned disco beat. Doug Wimbish’s bass breakdown is as funky as anything this side of Bootsy Collins. But the real star of the show is the Funky Four’s “+1 woman,” Sha-Rock (aka Sharin Green) – the first female MC on a hit rap record.
46. Salt-N-Pepa – ‘Push It’ (‘Hot, Cool And Vicious’, 1986)
Salt-N-Pepa’s lustful hit was one of the first rap songs to reach the top of the dance charts and certainly remains a party starter like no other song of the hip-hop era. The snake charmer electro groove is a monster and Cheryl ‘Salt’ James and Sandy ‘Pepa’ Denton crush all the others in their male-taunting: “Can you hear the music’s pumin’ hard like I wish you would?” they rap. You’re the smeared ones, boys.
45. Lauryn Hill – ‘Lost Ones’ (‘The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill’, 1998)
The opening track on Hill’s groundbreaking solo debut is a reminder of how brutally this great singer could rhyme. It was recorded in Jamaica and Hill raps (and sings on the chorus) in her version of a Trenchtown dialect. ‘Lost Ones’ sounds like an indictment of her former Fugees colleague and former lover Wyclef Jean, who must have been shaking in his Timberland shoes.