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The 25 Worst No. 1 Hip-Hop Songs

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Artwork by Sam Moore. Titles by Steven Fiche.

Hip-hop might be more susceptible to scrutiny than any other genre. They aren’t even playing real instruments, goes one non-argument. They’re just repeating the same thing over and over, goes another. It doesn’t even have meaning. Look, it’s easy to see why many listeners completely dismissed Waka Flocka Flame’s Flockaveli. For many, though, the bone-crushing force of that unlikely 2010 classic overrides its boneheaded repetition, even though it’s impossible not to notice that the best hooks barely eclipse, say, Bubba Sparxxx’s “Bootybootybootybooty rockin’ everywhere.”

(Read: The 25 Worst No. 1 Rock Songs)

Hip-hop’s mindless pleasures are many in number, and nowhere is that more evident than when looking at its chart history. Songs like Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” were released before most of America knew what hip-hop was, while the likes of Mims’ “This Is Why I’m Hot” simply glance at hip-hop’s short list of defining traits without attempting to deepen the formula. It didn’t take long before entire regions — particularly Houston, Atlanta, New Orleans, and other Southern hotbeds — were lamented for their foremost rappers’ lack of subtlety. While the drunken masses kept dancing, terms like “conscious rap” and “backpack rap” were coined and defended.

The following 25 songs have their charms — or, at least, it’s not hard to see why they sold so many records/ringtones. A few of us writers remember “Crank That (Soulja Boy”) as having come out at a crossroads for us as music fans; we were starting to realize that a piece of art’s popularity isn’t necessarily proportionate to its merit. Still, I have fond memories of my language arts teacher, in the fall after its release, learning the song’s steps and showing them off at a couple school dances after it swelled in popularity over the summer.

(Read: The 25 Worst No. 1 Pop Songs)

Ultimately, we didn’t include “Crank That” here, and for the most part, nostalgia didn’t factor into our criteria. Rather, these songs were selected because of their numbnuts lyrical conceits, chintzy production, lifeless repetition, inadequate execution, and/or perpetuation of stereotypes.

Now, excuse us while we go and bump that new Busdriver track again.

–Michael Madden
Associate Editor

25. Positive K – “I Got a Man”

The idea of trading bars instead of the verse-hook-verse structure has birthed some of hip-hop’s finest songs. Wu-Tang Clan’s “The M.G.M.”? Great stuff. A Tribe Called Quest’s “Check the Rhime”? Holy shit. Postive K’s No. 1, off the Bronx rapper’s The Skills Dat Pay Da Bills, is an absolute, near inarguable no. You can go on about how the male protagonist’s disbelief and “I’ll show you!” mentality is a threat to the female’s agency, but the weaknesses of the song lie at a very basic level. You’ve probably heard this story or experienced it firsthand: Getting rejected because your female conquest has, or at least claims to have, a man. Hearing that cliched conversation over a sloppy, repetitive beat can’t be that much more enjoyable. But the ’90s were a very different time. It topped Billboard Hot Rap Singles, so Positive K did have the Skills to top the chart. He didn’t have enough to top it twice, however; “I Got a Man” was his only hit. –Brian Josephs

24. Pitbull ft. Ne-Yo, Afrojack, and Nayer – “Give Me Everything”

Is this the moment when the vicious Pitbull we had all come to love from songs like “Culo” in the early 2000s officially turned into the dude who does corporate gigs at Alaskan Walmarts and name-drops Kodak twice in the first seven seconds of a song? Less Daddy Yankee and more Flo Rida, after this song it seemed like there was 100% less chance that insulting Pitbull to his face would lead to throwing hands. I mean, dude is wearing a Pee-wee Herman suit in the video. The percolating synths are headache-inducing, and Ne-Yo’s chorus, from which the song draws its name, seems like someone trying to convince a girl to try anal in case the apocalypse comes tomorrow. At one point, Pitbull implores the listener to “reach for the stars” because if you don’t grab them, then “you’ll fall on the world.” Is that how he thinks that saying goes? Because if it is, he needs a refresher course in how to be inspirational without sounding like Yogi Berra. –Pat Levy

23. Kid ‘n Play – “Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody”

This is a callout to all hip-hop artists: Please bring back New Jack Swing. Please. I don’t think it’s just the nostalgia factor. It’s not just from being a kid of the ’90s. Can you imagine Kanye or Tyler, the Creator or Nicki Minaj releasing a New Jack Swing album? I still love the New Jack Swing sound. That being said, like any good thing, it became over-saturated, and the Christophers of Kid ‘n Play were smack dab in the middle of it. They tried to get in on that Will Smith actor/rapper money, but they ended up more like Keenan and Kel. “Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody”, which appeared on the charts alongside songs like Gang Starr’s “Step in the Arena” and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Check the Rhime”, is an attempt at a hard party anthem, but it’s Kid ‘n Play. You can’t be hard with a high-top fade, bright overalls, and Kid’s nice-guy flow. They don’t want to party. They want to take you to the movies, make some jokes in the Burger King parking lot, then have you home before midnight. Sorry guys. A house party this is not. –Nick Freed

22. 3rd Bass – “Pop Goes the Weasel”

What exactly was the fascination rappers had with canes in the ’90s? Was it seen as a badass move to have a cane like some kind of Victorian gentleman hiding a small blade in the handle to thwart ruffians? The cane of 3rd Bass’s lead rapper, the slumped-shouldered Pete Nice, gave him a 90-year-old man mixed with Quasimodo kind of look that did nothing to overcome the lack of badassery in their 1991 hit, “Pop Goes the Weasel”. Pete Nice’s weird Jersey growl and MC Serch’s random interjections were hardly a burn on Vanilla Ice’s reputation. It’s more like a poorly written high school dis letter than anything else. 3rd Bass seemed to use their short career attacking other acts who were more popular than they were. Their first album was an attack on the Beastie Boys and MC Hammer, and “Pop Goes the Weasel” was an attack on Ice — Ice being the “weasel.” Essentially, it’s a song about killing Vanilla Ice, and since everyone in America wanted to do that very thing, this song jumped to No. 1 on the Hot Rap Songs chart for two weeks in the summer of 1991. –Nick Freed

21. Shaggy – “It Wasn’t Me”

Which is the more egregious thing that Shaggy has done: ignore Robb Bank$, who is his own child, or release this song? Clearly the not-paying-attention-to-his-kids bit, but goddamn this song is a fucking mess. Anyone who likes this song is just nostalgic for the era it came out in, a time when even the Baha Men had a radio hit, and they don’t realize that the track is a desperate plea to never be taken seriously again. Instructing his friend to lie about cheating on his girlfriend is bad enough, but to spend the entire video rocking an ugly-ass sheer pajama suit and hanging out in a mansion with a secret lair that looks like it belongs to an Agent Cody Banks bad guy? Atrocious. This is really the pits, a song with almost no redeeming qualities besides allowing the listener to laugh at the ridiculous croak that comes out of Shaggy’s throat. –Pat Levy

20. Dem Franchize Boyz – “Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It”

Why was no one around to tell Dem Franchize Boyz that snap rap would have about as much legs as Tom Cruise in Born on the 4th of July? The mid aughts brought us this pitiful trend, and DFB was there to make sure Atlanta was both represented and embarrassed. Referencing your other hit song several times throughout a newer track is no way to prove your lyrical prowess; I mean, Kanye doesn’t still rap about gold diggers and jaws wired shut this many years later. I’m sure at the time this was something that someone somewhere thought was somewhat decent, but that somewhere someone is some kind of stupid. If I had to put an actual franchise equivalent to DFB, I’d go with something obsolete and only briefly relevant, like Radioshack or those Jamster ringtones. As if the mediocrity of the song by itself wasn’t bad enough, the song was also mashed up with Korn’s “Coming Undone” to create the most egregious rap rock since Linkin Park and Jay Z’s Collision Course. –Pat Levy

19. Mase – “Feel So Good”

I am not sure how Mase got as popular as he did. If it weren’t for his connection to Puff Daddy, the mid-’90s would’ve been a very different time for Mason Betha. Most of his raps seemed like a child speaking. He didn’t have the swagger of Diddy or the authority of Biggie, but somehow you couldn’t toss a gold chain down a long, lit tunnel without hitting a Mase verse. “Feel So Good”, which came out in the year of Bad Boy Records, 1997, sounds especially lazy, with Mase sort of mumbling and lurching through each verse. The intro guys to your track shouldn’t be more exciting to hear than you. He seems so unsure, like Shy Ronnie in front of class, and you don’t believe he’s in Waikiki sippin’ DP til the TV look 3D. He’s in his room in the dark while Diddy parties without him. The saving grace is the “bad bad bad bad boy” chorus, which isn’t Mase, and that’s why it saves it. –Nick Freed

18. Chamillionaire ft. Krayzie Bone – “Ridin'”

There are plenty of songs that get ruined because of how people run them into the ground. “Drunk in Love” survived Jay Z’s verse just to get dragged down by the corny memes and Vines. “The Motto” nearly ruined America, partially because it had the misfortune of dropping when college students needed an excuse to binge on Four Lokos. The number of desecrations Chamillionaire’s “Ridin'” suffered in the name of humor runs wide. “Drunk in Love” is a great song, and “The Motto” is good in small doses; “Ridin'” lends itself to Yankovician parody because of how feckless its tough talk runs behind the tone-deaf hook and rapid-tongued delivery. Catchiness doesn’t equate original thought … or much thought, period. Look at these lyrics: “Police pull up right behind and it’s in his throat/ Windows down, got to stop pollution,” “40-ounce in my lap freezing my balls.” Chamillionaire even has the audacity to name-drop the Playstation and include the Xbox in the video. –Brian Josephs

17. Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch – “Good Vibrations”

For those of you not around for the hip-hop and rap explosion of the late ’80s/early ’90s, it was a weird, weird time. Especially when the No. 1 rap track (or any track, for that matter) in the country was the stilted stylings of Boston’s own Mark Wahlberg and the Funky Bunch. “Good Vibrations”, which peaked as Naughty by Nature was making their way up the charts with “O.P.P.”, wasn’t just a hit. It was a smash hit, I’m sure due, in part, to Wahlberg’s shirtless video for the song and the infectious beat. It couldn’t cover the awkwardness of the Boston white boy, however. Marky Mark went full-out Mark Wahlberg in 1998 and switched to acting. A much better move, Mark. –Nick Freed

16. 2 Live Crew – “Banned in the U.S.A.”

2 Live Crew’s “Banned in the U.S.A.”, which recklessly interpolates Bruce Springsteen’s much-misinterpreted 1984 classic “Born in the U.S.A.”, might be the unlikeliest hit on this list. It’s more like an essay than a song, but it’s not like it’s a particularly thoughtful essay; instead, it’s composed of snippets of the notoriously horny Miami group declaring their First Amendment rights. Part of the fun of 2 Live Crew is that they rarely seemed to care about how filthy they actually were. “Banned in the U.S.A.”, then, is an unnecessary missive. “Fight the Power” it isn’t. –Michael Madden

15. Eminem ft. Rihanna – “Love the Way You Lie”

In a word, “Love the Way You Lie” is uncomfortable. 2010’s Recovery might be the most polarizing Eminem album among Eminem fans, and “Love the Way You Lie” is a big reason for that. It’s damn near scientifically provable that, having penned the genuinely motivating “Lose Yourself”, the narrative scope of “Stan”, and the zingers of D12’s “My Band”, Marshall Mathers is a lyrical genius. He knows how words impact people. However, “Love the Way You Lie” — which bravely spotlighted the domestic violence between Chris Brown and Rihanna — is overly intense. Em and Ri are on the same page, and they get the message across, but that doesn’t mean the thing doesn’t feel disjointed; his verses are quickened and angry, her hooks aren’t cathartic enough. –Michael Madden

14. Psy – “Gangnam Style”

You almost have to love the idea of this dude coming out of nowhere and making an international hit about his far-off land. As it would turn out, “Gangnam Style”, which Psy wrote about the Gangnam District of Seoul, had considerable social commentary, but everything else (the dance, the “HAYYYY SEXY LADAY” hook, the “wup-wup-wup-wupwup,” even the lightning EDM-influenced beat) got old real quick. There are so many digits in its YouTube view total (2,000,000,000/two billion-with-a-b) that you can get into a rhythm while typing it. After a while, though, it’s hard to groove with the song itself. –Michael Madden

13. Snow – “Informer”

Canadian reggae performer Snow released “Informer” in 1993, and it shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and into the top 10 on the Hip-Hop/R&B chart. Also, though it doesn’t matter as far as hip-hop is concerned, he’s a white guy. The somewhat indecipherable rapid-fire rap recounts Snow’s history with a double attempted murder arrest, and he even was in jail for assault for the first eight months the song was out. Good street cred for some, but that cred gets erased when you hear the light horns and false bravado of the track. Then you see that Snow later boiled down the charges to “a bar fight.” Good try, though. –Nick Freed

12. 504 Boyz – “Wobble Wobble”

Some good came out of No Limit supergroup 504 Boyz’s “Wobble Wobble”, of course: It was another reminder that women with a surplus of junk in the trunk have more to offer in a good way. But repeating verbs over and over again like the group do here — “Won’t you wobble wobble, lemme see ya shake it shake it, now won’t you drop it drop it” — is hardly art. It doesn’t help that Mac’s verse, the opener, is the only one with a mildly funny line (“Giving up them pesos, I thinks nada”). Anything with Mystikal’s virtuosic barking is usually pretty exciting, but on the whole, “Wobble Wobble” falls flat. –Michael Madden

11. Wreckx-n-Effect – “Rump Shaker”

You would think that a rap song about the glories of the butt that also gives you a geographical metaphor would be an automatic exclusion from this list. However, when it comes to the boys from Wreckx-n-Effect, not even a thin metaphor could save them. The lyric in question: “Slidin ’em across from New York down by your Virginia/ Tickle you around Delaware before I enter.” Yeah, I don’t know either. This song was also Pharrell Williams’ first taste of fame, as he wrote Teddy Riley’s verse on the song at just 19. You could definitely say it’s a highlight on the song, with a clever toss back to “I Like It” by DeBarge, but it’s never enough. Regardless, the song spent three weeks atop the Rap Songs chart, and this was about as good as it got in the winter of 1992. Unless you would rather have the angry boyfriend anthem of “Not Gonna Be Able to Do It” by Double XX Posse. Yeah, I didn’t think you did. –Nick Freed

10. Will Smith ft. Kool Moe Dee and Dru Hill – “Wild Wild West”

In the late ’90s, Will Smith was acting in blockbuster movies and releasing multi-platinum albums at the same time. There hadn’t been anyone else since Elvis doing that. However, he seemed, in retrospect, to lose the gold with “Wild Wild West”, both the song and the movie. Perhaps because this song sounds exactly like that other movie soundtrack theme (“Men in Black”) and singles (“Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”) he released previously, but there’s nothing that sounds more like the 1999 hip-hop sheen than this song. Or perhaps because the movie was an uneven, slightly racist, steam-punk tribute to a great TV show. Either way, not even Kool Moe Dee and Dru Hill could save it. –Nick Freed

09. Crazytown – “Butterfly”

Can it just be a universal agreement that nu-metal/rap-rock was just a bad idea? Can we choose to ignore the years 1998-2002 as far as popular rock music goes, like we did with the years we all got bowl cuts and wore JNCOs? Why am I talking about rock in this hip-hop article? Well, because the rock and rap communities alike want to know: What the fuck was Crazytown’s “Butterfly”? Complex listed this on their list of all the No. 1 rap singles on the Hot 100, and it qualifies enough for us, too. To be fair, it is more hip-hop than rock. The verses are rapped with utmost Ed Hardy flair by Shifty Shellshock. This song was only at No. 1 for two weeks, but it must have topped every Clear Channel list of “songs to play until the listening public wants to claw their eyes out,” because you couldn’t escape it. –Nick Freed

08. Macklemore – “Thrift Shop”

It is far too easy to hate on Macklemore. The fact that he achieved his success independently (along with the help of his Silent Bob, Ryan Lewis) is certainly admirable. “Same Love” is cheesy and cautious but arguably still socially important, and there are actually a few good songs on The Heist. It’s possible that he even deserved all those Grammys because the Grammys are a pop music and not a hip-hop contest. While Macklemore himself deserves some praise, “Thrift Shop” absolutely does not. The song’s success can be attributed to its catchiness as well as the broader appeal of its (still a bit outdated) criticisms of hip-hop’s outlandish tendencies. It’s a tacky track made by a goober-y artist that somehow captivated a nation. It’s also so damn catchy, though. Like Macklemore’s Grammy sweep, it’s not surprising that “Thrift Shop” went No. 1. Like that awards ceremony, however, it’s ultimately pointless and best worth ignoring in the grand scheme of things. –Will Hagle

07. Nelly ft. Paul Wall and Ali & Gipp – “Grillz”

“Call me George Foreman ’cause I’m selling everybody grills.” This is how Houston’s Paul Wall actually caps off his verse on Nelly’s “Grillz”, and that right there is enough to refute the profundity of this ode to the strange phenomenon of rappers bejeweling their teeth. Jermaine Dupre’s beat and the hook are both dinky, and even Wall, occasionally one of the South’s cleverest punchline rappers (see Get Ya Mind Correct, his first collab album with Chamillionaire), fails to impress. That’s not to mention Ali & Gipp, members of St. Lunatics and Goodie Mob respectively, who swap bars here and ever-so-slightly reduce the glare of their underwhelming individual contributions. –Michael Madden

06. LMFAO – “Sexy and I Know It”

Repeating the word “wiggle” isn’t the most well-written rap verse. Of course, lyrical genius is never what LMFAO has been attempting to achieve. The fact is that this song, at one point, had a spot on Billboard’s list of most popular Hip-Hop/R&B songs in the U.S. It technically peaked at No. 93 on that chart, but it ranked No. 1 overall and on the Dance/Electronic charts. The first time you hear it, you might think it’s fun and crazy or hilarious. The next 100 times, not so much. Although they’re not necessarily rappers, LMFAO’s rise also corresponded with the EDM explosion in the United States, which eventually began fusing itself with hip-hop and blurring the lines between those genres. For individuals of an age in which “partying” on a regular schedule is still a possibility, the duo does have some merit. Recommending a more tolerable song by LMFAO is similar to the advice those party-rocking individuals may give themselves at their local watering hole: It’s best to stick to “Shots”. –Will Hagle

05. Mims – “This Is Why I’m Hot”

“I’m hot ’cause I’m fly, you ain’t ’cause you not,” decides Manhattan rapper Mims, aka the rap game’s Albert Einstein, on his first and only career hit. It’s a minimal (and shallow) concoction with Blackout Movement’s bleepy-bloopy beat, a stiff and repetitive hook, and weak rhymes that make Mims seem sadly self-prophetic (“I could sell a mil sayin’ nothing on the track”). Later he states, “I represent New York, I got it on my back,” and it’s like he’s oblivious to the East Coast’s reputation for lyrical trickery and carefully constructed flows. Somewhere, Ghostface Killah is still cringing. –Michael Madden

04. Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em ft. Sammie – “Kiss Me Thru the Phone”

Songs on Soulja Boy’s Souljaboytellem.com, like “Bapes” and “Yahhh!”, were watered-down versions of his early viral hits. iSouljaBoyTellem, his follow-up LP, didn’t even have the luxury of reworking previously released tracks. “Bird Walk”, “Kiss Me Thru the Phone”, and “Turn My Swag On” were the three singles from that album, and somehow the most inferior track ranked the highest on Billboard. The song, which twice knocked off T.I. and Justin Timberlake’s “Dead and Gone” from the top spot, is also a prime example of how awful Soulja Boy became while still remaining incomprehensibly successful. He doesn’t even pretend to write coherent lyrics on this one, barely stumbling through a narrative about maintaining a relationship with a girl exclusively via cell phone (a real life trend he possibly predicted earlier than most) as Sammie sings the hook and gives out an actual telephone number, Mike Jones-style. I will stand by my highly contested opinion that Soulja Boy is one of the most important artists of my generation. If “Kiss Me Thru the Phone” has to be included in a discussion about his legacy, then so it goes. –Will Hagle

03. Vanilla Ice – “Ice Ice Baby”

When I interviewed Minneapolis rapper Brother Ali three years ago, he told me Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” was one of hip-hop’s first skid marks. His and his friends’ collective advice to Ice upon its release? Get the fuck outta here. Ali was referring to the Dallas rapper’s alleged exploitation of a genre — hip-hop — whose identity was still up in the air for the vast majority of Americans. It’s not that Ice’s lines aren’t memorable; if “I’m cooking MCs like a pound of bacon” is corny, at least there are a ton of better lines like it elsewhere in hip-hop history. It’s just that his delivery is so (um) vanilla that he’d be hard to recognize on later singles. –Michael Madden

02. The Black Eyed Peas – “Boom Boom Pow”

The onomatopoeia of The Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” renders the song straight-up redundant. “Boom boom boom,” goes the hook right when — you guessed it — the track is shaking with bass. Those dance floor-splintering lows are about the only thing the song has going for it, because the synths, especially the wiggly-wobbly one that comes in at around the 3:20 mark, sounded frail even when it came out. Lyrically, although I used to know an adamant indie-rap kid who thought the Peas’ early stuff was dope, there’s just no hip-hop education heard here. “I’m so 3008 / You so two thousand late,” goes Fergie, displaying about as much mic prowess as you’d expect from a girl named Stacy Ferguson. Fortunately, the Peas would redeem themselves with “I Gotta Feeling”, one of the era’s great party songs. “Boom Boom Pow”? More like bu-dum-chihhh. –Michael Madden

01. Shop Boyz – “Party Like a Rockstar”

“Yeeeeeah. Totally dude!” That’s how this song starts. What are you saying totally to, Shop Boyz? And who is this unseen dude? The sentiment behind this song is pretty ridiculous. Everyone already knows that rappers like to party, but to put rock stars on a party pedestal as if it’s something rappers should aspire to just seems misguided. Everyone parties in their own way, Shop Boyz. Can’t you understand that? It’s like the person at the party who is beyond smashed and goes around telling everyone to “get on my level.” And although I’m almost positive it had nothing to do with it, I still blame this song for Lil Wayne’s foray into “rock” with Rebirth. The brutally mediocre guitar riffs, acted out in the video like someone playing air guitar with an actual guitar in their hands, might actually make this a worse rap-rock track than the DFB and Korn mash-up. –Pat Levy

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