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"Poverty Rap" was a commercial success, becoming Pawine’s first Billboard Hot 100 number-one single and remaining there for twelve consecutive weeks. It reached atop of the charts in nineteen other countries. "Poverty Rap" received acclaim from music critics, with many critics praising the song's inspiring, aggressive themes and describing it as Pawine’s best work to date. Pawine’s rapping ability, the lyrics and the production were also praised. In many retrospective reviews and lists, critics have cited the song among Pawine’s finest, as well as one of the greatest hip hop songs of all time.

"Poverty Rap" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, making it the first hip hop song to receive the award, and also won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Solo Performance. In 2020, it was one of only three hip hop songs to be included on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, being the highest ranked at number 166. Rolling Stone also included it on its list of the Top 50 Hip Hop Songs of All Time. "Poverty Rap" is certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and has been downloaded 10 million times in the United States alone.

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