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101 Best Rappers Of All Time (Essential Rap Artists)

Any list of the greatest rappers of all time is going to be divisive. Everybody has an artist they think of as their favorite or think they know who has the best skills on the mic when compared to everyone else. But the list of things that makes a good rap artist isn’t a simple one. MC skills, flow, linguistics, vocabulary, rhyme schemes, speed, personas, themes, and even the era they came up in can all play a part in how a rapper is viewed.

For our list, we took into account all of those skills but also added weight to the commercial success a rap artist was able to achieve and how big of an influence they became in the hip hop landscape. So without further ado, here’s our list of the 101 best rappers of all time. 

101. Lil Uzi Vert

Lil Uzi Vert - XO Tour Llif3 (Official Music Video)

Lil Uzi Vert is one of the best and brightest rappers in the emo rap and SoundCloud rap communities. Each of his releases has added layered complexity and subtle shifts in tone, becoming enigmatic of the modern-day rapper. 

100. Wiz Khalifa

Wiz Khalifa - See You Again ft. Charlie Puth [Official Video] Furious 7 Soundtrack

Wiz Khalifa was one of the most prominent rappers of the 2010s, releasing a long string of hit songs that resonated with both the urban hip hop and pop music communities. His studio debut single Black And Yellow was an instant hit and rose to the top of the Hot 100, with plenty more following it up. 

99. Slick Rick

Slick Rick - Children's Story (Official Music Video)

Slick Rick is known for two things: his title as being rap’s greatest storyteller and that iconic signature eye patch. A smooth flow and detailed imagery characterize his raps and turn him into one of the most sampled artists and most influential rappers in the history of music.

Vividly painted narratives drove his work and inspired a generation of rap artists like Snoop Dogg, Nas, and Jay-Z to add layers to their own work. It’s impossible to separate Slick Rick and the history of hip hop, earning him a place among the elite. 

98. Black Thought

Danger Mouse & Black Thought - Aquamarine feat. Michael Kiwanuka (Official Video)

Black Thought is still one of the best freestylers in the game today and an unquestioned master in lyricism. His appearances with other artists often see him outshine or outplay them in terms of wordsmithing, including working with artists like Eminem, Royce Da 5’9”, and Big Pun. Beginning his career in 1993, he has become one of the most polished and perfect MCs we’ve ever seen and one of the best storytelling-conscious rappers you’re going to be able to find out there.

97. Kid Cudi

Kid Cudi - Pursuit Of Happiness (Official Music Video) ft. MGMT

Kid Cudi rose to fame thanks to his debut single Day ‘n’ Nite, a worldwide hit that was originally published on his MySpace page. After signing with Kanye West’s label, he released a steady stream of solid rap verses and landed several major chart hits. He’s mostly known for his influence on alternative and contemporary hip hop, with his honest discussions about mental health issues being one of the defining influences of the emo rap scene. 

96. Meek Mill

Meek Mill Ft. Nicki Minaj & Chris Brown - All Eyes On You (Official Video)

Meek Mill started out as a battle rapper, honing his skills before eventually debuting his first studio album Dreams And Nightmares in 2012. He quickly rose to mainstream prominence and had one of the brightest futures in hip hop but was incarcerated for a time and lost a lot of steam. He’s since turned that experience into activism, advocating for prison reform alongside Jay-Z. 

95. Cardi B

Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin - I Like It [Official Music Video]

Cardi B might be a controversial figure for many, but there’s no denying that she’s one of the most successful female rappers of all time. Coming from the TV show Love And Hip Hop: New York, she eventually turned into one of the most popular music artists of the modern day on the back of her single Bodak Yellow. Forbes recognizes her as one of the most influential rappers of all time and today she stands as the female rap artist with the most number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100. 

94. Fat Joe

Fat Joe, Remy Ma - All The Way Up ft. French Montana, Infared

Fat Joe started his career as a member of the hip hop group Diggin In The Crates Crew but soon after began his storied solo career. Forming several of the most impressive hip hop groups in history, he would inevitably produce hits with other big-name artists like Lil Wayne—Make it Rain—and Ja Rule—What’s Luv? Ultimately, his work is best summed up by his most successful single Lean Back, which was released while part of Terror Squad.

93. Treach

If you’re looking for one of the most dynamic technical rappers in the game, look no further than Treach. Coming shortly after LL Cool J, he was one of the artists who built the blueprint of what successful hip hop would become. Street anthems and mainstream hits on his albums blend perfectly and shift between them in a way that few other artists were able to pull off.

A rapid flow and intricate world play made him stand tall among other rappers in his era and undoubtedly influenced artists for generations to come. A trailblazer through and through, he will always be remembered as one of the greatest and most important rappers in hip hop history.

92. Immortal Technique

The Point of No Return | Immortal Technique

Immortal Technique might be one of the more controversial names on this list, thanks in large part to the controversial political topics they cover. An activist as much as he is a rapper, he mainly focuses his lyrics on far-left-wing politics and tackles complex global issues from that point of view. Whether you agree with his thoughts or not doesn’t matter though, as he’s one of the best freestylers today and one of the biggest names in underground hip hop circles.

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91. Ja Rule

Ja Rule - Mesmerize ft. Ashanti (Official Music Video) ft. Ashanti

Ja Rule might be best remembered for his numerous feuds with artists like 50 Cent, Eminem, and DMX. But there’s no way to talk about rap in the 2000s without bringing up his name. He was notably one of the most successful and skilled rappers of the era, taking home plenty of awards and producing quite a few Billboard Hot 100 hit singles. 

90. Pop Smoke

POP SMOKE - DIOR (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

Pop Smoke is one of the few drill artists to become major players in the hip hop industry, but his rise to fame was a fast one. Breakout singles like Welcome To The Party and Dior set him up for success and he was noted for having a—slightly—less aggressive style than most drill rappers coming up in the scene. A much newer addition to the list, his posthumous debut album debuted on top of the Billboard 200, and all 19 of the tracks on it charted within the Hot 100. 

89. Ol’ Dirty Bastard

Ol' Dirty Bastard - Shimmy Shimmy Ya (Official Video) [Explicit]

ODB was one of the most memorable founding members of Wu-Tang Clan. He was outrageously profane and delivered lines in a half-sung and half-rapped manner that made him stand out even among the other titans within the group. Sadly, his success was held back by incarceration and early death. However, the unique nature of his rap style cemented him as one of the most memorable and freshest rappers in history.

88. Cam’Ron

Cam'Ron - Hey Ma (Official Music Video) ft. Juelz Santana

Cam’Ron was integral to redefining the sound of New York rap during the 2000s. Bringing together some of the best and brightest for his crew Dipset, he crafted a powerful movement that sent shockwaves through the hip hop world.

Ambitious internal rhymes and innovative wordsmithing made him famous, though layered with his distinctive tone and effortless charisma, it put him over the top in terms of hip hop history. Many artists make an impact with their own music, but he was able to extend his influence to others and pushed the entire scene as a whole forward during his best era. 

87. Diddy

Sean Combs is another name that we can’t leave out of a list of the biggest names in hip hop. As a rapper, he released several massive hit singles and albums. But it was his work as a producer that stood tallest. Diddy was the man behind Biggie, Mary J. Blige, and Usher. His label Bad Boy Records was the East Coast side of the whole East Versus West hip hop feud in the 1990s. But he was no slouch on the mic either, dropping new music as recently as 2023. 

86. Gift of Gab

Gift of Gab (feat. R.A. The Rugged Man and A-F-R-O) - Freedom Form Flowing (Official Music Video)

Gift Of Gab has been one of the best MCs to come from the Bay Area for more than 30 years. While other artists can produce incredible rhymes and bars, he is known for a flow so fast it would leave most rappers stuttering, and he’s able to keep up the blistering pace through tongue-twisters and syllable-crammed lines.

If you need a showcase of his mic skills, look no further than Alphabet Aerobics. While he’s no longer around to produce more music, he will be remembered as one of the speed gods of hip hop and a creator of timeless classic flows. 

85. Chief Keef

Chief Keef - Love Sosa

Chief Keef nearly single-handedly brought a new subgenre of hip hop into popular culture at only 17 years old. His melodic raps, slurred delivery, and unfiltered lyrics essentially built the foundation of the drill and mumble rap scenes we know today. Even without the massive commercial success expected after his major record label deal, he has been one of the biggest modern influences on hip hop as a whole. 

84. Ras Kass

Apollo Brown & Ras Kass - Deliver Us From Evil | Official Video

Ras Kass is best defined as a complete MC. He’s got it all, from intricate storytelling to complex wordplay and even a commanding flow when he steps up to the plate. His debut album Soul On Ice was a glimpse at the spark of genius within him that took him on a three-decade career journey. Sadly, he’s often not mentioned among other legends of the West Coast, but anyone who has listened to a few of his songs would know that he deservedly should be in those conversations. 

83. Guru

Guru - Keep Your Worries ft. Angie Stone

Guru got his start as part of the rap duo Gang Starr alongside DJ Premier. He’s an artist who often doesn’t get the respect he deserves for his skill as an MC, consistently putting out thoughtful bars that made him into one of the premier lyricists of his day. 

82. Royce da 5’9”

Royce da 5'9" - Caterpillar ft. Eminem, King Green

Royce Da 5’9” is one of the few rappers able to match the lyrical ability of Eminem. Part of a duo with Shady under the name Bad Meets Evil, he has been consistently performing as a top name in hip hop for more than two decades.

A precise flow and complex rhyme schemes made him a foundational part of the community, but it was his ability to adapt that allowed him to have such longevity in the genre. From politically conscious rap to introspective themes, he has cemented his place among the pantheon and continues to produce quality music today.

81. The D.O.C.

The D.O.C. was one of the most important influences on the Southern rap scene and even collaborated with N.W.A. during their prime run. He eventually went on to become one of the founders of Death Row Records alongside Dr. Dre and Suge Knight. His solo career started in 1989 with his debut album No One Can Do It Better. Despite a serious car accident that altered his voice, he’s continued releasing music and remains one of the most influential names in the game. 

80. Spice 1

Spice 1 - Welcome To The Ghetto

Spice 1 began rapping at an early age and eventually became one of the pioneers of the Bay Area rap scene. He was especially important in Oakland and gained a massive following that would stick with the skillful MC for his next 30 years in the business. 

79. Big L

Big L - Put It On (Official Music Video)

Big L was another rapper with unlimited and untapped potential. His tragic passing left the same foul taste in people’s mouths that the loss of Biggie and 2Pac did. How great could Big L have been given more time? It’s a question that will be largely left unanswered, though he did leave behind some incredible work to look at.

An early master of freestyling, he crafted gritty narratives that showcased his talent on both the mic and in the songwriter’s booth. Unfortunately, only his debut album Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous, as well as a few single tracks are all we got before his passing. 

78. Killer Mike

Killer Mike has been producing incredible conscious rap for years and was mentored by Outkast’s Big Boi. But it took him until 2012 with his collaboration alongside El-P on R.A.P. Music for people to really take notice. A retrospective look at his discography showcases his raw talent and how fearlessly he pushes boundaries. No social or political topic was off-limits for him, eloquently tackling them head-on and becoming a powerful force in the culture. 

77. AZ

AZ may be the most respected artist on the list within hip hop circles that never achieved massive mainstream success. An underrated lyricist, his bars earned him a place alongside other greats in the collective The Firm.

Alongside other 1990s rappers, he helped lay the groundwork for what would become the East Coast rap style and cemented his legacy in the minds of true hip hop heads across the country. There was no lack of skill, no lack of substance in any of his work, he simply and unfortunately didn’t get the credit he truly deserved. 

76. Pharoahe Monch

Styles, Pharoahe Monch - The Life

Pharoahe Monch had an interesting start to his rap career. He is one of the best track killers in the rap game. Intricate and complex rhymes, a dynamic flow, and a manic tone all left an indelible mark on the rap game.

He is often known within hip hop circles as one of, if not, the best lyricist of all time. He could effortlessly adapt to different musical styles and hang with any other rapper he recorded with. A stirring of solo material showcased his versatility as well, running the gamut from jazzy tunes to rock instrumentals and gritty hardcore rap. 

75. Kurtis Blow

Kurtis Blow - Basketball (Official Music Video)

Kurtis Blow was one of the most important rappers to ever live, as he came along before the genre had even been defined. A proof-of-concept artist, he was the very first rapper to ever sign with a major record label, producing some of hip hop’s earliest hits like The Breaks and Christmas Rappin’.

His stage presence may have carried him quite a bit, but he was a visionary who saw just what hip hop could turn into when it was given a chance in the mainstream music world, as evidenced in his single If I Ruled The World. While he may not have had the wild success or lyrical complexity of other rappers on the list, his work has been sampled by greats like Nas, Jay-Z, KRS-One, and De La Soul. 

74. Kool G Rap

Kool G Rap, Nas - Fast Life

Kool G Rap began his career alongside hip hop titans like Rakim, KRS-One, and Big Daddy Kane. It was in the 1990s that he truly took off, putting out gritty, narrative-driven raps with all of the gangsta machismo you could ask for in an enthralling lyricist.

Listening to his songs was almost cinematic, as they painted such a vivid picture of the story he was telling that you couldn’t help but envision them and feel like a part of them. Classic albums like Wanted: Dead Or Alive and Roots Of Evil influenced just about every big name in the 1990s, including the likes of Biggie and Wu-Tang Clan. For the New York rappers that came after him, there were a few more influential artists. 

73. MC Lyte

Keep On, Keepin' On (feat. Xscape)

We’ve talked about some of the greats when it comes to female rappers, but MC Lyte was one of the earliest pioneers of the genre. During the 1980s, the Brooklyn native began writing and rapping as early as 12 years old. Her debut album Lyte As A Rock made her one of the leading early female MCs. But it was her undeniable talent that allowed her to break barriers in a male-dominated genre, easily rivaling her male counterparts during the 1980s. 

72. Too Short

TOO SHORT - Blow The Whistle (Official HD Video)

Too Short has been a West Coast pioneer since the 1980s. One of the Bay Area’s most influential rappers of all time, his storytelling and gritty lyrics on songs like Freaky Tales challenged and changed the status quo and brought a rough edge to the hip hop world that had been lacking in older generations.

Alongside E-40, he has been instrumental in defining how successful independent rap artists can be. His Up All Nite Records label proves that hustle and talent can find success without the need for a major label. 

71. Canibus

Canibus shocked the world in the 1990s when he burst onto the scene with razor-sharp wordplay and cemented himself as one of the premier freestylers of the era. A notorious beef with LL Cool J gave us some classics but kept him from becoming a household name in many ways.

Despite this, he has been able to build an extensive discography that showcases his MC skills, his storytelling abilities, and his carefully crafted rhymes. It’s impossible to leave him out of the conversation when dealing with the best rappers of all time, as he’s been a driving force of underground hip hop for years. 

70. Twista

At one time, Twista was the Guinness World Record holder for being the fastest rapper in the English language. A pioneer of the art of speed rapping, his precision and blistering flow translated into a career that spanned over 30 years. One of the fastest in the game to this day, he has been the driving influence behind several other prominent speed rappers and is a technician on the mic. One of his biggest hits was the song Slow Jamz, a chart-topper from the 1990s that is nothing like its title.

69. The Game

The Game, Kanye West - Eazy (Official Animation Video)

The Game became one of the most influential rappers of all time thanks to his dedication to the craft and his extensive discography. He might get into it with other rappers and act a fool sometimes, but you can’t take away his MC skills or the legacy he left behind during a two-decade career. Always repping L.A., he is best known for his storytelling ability and unique voice that made him one of the most iconic rappers of the 2000s. 

68. Young Jeezy

Jeezy - All There ft. Bankroll Fresh

Young Jeezy has consistently put out great music since the 2000s, all marked by his signature ad-libs and booming production. A master of motivational trap sermons, he had put out a classic mixtape well before he signed with a major label.

Today, he stands as the preeminent thug motivator, crafting anthems like Trap Or Die and Soul Survivor that resonated with the community and put him on a pedestal for hustlers worldwide. Even today, he remains an icon of Atlanta and a legend in the Southern rap scene. 

67. Krayzie Bone

Alone In A Crowded Room

Krayzie Bone is another rapper who gets criminally underrated quite often. The brightest spot in Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, every verse he laid down on their tracks was the highlight of the song and can’t-miss bars. He was able to perfect melodic rapping earlier than the modern rappers trying it today, but never lost the bloodthirsty nature of his flow. Outside of the group, he was able to put together an impressive and loud discography that stands up next to other greats in the business. 

66. Talib Kweli

Talib Kweli - Get By

Talib Kweli made his biggest mark as half of Black Star alongside Mos Def. In the years since he’s become one of the most prominent rappers in the conscious rap scene. From a young age, he was a wordsmith, as he was raised in a house full of college progressions.

As he developed his passion for music, the skills he learned in his youth translated over and gave him an eloquent platform to enlighten communities and tackle complex issues. He remains a masterful lyricist with one of the coolest flows in the game. 

65. Blu

This Where I Belong

Blu broke onto the scene in 2007 with his debut Below The Heavens. Since then, he’s been one of the standout performers of the alternative scene in West Coast hip hop and has become known for his introspective takes on subjects like racism, black history, and love of hip hop.

In that decade-plus since his debut, he has released more than 20 projects and collaborated with some of the best and brightest in the alternative scene. An unstoppable work ethic and incredible MC skill have left him as one of the best rappers in the game today and a name that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

64. RZA

RZA made his mark as the architect of Wu-Tang Clan and became one of the best and brightest producers in hip hop. Anyone who can steal the show on one of Wu-Tang Clan’s singles is a great rapper in my book, and his raw aggression stood out among his peers.

As a rapper, he either knocks it out of the park or misses the mark, often playing backseat to other members of Wu-Tang Clan on banger tracks. Chaotic musings and philosophical raps came to characterize him as a rapper and his massive vocabulary led to some legendary verses. 

63. Ab-Soul

Ab-Soul "Terrorist Threats" ft. Danny Brown & Jhene Aiko (Official Video)

Ab-Soul is a consistent and underrated MC who’s known as one of the most vulnerable rappers of his generation. Raw storytelling, personal lyrics, and confessionals came to define his work. But his punchy beats and swagger dominated all of his songs in a way that added a pop appeal to his heavy subject matter. His level of transparency is incredibly rare in the hip hop world and sets him apart from his peers. 

62. Del the Funky Homosapien

Some artists just never quite get the due they deserve. Cousin to Ice Cube, Del The Funky Homosapien has been putting out jazzy releases and spearheading that side of the Oakland scene for decades. He was so different that he hardly sounded like West Coast hip hop at all, which made him one of the most unique rappers on this list.

Everything was up for grabs as a theme in his raps, from aliens to the way the music industry works, and he not once apologized for it. He is probably the most unique, creative, and underrated rapper in the history of hip hop. 

61. Fabolous

Fabolous ft. Ne-Yo - Make Me Better (Official Video)

Fabolous has never lost a step, largely thanks to his ability to adapt to the ever-shifting landscape of hip hop. His work from the 1990s through the modern day has never felt out of place. He got his start after freestyling on the radio and signing a record deal with Desert Storm Records. From there, he never looked back, laying down some of the slickest verses in history and trading bars with some of the biggest names in the industry. 

60. Ludacris

Ludacris - My Chick Bad ft. Nicki Minaj

For a time, Ludacris was an even bigger deal in Atlanta than Outkast. A dominant rapper of the 2000s, he put together a string of 12 top-40 hits and multi-platinum albums that few rappers are able to stand up against. He was versatile, moving between street anthems and club bangers with ease, even producing crossover hits that turned him into a radio star.

Most people know him from his major hits, where lyrical complexity isn’t the main focus. But make no mistake, he was able to hop on grimy mixtapes and rap alongside the best bar-crafters in the game without feeling out of place. 

59. DJ Quik

DJ Quik - Pitch In On a Party

DJ Quik isn’t thought of as a pioneer by many, but he has left an unmatched mark on West Coast hip hop thanks to his work as both a rapper and producer. Aside from Dr. Dre, few other artists have had more of an impact on the scene than him. There’s a stack of classic tracks connected to his name as a rapper and producer, leaving those who are in the know huge fans of this often-left-out rapper. 

58. Rick Ross

Skrillex & Rick Ross - Purple Lamborghini [Official Video]

Rick Ross has become one of the most influential rappers in the scene and the biggest name in the Miami hip hop game. Aside from his incredible solo career, he was integral in shaping the careers of artists like Wale and Meek Mill. He is best known for his husky, commanding voice and his luxurious bars about wealth and fame. Even other legends like Jay-Z and Nas have paid homage to the man, cementing his place among hip hop’s elite. 

57. Future

Future - Life Is Good (Official Music Video) ft. Drake

Some people like to dismiss Future as a trapper-turned-rapper, but that would be a disservice to both his abilities as a music artist and the hip hop game itself. He is easily one of the more versatile and creative rap artists out there, evidenced by the range his albums are able to span.

His self-titled album and Hndrxx were released within weeks of each other but sound vastly different and still hold up despite the jarring changes. Since 2014, he has been on a steadily rising platform, becoming one of the most influential rappers for current artists and cementing his place among the elite.

56. Melle Mel

Grandmaster Melle Mel ‎- White Lines (Don't Don't Do It) (Official Video)

You can’t have a conversation about the history of hip hop and the legends of the genre without discussing Melle Mel. The leader of Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five, his work throughout the 1970s essentially pioneered the entire hip hop genre.

His 1982 song The Message is one of the earliest examples of conscious rap and was later the first hip hop recording added to the US National Archive of Historic Recordings and Grammy Hall of Fame. His tremendous success and influence in hip hop should not be understated, nor should he ever be left out of a conversation about the greatest MCs of all time. 

55. Ice-T

Ice-T ‎- I'm Your Pusher (Official Video) [Explicit]

Ice-T is largely considered the godfather of the West Coast gangsta rap genre. He was instrumental in defining what the genre became in the 1990s, releasing major singles like 6 In The Mornin’ that paved the way for a new wave of artists. He released four back-to-back albums and ignited the entire movement, making him one of the most important rappers of all time and a pioneer for all rap artists who came after him. 

54. Bun B

Bun B is a Southern hip hop legend and established his legacy as half of the duo UGK. His time in the sun essentially defined what hip hop sounded like in Houston. A smooth and consistent flow and vivid storytelling skills allowed him to become one of the most respected artists of his generation.

Soulful beats and gritty stories were emblematic of the American South as well, but it’s his versatility that shines through. He’s worked on numerous collaborations—in addition to his incredible solo career—with artists like Lil Wayne, Drake, and T.I.

53. Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah - U.N.I.T.Y.

Queen Latifah might be better known today as an actress, but that shouldn’t take anything away from her rap career. Her debut album All Hail The Queen was released in 1989, making her one of the early female rap pioneers and the first female rapper to be awarded a gold certification. Her socially conscious lyrics also made her a mainstay within the industry. She is easily the most recognized female rap artist of hip hop’s golden age and one of New Jersey’s most important rappers of all time. 

52. E-40

E-40 "I STAND ON THAT" FT. JOYNER LUCAS & T.I. (MUSIC VIDEO)

E-40 is another rapper with incredible wordplay, but it was his unique and unorthodox flow that helped set him apart. He’s the rapper who coined and popularized quite a lot of the slang terms thrown around in the industry today and pioneered the culture of independent rappers. An extensive catalog of music has shown his flexibility over time, allowing him to always remain relevant to the culture and inspire new generations of artists on the come-up. 

51. Gucci Mane

Gucci Mane - I Get The Bag feat. Migos [Official Music Video]

Gucci Mane is really the progenitor of trap music and was a revolutionary figure in the Atlanta rap game. His influence on younger artists like Migos, Young Thug, Future, and Lil Uzi Vert is undeniable.

Since the early 2000s and the release of his street anthems, he has constantly dropped new projects that brought him a huge underground following and respect within the genre. He never blew up as a mainstream rapper, but not having that stardom doesn’t preclude him from any conversation about the best and most influential rap artists in history. 

50. Chuck D

Chuck D has a voice that commands attention and respect the instant he steps onto a mic. His deep baritone was the booming, driving force behind Public Enemy, delivering powerful messages and forcing uncomfortable but important conversations among listeners.

His album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back remains a seminal album in the hip hop world, often being ranked as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time before entries like Illmatic entered the conversation. Innovative and forceful, he is an unquestionable member of hip hop’s elite and a standard-setter within the industry as a whole. 

49. Common

Common, John Legend - Glory

Common has been the conscious rap staple of Chicago for the better part of three decades. Known for introspective lyricism that often relies on socio-political issues, his conversational style brings a different kind of tone to the table.

While hip hop is often criticized in the mainstream for a lack of substance in songs, there’s no shortage of it in his work. But neither is he lacking in any other department. Always doing something different, always trying something new, he has established himself as one of the most important rappers in history.

48. Jadakiss

Jadakiss has done just about everything you can in the hip hop world. His time as part of the legendary Yonkers trio The LOX cemented his status as a hip hop idol, but his solo career has been just as impressive. It took off with the release of Kiss Tha Game Goodbye, a showcase of his reckless flow and rasping voice.

He’s also been able to put his skills to the test in collaborations alongside other greats in the industry, from Biggie and Nas to DMX and Jay-Z. And he has always held his own and never dropped the ball alongside any of them. A battle-raper as well, there’s no disputing that he should be remembered among the greats in rap history. 

47. Lil’ Kim

Lil' Kim - How Many Licks? (feat. Sisqo) [Official Video]

Lil’ Kim was one of the artists who paved the way for female rappers to make it big in the industry. She had unapologetic and hilarious raunchy lyrics, but her provocative themes were unable to stop how talented she was as an MC. Her career ran for over two decades, bringing her plenty of critical and commercial success. Multiple platinum albums made her a face in the community. After a hiatus, she returned in 2019 with her album 9, proving she had lost none of her ferocious flow or skills over the years. 

46. Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill - Doo-Wop (That Thing) (Official Video)

Lauryn Hill’s versatility allows her to effortlessly switch between spitting bars and singing beautiful melodies. Both as a Fugee and a solo artist, she has produced some of the finest work in hip hop’s history, despite not having the massive backlog of a discography that other artists on this list may have backing them up.

You can characterize her music by its emotional power, introspective themes, and depth that set her apart in a male-dominated era of hip hop. Authenticity and skill as an MC have defined her career, earning her a place among the very best. 

45. Q-Tip

Q-Tip - Vivrant Thing (Official Video)

Q-Tip was a co-founder of the group A Tribe Called Quest, and his 30-plus-year career has never taken a single step backward. With a massive body of work that inextricably links hip hop to jazz, he’s known for ignoring popular trends in favor of pushing boundaries and is one of the main influences for artists like Pharrell Williams and Tyler, The Creator.

His style was smooth, but the laid-back nature of his vocal talents didn’t stop him from dropping iconic lines in songs like Bonita Applebottom. Twice as part of a collective, he has seen an album rise to the top of the Billboard 200 and has six albums that achieved either gold or platinum status. 

44. Big Pun

Big Pun - Twinz (Deep Cover 98 - Official Video) ft. Fat Joe

Big Pun became known for his avid wordplay, vivid storytelling, and catchy hooks. He broke onto the scene in 1998 with the hit single Still Not A Player, becoming the first Latino rapper to sell over one million copies of an album. Capital Punishment, the album in question, even rose to the top of the R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart and peaked at number five on the Billboard 200.

While he didn’t have a particularly long career, the intricacy of his work inspired an entire wave of rappers in the Bronx, from Fat Joe to Remy Ma and even Cardi B. 

43. 2 Chainz

2 Chainz & Wiz Khalifa - We Own It (Fast & Furious / Official Lyric Video)

Rapper 2 Chainz has been a solo rap sensation since 2012 when he launched his solo career with Based On A T.R.U. Story. That album spawned three top 50 songs on the Hot 100 and began what turned into one of the best modern rap careers we’ve seen. His solid discography and record label have set the tone in the genre for the better part of a decade, and he remains one of the most awarded rappers of the entire 2010s. 

42. Big Daddy Kane

Ain't No Half-Steppin'

Big Daddy Kane will always be remembered as one of the pioneers of a fast-flowing, double-time style of rap music. Always dressed to impress and full of charisma, he was one of the best live performers of the 1980s in the scene. He spent time in several groups, from Juice Crew to Marley Marl’s squad, but his career has stood the test of time.

As recently as 2022, he is still making appearances on records and tackling important social topics. You can look at his 2020 single Enough for his take on police brutality, or just enjoy his energetic performance on Busta Rhymes’ 2022 song Slap.

41. Masta Ace

There aren’t many rappers that are as underrated in the game as Masta Ace. Even going back as far as his verse on Marley Marl’s single The Symphony, the talent of the artist is evident. No other artist has been as versatile as him, shown by how easily he’s able to adapt to different eras of hip hop and still produce quality work without losing his unique identity.

Whether you’re in the mood for a satirical album or some of the best storytelling in the game, he has an album waiting for you. Concept projects like Disposable Arts and A Long Hot Summer even throw artistic curveballs that venture into art hip hop the way David Bowie produced art rock music. His consistent skill and long career earned him a place on this list.

40. Scarface

Scarface very well may be the rapper that has a song for any situation out there. Real-life stories from the hood? Check. Tracks about saving and investing money? Check. There’s just not a lot that this versatile rapper didn’t touch on at one point or another during his career.

Between his tenure as part of the Geto Boys in the 1980s and his solo career that lasted into the 2010s, he has always been an honest lyrical master. His pragmatic approach to the hustle also stands out in a sea of other rappers that only discuss the glamorous side of the lifestyle. 

39. Tech N9ne

Tech N9ne - Face Off (feat. Joey Cool, King Iso & Dwayne Johnson) | Official Music Video

Tech N9ne may be the most successful independent rapper of all time. Alongside Travis O’Guin, he’s built a veritable music empire with their label Strange Music. But it’s his hardcore, almost horrorcore style that helps him stand out as unique in the rap game.

He has laid down jaw-dropping flows and lines that earned him a significant underground following and made his live shows unparalleled in the genre. His relentless hustle and incredible talents have made Strange Music one of the most respected labels in the game and established him as one of the premier rappers in the hip hop pantheon. 

38. Inspectah Deck

Inspectah Deck made a name for himself with his verses on Wu-Tang Clan’s C.R.E.A.M. and Triumph, cementing his legacy with those alone. He missed out on much of his work for his debut album thanks to a flood destroying RZA’s home and the recording studio he was using, leaving fans wondering what could have been. His guest features are where he shined the most after his time with Wu-Tang Clan came to an end, though there is no denying his sheer prowess as an iconic lyricist. 

37. T.I.

T.I. - No Mediocre ft. Iggy Azalea

T.I. is another one of the biggest names to rise out of the Southern hip hop craze that dominated the 2000s. Declaring himself King of the South, he would eventually earn the moniker through his first three albums that blended East Coast hip hop with the swagger of the South.

Slick wordplay and a buttery-smooth flow embodied his music and helped him become one of the biggest music artists of the decade by earning him hit song after hit song. If you want to listen to an artist who embodies the Atlanta rap scene, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option than him.

36. Aesop Rock

Aesop Rock - Kirby (Official Video)

Aesop Rock is widely known to employ the largest vocabulary of any rapper, crafting cryptic puzzles in his bars that take numerous listens to unravel. While speedy verses abound, they never lack the smooth flow of a master wordsmith and technical genius.

He has been one of the best storytellers in the game for years, becoming the pen that lights up the New York underground scene and crafts complex worlds for listeners to explore. He often doesn’t get the recognition of mainstream rap artists, but you should never question whether his mastery stacks up against the competition. 

35. LL Cool J

LL COOL J - Mama Said Knock You Out (Official Music Video)

LL Cool J was the very first artist Def Jam Records signed and his signature style opened the golden age of hip hop with aplomb. Aggressive and energetic, his single I Need A Beat set the tone for the era and helped turn him into a hit-making superstar for Def Jam.

Radio, his studio debut, spent 38 weeks in total on the Billboard 200 and was the first Def Jam album to break into the top 50 of that chart. His career stretched beyond his MC skills though, becoming an avid philanthropist and appearing in films and television shows. 

34. Prodigy

Self Conscience (Dirty Version)

New York has an undeniable dark side to their rap style, but it was Prodigy that helped develop that side of things. Each song he has released was shaped by his menacing voice and unrelenting style, meticulously crafting bars into a masterpiece that can stand alone apart from albums.

His unique approach to the game has made him an unforgettable artist and one of the most unique ones to listen to out there. Raw, uncompromising, and powerful are the three best words to describe the legendary verses he has laid down over the years. 

33. GZA

GZA was another one of the members of Wu-Tang Clan, but he was often the slept-on MC of the group. He didn’t have the charisma of Method Man or the storytelling prowess of Ghostface, but he was an undeniable master of linguistics. The intricate rhymes and clever wordplay he crafted are easily enough to cement his place among the greats of the hip hop world and one of the best rappers ever.

Looking at Wu-Tang Clan members’ solo albums specifically, it’s not a hard argument to make that his Liquid Swords is the best one ever put out. They even thought of him as the backbone that helped prop them all up during their time together. 

32. Mos Def

Mos Def has been one of the most innovative rappers in the game for a long time. One of the pioneers of conscious rap as a whole, he’s been able to adapt and push boundaries no matter what era of hip hop you decide to view. Complex metaphors and societal critiques helped establish him as one of the best songwriting MCs in hip hop, turning his raps from bars to literal poetry. Bombshell bars became a staple for him, though his flow has mellowed out since he first began his career.

31. Big Boi

Big Boi - Kill Jill ft. Killer Mike, Jeezy

André 3000 captures a lot of attention for his eccentricity, but Big Boi’s consistent skill has been the backbone of Outkast since their inception. You could easily argue that he and André 3000 are the greatest hip hop duo to ever live, perfectly balancing each other out and building into one of the most dynamic groups of all time.

Big Boi has been the more active artist in terms of a solo career, pushing boundaries and exploring new sounds to add to the hip hop catalog. But he’s never lost his connection to his Southern roots nor his dedication to hip hop as an art form. 

30. Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco - The Show Goes On

Lupe Fiasco is best known for his spotlight roles on songs like Touch The Sky, but after following up that success with his Food & Liquor album, there’s no denying the man is one of the greatest rappers to ever live. Lyricism is the focus of his career, and despite highs and lows in commercial success, his dedication to the craft has never once wavered.

Moving into thoughtful rap, his work has addressed heavy topics like life, politics, and societal ills. Through his storytelling and lyrics, he has inspired new waves of rap artists to come up and tell their own stories, proving that deep raps can be just as successful commercially as songs tinged with more popular vibes. 

29. Missy Elliot

Missy Elliott - Work It [Official Music Video]

Missy Elliot was one of the first female rappers to make a real name for herself in the scene and find big success. She honed her craft as part of the Swing Mob collective and their R&B style of hip hop remained a staple of her career going forward. Singles like Supa Dupa Fly, Get Your Freak On, and Work It became instant classics. She was instrumental in opening doors for women in the industry and pushing boundaries lyrically which brought a funky and fresh style to the hip hop genre. 

28. Redman

Tonight's Da Night

Redman made his debut on EPMD’s Business As Usual album in 1990 and has never looked back. Even today in his 50s, he continues to be a force in the hip hop world with his raw flow and rough persona.

If you’re looking for a rapper’s rapper, the kind that the very best look up to, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more fitting artist than him. His funky, boom-bap albums have easily cemented him among the elite rappers in hip hop, and golden-age classics set him apart in an otherwise crowded room. 

27. Raekwon

Raekwon - Ice Cream (Official HD Video) ft. Ghostface Killah, Method Man, Cappadonna

Raekwon was a staple figure in the East Coast rap game thanks to his appearances on Wu-Tang Clan albums and several featured appearances with other artists. After releasing his Only Built 4 Cuban Linx album in 1995, he set a new standard for street rappers.

A dedicated lyricist, he often doesn’t get the recognition he deserves because of the misunderstood slang in his work that often gets lost in translation. Unfortunately, that kept him from reaching further commercial heights as a solo artist. There’s a good argument that he was the best MC inside Wu-Tang Clan, though that is the subject of a massive debate. 

26. A$AP Rocky

A$AP Rocky - Praise The Lord (Da Shine) (Official Video) ft. Skepta

A$AP Rocky began his career as a member of the ASAP Mob collective, from which he took his rap name. His debut album in 2013 was a massive hit and debuted on top of the Billboard 200, thanks in large part to the earlier single Fuckin’ Problems being released the year prior. During the 2010s, he was one of the most awarded rappers of the decade. Two Grammy nominations, three BET Awards, two MTV Awards, and six World Music Awards have all been credited to him in his career. 

25. Kanye West

Kanye West - Gold Digger ft. Jamie Foxx

Kanye West might find himself under media scrutiny quite often for his antics, especially on social media, but don’t let that fool you out of thinking he isn’t one of the greatest rappers of all time. He’s still one of the best-selling artists in history with over 160 million worldwide record sales and holds the record for the most Grammy Awards by a hip hop artist at 24—tied with Jay-Z.

Rolling Stone has even named him as one of their 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time. But before he became better known for controversy, he cemented his place near the top with songs like Touch The Sky, Jesus Walks, and All Of The Lights.

24. Logic

Logic - Homicide (feat. Eminem) (Official Audio)

Logic began his music career in 2010 with a series of mixtapes that brought him a lot of underground popularity. It was in 2017, with the release of his album Everybody, that he gained mainstream success. It reached the top of the US album charts and spawned the hit single 1-800-273-8255. A streamer signed with Twitch, he is known for his impressive lyricism and technical flows. 

23. Method Man

Method Man - Bring The Pain

Method Man was another member of the Wu-Tang Clan. He’s best known as one of the most captivating rappers of all time with a melodic flow and unmatched charisma. From the heights of his time as a member of Wu-Tang Clan to his partnership with Redman, he has always had brilliant wordplay and ended up being one of the premier featured artists of the rap game. 

22. Ghostface Killah

Ghostface Killah - Cherchez LaGhost (Official Video) ft. U-God

Ghostface Killah was one of the most prominent members of Wu-Tang Clan. After the group found breakthrough success with the album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), most members began solo careers to varying degrees of success.

He consistently released albums that earned critical acclaim. Marked by his loud, fast-paced flow, he releases a stream of conscious lyrics full of cryptic slang and non-sequiturs that can have your head spinning. Some have called him the greatest storyteller MC to ever grace the mic. 

21. Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj - Super Bass (Official Video)

If we’re looking at the most successful rappers of all time, we can’t leave off the undisputed queen of the rap game Nicki Minaj. She’s placed herself among the best-selling music artists in history and won countless awards throughout her career.

While she wasn’t the first influential female rapper, she has definitely become the most successful. She has even gone outside of the genre to explore pop-oriented styles that fit her unique mannerisms, vocal talents, and flow. Her animated rap style and alter egos have also made her one of the best and most entertaining rappers in history. 

20. Drake

Drake - Hotline Bling

No rapper, nor almost any other music artist, has remained at the top the way Drake has. While Oldheads might not be his biggest fan, he is undeniably one of the most successful musicians in history. With 170 million worldwide record sales and most of the records on Hot 100 success, we don’t care what anyone thinks of him.

But it’s not just that success that makes him a great rapper. He has a unique style and is an incredible songwriter, with prime examples of his greatness coming in singles like Lemon Pepper Freestyle, Do Not Disturb, and Champagne Poetry. Goofy at times, yes. But he has more than earned his place among the hip hop pantheon.

19. J. Cole

J. Cole - Wet Dreamz

J. Cole’s early mixtape The Come Up earned him a place with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label and nothing but success followed his career. Each of his six studio albums has reached the top of the Billboard 200, spawning top-40 hits and earning widespread critical acclaim.

His early works were more pop-centric, but he eventually shifted towards conscious subject matter starting with his 2014 album 2014 Forest Hills Drive. His album KOD in 2018 simultaneously placed six singles within the top 20 of the Hot 100, a record at the time. 

18. Busta Rhymes

Busta Rhymes, Mariah Carey - I Know What You Want (Official HD Video) ft. Flipmode Squad

If speed was the only thing that made a rapper great, there’s a good argument for Busta Rhymes being at the top of this list. He was an original member of the group Legends Of The New School, a group that opened for Public Enemy on tour.

He became one of the most sought-after guest artists in the industry, appearing on numerous other artists’ songs and albums before releasing a solo one in 1996. He’s often thought of as having one of the best flows in the industry and is capable of stringing lines together faster and more coherently than just about any other artist. 

17. DMX

DMX - X Gon' Give It To Ya

DMX was another one of the most important rappers of the 2000s. His aggressive rapping style gave him a near-unique identity and his lyrical content ran the gamut from hardcore themes to prayers. Singles like Where The Hood At and X Gon’ Give It To Ya were massive commercial successes. He became the first artist to debut an album at number one on the Billboard 200 five times in a row en route to selling well over 74 million records worldwide. 

16. 50 Cent

50 Cent - In Da Club (Official Music Video)

It’s entirely impossible to discuss hip hop in the early and mid-2000s without bringing up 50 Cent. He was due to release his debut album in 2000 but was struck by nine bullets and the album was canceled. Eminem discovered him after he dropped a mixtape, and he signed under Dr. Dre’s wide net of labels. His first major album Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ earned him two number-one singles on the Hot 100 and critical acclaim.

He then founded G-Unit Records and became the leader of the group. His second album was released to more acclaim and delivered another number-one in Candy Shop, though he later shifted towards a pop sound and lost out on some of his audience. He has remained relevant in hip hop circles as one of the most successful rappers in history and was integral to understanding the scene in the 2000s. 

15. Eazy-E

Boyz-N-The-Hood (Remix)

Eazy-E was the leader and figurehead of N.W.A. and Ruthless Records. Known as the godfather of gangsta rap, he eventually became a behind-the-scenes figure in the hip hop world after the breakup of the historic group. He was the one responsible for signing the rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, debuting them in the early 1990s.

A longstanding feud between him and Dr. Dre did leave behind incredible diss tracks though, with his solo tracks including the highly-acclaimed single Real Muthaphuckkin G’s.

14. Rakim Allah

Rakim - When I B On Tha Mic (Official Music Video)

Rakim was one half of the duo Eric B. & Rakim, and he is widely considered one of the most influential and skilled rappers in history. Some would even argue that he should be at the top of any list of the greatest rap artists of all time, and they would have a case to make there.

For hip hop, he was a transformative figurehead who pioneered the use of internal and multisyllabic rhymes. He also helped shift hip hop from an improvisational style to one of carefully crafted lyrics and intricate wordplay. He was even the first rapper to invent the idea of ‘flow.’ MTV named his album Paid In Full the greatest album in hip hop history in 2006, and there’s no question he remains one of the greatest MCs in history. 

13. Dr. Dre

Dr. Dre - Still D.R.E. ft. Snoop Dogg

Another initial N.W.A. member who eventually left the group for a solo career, Dr. Dre has become one of the most well-known and acclaimed producers in hip hop. His debut solo album The Chronic is often thought of as one of the greatest hip hop albums in history, and until the 2000s, he released music under the Death Row Records and Aftermath labels.

From then on, he has focused more on producing other artists, signing names like Eminem, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, The Game, and The D.O.C. 

12. Ice Cube

Ice Cube - It Was A Good Day

Ice Cube’s lyrics during his time as part of N.W.A. largely contributed to the popularity and widespread consumption of gangsta rap as a whole. It brought mainstream attention to the genre and himself, ultimately culminating in his political solo albums, all of which were critically acclaimed.

The Straight Outta Compton album was a massive influence on the West Coast rap game, and he was the writer behind the majority of the lyrics that appeared on it. And if you’re ever looking for one of the greatest diss tracks of all time, look no further than his single No Vaseline.

11. André 3000

N.E.R.D, André 3000 - Rollinem 7's (Audio)

André 3000 is best known for being half of the duo that makes up Outkast. An ATLien through and through, his work alongside Big Boi has earned him a palace among hip hop’s elite. As part of Outkast, André 3000 was instrumental in six successful albums that included hit singles like Ms. Jackson and So Fresh, So Clean.

The duo’s double album included a solo by him titled Hey Ya! which often comes up in conversations about the greatest single of all time. While not incredibly active as a solo artist, he has still made acclaimed guest appearances on other songs and albums. 

10. KRS-One

KRS-One - Sound of da Police (Official Video)

KRS-One rose to prominence as a member of Boogie Down Productions, and his rap career was instrumental in popularizing hip hop nationwide. Gangsta rap and conscious rap both owe an unpayable debt to him for the way he elevated the platform throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

A battle rapper with a relentless flow that could turn around and touch on social issues on the next line, he was a pioneer who pushed boundaries and shaped the genre as a whole. A string of critically acclaimed albums helped cement his place in the pantheon of rap gods, with songs like Sound Of Da Police and My Philosophy leading the way forward. 

9. Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa - Young, Wild and Free ft. Bruno Mars [Official Video]

Snoop Dogg found initial fame as a featured artist on Dr. Dre’s debut album The Chronic but his solo career quickly took him to new heights and established him as a godfather of hip hop. As one of the major players in the West Coast hip hop scene, he is known for his drawling delivery style, melodic rhymes, and his always smooth attitude. Always active in social and political circles, he has become a mainstay of the pop culture world and a voice for many charitable causes. 

8. MF DOOM

Rapp Snitch Knishes (feat. Mr. Fantastik)

MF DOOM is a name that a lot of people outside of hip hop circles might not be familiar with as he mainly stayed in underground circles. But there, he was the kind throughout the 2000s. He has been celebrated as one of the most enigmatic rappers of all time, with his intricate wordplay, signature metal mask, and multiple personas all adding to his legend.

He has released music under pseudonyms including King Geehorah, Viktor Vaughn, Madvillain, and Danger Doom. While he does not have the mainstream success of the higher rap artists on this list, nobody questions whether he should be in the conversation for being one of the best rappers of all time. 

7. Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar - HUMBLE.

Kendrick Lamar is one of the newer faces in the hip hop scene—at least so far on this list—but it took him no time at all to establish his place among the giants of the genre. He’s produced some of the best and fiercest verses of recent years and is lauded for being able to integrate world-class storytelling with pop appeal in his songs.

His signature cadences have even caused some to name him the best rapper of all time and earned him significant critical praise. Today, he’s one of the most-streamed rappers on Spotify and is generally considered the rapper of the generation from 2010 until now. 

6. Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne - Mirror ft. Bruno Mars (Official Music Video)

Lil Wayne is yet another one of the best-selling music artists of all time, earning well over 200 million worldwide record sales. From humble beginnings, he eventually became one of, if not, the most influential rapper in hip hop during the 2000s and continues to make a mark in the scene even today. He even became the first male artist to surpass Elvis Presley with the most entries to the Hot 100 with 109.

He is a rap artist with an incredible range in terms of style, flow, lyricism, and themes. He even founded his own record label, Young Money Entertainment, in 2005, which has other huge names in the industry like Drake and Nicki Minaj. 

5. Eminem

Eminem - Not Afraid

Eminem is a controversial figure, thanks to both the way he pushes boundaries and his inclusion in any goat debate about the best rappers of all time. What is absolutely unquestioned is that his discography is a masterclass in everything good about rap, from storytelling to humor or introspection to pure wordplay. He stands tall among the best-selling music artists of all time with over 220 million worldwide record sales and was Billboard’s Artist of the Decade for the 2000s.

Among his numerous accolades are an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 15 Grammy Awards, 17 Billboard Music Awards, and several diamond-certified hits. Among his most impressive pieces is Rap God, which set a Guinness World Record for the most words in a single hit, cramming 1,560 words into a six-minute song.

4. Jay-Z 

JAY Z, Kanye West - Otis ft. Otis Redding

A lot of fans know Jay-Z for his marriage to Beyoncé, his career as a prominent producer, and his business ventures. But don’t let those successes fool you, he is easily one of the greatest rappers of all time with more than 12 critically acclaimed albums of work. While hip hop has become mainstream in recent years, it used to be isolated from the rest of the musical landscape. But he broke through those barriers to become one of the best-selling artists of all time with over 140 million worldwide record sales, 24 Grammy Award wins, and several other prestigious awards.

He became the first rap artist to ever be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the first solo living rapper to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He also became the first hip hop billionaire thanks to his business ventures, becoming one of the richest and most influential people in the world. 

3. The Notorious B.I.G.

The Notorious B.I.G. - Juicy (Official Video) [4K]

Biggie honestly would probably have been able to take the title of the greatest rapper of all time had his career not been so short. He only recorded two studio albums, with Ready To Die being hailed as one of the greatest albums of all time and Life After Death ironically being released posthumously.

He quickly became the biggest name in the East Coast hip hop scene with Ready To Die and singles like Big Poppa, Juicy, and One More Chance. Hypnotize led the way for Life After Death, turning it into one of the few posthumous albums to earn a diamond certification. His laid-back flow, signature deep tone, and perfect grim themes earned him a place in the hip hop pantheon. 

2. Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur is another rapper who is undeniably one of the greatest of all time, with many people believing he should own the goat title. Born in New York to political activist parents, much of his early work thrived on conscious rap lyrics and he was a central figure in the West Coast hip hop scene. He eventually abandoned—nearly—that style for hardcore gangsta rap on his diamond-certified double album All Eyez On Me in 1996.

His feud with The Notorious B.I.G. is a hip hop legend, eventually resulting in the death of both artists. But while his career was cut short, his time set up Death Row Records as one of the most important recording studios in the world set the tone of West Coast hip hop for the next few decades as well as influenced thousands of other artists. He remains one of the best-selling music artists of all time and has been inducted into both the Hip Hop and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame. 

1. Nas

Nas - Nas Is Like (Official Video)

There’s always going to be debate over the best rapper of all time, with several names you can argue make a good case for the top spot. Nas is the choice for us, as his career checks every box we’re looking for. His influence on East Coast hip hop is unquestioned, with him ultimately laying much of the groundwork for that side of the rap game throughout the 1990s.

His debut album Illmatic ranks among the best albums ever produced and is even preserved within the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. He even owns one of the best diss tracks of all time, with Ether being one of the most savage and perfect diss tracks ever. Sixteen Grammy Award Nominations and a win are the cherry on top of his incredible lyricism, flow, and influence.

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