16. Big Daddy Kane "Raw" (1987)
Producer: Marley Marl
Label: Cold Chillin'
Big Daddy Kane's "Raw" announced the arrival of a new, singular hip-hop talent. On "Raw," Kane spit casually-dexterous rhymes over a simple drum loop (Bobby Byrd's "Hot Pants"), a proving ground for his nimble precision. Only on the chorus does the song even strike a melodic note. For Kane, the uptempo breakbeat was an opportunity to exercise flawlessness: "Genuine like Gucci, raw like sushi," Kane promised to "captivate the crowd's majority," and it would be difficult to argue that he hadn't done so. Kane's error-proof raps couldn't hide behind a hook or any other concession to pop songwriting should he slip up. It was a high-wire act, and not only did he cross the cable, he did so with effortless ease. - David Drake