Hip-hop is arguably one of music's most ahistorical genres: Its canon is fairly locked down, and what's brand new this week gets talked about. Its wheels never stop turning, which is healthy in some ways, but most stuff falls off memory's cliff once tides of fashion turn. Old rap frequently gets dismissed as "dated," as if good music doesn't stay good.
This playlist means to counter that, and if you remember many hits here, bully for you. Chances are, most people don't. I used one steadfast rule: Every act had to have exactly one -- no more, no less -- Hot 100 single. So for instance, no N2Deep (two Hot 100s), no 69 Boyz (four!), etc. The remembering part was more subjective: That the mix inadvertently wound up 100% '90s is probably owed in part to my own even-older-school proclivities, and I insisted that rappers had to be fuzzier in my personal memory bank than, say, Delinquent Habits or Skee-Lo. But it's also pretty clear that way more '90s than '80s hip-hop crossed over. (Twenty-first century stuff hasn't quite had enough time to be forgotten yet.)
Of course, some of these rappers had a few more non-crossover hits: Souls of Mischief, for instance, reached Billboard's rap chart five times, though never higher than No. 24 on it after "'93 Til Infinity." But hey, lines have to be drawn somewhere. I aimed for stylistic (gangsta, indie, hip-house, bass, Latin, whiteboy, TLC parody) and geographical variety: Souls of Mischief represent Oakland alone, but I count 11 New York (including Wu Tang-affiliated Staten Island footnotes Killarmy and King Just); six L.A.; two Florida (Home Team and Hi-Town DJs); plus one each from Philly, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago and Baltimore. Outside their home regions, plenty of these were obscure from the start.