Hip hop’s best rappers right now are dominated by artists in their 30s. For most of these MCs, they most likely made their debut in the early 2010s, and have had the time to build up a sizeable and respected catalogue.
Long gone are the days where hip hop is viewed as only a young man’s game. With veterans like Jay-Z, Nas and Black Thought thriving while well into middle age, while the top rappers right now like Drake, J. Cole and Kendrick creeping towards the 40-year old mark, hip hop culture right now can boast of a diverse range of age groups.
From Lil Durk, Young Thug, Quavo and 21 Savage to Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, Drake and J. Cole, here are the 30 best rappers in their 30s.
30. Maxo Kream
Born: March 29, 1990 (age 32)
Recent releases: Brandon Banks (2019), Weight of the World (2021)
Growing up in Houston, Texas, the home of illustrious rap gods like UGK, Z-Ro, and Scarface, Maxo Kream is currently one of the best rappers who can weave autobiographical elements in their raps. While the Houston MC has been grinding at the rap game since the early 2010s, it was his 2019 album, Brandon Banks, that made a lot of rap fans turn around and pay attention. With world weary storytelling inspired by Scarface, combined with the usual swagger of Southern artists, Maxo Kream occupies a unique position of poignant themes and unflinching details.
Born: September 21, 1984 (age 38)
Recent releases: Wow… That’s Crazy (2019), Folarin II (2021)
Wale might not have achieved the commercial heights or critical accolades as the rappers he came up with – Kendrick, Drake, and J. Cole – but the DMV native has done more than enough over the past decade to cement his position as one of the best rappers of his generation. Save for a stumble early on in his career with his 2009 debut album, Attention Deficit, Wale has, for the most part, created exactly the type of music he’s wanted. Whether it means signing with Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group to get a bigger platform, or getting Jerry motherfucking Seinfeld to host The Album About Nothing, Wale has been quietly doing his thing for years without a care in the world for anything that seems trendy.
Born: April 2, 1991 (age 31)
Recent releases: Culture III (with Migos) (2021), Only Built For Infinity Links (with Takeoff) (2022)
The shining star of the Atlanta trio, Quavo played a fundamental role in changing up hip hop’s flow with the barrage of Migos hits during the 2010s. Four group albums, two collaboration projects, one solo release, and a handful of mixtapes later, Huncho is a certified OG of the rap game. While Offset and the late Takeoff arguably had the better flows and stronger bars, Quavo has an undeniable mic presence and versatility that enabled him to fit comfortably on tracks with Justin Bieber, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, and Drake all the same.
Born: January 22, 1990 (age 32)
Recent releases: No Pressure (2020), Vinyl Days (2022)
One of the most talented lyricists on this list, bar for bar, Logic has built up an enviable catalogue for himself over the past decade. Coming into the game off the back of his acclaimed Young Sinatra series, the Maryland spitter managed to parlay mixtape success into a very tangible fanbase. Say what you want about Logic, but the fact that he’s been able to achieve three number one albums and a handful of platinum releases, while retaining his lyrical sensibilities, speaks a lot about his dedication to the craft and culture.
26. Meek Mill
Born: May 6, 1987 (age 35)
Recent releases: Quarantine Pack (2020), Expensive Pain (2021)
Meek Mill has been making the same type of album since 2012’s Dreams and Nightmares. The Philly rapper hasn’t been one to switch up his style much, with each release featuring the same formula and structure. But hey, if it works, it works right? Meek has cultivated a strong following these past 10 years thanks to his ability to balance motivational anthems, club bangers, gritty street cuts and hit singles. With a vocal intensity and lyrical dexterity that few rappers are able to match, Meek is a certified legend and there’s no denying it.
25. Isaiah Rashad
Born: May 16, 1991 (age 31)
Recent releases: The House Is Burning (2021)
Coming into the rap game with his brilliant debut album, Cilvia Demo, Isaiah Rashad has built one of the strongest and most dedicated fanbases in recent memory, and that’s despite his inconsistent output. In between releases, the Top Dawg rapper frequently suffered from addiction issues, as well depression and anxiety, which added years in between projects. But whenever he dropped, it was music worth replaying over and over again. From the woozy brilliance of The Sun’s Tirade to the fearless vulnerability of The House Is Burning, Isaiah Rashad knows how to make an impact whenever he comes out.
24. Travis Scott
Born: April 30, 1991 (age 31)
Recent releases: Astroworld (2018)
Travis Scott hasn’t dropped an album since his 2018 magnum opus Astroworld, but the Houston rapper has made sure he’s consistently in the spotlight with some of the most exciting music being made right now. By releasing a string of chart-topping singles – “Highest in the Room”, “The Scotts” and “Franchise” – as well as staying active on the features circuit with highlights like “Hold That Heat”, “Praise God” and “Fair Trade”, Travis has ensured his name still rings off for the upcoming Utopia.
Born: December 14, 1991 (age 30)
Recent releases: Father of 4 (2019), Culture III (with Migos) (2021)
Probably the most well-rounded rapper out of the Migos, Offset’s skillset features one of the best flows in the game as well as the ability to write catchy hooks and sing melodically. Over the past few years, the Migos member has also emerged as a capable solo artist – his album with 21 Savage Without Warning is a trap classic and his solo debut Father of 4 showed him improving dramatically as an introspective MC.
22. Kevin Gates
Born: February 5, 1986 (age 36)
Recent releases: I’m Him (2019), Khaza (2022)
J. Cole gets all the accolades for going platinum with no features, but Baton Rouge, Louisiana rapper Kevin Gates has been doing the same thing on the low since 2016. One of the most prolific rappers of his generation, Kevin Gates stays dropping an onslaught of albums, mixtapes and EPs to feed his hungry fans, but it’s his range as an artist that truly sets him apart from everyone else. Blending unflinching honesty with a captivating delivery style, Gates is legendary for his melodic hooks and trap bangers. Perhaps the most versatile rapper on this list, he has stayed incredibly consistent for the past decade, and counting.
21. Big Sean
Born: March 25, 1988 (age 34)
Recent releases: Detroit 2 (2020), What You Expect (with Hit-Boy) (2021)
I don’t know about you guys, but for me, there was a very noticeable point when Big Sean went from the “Dance (A$$)” cornball rapper to a respected MC. The moment started with his second album Hall of Fame and solidified itself with Dark Sky Paradise. It may have taken the Detroit rapper a few years to find his footing in the rap game, but once he found it, you could tell there was a big shift in how he felt comfortable in his own sound, and subsequent the fans’ perception of him. Since then, albums like I Decided and Detroit 2 have just cemented the fact that Big Sean is one of the most talented rappers of his era.
20. Lil Durk
Born: October 19, 1992 (age 30)
Recent releases: The Voice (2020), The Voice of the Heroes (with Lil Baby) (2021), 7220 (2022)
If you’ve been watching the Chicago drill rap movement since the early 2010s, then seeing Lil Durk make it out and become one of the biggest rap stars in the world should make you happy. Especially when you think about other Chi town rappers – like Lil Reese and Fredo Santana – who weren’t able to escape their violent upbringing. While Durk hasn’t switched up his style dramatically since breaking into the game, the Chicago rapper has embraced more of his melodic talents and pop sensibilities, enabling him to transform into a top 40 staple. Whether it’s scoring hit singles with Drake, Lil Baby, or Polo G, Durk has the versatility to move across different rap styles while maintaining his own aesthetic.
19. 21 Savage
Born: October 22, 1992 (age 30)
Recent releases: I Am > I Was (2018), Savage Mode II (with Metro Boomin) (2020), Her Loss (with Drake) (2022)
If I’m being honest, when 21 Savage came onto my radar back in 2016, there was no way I could have imagined him this high up on the list. The Metro Boomin-produced “No Heart” was dark and murderous, and fit 21’s dead-eyed delivery to a tee, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thought he sounded one-dimensional. Fast-forward a few years later, and it’s that the London-born, Atlanta-raised rapper is the amongst the top artists of his generation. While rarely straying from his darkly flow and trapper lyrical themes, 21 Savage’s willingness to experiment with different sounds and ability to craft full bodies of work has made him one of the most respected rappers in the game today.
Born: December 24, 1982 (age 39)
Recent releases: The Bluest Note (with Dumbo Station) (2020), Milestones (2020), All the Brilliant Things (2021)
Your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper, Skyzoo has been at this rap shit since the mid-2000s. I remember first discovering him in 2013 when he dropped the Jay-Z homage, An Ode to Reasonable Doubt, via Bandcamp. I’ve been a huge fan ever since. Heavily influenced by New York greats like Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas, Skyzoo quickly found his lane – golden age bars over lush boom-bap driven production – and hasn’t strayed much from it. Whether it’s linking up with production god Pete Rock for Retropolitan or Italian jazz band Dumbo Station for The Bluest Note, you know what to expect from a Skyzoo album.
17. Larry June
Born: April 8, 1991 (age 31)
Recent releases: Into The Late Night (ITLN) (with Cardo) (2021), Orange Print (2021), 2 P’z In A Pod (with Jay Worthy) (2022), Spaceships on the Blade (2022)
San Francisco-based artist Larry June is one of the most consistent rap talents to come out of the West Coast in recent years. Breaking into the game in the mid-2010s off the back of the very promising Route 80, he was quickly signed to Warner Records who gave him a measly $20,000 advance. After the label failed to show any interest in his music, June took his career into his own hands by hitting the road with Post Malone and Smokepurpp and eventually going independent. As an artist, Larry June is like a West Coast, more energetic version of Currensy, known for his extra smooth rap joints and versatility in his collaborations. If you’re ever looking for West Coast cruising hip hop, Larry June has got you covered.
16. Stove God Cooks
Born: N/A (age 30)
Recent releases: Reasonable Drought (2020)
Stove God Cooks has only dropped one album to date, but what the Syracuse-born coke rapper did on Reasonable Drought over haunting Roc Marciano production was enough for many to hail him as the next coming of Jay-Z or Pusha T. With a distinctive mic presence (thanks to his instantly recognisable voice), ability to spin coke tales into killer one-liners and a knack for crafting unforgettable hooks, Stove God Cooks is quickly becoming the future of Griselda Records. It’s clear that Westside Gunn feels the same way; Stove features have dominated his latest releases, Flygod is an Awesome God II to Hitler Wears Hermes 10.
15. Jay Rock
Born: March 31, 1985 (age 37)
Recent releases: Redemption (2018)
To mainstream hip hop, Jay Rock’s might be best-known for his feature on Kendrick’s “Money Trees” and his own hit single “King’s Dead” (which also featured Kendrick), but the 37-year old Watts native is a superstar in his own right. Sporting a gruff delivery with a sneakily complex rhyme schemes, Jay Rock effortlessly balances out hard-hitting crime tales with more introspective verses that give listeners a glimpse into his world-weary psyche. As the OG rapper of Top Dawg Entertainment, Jay Rock helped pave the way for the record label to transform from a small, local operation to one of the biggest brands in rap today. That’s facts.
Born: December 8, 1982 (age 39)
Recent releases: Laila’s Wisdom (2017), Eve (2019)
Rapsody is one of the most criminally underrated rappers in the game today. Not only is she the best female rapper right now, she’s one of the best female rappers of all time. Discovered by 9th Wonder back in 2004, the North Carolina native has been putting out quality music for over a decade now, and has collaborated (and held her own) against some of the sharpest lyricists in the game, including Kendrick, J. Cole, and Black Thought. Known for the dedication and time she takes in crafting her music, Rapsody followed up her 2017 Grammy-nominated Laila’s Wisdom with the equally acclaimed Eve two years later.
13. Young Thug
Born: August 16, 1991 (age 31)
Recent releases: So Much Fun (2019), Slime Language 2 (with YSL Records) (2021), Punk (2021)
Young Thug would be one of the most influential rappers in the game right now if it wasn’t for one thing – no other artist can come close to replicating his style. While the Atlanta rapper has helped mould current superstars like Lil Baby and Gunna over the past few years, neither of them have a knack for his wildly unpredictable flow patterns, eccentric vocal style or unhinged delivery. After spending most of the his career hopping around different label situations and killing the mixtape circuit, Thugga finally broke through in mainstream consciousness in the late-2010s with a string of undeniable tracks, a number one record with “Havana” and scoring his first number one album with So Much Fun.
12. Schoolboy Q
Born: October 26, 1986 (age 36)
Recent releases: Crash Talk (2019)
At 36 years old, it feels like a lifetime ago when Schoolboy Q was bouncing around with Mac Miller and A$AP Rocky with not a care in the world. Now, as an elder statesman of the rap game, the South Central rep can look back at an enviable catalogue of classic albums. From the breakthrough Habits & Contradictions to the masterpiece that was Blank Face LP to the underrated Crash Talk, Q has managed to show listeners different looks and rap styles with each one of his releases, all while maintaining his signature aggressive-yet-melodic delivery.
11. Rome Streetz
Born: N/A (age 35)
Recent releases: Death & The Magician (with DJ Muggs) (2021), Razor’s Edge (with Futurewave) (2021), Coup De Grâce (with Ransom) (2021), Genesis 1:27 (with ANKHLEJOHN) (2021), Kiss the Ring (2022)
The brightest star of Griselda Records’ second wave, Rome Streetz was taken under Westside Gunn’s wing and moulded into a killer MC with a propensity for dishing out rewind-worthy bars and disgusting flows. A product of the ’90s era New York boom-bap, it wouldn’t take much for you to imagine Rome Streetz standing on Harlem street corners trading verses with Big L or out in Shaolin jumping on tracks with Ghost and Rae during that time. In 2021, he did the seemingly impossible and dropped four superb albums within a year and put the whole rap game on notice. Rome Streetz is the future, you better believe it.
Born: April 15, 1983 (age 39)
Recent releases: Miles (as Blu & Exile) (2020), The Color Blu(e) (2021)
One of the greatest underground rappers hip hop has ever seen, Blu has spent the past two decades quietly becoming a prolific workhorse. After dropping Below the Heavens, one of the best rap releases of the decade, in 2007, the L.A. has been churning out quality releases on the solo tip, as well as with collaborators like Madlib, Nottz, Oh No, Damu the Fudgemunk, and of course, Exile. Speaking of Exile, the duo’s latest release 2020’s Miles: From an Interlude Called Life prove that they haven’t skipped a beat, with Blu’s smooth, everyday man rhymes soaking in his producer’s lush soul samples and thumping boom-bap drums. A match made in heaven.
9. Nicki Minaj
Born: December 8, 1982 (age 39)
Recent releases: Queen (2018)
The Queen of hip hop Nicki Minaj has done enough since her debut to be crowned as one of the GOATs in the game. When we put together our best female rappers of all time list, we put Nicki over Lauryn Hill (after much debate), and second to only Missy Elliott. Nicki’s catalogue speaks for itself – you don’t even need to mention the multiplatinum releases or number one singles – but it’s the range that she’s been to perform at consistently over this past decade that makes her special. Whether it’s barred up, Queens repping Nicki on tracks like “Beez in the Trap” and “Monster,” or pop superstar Nicki performing duets with Katy Perry and Ariana Grande, she’s proven time and time again that she can do it all, and better than anyone else.
Born: October 24, 1986 (age 36)
Recent releases: Certified Lover Boy (2021), Honestly, Nevermind (2022), Her Loss (with 21 Savage) (2022)
If we’re being honest, Drake hasn’t dropped a great album since 2015’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. That was the last time he sounded hungry, the last time he sounded like he still had something to prove. But then he dropped Views, sold over a million units in one week, scored his first number one on the chart as a lead artist with “One Dance,” and discovered that he could be even more successful by creating albums that catered everything to everyone. That’s why we’ve gotten bloated releases like More Life, Scorpion and Certified Lover Boy ever since then. These aren’t even bad projects necessarily, they just sound like a potentially classic album wrapped up in a lot of filler tracks designed to pump up the streaming numbers. But hey, this is still Drake, one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, someone who can still boast of having a lethal pen. That’s why we still get blessed with incredible lyrical performances like “Sandra’s Rose”, “Lemon Pepper Freestyle”, “Champagne Poetry”, “7AM on Bridle Path” when Drizzy feels like it.
7. Big K.R.I.T.
Born: April 15, 1983 (age 39)
Recent releases: K.R.I.T. Iz Here (2019), Digital Roses Don’t Die (2022)
In 2015, Kendrick Lamar rapped on “Hood Politics” off To Pimp a Butterfly – “Critics want to mention that they miss when hip-hop was rappin’ / Motherfucker, if you did, then Killer Mike’d be platinum.” That’s exactly how I feel about Big K.R.I.T. If there was ever an artist who encapsulated the soulfulness of Goodie Mob, lyrical sharpness of Bun B and consciousness of 2Pac, it’s the MC hailing from Meridian, Mississippi. If these so-called hip hop heads really put their money where their mouth was and supported Big K.R.I.T.’s music, he would be triple platinum by now. But it’s all good. Like the dedicated artist that he is, K.R.I.T. just keeps moving forward, dropping great music consistently, whether it’s with a major label or independently.
Born: November 20, 1983 (age 38)
Recent releases: High Off Life (2020), I Never Liked You (2022)
Kanye may be talking wild and spouting a lot of garbage these days, but when he declared on Drink Champs that Future was the “most influential artist of the past 10 years,” he was speaking in absolute facts. Like Gucci Mane before him, the Dungeon Family rapper has inspired a whole generation of subsequent rappers, and has played an important role in shaping the way rap sounds today. Ever since embarking on a legendary run that started with 2014’s Monster, Future has been one of the most prolific and consistent artists in the game. Whether it’s dropping trap masterpieces like DS2, putting together R&B works of art like Hndrxx or having one of the biggest albums of the year with I Never Liked You, the ATLien had regularly shown that he’s one of the best rappers alive.
5. Tyler, the Creator
Born: March 6, 1991 (age 31)
Recent releases: Igor (2019), Call Me If You Get Lost (2021)
Tyler, the Creator’s evolution from a rowdy anarchist eating a cockroach in the “Yonkers” music video to creating a jazz-soul-funk masterpiece with Igor is one of the greatest transformations in hip hop history. Tyler ranks up there with Kanye and Andre 3000 in the way he’s been able to adapt his music and switch up his persona, without alienating his fanbase who’s been riding with him for the past decade. Then, when he wants to prove that he can rap with the best of them, he does just that. Like he showed us on Westside Gunn’s “327”, or on Freddie Gibb’s “Something to Rap About”, or on Pharrell’s “Cash in Cash Out.” The point is, Tyler, the Creator is proving to be the most original and versatile artist of his generation, and it strangely feels like he’s just getting warmed up.
Born: October 31, 1990 (age 31)
Recent releases: Revenge of the Dreamers 3 (with Dreamville) (2019), Spilligion (with Spillage Village and EarthGang) (2020), The Forever Story (2022)
One of the best things J. Cole ever did for his own rapping career was launched Dreamville Records and sign a bunch of killer MCs like EarthGang, Bas, Lute and JID to the label. Having these hungry spitters around him all the time has helped keep the Fayetteville rapper on his toes and lyrical sharp all these years. And of the Dreamville crew, you could make very strong argument for JID being the strongest lyricist. Raised in Atlanta on ’90s New York artists as well as hometown heroes like OutKast, T.I., Goodie Mob and Gucci Mane, JID encompasses the best of both worlds. He’s got the technical skillset and lyrical capacity that’s been honed from carefully studying the likes of Nas and Jay-Z, as well as the swagger and attitude that only growing up down south could grant him. With his latest release, 2022’s The Forever Story, JID has catapulted himself firmly into the position of one of the best rappers in the game right now.
3. Benny the Butcher
Born: November 27, 1984 (age 37)
Recent releases: Burden of Proof (2020), Searchin’ for a Purpose (with Black Soprano Family) (2020), Da Respected Sopranos (with Black Soprano Family and DJ Drama) (2020), The Plugs I Met 2 (with Harry Fraud) (2021), Pyrex Picasso (2021), Tana Talk 4 (2022), Long Live DJ Shay (with Black Soprano Family) (2022)
The hardest working rapper under 40 today, Benny the Butcher has been on an incredible run ever since his breakout in 2018. After dropping the classic Tana Talk 3, the gruff Buffalo MC has been on a legendary run; delivering face-scrunching guest verses, collaborating with Hit-Boy on full releases, putting on his Black Soprano Family, and going toe-to-toe with lyrical heavyweights like Pusha T, J. Cole and Jadakiss. Never the flashiest rapper in his crew, Benny’s success comes from putting in his 10,000 hours, delivering his rhymes with a blue-collar approach one bar at a time. It was enough to make him one of the best rappers alive in the game.
2. Kendrick Lamar
Born: June 17, 1987 (age 35)
Recent releases: Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers (2022)
I’m not going to lie, Kendrick not dropping an album since 2017 slightly hurt his standing on this list. Rap is an ultra-competitive sport, and as great as the Compton rapper is and as much of a stranglehold he had on the game, five years in between releases is a lot of time to give other greats to catch up. But it didn’t take long for K.Dot to remind everyone who they were dealing with. First it was his phenomenal guest verse on Baby Keem’s “Family Ties,” then it was “The Heart Part 5” before he dropped Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers. A complex and challenging listen, Kendrick’s fifth album wasn’t as immediate as DAMN. or cinematic as good kid, m.A.A.d city, but it prove, once again, that he was the boldest rapper of his generation. Overcoming a long bout of writer’s block, Kendrick mediated on fatherhood and family while deconstructing his own mythology, all while making his way back to the rap throne.
1. J. Cole
Born: January 28, 1985 (age 37)
Recent releases: Revenge of the Dreamers III (with Dreamville) (2021), The Off-Season (2021), D-Day: A Gangsta Grillz Mixtape (with Dreamville) (2022)
When we put together our list of the best rappers right now, we had J. Cole number one. Not much has changed since then. Five years ago, it would have been inconceivable for me to put J. Cole above Kendrick on any type of list. The Compton rapper had just dropped the best album of his career to date, scored his first number one hit single and cemented his position as the best rapper alive. But over these past few years, the Fayetteville MC has pushed hard to stake his claim for the throne. Whether it was dropping flamers for guest verses (“A Lot”, “Family and Loyalty”, “Off Deez”, “London”, “Johnny P’s Caddy”), throwaway freestyles (“Album of the Year (Freestyle)”), quarterbacking the Revenge of the Dreamers series, or dropping one of his best albums to date with The Off-Season, J. Cole proved to rap fans around the world that he was undoubtedly the best rapper in the game right now.