Getting motivated in the gym can be freaking difficult. Sometimes, just hauling yourself off the couch is a challenge; other days, it's that elusive bench press PR that gets you down. But sometimes, motivation can be found in the little things in life: the perfect gym shorts, a new whey protein flavor that tastes like your favorite dessert, or an epic playlist.
From Eminem to DMX to Missy Elliot, we think these 20 hip-hop songs will deliver the perfect amount of fun, intensity, and energy, along with a delicate a hint of nostalgia. There's no way you'll get through all of these songs without cracking a smile, nodding your head, or remembering "that one time."
We only have one request: Don't let the awesomeness of this playlist distract you from killing your workout.
1. Eminem, "'Till I Collapse"
Although this pregame pick-me-up jam could hardly be more popular, we didn't think any good workout playlist could exist without Eminem's promise to never fucking quit. Follow his lead.
2. Outkast, "B.O.B."
A jumbled gathering of seemingly unorganized cords that gets you revved up to lift? Yep, that pretty much sums up this new-millennium classic. Who cares if you can't make sense of the lyrics? Pump the bass and let this fast-paced tune help you push through that final set. And don't forget to add weight. Big Boi says so.
3. Beastie Boys, "Intergalactic"
The lyrics don't make sense and the sound is experimental, but that doesn't mean this song won't mix well with squats and pull-ups. Crank up the volume and let the beat, mmmmmmm drop!
4. Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg, "Still D.R.E."
We're taking hip-hop back to 1999: back to hitting corners in low lows and perfecting the beat. You liked this song in the 7th grade, you'll love it now. Pour some aminos out for your gym homies and show some love for the street.
5. 2pac, "California Love"
You don't have to be a West Coast kid to understand the power of the California dream. You might be working out in Akron, Ohio, but 2Pac can make you feel like you're lifting in the middle of a California party.
6. YG, "Who Do You Love?"
Never has the succession of A, F, and E chords on the piano sounded so, well, gangsta. Grab a pair of heavy weights and position yourself in front of the mirror. When the chorus begs the question: "Who do you love?" go ahead and give your reflection a wink. Stay steady grindin', and you'll end up shinin'.
7. Busta Rhymes, "Break Ya Neck"
Busta is pretty clear about what he wants you to do while you listen to this track. We agree that you should nod your head, but make sure you're only doing it between sets.
8. A$AP Rocky, "Wild for the Night"
You know those times when you want to find just the right song for those really difficult sets? Well, don't waste any more time searching through your iPod—this is the song you need.
9. DMX, "Ruff Ryders' Anthem"
The tough part about putting DMX on a playlist is choosing the right song. We think we made the right decision. After all, talk is cheap. You better be ready to show everyone in the gym how you roll.
10. Jay-Z & Kanye West, "Ni**as in Paris"
Ah, Paris ... home to the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and killer croissants. As if the city of lights needed another claim to fame, they've now got this song by two hip-hop moguls. If you're going to narrow your playlist down to one song and one song only, this better be a top contender. The hook's catchy, the beat's solid, and it's sure to get you going gorillas.
11. Juvenile, "Back That Thang Up"
Take Sir Mix-A-Lot's glute anthem to the next level with this jam. And never trust anyone who doesn't break into dance immediately following "Cash, money, records, taking over, put the '99 in the 2000 ..."
12. Azealia Banks, "212"
Is she talking about the NYC area code? Reminding you of your lift tempo? Maybe, just maybe, she's counting your 212th rep. Either way, the dance beat of this hip-hop track is enough to get you going. The fast-spit rap, that's just extra.
13. Kendrick Lamar, "Swimming Pools (Drank)"
You don't have to drink till you're "faded" to understand the lesson behind this one: Don't go in halfheartedly. Kendrick's calling you to wo(man) up, drop the baby weights, and go heavy. Or maybe he's just telling you to go swim a bunch of laps. What do we know?
14. Drake, "Started From the Bottom"
We've all had those days: you're feeling disheartened with your progress and don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. When that happens, tune into Drake and remember where you started. Alter the lyrics as you see fit. Our personal favorite is to change "I wear every single chain even when I'm in the house" to "I deadlift every single chain when I hang them on the barbell."
15. Missy Elliot, "Get Ur Freak On"
Dawn your camo, swing from the chandelier, and bask in the memory of that awesomely gross virtual spit heard around the world. A quick listen and you'll surely get lost in the catchy, repetitive beats of this queen of the hip-hop game. So go ahead, get your freak on. Holla!
16. Young Jeezy, "Put On"
Most of the time, you "put on" for something or someone other than yourself. But when you're in the gym, you need to remember that you're there for you. Don't lift for your girlfriend, don't lift for your bros. Lift to build your best self.
17. Three 6 Mafia, "Poppin' My Collar"
If you were ever cool enough to pop your collar, then you know exactly why this song is such an important part of contemporary culture. If you weren't, then adding this song to your workout playlist will remind you why you started working out in the first place.
18. 50 Cent, "Many Men (Wish Death)"
This badass song is a solid reminder that no matter how shitty other people can be, you'll survive if you're true to yourself. This song is also a reminder that getting shot nine times may not actually kill you. (Warning: do not try this at home.)
19. Wiz Khalifa, "Black and Yellow"
Let Khalifa's ode to the Pittsburg Steelers and his black-and-yellow-striped ride fuel your gains. You don't have to be a fan of the combo to get behind the message: Go big or go home, right?
20. Fort Minor, "Remember the Name"
It's simple math: What do you get when you combine ten percent luck, twenty percent skill, fifteen percent concentrated power of will, five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain, and a hundred percent reason to remember the name? Two things: a sick song to blast when you're crushing the iron, and a push to ensure your name is remembered.