When you think of the best hip hop artists, people’s minds go to the individuals who paved the way back in the 80s and 90s. But, the 2000s were also a time when hip hop was flourishing because it was becoming more mainstream than it ever was before.
It’s no wonder the 2000s were a time when so many talented artists entered the scene and familiar faces became more popular. Here are the 33 best rappers of the 2000s:
Ask any millennial to continue these lyrics, “Nelly, I love you, I do, Need you…” and they’ll do it with the greatest of ease. Nelly started the decade off with a bang with “Country Grammar” and continued strong with one hit after another, including a duet with a country star.
2. Andre 3000
Another song that any millennial you meet will know how to finish the lyrics. Sing “I’m sorry Ms. Jackson (oh), I am for…” and they’ll continue it. This duo began in 1992 in East Point, Georgia, but the 2000s were truly their decade. Their blend of southern soul rap combined with fluid raps and danceable beats earned them their spot on this list. Andre 3000 really shines through, so we’re slotting him in for our pick.
3. 50 Cent
50 Cent short-changed himself when he created his moniker. Of course, he’s worth way more than 50 cents. His life started out rough when was growing up in Jamaica, Queens, New York. When he was only eight years old, his mother passed away in a fire. Through determination, he got through and became the talent people know of and love. Besides his rap career, he also entered the acting scene.
Whether you know him as HOVA, Jigga, or leave his name as is, Jay-Z debuted in the 90s, as an east coast rapper. Throughout the 2000s, he continued to rap and establish a name for himself with hits like “Jigga That N****” and “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” In 2003, he collaborated with Beyoncé, who would eventually become his wife, on the track, “’03 Bonnie & Clyde.”
New York produced another talented hip hop artist with this one. And not only is he a rapper and hip hop sensation, but he’s also a record executive and actor, making him a triple threat. While he got his start in the 90s, his career didn’t truly take off until the 2000s when he created several hits, such as “Hey Ma” and “Oh Boy.” He grew professionally during that time, but unfortunately, in 2005, he was shot at an intersection while driving his Lamborghini. Fortunately, a fan drove by and took him to the nearest hospital.
Born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, Nas started his career in the 90s as well as many of the other artists on this list but shined throughout the 2000s. He began in the New York rap scene and established himself to the point where he’s known as one of the best 2000s rappers. Today, he’s not only a rapper still releasing albums but also a producer, helping those make their way as he did.
7. Fat Joe
Fat Joe is yet another New York-born rapper on this list. He began in a hip hop group that only true hip hop fans probably know of, Diggin’ In The Crates Crew. Eventually, he started a solo career and even established his own record label called Terror Squad. And when it comes to talent, this man is a triple terror—a rapper, producer, and actor.
8. Lil’ Wayne
Lil’ Wayne began on Cash Money Records in the 90s. He joined the record label in 1995 when he was only 11 years old, making him the youngest rapper on the label. For the first few years of his career, he was part of The Hot Boys, and the label regularly featured him on tracks with Juvenile and other label mates. Right before the 2000s began, he debuted his first solo album and continued his career throughout the 2000s.
While DMX, known to his wife and children as Earl Simmons, was taken too soon from the rap game and earth, he truly paved the way for many future generations to rap. From hits like “Party Up (Up In Here)” to “What These B*tches Want,” DMX showed his versatility as a rapper with every song he made.
Eminem debuted in the 90s, but he rose even further to fame in the 2000s with songs like “The Real Slim Shady” and “Stan.” He frequently boasted about his drug use and even his mother’s. Unfortunately, these songs weren’t kidding; he was battling addiction throughout all of this. In 2005, he took a break from rapping over his addiction but did make a comeback with his album Recovery.
Millennials everywhere were chanting along to Ludacris as he told everyone to “Move, b*tch, get out the way.” Today, he is an actor, record exec, and rapper. He won three Grammys, acted in commercials, and even opened a restaurant. And can we say, mogul?
12. Ice Cube
Like many of the artists on this list, Ice Cube began his career in the 80s. And don’t get us wrong, he had his share of success when he was with the hip hop group N.W.A. He went solo, and it was over from then on that his career soared. If you’re a millennial, then when someone says something is hard, you know what to say… “Don’t stop, get it, get it (that’s real), You can do it, put your back into it (come on)” all thanks to this man.
13. Missy Elliott
We need a woman on this list. Who better to be the first than Missy Elliott, especially considering what she did for females in the hip hop game? She began in the 90s as well, but her solo career went to new heights in the 2000s as she created dance hits like “Get Your Freak On” and “Work It.”
14. The Game
Besides the lack of women on this list, we also have very limited west coast rappers on this list. This is where California-born The Game comes into play. In 2004, he released his solo album Untold Story. Dr. Dre spotted his raw talent and invited him to join him on Aftermath Records, with hitmakers like Eminem.
Reginald Noble, more commonly known as Redman, became a member of Def Squad in the 90s. As of 2022, he released eight albums, and this isn’t counting the number of songs he appeared on with other rappers. Some of his most noteworthy work is with Method Man. Since his time in music, he’s not only demonstrated he can rap as one of the best 2000 rappers, but he also showcased his acting skills.
16. Method Man
What best 2000 rappers list with Redman on it would be complete without Method Man? Like his friend Redman, he’s not only a rapper but also an actor. In fact, he and Redman starred in movies together. Plus, Method Man is also a record producer and songwriter. Unfortunately, despite all the money, the police caught Method Man in New York City back in 2007 for marijuana possession and driving an uninspected vehicle. His plea deal required him to rap to children to encourage them to stay away from drugs. He also had legal issues when he failed to pay taxes.
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Few rappers can keep up with this man when he spits lyrics. It’s truly enough to get someone tongue-tied trying to keep up. However, Twista does it with the greatest of ease, making him deserving of a spot as one of the best 2000s rappers. Besides being a rapper, he is also a producer.
Alvin Nathaniel Joiner, known to the public as Xzibit, is a multifaceted talent, showing everyone that a man from Detroit, Michigan, can make it big and do anything imaginable. Not only is he a rapper, but he’s also a movie actor, radio personality, and television presenter. Like so many other rappers on this list, he started his career in the 90s and saw an immense amount of success in the 2000s.
19. Rick Ross
Of course, the Boss, as he likes to refer to himself, had to make this list. Rick Ross is known for his deep voice and repeatedly stating how he’s the boss on every track he makes. His talent gained him quite a bit of exposure, enough to trigger a bidding war between Bad Boy Entertainment and Murder Inc. He bypassed both labels and joined Def Jam Recordings, where he joined label mates like Jay-Z.
Jason Terrance Phillip, better known by fans as Jadakiss, started out in the 90s rapping in a trio on Bad Boy Records. He then signed with Interscope and Ruff Ryders but later switched to Def Jam and D-Block. While he had a ton of success throughout the 2000s with hits like “Put Ya Hands Up,” that didn’t stop him from having legal troubles. In 2004, the police arrested him in North Carolina, and he wound up with illicit gun possession and marijuana charges. The first time didn’t teach him a lesson, and he ended up with another arrest in New York for the same crimes.
21. Dr. Dre
Like so many of the artists on this list, Dr. Dre didn’t launch his career in the 2000s. In fact, not only did he rap throughout the 90s, but he got his start in the 80s when he was part of World Class Wreckin’ Cru. In the 90s, he joined N.W.A., but throughout the 2000s, he worked on his solo career. He mainly produced and made guest appearances on other rappers’ tracks, but he did manage to release one album over that time.
Terius Gray, better known as Juvenile, is a down-south rapper on Cash Money Records. He began in the 90s and rapped throughout the 2000s, as part of the Hot Boyz and as a solo artist. Some of the notable tracks he released during the 2000s that made him part of the best 2000s rappers were “Mamma Got Ass,” “Set It Off,” and “Slow Motion.” Although Juvenile continued producing tracks throughout the 2000s, much of this time was difficult for him. His four-year-old daughter was shot. He also had several instances of legal troubles, including drug charges and failure to pay child support.
23. Ja Rule
Ja Rule’s stage name consists of his first and last initial followed by the word “Rule,” his first and last name being Jeffrey Atkins. He started rapping in the 90s in a group called Cash Money Click. Since the group never had a label, they went their separate ways, and he started his solo career as Ja Rule. As of 2022, he released seven albums, which featured songs such as “Put It On Me.”
It’s been a while since we saw a female artist on this best 2000s rappers list. She’s quite a threat, rapping, singing, and acting. While Eve is quite talented and has 16 albums released throughout the 2000s, some of which only feature her, she gained publicity negatively through the media with the beef she had with Foxy Brown back in 1999. And this drama continued up until 2017.
25. Lil’ Kim
We definitely needed more female representation on this list of the best 2000s rappers. And Lil’ Kim showed the world just how much talent she had with her hardcore rhymes, sexy attire, and outspoken personality. Besides being a rapper, she’s also a TV personality. Interestingly, she was friends with fellow female rapper Foxy Brown in high school. Later, they entered a feud together. The drama in her life didn’t stop there either because she later had a beef with Nicki Minaj as well.
Armando Christian Pérez deserves to be on this list, who you may know better as Pitbull. He has aggressively entered the music world and made a name for himself with his Latin rap. He made an appearance on several tracks. He’s also a producer and co-owns Bad Boy Latino with P. Diddy. This label is exclusively for Latino and Latina artists and is a subsidiary of Bad Boy Records.
27. P. Diddy
P. Diddy, Puff Daddy, or Sean Combs, whatever name you want to call him, was born in New York, making him part of the east coast rappers. He started as a talent director on Uptown Records. He later created his own label Bad Boy Records. Besides directing, he spent a great deal of time on the mic as well, creating four albums. And we should mention that he also acts. While he’s known as a talent on his own, people often associate him with pal The Notorious B.I.G.
28. Petey Pablo
Fill in the blanks… “This one’s for ____ ________, come on and raise up” If you’re a millennial, you couldn’t help but shout, “North Carolina,” and that’s thanks to Petey Pablo. He’s also quite known for the song “Freek-A-Leek.” Throughout his career, he released four albums. In 2010, he left Jive Records but did return to music once he began Carolina Music Group.
29. Kid Rock
Robert James Ritchie, known to fans as Kid Rock, is a unique voice in hip hop. He has a style that’s somewhere between country, heavy metal, rock, and hip hop. He’s a self-taught musician and not only uses his vocal ability but can also play instruments. Despite his talent, his legal troubles began in the 2000s and continued throughout the decade. It didn’t stop him from continuing his career in the music industry. In fact, in 2022, he released “We The People,” a song blasting Joe Biden, Fauci, and much of what the Democrats stand for.
30. Snoop Dogg
Snoop Doggy Dogg, Snoop Dogg, or simply Snoop first entered the rap scene in the 90s as a west coast rapper. His career continued into the 2000s. Since 2022, he has made 19 solo albums and several collaboration albums. That isn’t taking into consideration the number of songs he appeared on, such as “California Gurls” with Katy Perry.
31. Kanye West
Kanye West can do almost anything. He’s a rapper, fashion designer, and record producer. His label is GOOD Music, and he has grown throughout his time as a rapper. In fact, throughout his career, he won 24 Grammy Awards. He’s well known for songs like “Jesus Walks” and “Slow Jams.” Although he’s mainly in music and fashion, he mentioned in a 2018 interview that he would like to open an automobile factory and work on creating a flying vehicle, along with Tesla.
32. Busta Rhymes
Busta Rhymes started busting rhymes in the 80s and that extended throughout the 90s and into the 2000s. Throughout his career, he released 10 albums up until 2022. He appeared in films and recorded several collaborations with stars like Janet Jackson. Unfortunately, he battled legal issues during his career. For instance, in 2006, the police arrested him for third-degree assault, and it didn’t stop there. Two months later, he had to appear in court on possession charges for having a machete in his vehicle.
33. Beanie Sigel
Beanie Sigel is a very underrated artist and needed to make this list of best 2000s rappers. He recorded six albums of his own as of 2022. He made an appearance on tracks with artists like Raekwon, Scarface, and Jay-Z. One of his best-known songs is “Feel It In The Air.” He is also no stranger to legal troubles, having a lengthy rap sheet beginning in 2002 with a federal weapon charge.
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