Gil Scott-Heron, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" (1970)
This classic example of street poetry, which foreshadowed the politically charged rap that would emerge more than a decade later, first appeared on Scott-Heron's 1970 debut album, Small Talk at 125th and Lenox. Scott-Heron recorded the piece again, with a full band, for his 1971 album Pieces of a Man. Selected for the 2005 registry.
Sugarhill Gang, "Rapper's Delight" (1979)
This was the first rap song to crack the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 (the week of Jan. 5, 1980). It was featured on the trio's 1980 self-titled debut album. The song draws its bass line and other features from Chic's "Good Times," a No. 1 smash in the summer of 1979. R&B veteran Sylvia Robinson, who recorded such classic hits as "Love Is Strange" (as half of Mickey and Sylvia) and "Pillow Talk," produced the single. Selected for the 2011 registry.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, "The Message" (1982)
Robinson also co-wrote and co-produced this classic, which was among the first prominent hip hop songs to focus on urban social issues. (The song reached No. 62 on the Hot 100 in November 1982) Melle Mel and Duke Bootee are featured on the track. The song appeared on the group's album of the same name, their first studio album. Selected for the 2002 registry.
Run-D.M.C., Raising Hell (1986)
This was the trio's third studio album; its first to crack the top 10 on The Billboard 200. (It spent three weeks at No. 3.) Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin produced the album, which included the group's influential, rap-meets-rock remake of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way." The smash, which featured that band's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, reached No. 4 on the Hot 100 in September 1986. "You Be Illin'" and "It's Tricky" also charted. Selected for the 2017 registry.
N.W.A, Straight Outta Compton (1988)
This album, the group's debut, barely made the top 40 on the Billboard 200 at the time (it peaked at No. 37), but it went all the way to No. 4 in the wake of the smash 2015 biopic of the same name. The album spawned the rap classics "Straight Outta Compton," "Gangsta Gangsta" and "Express Yourself." Notably, none of these songs cracked the Hot 100 at the time, but "Straight Outta Compton" made the top 40 in the wake of the film's release. Selected for the 2016 registry.
De La Soul, 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
De La Soul is sometimes called alternative or psychedelic hip-hop. (Others might just call them pop or R&B.) The trio produced this, its debut album, with Prince Paul. The album spawned the top 40 hit "Me Myself and I," which samples Funkadelic's "(not just) Knee Deep." Selected for the 2010 registry.
Public Enemy, Fear of a Black Planet (1990)
The group's third album announced its bold and uncompromising intentions right there in its title. This was the group's third studio album; its first to make the top 10 on the Billboard 200. "Fight the Power," "Welcome to the Terrordome" and "911 Is a Joke" were too politically charged for pop radio in 1990 (none of them made the Hot 100), but they're all viewed as rap classics today. "Fight the Power" was, famously, featured in Spike Lee's classic film Do the Right Thing. Selected for the 2004 registry.
2Pac, "Dear Mama" (1995)
This was the lead single from 2Pac's third studio album, Me Against the World. In April 1995, the song became 2Pac's first top 10 hit on the Hot 100. Sadly, 2Pac would be killed less than 18 months later. "Dear Mama" samples The Spinners' "Sadie" and Joe Sample's "In My Wildest Dreams." Selected for the 2009 registry.
Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
This was Hill's first solo album after parting ways with Fugees. (Remarkably, she has yet to release another studio album.) The album entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1 and spent four total weeks in the top spot. It was the first hip-hop release to win the Grammy for album of the year. The album spawned such hits as "Doo Wop (That Thing)" (which entered the Hot 100 at No. 1), "Ex-Factor" and "Everything Is Everything." Selected for the 2014 registry.
Jay-Z, The Blueprint (2001)
This was Jay-Z's sixth studio album; his fourth in a row to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. It spent three straight weeks in the top spot. The album became a franchise of sorts, with Jay having released two subsequent Blueprint albums. Eminem, Timbaland and future star Kanye West were among the producers. The album included "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)," which, in September 2001, became Jay-Z's first top 10 hit on the Hot 100. "Girls, Girls, Girls" and "Jigga" also charted. Selected for the 2018 registry.