Eric B and Rakim

Top 100 Songs, 2023 Edition: 90-81

90. Say it Ain’t So – Weezer

When the grunge scene emerged from the Seattle area, two factions were born; there was the Nirvana camp and the Pearl Jam camp. As the two sides fought to a futile end, Weezer snuck by and created two magnificent albums that defined a subset of the grunge generation: the nerdy, introspective, and and equal mix of low self-confidence and angst. “Buddy Holly” was the band’s breakthrough hit but “Say It Ain’t So” is easily the best song on both their album and their entire catalog.

89. (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay – Otis Redding

“(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” is one of the most recognizable songs in the pantheon of American music. It was also the final, defining moment in Otis Redding’s short, tragic life. Redding recorded the song twice, with the second time being days before he died in a plane crash not long before he turned 26. He never had an opportunity to see the success of this hit but it serves as a worthy testament to his talent.

88. Paid In Full – Eric B & Rakim

“The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang are rightfully cited as the two most influential songs on the development of hip hop music — and rightfully so. “Paid in Full” had a significant impact as well, albeit on a smaller scale. Eric B’s turntable and sampling artistry inspired the direction of hip hop, as did Rakim’s rapping style and lyrics that were personable and relatable.

87. Passin’ Me By – The Pharcyde

I debated whether or not “Passin’ Me By” should be on this list and, if so, does that mean De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and others who artists who straddled that line between hip hop and popular music deserve to be on here too? In a list of 200 songs, those other groups certainly would make it. This hit from “Passin’ Me By” made the cut over the rest because of its infectious, smooth sampling and rapping, and seamless transitions. It is one of the most cohesive, head-bopping hits of its generation and genre.

86. 99 Problems – Jay-Z

The toughest question I had to answer was, which Jay-Z song should make this list? “Big Pimpin”? “Hard Knock Life”? How about “Empire State of Mind,” “Dirt of Your Shoulder,” or “Ni##as In Paradise”?You could throw a dart at a list of his songs with the high probability of hitting something of note. Twenty different people might give you different answers to what the best Jay-Z song is, as might I at different points in time. Ultimately, “99 Problems” problems wins the honor today because the collaboration with Rick Rubin gives the song a distinct and harder-edged feel from Jay-Z’s other songs. The guitar-driven rock samples draw Beastie Boys .

85. Tears of a Clown – The Miracles

This Motown hit, the first of many under the tutelage of Berry Gordy’s successful but controversial career, was written by the dynamic duo of Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder. It is a amazing, soulful song about putting on a brave face. Robinson’s high-pitched but penetrating vocals, combined with Wonder’s supernatural gift for giving life to every song he touches made “Tears of a Clown” a timeless hit.

84. Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd

I have to imagine that “Comfortably Numb” is the top choice of stoners. The peaceful melody, layered textures, and lyrics form a symbiotic relationship between song and stoner. Even for those of us who remain sober, it is an incredibly relaxing song that is a great way to wind down. I cannot think of a reason why this Pink Floyd should not be on this list.

83. Layla – Derek & The Dominos

“Layla” rose to its peak of popularity during Eric Clapton’s solo career but it was originally written when Clapton was a member of Derek & The Dominos. The original version of the song, which is about Clapton’s secret love of George Harrison’s wife, is much more soulful and gritty, and earnest.

82. What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

There are some songs that are simply accepted as one of the undisputedly best songs of all time. “What A Wonderful World” is permanently cemented in that list. It is one of the most beautiful and touching songs of all time. When we are caught up in something trivial or stressed about fleeting moments, Louis Armstrong reminds us to take a step back and appreciate what is around you.

81. Fight the Power – Public Enemy

Just two years before N.W.A. began exposing the grim reality of a world many of us cannot understand out in the West Coast, Public Enemy was already bringing light to that darkness on the East Coast. No song was more prolific and poignant than “Fight the Power.” Chuck D’s powerful and distinct voice serves as a driving force on their songs, especially on this track.