The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

The Top 200 Tracks of the 1990s

  1. Coolio ft. L.V. – ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ (1995) (Tommy Boy)

Sampling Stevie Wonder, ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ is maybe the most commercially successful hit the gangsta-rap genre ever produced – even though Coolio spends all of the song saying he’s not a gangbanger, lamenting the socio-economic structures and cycles of violence that keep him down, and the near-impossibility of breaking out from those surroundings. As such, it has as much resonance today as it did then. (LISTEN) Also try: Notorious B.I.G. – ‘Who Shot Ya’

  1. Yo La Tengo – ‘Autumn Sweater’ (1997) (Matador)

The primest of prime cuts from Yo La Tengo’s diverse masterpiece I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, the result of more than decade making music together, ‘Autumn Sweater’ is almost a dictionary definition of slightly socially-awkward American indie. Ira Kaplan’s shy, introspective croon is complimented by wife Georgia Hubley’s equally understated drumming and the gentle organ humming. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘From A Motel 6’

  1. James – ‘Laid’ (1993) (Rough Trade / Mercury)

The ubiquitous Madchester anthem ‘Sit Down’ always appears on these lists, but for our money it’s the quirky, unassuming ‘Laid’ that represents James and Tim Booth’s finest hour, filled with an adult-themed wanderlust. A mellower variant on their sometimes noisy and maximalist approach, and produced by Brian Eno with an expanded line-up, it is songs like these that made up this undervalued band’s career as the ‘90s advanced. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Sit Down’

  1. U2 – ‘One’ (1991) (Island)

Bono’s great humanist anthem, ‘One’ briefly restored U2’s transformative powers to their mid-eighties heights. Written in Berlin as they recorded their career-saving Achtung Baby with Brian Eno, just as the city’s post-Cold War reunification was taking place, its themes of forgiveness and uneasy resolution made it a fortunate coincidence of time and place. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?’

  1. Green Day – ‘Basket Case’ (1994) (Reprise)

The track that incontrovertibly broke Green Day in the charts, giving punk a much-needed shot in the arm in the process, ‘Basket Case’ was written about singer Billie Joe Armstrong’s then-undiagnosed panic disorder, at a time when he felt he was going insane. The track’s thrust and kinetic energy mirrors the struggles of its creator to escape his torment. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Welcome To Paradise’

  1. Fatboy Slim – ‘Praise You’ (1998) (Skint)

Norman Cook scored a UK no.1 hit with the third single from the era-defining big beat smash You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby. Sampling civil rights activist Camille Yarborough’s ‘Take Yo’ Praise’ and powered by a memorable Spike Jonze video, ‘Praise You’ was uncharacteristically downtempo but proved that dance music could have a deeper emotional resonance. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Right Here, Right Now’

  1. Dr. Dre introducing Snoop Doggy Dogg – ‘Deep Cover’ (1992) (Solar / Epic)

Having revolutionised hip-hop with N.W.A., Dr. Dre’s decision to quit the group seemed mysterious on the outside. However, he innovated his way back to the top utilising his gift for talent-spotting, tapping a then-unknown Snoop for ‘Deep Cover’, a soundtrack for the movie of the same name. With irresistible funk samples, bass as deep as the Grand Canyon and mining the same anti-authoritarian seam as ‘Fuck Tha Police’, it laid the foundation for The Chronic and Dre’s second massive genre upheaval later in 1992. (LISTEN) Also try: Ice Cube – ‘AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted’

  1. The Prodigy – ‘Voodoo People’ (1994) (XL)

Having tired of making happy-clappy rave in the early ‘90s, and having been pilloried for it in the dance music community, Liam Howlett and The Prodigy went grimy and dark for their hard-edged second album Music For The Jilted Generation. No track better encapsulated the shift in sound than ‘Voodoo People’, a Nirvana-sampling rock/rave collision that was much more frantic, tense and on-edge than before. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘No Good (Start The Dance)’

  1. Suede – ‘Trash’ (1996) (Nude)

Having jumped the gun in moving on from Britpop with the gnarled, gothic Dog Man Star, Suede returned with their third album Coming Up to capitalise on the boom in British guitar music that they had started four years before. ‘Trash’ was its triumphant, us-against-the-world lead single, a Technicolour outsiders anthem that became their biggest-selling hit ever. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Beautiful Ones’

  1. Nas – ‘It Ain’t Hard To Tell’ (1994) (Columbia)

When it landed in 1994, Nasir Jones’ debut album Illmatic was hailed in critical circles as a landmark in the evolution of hip-hop, a cut above the cartoonish gangsta-rap that was otherwise dominating. The success of the braggadocio closer ‘It Ain’t Hard To Tell’ ensured that the record would not merely be some cult favourite, samples Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’ against a mix of horns and tweaked-out voices and Nas’ evocative, street-level flows. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘The World Is Yours’

  1. Orbital – ‘Halcyon’ (1993) (FFRR)

Orbital’s output in the ‘90s was so consistently high that picking even a handful of tracks seems arbitrary. But if there’s one track that absolutely defined their dreamy, spaced-out techno, it was ‘Halcyon’. Dedicated to the Hartnoll brothers’ mum, who was addicted to the painkiller Halcion for years, it featured a hazy, back-masked Kirsty Hawkshaw vocal, liquid flows of Roland TR-909s and a heavenly ambience. Simply beautiful. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Impact (The Earth Is Burning)’

  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers – ‘Under The Bridge’ (1991) (Warner Bros.)

A deeply personal track about singer Anthony Keidis’ cycles of drug use and despondency, the laconic and emotional ‘Under The Bridge’ catapulted the Chilis to megastardom pretty much overnight. Mercurial guitarist John Frusciante, uneasy at the formerly underground group’s sudden exposure to enormous fame, quit in its aftermath, but ‘Under The Bridge’ has remained one of the most seminal alternative rock hits of the decade. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Give It Away’

  1. Boards Of Canada – ‘An Eagle In Your Mind’ (1998) (Warp / Matador)

With their essential debut LP Music Has The Right To Children, Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin had a colossal influence on two decades of subsequent electronica with their warm, nostalgic take on IDM. That record’s first track proper, the stunning ‘An Eagle In Your Mind’, was an inspired blend of decayed analogue synths, field recordings and hip-hop rhythms that created a ghostly, lonely ambience. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘ROYGBIV’

  1. Super Furry Animals – ‘Northern Lites’ (1999) (Creation)

A weird and wonderful band at their weirdest and most wonderful, ‘Northern Lites’ was a glorious left-field pop hit, tinged with calypso and Tijuana brass. A love song dedicated to the El Nino weather system that doubles up as a questioning of religious faith, it was proof of the Furries’ genuine idiosyncrasy while they were on Creation. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Something 4 The Weekend’

  1. Happy Mondays – ‘Step On’ (1990) (Factory)

For all Shaun Ryder’s absurdist but insightful lyrics, it was a cover version that provided the Happy Mondays with their biggest hit. A typically loose and skewed take on South African singer John Kongos’ minor 1971 hit ‘He’s Gonna Step On You Again’, with Rowetta’s soulful chorus and gloriously sunny piano riff, ‘Step On’ became arguably the defining anthem of the ‘Madchester’ craze. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Kinky Afro’

  1. Supergrass – ‘Caught By The Fuzz’ (1994) (Parlophone)

During their imperial phase, which stretched into the new millennium and allowed them to survive the cull of Britpop bands, Supergrass were expert crafters of ingenious pop-punk singles, and sounded like they were having terrific fun to boot. In truth, any one of ten tracks could have made this list, but no track surmises their sense of reckless fun than their 1994 debut single, a power-pop tale of being busted for weed by the coppers at the age of 15. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Alright’

  1. The Magnetic Fields – ‘Papa Was A Rodeo’ (1999) (Merge)

At a very early point in his career, Stephin Merritt shackled himself to classic pop songwriting in the vein of Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim. Although totally out of step with the indie scene of the ‘90s, he nevertheless delivered one of the decade’s most ambitious and well-executed works. Steeped in arch, knowing irony and detached kitsch, 69 Love Songs is a vast goldmine of treasures, but ‘Papa Was A Rodeo’ is the best-known of all of them. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘No One Will Ever Love You’

  1. Dinosaur Jr. – ‘Start Choppin’ (1993) (Blanco Y Negro)

One of the greatest effects of Nirvana’s breakthrough was the ability of outsider figures to enjoy a taste of mainstream success. No better is this illustrated than with J Mascis and Dinosaur Jr., his vehicle for ragingly loud, distortion-fuelled riffing and mumbling social incompetence. ‘Start Choppin’ was the closest thing they’ve ever come to a crossover hit, even creeping into the UK Top 20 after grunge had made the Dinos’ long-established formula commercially viable. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘The Wagon’

  1. Rage Against The Machine – ‘Killing In The Name’ (1992) (Epic)

A spitting, furious denunciation of police brutality and institutional racism, ‘Killing In The Name’ has always been Rage Against The Machine’s signature track, the menace of the rhythm complimenting the fire-eyed Zack de la Rocha. Famously, it received a second dose of mass exposure in 2009 when it became the UK’s Christmas no.1 that year on the back of an online campaign to disrupt Simon Cowell’s domination of the festive charts. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Bombtrack’

  1. Beck – ‘Devil’s Haircut’ (1996) (DGC)

Beck Hansen has always been at his best when he has the courage to run with his imagination. The cut-up, absurdist imagery of its lyrics (“heads are hanging from the garbage man trees”) reflected the kaleidoscopic chaos of the beats, samples and razor-sharp riffs that made up ‘Devil’s Haircut’. Itself the perfect opening to its parent album Odelay, it was a laconic yet totally switched-on collision of hip-hop and alternative rock that was ahead of its time, even in the post-modernist ‘90s. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Where It’s At’

  1. Eminem – ‘My Name Is’ (1999) (Aftermath / Interscope)

“Hi kids / do you like violence?” – so began one of the greatest curtains-up hits of all time as the world was introduced to Marshall Mathers’ alter-ego Slim Shady, a cartoonish, fun-house-mirror distortion of Mathers’ background and drop-out personality that was designed to push all the anxiety buttons of Middle America. Sampling Labi Siffre, much to her disgust at the song’s initial lyrics before Mathers changed them, it was an attention-grabbing instant classic. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Guilty Conscience’

  1. Bruce Springsteen – ‘Streets Of Philadelphia’ (1994) (Columbia)

Having ditched the E Street Band and struck out on his own in the late-‘80s, Bruce Springsteen’s critical and commercial stock was at an all-time low by 1993. However, this atmospheric, gentle ballad with tints of hip-hop and jazz, written for Jonathan Demme’s powerful movie Philadelphia about AIDS and injustice, shot The Boss back into the public’s consciousness, and he’s not looked back since. It’s still Springsteen’s highest-charting hit in Britain ever, winning four Grammys, an MTV Award and an Oscar. (LISTEN) Also try: Aimee Mann – ‘Save Me’

  1. The Wannadies – ‘You And Me Song’ (1994) (Snap / Indolent)

Sometimes the simplest things are the most effective. Swedish indie-popsters The Wannadies came up with a glorious slice of power-pop perfection with ‘You And Me Song’, penning a puppy-eyed lyric of immortal love and strapping rocket blasters to it. Breaching the Top 20 upon re-issue in 1995, then enjoying even greater exposure when used by Baz Luhrmann in 1997’s Romeo + Juliet, it’s all the principles of brilliant guitar pop condensed into two-and-a-half minutes. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Hit’

  1. U.N.K.L.E. ft. Thom Yorke – ‘Rabbit In Your Headlights’ (1998) (Mo’Wax)

Teaming up with Josh Davis, whose DJ Shadow album came out on his Mo’Wax label in 1996, was a masterstroke for English producer James Lavelle and his U.N.K.L.E. guise. Penned by Davis and Radiohead singer Thom Yorke as the spectral denouement for the group’s masterpiece Psyence Fiction, ‘Rabbit In Your Headlights’ was a transcendent track whose spirit elevated itself above the monochrome, cinematic soundscape. Coupled with an inexplicably moving video directed by Jonathan Glazer, it was the perfect meeting of indie and trip-hop. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Be There’ (ft. Ian Brown)

  1. Super Furry Animals – ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ (1996) (Creation)

Originally intended to be the B-side to ‘If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You’ earlier in 1996, it was shifted to a stand-alone single when SFA couldn’t clear the sample of Steely Dan’s ‘Show Biz Kids’ in time. Holding the Guinness World Record for the most ‘fucks’ in a British charting single – more than 50! – and with a front cover featuring ‘70s bad-boy Cardiff City striker Robin Friday flicking a V sign at a referee, its status as a cult classic and fan favourite was sealed instantly, and the Furries have almost always used it as a raucous closer to their live sets since. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Hermann Loves Pauline’

  1. The Cure – ‘Friday I’m In Love’ (1992) (Fiction)

While writing ‘Friday I’m In Love’, Robert Smith played the chord progression to everybody he knew, as he was so sure he had inadvertently stolen it from somewhere. He hadn’t, and a strident, impossibly happy jangle-pop masterpiece had been borne from the mind of one of goth’s great miserablists. Some hardcore Cure fans absolutely detest it, which is like saying you hate puppies. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘High’

  1. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – ‘I See A Darkness’ (1999) (Palace / Domino)

Will Oldham has long been a master at making haunted, hunted music, but with the fin-de-siècle masterwork I See A Darkness he arguably crafted his finest pieces ever. Recorded on the cusp of the new millennium, looking forward with a mixture of optimism and fearfulness, balancing mankind’s capability for empathy as well as evil with Oldham’s quivering, unguarded and disarming the listener, its title track got a huge shot of exposure when Johnny Cash covered it a few years later. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘A Minor Place’

  1. The Charlatans – ‘North Country Boy’ (1997) (Beggars Banquet)

One of British rock’s great survivors, The Charlatans’ most commercially successful album Tellin’ Stories was also the one most tinged with sadness, featuring as it did the last contributions of keyboardist Rob Collins before his death halfway through recording. The album yielded three Top Ten singles, the very best of which was the breezy yet reflective ‘North Country Boy’, mixing American influences with a peculiarly Northern British outlook, and it became an instant fan favourite. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘One To Another’

  1. Pet Shop Boys – ‘Being Boring’ (1990) (Parlophone)

After four years of crafting non-stop glorious pop hits, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe paused for reflection with their fourth album Behaviour. While it stalled at #20 in the charts, its sparkling lead single ‘Being Boring’ is now regarded as one of PSB’s very finest songs, working as it does on a number of levels. Tennant reflects on how he achieved success; acknowledges how AIDS decimated the gay community; and ruminates on how people’s perceptions and values change as they get older. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Se A Vida É (That’s The Way Life Is)’

  1. The Chemical Brothers – ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’ (1997) (Virgin EMI / Freestyle Dust)

With hip-hop breakbeats meeting hard-edged techno topped off with a Schooly D sample, ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’ was a second consecutive chart-topper for the Chems, and arguably the greatest example of their eclectic approach to their influences and inspirations. Although there wasn’t a guitar in sight, ‘…Beats’ and its predecessor ‘Setting Sun’ both chimed with the wider Britpop aesthetic of re-shaping sounds from the past into something new. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Setting Sun’

  1. Mazzy Star – ‘Fade Into You’ (1993) (Capitol)

This sleepy and seductive diamond, from Mazzy Star’s acclaimed second album Tonight That I Might See, beguiled alternative rock fans at a time when MTV was dominated by noise. Hope Sandoval’s narcotic, heavy-lidded vocals smouldered among David Roback’s sparse arrangements of acoustics, slide guitar and piano. An emotionally arresting cult hit that film and television producers have used countlessly since. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Into Dust’

  1. Aphex Twin – ‘Xtal’ (1992) (Apollo)

The perfect sonic short-hand for Richard D. James’ earliest work on his debut, Selected Ambient Works 85-92, ‘Xtal’ is a slice of aural perfection whose resolutely lo-fi production values (James recorded everything himself with homemade, customised samplers and keyboards) actually explain its success, rather than hinder it. Blissfully serene but with just a hint of the sinister bubbling underneath, the sighing, wordless female vocalising makes it feel like the perfect 5am comedown. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘”Radiator”

  1. Orbital – ‘The Box’ (1996) (Internal)

With their fourth album In Sides, the Hartnoll brothers moved gradually away from their rave scene origins and made a more filmic kind of music that had a crossover appeal to a wider congregation. Its lead single ‘The Box’ was the greatest encapsulation of that shift, a two-part epic that came across like some long-lost spy movie theme, full of nerve-jangling, claustrophobic stings and undefinable ennui. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘The Girl With The Sun In Her Head’

  1. Radiohead – ‘Creep’ (1992) (Parlophone / EMI)

It’s with no small amount of irony that Thom Yorke could feel so alienated by a song about… alienation. Other than ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, there’s arguably no track that better defines the public’s perception of mopey, awkward Gen-Xers than Radiohead’s breakout single, a huge hit in the States and then around the world. Radiohead quickly fell out of love with ‘Creep’ and wanted to move onto bigger and better things – famously “killing” the track on 1994’s My Iron Lung EP – and subsequently performed it very rarely live until the 2016 tour for A Moon Shaped Pool. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘My Iron Lung’

  1. Air – ‘Kelly Watch The Stars’ (1998) (Virgin / Astralwerks)

A chilled concoction of European pop aesthetic and lounge jazz, Air’s signature song ‘Kelly Watch The Stars’ combined an irresistible bassline and sparkling instrumental flourishes that made it seem like a little piece of surreal heavenliness dropped down to earth. Effortless sexy and elegantly, quintessentially French in every respect, the track, along with Moon Safari’s other excellent singles ‘Sexy Boy’ and ‘All I Need’, rocketed the group to dizzying heights. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Sexy Boy’

  1. Sleater-Kinney – ‘One More Hour’ (1997) (Kill Rock Stars)

Where many of the riot-grrrl acts were short-lived, Sleater-Kinney were able to forge an exceptional seven-album career arc because they were able to maintain the energy and passion of its initial explosion, taking the agitprop of the genre and applying to more matured songs about relationships, motherhood, music and politics. Virtually all their tracks are worthy of discussion and analysis, but this heartbroken bulldozer of a track, from their 1997 magnum opus Dig Me Out, is an enduring one. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Call The Doctor’

  1. Red House Painters – ‘Katy Song’ (1993) (4AD)

Few songs of the Nineties are as memorably miserable as Mark Kozelek’s ‘Katy Song’. Full of funereal imagery and Nick Drake-esque folk, the track wallows in torment over painfully lost love for more than eight minutes, but Kozelek’s remarkable talent is that it never tips over into mawkishness or self-pity. From the first of two self-titled Red House Painters albums released in 1993, ‘Katy Song’ is one of the most powerful things this unique songwriter has ever penned. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘New Jersey’

  1. Manic Street Preachers – ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ (1992) (Columbia)

Before ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, the Manics’ fifth single after signing to major label Columbia, the Welsh quartet were almost universally scorned as a throwback joke by the British music press, at a time when grunge, shoegaze and post-Madchester bands ruled supreme. However, this was the moment at which many sat up and took them seriously. An existential epic recalling the aimless teenage ennui of Rumblefish, it indicated there was emotional heft behind the Manics’ retro-punk shape-throwing. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘You Love Us’

  1. Saint Etienne – ‘Like A Motorway’ (1994) (Heavenly)

One of the most consistently great singles bands of the Nineties, Saint Etienne fused modern dance techniques with timeless pop indebted to the 1960s. By their third album, 1994’s Tiger Bay, their sound was reaching for grander things, fusing a looping breakbeat to a pulsating, Moroder-esque synth rhythm – with no breakdown or proper chorus – to evoke the endlessly stretching motorway of the song’s title while Sarah Cracknell’s ice-cool vocals tell of suburban tragedy. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Hug My Soul’

  1. Underworld – ‘King Of Snake’ (1999) (Junior Boy’s Own)

An utterly transcendent highlight from Beaucoup Fish, the last of three seminal Underworld albums that featured Darren Emerson, ‘King Of Snake’ interpolated the snaking rhythm from Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ to create a raging house monster. It was kaleidoscopic, subtly shifting and totally mesmerising as the listener was left consistently disorientated, not knowing onto which particular rhythm to lock their ears. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Jumbo’

  1. Snoop Dogg – ‘Gin And Juice’ (1993) (Death Row / Interscope)

In the aftermath of Dr Dre’s The Chronic, West Coast hip-hop’s stock was at an all-time high. Few tracks capture the scene’s sense of triumphalism at that point in time than Snoop’s ‘Gin And Juice’, a good-time anthem where the only drama was moochers freeloading weed and liquor. With the kind of hip-hop house-party video that’s long since become a cliché, it’s the sound of Dre and Snoop – two of rap’s finest – at the peak of their powers. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Who Am I (What’s My Name?)’

  1. Pavement – ‘Gold Soundz’ (1994) (Matador)

Combining an effortless melody with the hazy, softly shimmering guitar lines, ‘Gold Soundz’ is one of those songs that actually sounds like its title. Easy to listen to, almost innocuously light and steeped with nostalgia (Stephen Malkmus’ first words on it are “go back”) Pavement dispensed with the ironic sense of detachment that characterised much of their earlier work to make something heartfelt, wistful and sincere. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Range Life’

  1. Aphex Twin – ‘Come To Daddy’ (1997) (Warp)

Richard D. James’ forays into the British singles chart and the mainstream of popular culture were few and far between, but arguably his single most well-known track was the nightmarish ‘Come To Daddy’. With a seriously disturbing (and banned) video, shot by Chris Cunningham on the same Thamesmead council estate that Stanley Kubrick used in A Clockwork Orange, ‘Come To Daddy’ was a whirlwind, 200bpm slice of urban horror. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Girl/Boy Song’

  1. New Radicals – ‘You Get What You Give’ (1998) (MCA)

New Radicals, the short-lived studio vehicle for hired-gun songwriter Gregg Alexander, came up with the purest one-hit wonder of the Nineties. Radiating good vibes from its very core, the infectious ‘You Get What You Give’ works as both a nostalgic artefact of the late Nineties and as an immortal anthem for perseverance that transcends its era. (LISTEN) Also try: Semisonic – ‘Closing Time’

  1. Oasis – ‘Supersonic’ (1994) (Creation)

The song that started it all for the Gallagher brothers, ‘Supersonic’ had not actually been intended as Oasis’ debut single, evolving from an innocuous studio jam to which Noel penned the self-consciously nonsensical lyrics in just 10 minutes. Displaying all the characteristics that their adoring public would associate them with, even at the beginning of their career, ‘Supersonic’ is still Noel’s favourite Oasis song. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’

  1. Beastie Boys – ‘Sabotage’ (1994) (Grand Royal)

An endearingly stoopid party-starter on its surface, ‘Sabotage’ also showcased a very important influence on Beastie Boys’ sound that is still usually overlooked – that hardcore punk was always as key as hip-hop in explaining their aesthetic. With its goofy, ‘70s-cop-show-themed Spike Jonze video that made it a crossover hit, the arcane pop-culture humour hilariously sent up their frat-boy origins of eight years before. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Intergalactic’

  1. 2Pac – ‘Dear Mama’ (1995) (Interscope)

Based on samples and interpolations of The Crusaders and The Detroit Spinners, ‘Dear Mama’ was one of the most humanitarian statements that Tupac Shakur ever created. Both a heartwarming tribute to and unflinching portrait of his mother, the former Black Panther revolutionary Afeni Shakur who often found herself imprisoned (ironically, the single was released while Tupac himself was incarcerated), it remains a Nineties hip-hop classic. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Brenda’s Got A Baby’

  1. Roni Size/Reprazent – ‘Brown Paper Bag’ (1997) (Talkin’ Loud)

Taken from the career-defining New Forms album, which took the industry by surprise by scooping the 1997 Mercury Prize, ‘Brown Paper Bag’ is clinching proof that the greatest artists can take an underground genre into the mainstream and the nation’s living rooms without sacrificing its core tenets. Infused with jazz, hip-hop and house elements that don’t obscure the drum & bass aspects, it’s still Roni Size’s calling card. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Railing’

  1. Radiohead – ‘Just’ (1995) (Parlophone)

‘Just’ arguably summed up the complaint rock, the cathartic release of angst expressed through noisy, discordant guitars, of Radiohead’s early career better than any other. Fluctuating between calm and chaos, Thom Yorke addressed themes of adolescent alienation, self-harm and depression, and it was a distressing highlight from their career-changing second album The Bends. Just ignore that appalling Mark Ronson version… (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Planet Telex’

  1. Faithless – ‘Insomnia’ (1995) (Cheeky / BMG)

There are ‘90s dance monsters, and then there’s ‘Insomnia’. One of the first intrusions of underground rave culture into suburban bedrooms, Faithless’s signature track found huge chart success upon re-release in 1996, the sinister build-up of tension and the arms-in-the-air release of its keyboard melody made ‘Insomnia’ one of the most instantly recognisable hits of the decade. (LISTEN) Also try: ‘Salva Mea’

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