45. Black Star "Definition" (1998)
Album: Mos Def And Talib Kweli Are Black Star
In the late '90s, Blackstar provided an alternative to the popular gangsta rap narratives of the time, which had gone from "keeping it real" to keeping it too damn real in the wake of Biggie and 2Pac's deaths, and jiggy rap, with Puffy and Bad Boy running radio. It was relieving to see a conscious underground act like Blackstar find a way to shine on "Definition" while blasting with accurate assassin shit on the mic.
Ironically, even though Mos Def and Talib were seen as the alternative to the Shiny Suits and the sample-ridden tunes of Puff Daddy, they essentially followed the same formula by sampling an '80s rap classic (BDP's "The P Is Free") for "Definition." And it worked. According to Kweli, Funk Flex started playing the song on Hot 97 and helped the duo get buzzing. —Insanul Ahmed