Song: "The Message" (1982)
Album: The Message

Hip-hop may have started as party music, but Melle Mel and the Furious Five proved it could be much more when they chose to use it as a vessel to describe inner-city living on "The Message." The opening line is so crucial because it sets up the scene so perfectly—it's not just that there's broken glass, there's broken glass everywhere. The line is a reminder of a grittier New York, before the days of Giuliani and Bloomberg. It was a collective "aha" moment for millions of listeners who heard Melle's rhymes and realized, "Hey, he's describing a hood that's no different than mine!"