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Hip-hop sweats. It grunts. It pulls and pushes. If there’s a pause to rest, the beat always returns. And all along it swaggers and boasts and never surrenders. Hip-hop isn’t just something to play during a workout. It is a workout. Just try to sit still through Outkast’s “B.O.B.” or keep your pulse steady through Kanye’s “Stronger.” Blast Wu Tang Clan’s “Bring Da Ruckus” through your headphones and will yourself not to make any ruckus. Hip-hop motivates and these 50 tracks—compiled by our plate-clanging, mile-stockpiling, stadium-step-burning editors at Men’s Health—motivate best. Turn it up.
1. “Lose Control” by Missy Elliot (feat. Ciara, Fatman Scoop)
What, did you think that we were going to start things off with anything less than a nonstop banger from one of the greatest female hip-hop artists of all time? GET AT IT.
Motivating lyric: Everybody here // Get it outta control // Get yo backs off tha wall // ’cause Misdemeanor said so
2. “B.O.B.” by Outkast
Yeah, yeah, yeah “Hey Ya!” whatever. Three years before that pop phenom, Andre and Big Boi went as hard as they possibly could on this five-minute powerhouse from 2000’s Stankonia. The message: Don’t say you can do anything you can’t back up.
Motivating lyric: You can’t stop a train // Who want some? Don’t come un-prepared
3. “Go!” by Killer Mike
Before they were Run the Jewels, they were Killer Mike and El-P. This 2012 track off R.A.P. Music is nonstop on vocals with El-P scratching and clapping on a beat that sounds like a 100-yard dash.
Motivating lyric: I go in, I go hard // I go stupid, oh my God
4. “Way of Life” by Lil Wayne
Long before Tha Carter III, before Wayne’s beef with Birdman, before the fallout of Cash Money, there was this laid-back, living-good 2002 jam that focused on how great it is to be, well, great. You know when you take a week or two (or a month) off from the gym? Play this for the motivation to return.
Motivating lyric: Baby, I’m a stunna // I ain’t goin’ change it // Don’t, you, know, it’s a way of life?
5. “Go Harder” by Chief Keef
Sosa pushes and pushes and pushes on this 2015 dis track. And that auto-tune? The way it ratchets up the hook each beat? As if it was turning Super Saiyan? Harness that power.
Motivating lyric: We be goin hard, hard, hard, hard, hard, hard
6. “Victory” by Puff Daddy (feat. The Notorious B.I.G., Busta Rhymes)
Biggie unleashes his lyrical genius over a sample from Bill Conti’s Rocky soundtrack. The fact that the song was released just a few months after B.I.G.’s death adds another layer to Sean Combs heavy intro: “Yo, the sun don’t shine forever // But as long as it’s here then we might as well shine together.”
Motivating lyric: Excellence is my presence, never tense, ever hesitant
7. “Parking Lot” by Anderson .Paak
Malibu had plenty of songs that begged you to crank the treadmill speed faster, but this tight-leash of a track has a quiet urgency that clips at your heels.
Motivating lyrics: Coming closer to midnight and I’m wide awake // And ain’t you afraid to fade?
8. “Talk to Me” by Run the Jewels
It’s as if the world has ended and RTJ has commandeered the megaphone, the podium, and the masses. Who needs a personal trainer when you can have Killer Mike yell “I TOLD YA’LL SUCKAS” at you during reps?
Motivating lyric: Brave men didn’t die face down in the Vietnam muck so I could not style on you // I didn’t walk uphill both ways to the booth and back to not wild on you
9. “Street Power” by Ho99o9
Sampling John Carpenter’s Halloween would be scary enough, but then the Jersey hip-hop-punk group goes wild in a succession vocals that feels as if you’re being stalked by a madman. And the only thing you can try to do is run faster.
Motivating lyric: No time for the weak I’m just tryna surviva
10. “The Other Side” by Dizzee Rascal
The grime rapper asks the questions that anyone who has ever sweat for the sake of change is very, very familiar with.
Motivating lyric: How bad do you want it? // Do you really, really want it?
11. “Chips” by Talib Kweli (feat. Waka Flocka Flame)
The Brooklyn rapper goes undefeated in a sample of a 1999 Ruff Ryders’ song powered by Swiss Beatz. You’ll feel like you have your very own marching band behind you—one led by a full-tilt Waka Flocka.
Motivating lyric: I need the ring, gimme the ring // I don’t diss rappers, get in the ring // Sit in the clink before I ever sing // You see me winning, chips with my team
12. “X” by Kendrick Lamar (feat. 2 Chainz, Saudi, Schoolboy Q)
“X” stands for “10,” the level Kendrick, 2 Chainz, Saudi, and Schoolboy are on, and have always been on. They issue the challenge: Will you join them?
Motivating lyric: Too much flexin’ here, Go-Go Gadget this // Too much bread to get, I’ve been stretchin’ up // Ain’t no catchin’ up, I don’t rest enough // I don’t plan for luck, I keep workin’ hard
13. “Millidelphia” by Meek Mill (feat. Swizz Beatz)
Meek goes on a victory lap through his hometown on this part-ode, part-slam 2018 track. His perseverance is infectious. Give in.
Motivating lyric: Wooh! // Show time! // King’s back! // Ha!
14. “Uproar” by Lil Wayne (feat. Swizz Beatz)
Swizz delivers a beat that sounds like a cross between an NBA team entrance and the climax of a car chase movie. And Weezy grabs it and runs. This one’s a reminder that hip-hop, like working out, isn’t always meant to be taken so seriously.
Motivating lyric: Aimin’ at your head like a buffalo // You a roughneck, I’m a cutthroat
15. “No Problem” by Chance the Rapper (feat Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz)
You could argue whether Chance or Kendrick is the biggest name in hip hop from the last 10 years, but how can you argue with a song like “No Problem”? Chance’s cadence, and a star-powered back-up crew, leads through verses that name-check Petey Pablo, Yeezus, and … Uncle Luke?
Motivating lyric: You don’t want no problems, want no problems with me
16. “‘Till I Collapse” by Eminem (feat. Nate Dogg)
This hustle-till-you drop bonanza was only heightened by its pop culture tentacles (remember that Call of Duty trailer?). The song remains equal parts early 2000s nostalgia and weight room noise. Crank up that iPod nano!
Motivating lyric: ‘Til the roof comes off, till the lights go out // ‘Til my legs give out, can’t shut my mouth.
17. “Remember the Name” by Fort Minor (feat. Styles of Beyond)
In which Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda writes perhaps the greatest hype song of the century.
Motivating lyric: It’s not about the salary / It’s about reality and making some noise
18. “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West
Miss the old Kanye? The 2004 Kanye? The I’m-Gonna-Sample-Curtis Mayfield-and-A-Tribe-Called-Quest-and-The-Arc-Choir Kanye? Then play this throwback, which carries the feeling of reaching the summit of something seemingly insurmountable.
Motivating lyric: The only thing that I pray is that my feet don’t fail me now
19. “Rock Star” by N.E.R.D.
Pre-hat Pharrell, all angry in this revenge tune, spits his bars over guitar blasts and drum kicks that sound pulled from a Rage Against the Machine b-side.
Motivating lyric: You think that you don’t have to ever quit // You think that you can get away with it
20. “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” by DMX
Fun workout: Do a jump squat every time you hear “what?” in the verses. You’ll have a break in the hooks. If you can make it to them.
Motivating lyric: All I know is pain // All I feel is rain // How can I maintain // With mad shit on my brain?
21. “Yonkers” by Tyler, The Creator
This twisted diatribe pinballs you inside the head of a sociopath on the verge of destruction. The Hitchcock-like beat pulsates as Tyler descends into madness and, at least for the 4:11 length of this song, you’re too horrified to pay all that much attention to the strain of your workout.
Motivating lyric: They say success is the best revenge
22. “Nice for What” by Drake
OVO puts aside his is whine-and-grind style to go crazy on a Lauryn Hill sample. Watch the breakdown!
Motivating lyric: That’s a real one in your reflection // Without a follow, without a mention
23. “Get to Steppin'” by Junglepussy
This is jumprope music. This is shadow-boxing music. This is the NYC artist rat-a-tatting all over three and a half minutes of old-school. This is Billy Blanks double-time come-on come-on come-on give me more motivation.
Motivating lyric: All about pace pesos // All about papes
24. “Ready or Not” by Fugees
There’s a scope and a magnitude to this 1996 classic that immerses you in the thick of an action movie. Put this on during a break-of-dawn run and you’ll feel it.
Motivating lyric: I must confess, my destiny’s manifest // In some Goretex and sweats I make treks like I’m homeless
25. “Stronger” by Kanye West
Before Pharrell and Daft Punk teamed up, Kanye sampled their 2001 “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” as the blood-pumping beat for this 2007 Graduation track. You probably already have this one your workout playlist, but just making sure.
Motivating lyric: N-now th-that that don’t kill me // Can only make me stronger
26. “Level Up” by Ciara
Between all the countdowns and the clapping and the encouragement, this is like a fitness bootcamp class song-i-fied.
Motivating lyric: Fake friends get dropped like weight // Team love, don’t want no hate // I’m grindin’, I’m shinin’ // Up, up, up on my way
27. “APESHIT” by The Carters
Bey-Jay triplicate rapping about how amazing they are makes you want to be more amazing.
Motivating lyric: // I can’t believe we made it (this is what we made, made) // This is what we’re thankful for (this is what we thank, thank)
28. “Karaoke” by Big Freedia (feat. Lizzo)
New Orleans’ biggest voice in bounce music recruits Lizzo for three minutes of audial aerobics that leave you desperately in need of a rest period.
Motivating lyric: Oh, if you live this loud, show it, show it, show it, oh // It’s your moment now, sing it, sing it, sing it, shine
29. “Get Your Self Up” by KRS-One
The legend lays out the harsh truth over a beat that clomps and stomps. This isn’t a song. This is a proclamation.
Motivating lyric: You been knocked down? // Get yourself up! // You been shot down? // Get yourself up!
30. “Blood on the Cobblestones” by Ghostface Killah (feat. Adrian Younge)
Tony Starks time-travels in the track off the 2013 mob-horror concept album Twelve Reasons to Die. It’s 2:35 of all-out war. Duck and cover or stand and fight.
Motivating lyric: Make a lead on me, repping for the territory // No stepping on me, brethren that’s a negatory
31. “7/11” by Beyoncé
Queen B grabs ahold of a monster of a trap beat and doesn’t give up her grip till the last minute, which provides a sorely needed cooldown.
Motivating lyric: Sweatin’ out my blow out, sweatin’ out my press // This trick about to go off, mad cause I’m so fresh
32. “Space Tech Banana Clip” by Babbletron (feat. MF DOOM)
As if the mighty morphin power of Jaymanila, Cool Calm Pete, and DJ Pre weren’t enough, the trio brings in Metal Face for even more madness in a song that sounds like a treadmill set too fast.
Motivating lyric: For rhyme’s sake, Bonzai Buckaroo // Ahoy nerd, crabs grab Zoidberg // To the Buck Rog mechanized bird // I’m takin’ a rocket trip to say “word!”
33. “Hate Me Now” by Nas (feat. Diddy)
Not even Diddy’s lackluster “singing” (still love you, Combs) can ruin the epic scope of this song, which derives its grandeur from sampling the operatic “O Fortuna.” Nas, lyrical guns blazing, lays waste to every adversary.
Motivating lyric: I had to hustle hard never give up // Until I made it
34. “Momma Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J
Did you forget that LL was mean? Every verse from this 1990 TKO is a finely constructed setup of jabs that lead to the star-seeing uppercut blows. Damage! Damage! Destruction, terror, and mayhem!
Motivating lyric: Shadow boxing when I heard you on the radio // I just don’t know // What made you forget that I was raw
35. “Bring Da Ruckus” by Wu-Tang Clan
The opener to 1993’s Enter the Wu-Tang sounds like the moment the gun goes off, the racers grapple for positioning, and the battle for pole position changes with every turn. There’s competition, yet there’s teamwork. This isn’t rap. This is sport.
Motivating lyric: P.L.O. style, hazardous, cause I wreck this // dangerous, I blow sparks like Waco, Texas
36. “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy
It’s a fists-pumped, line-chanted, smoke grenade soundtrack to a revolution.
Motivating lyric: We got to pump the stuff to make us tough // From the heart // It’s a start, a work of art
37. “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys
Mike D, MCA, Ad-Rock at their best. Goofy. Powerful. Absolutely insane. Time your toughest set to the surging at 2:20 and there’s nothing you can’t do.
Motivating lyric: I’m out and I’m gone // I’ll tell you now, I keep it on and on
38. “Gimme Some More” by Busta Rhymes
Busta’s tommy-gun delivery sprays a swinging and swaying beat with so many lyrical killshots it’s hard not to get caught up in the chaos.
Motivating lyric: Fully equipped, you know we come wit’ all the supplies // Got a big gun, and I’m a show you the size
40. “Push It” by Rick Ross
Of course Da Boss is going to find an excuse to rap over a song from the Scarface soundtrack. Deploy it when you need a push.
Motivating lyric: I’m pushing it hard // I’m pushing it south // If he pushing a line // He pushin for Ross
41. “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa
Because breakdancing is a workout too.
Motivating lyric: Better make it fast or else I’m gonna get pissed
42. “DNA.” by Kendrick Lamar
His thesis: Whatever the odds, greatness is within you.
Motivating lyric: I just win again, then win again like Wimbledon, I serve
43. “3230” by Vince Staples
There’s paranoia and pandemonium in this reserved song of survival off 2015 Summertime ’06 double album.
Motivating lyric: Fortress ones and fortified, just tryna build my castle up
44. “Really Doe” by Danny Brown (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Earl Sweatshirt)
Danny raps like all hell has broken loose and he’s happy to dance in the flames. Throw Kendrick, Ab-Soul, and Earl into the End of Days carnival and you have a weird and wonderful firecracker to throw into any stale playlist.
Motivating lyric: Life is like an appetite of truth and dare, I double dare ya // Life can end in vain before the end is near
45. “Crutches, Crosses, Caskets” by Pusha T
Pusha calls out false martyrdom over a busted calliope of a beat. It’s a quick burst of get-up-off-the-couch-and-stop-with-your-excuses motivation.
Motivating lyric: I’m Yasiel Puig // I’m in another league
46. “Thug Luv” by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (feat. 2Pac)
There’s the buzzing of what sounds like an electric chair. There’s the cackling of animatronic crows. And then there’s the click-click-bang of gunshots that reverberate through this 1997 display of rap dominance.
Motivating lyric: Life: pleasure and pain stuck in this game, holler my name! // We all gon’ die, we bleed through similar veins
47. “Breath” by Fabolous
Motivating lyric: And I’m getting better year by year, like they say wine do
48. “Shut Up” by Stormzy
The vast majority of the other artists on this playlist hail from the U.S. of A, but one of the best MCs in the game right now resides across the pond. Stormzy has helped put grime, the UK garage/jungle hybrid, on the map internationally, and “Shut Up” is one of his signature songs. Allow Stormzy’s freestyle lyrical boasts to electrify your next workout.
Motivating lyric: If you don’t rate me, shame on you
49. “BOOGIE” by BROCKHAMPTON
The boy band scores the pop off at a dance party where everyone has lost control and all you can do is finish strong. (Or call your momma.)
Motivating lyric: I’ve been beat up my whole life // I’ve been shot down, kicked out twice // Ain’t no stoppin’ me tonight
50. “Survival of the Fittest” by Mobb Deep
Congratulations. You, too, have survived.
Motivating lyric: You could run but you can’t hide forever
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