Hip hop might be a youth-centric culture but putting together a list of the 40 best rappers over 40 years old wasn’t hard at all. If you think about all best rappers of the ’90s, most of them are in their 40s by now.
A few notes before we get on with the list. This is not a list of the greatest rappers of all time who happen to be over 40 years, but rather of the best rappers who are still actively putting out music and staying relevant.
For example, a rapper like Rakim, who is undeniably one of the GOATs in the rap game, wouldn’t qualify for this list because his last release was The Seventh Seal in 2009. You’ve got to be relevant in recent years to make it on this list.
Same goes for names like Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, Ice Cube, LL Cool J, and so on. These rappers all feature on our all-time list, but in terms of the best rappers over 40 doing it right now? You’ve got to be still active in the game.
So without any further ado, let’s get into it. From Black Thought, Freddie Gibbs and Ghostface Killah to Jay-Z, Nas and Boldy James, here are the 40 best rappers over 40 years old.
Born: November 15, 1967 (age 54)
Recent releases: Connected and Respected (with B-Legit) (2018), The Gift of Gab (2018), Practice Makes Paper (2019), Ain’t Gonna Do It/Terms and Conditions (with Too Short) (2020), Bad MFs (with Mount Westmore) (2022)
The godfather of the independent rap movement, E-40 is still spitting Bay Area slang and hustling non-stop like it’s still the late ’80s. Whether it’s dropping six albums in two years (The Block Brochure series between 2012-2013), scoring a top 40 hit with Big Sean or collaborating with Snoop Dogg, Too Short, and Ice Cube on the Mount Westmore project, E-40 is still the man up in these streets.
39. Juicy J
Born: April 5, 1975 (age 47)
Recent releases: Rubba Band Business (2017), The Hustle Continues (2020), Stoner’s Night (with Wiz Khalifa) (2022), Space Age Pimpin (with Pi’erre Bourne) (2022)
Coming up in the rap game during the early ’90s, Juicy J had a huge impact on Memphis hip hop scene as part of the legendary Three 6 Mafia. Between 1995 and 2008 the group dropped over a dozen albums, but more importantly their music has inspired subsequent generations of big-name rappers, from Drake to A$AP Rocky.
Juicy J’s reinvention as a solo artist during the 2010s is one of those rare stories in hip hop where an certified veteran is able to link up with newer artists and make it feel organic. Since his game-changing 2013 album Stay Trippy, Juicy J has remained heavy on the features and production circuit, cementing his name as one of the best to ever do it.
Born: November 18, 1977 (age 44)
Recent releases: Friday on Elm Street (with Jadakiss) (2017), Summertime Shootout 3: Coldest Summer Ever (2019)
The slick-talking Brooklyn MC with a timeless voice and ageless flow sounds comfortable from all angles of the hip hop world. From dropping barred up albums with fellow legend Jadakiss (Friday on Elm Street in 2017), keeping up with younger talent like Lil Uzi Vert and Joyner Lucas, or putting out R&B joints with Ty Dolla and Jeremih, there’s nothing Fabolous can’t do on a track. Debuting in 2001 with Ghetto Fabolous, Fab is one of those MCs you can picture rapping forever.
37. Young Jeezy
Born: September 28, 1977 (age 45)
Recent releases: TM104: The Legend of the Snowman (2019), The Recession 2 (2020), Snofall (with DJ Drama) (2022)
One of the most iconic voices in the rap game, Young Jeezy (or Jeezy as he prefers these days) has evolved to become an elder statesman full of knowledge and life experience to pass on to the up-and-coming generations. While still tapping into his trap or die energy and thug motivation philosophies, Jeezy is older and wiser these days, although he still knows how to make bangers like the back of his hand. The Atlanta rapper’s latest release, Snofall, put out with DJ Drama made 2022 feel like 2005 all over again.
Born: February 4, 1976 (age 46)
Recent releases: Purple Haze 2 (2019), U Wasn’t There (with A-Trak) (2022)
Listening to the way that Cam’ron effortlessly spits his rhymes, you get the feeling that rapping is just one of the many things that comes naturally to the Harlem legend. Over the past decade, making music hasn’t been at the forefront of Cam’s life with long stretches in between putting out albums, but when the Dipset frontman does decide to drop, hip hop heads know what’s up.
Cam’s 2019 sequel to his classic Purple Haze was solid, but his collaboration album with A-Trak, U Wasn’t There, released in 2022 was even better. The 9-track project, which included features from Jim Jones, Styles P and Damon Dash, along with Conway and Styles P, was vintage Cam’ron flows over powerful music.
35. Bun B
Born: March 19, 1973 (age 49)
Recent releases: Return of the Trill (2018), TrillStatik (with Statik Selektah) (2019), Distant (with Le$) (2021), Mo Trill (with Cory Mo) (2022)
When the late Pimp C was sent off to prison on an aggravated gun assault charge in 2002, Bun B put the UGK brand on his back and went on a legendary features bodying tour that kept the Texas duo’s name alive. One of the most versatile rappers in the game today, Bun B can keep it trill with 8Ball & MJG and Slim Thug, then switch it up and create a whole album with boom-bap maestro Statik Selektah. Now with Pimp gone forever, Bun B is carrying on the mission to keep his partner’s name and the UGK flag flying high.
34. Jim Jones
Born: July 15, 1976 (age 46)
Recent releases: El Capo (2019), The Fraud Department (with Harry Fraud) (2021), Gangsta Grillz: We Set The Trends (with DJ Drama) (2022), The Lobby Boyz (with Maino) (2022)
On a list of the most improved rappers of all time, Jim Jones would fare quite high. While he came into the rap game as part of the Dipset movement, Jim was seen more as the muscle of the group, the shooter ready to take on any rival rappers trying to diss. But after establishing his solo career, the Harlem rapper has continually worked on refining his craft and has dropped two great albums in recent years – El Capo produced by longtime Dipset producers The Heatmakerz, and The Fraud Department with Harry Fraud.
Born: March 13, 1972 (age 50)
Recent releases: August Greene (with Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins) (2018), Let Love (2019), A Beautiful Revolution (Pt. 1) (2020), A Beautiful Revolution (Pt. 2) (2021)
Common might be more focused on acting, writing and activism these days, but don’t get it twisted, the Chicago rapper is still an MC through and through. In between starring in films like The Informer and Ava, putting out his second memoir Let Love Have The Last Word, and shining a light on social issues, he still has time to drop amazing music. Along with Nas, Jay-Z, and Black Thought, Common is leading the charge on how to age gracefully in a youth-centric culture.
32. Rick Ross
Born: January 28, 1976 (age 46)
Recent releases: Port of Miami 2 (2019), Richer Than I Ever Been (2021)
Rick Ross has never dropped a bad album, that’s a hill that I’m willing to die on. From 2006’s Port of Miami and 2021’s Richer Than I Ever Been, the MMG head honcho has dropped 11 solo releases and they’ve all ranged from above-average to classic. If you think about your favourite rapper and the couple of duds they have in their catalogue, you’ll realise that this is quite an accomplishment. Even with his multiple business ventures making him one of the most financially successful rappers of all time, you can tell that Ross still loves making music shown by the care and dedication he gives his albums.
31. The Game
Born: November 29, 1979 (age 42)
Recent releases: Born 2 Rap (2019), Drillmatic – Heart vs. Mind (2022)
One of the most consistent rappers in the game today, Game was already cemented as a West Coast legend off the strength of his first three albums. The Compton MC has continued to push forward these past two decades, putting out great music with stacked albums that showcase his love for the culture. Rap fans like to diss Game for his persistent name-dropping, but there are very few artists right now who would go out of their way to educate listeners on the legendary rappers of the past.
30. Inspectah Deck
Born: July 6, 1970 (age 52)
Recent releases: Czarface Meets Metal Face (with MF Doom) (2018), Czarface Meets Ghostface (with Ghostface Killah) (2019), The Odd Czar Against Us (2019), Super What? (with MF Doom) (2021), Czarmageddon! (2022)
Inspectah Deck’s solo career never really took off as it should have. During the mid-90s, Wu-Tang were running shit with classics being dropped left, right and centre from Method Man, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah. Deck was meant to be up next, but a flood in RZA’s basement destroyed hundreds of beats, many of which were meant for his solo album.
As a result of that, Uncontrolled Substance was released in 1999 instead of 1995, and Deck was never able to capture that momentum of his fellow Wu rappers. Fast-forward to the 2010s and Deck is having an incredible resurgence. Teaming up with underground Boston rap duo, 7L & Esoteric, Deck formed Czarface, breathing new life into his rap career. Over the past decade, Czarface have dropped over a dozen releases, including with MF DOOM and Ghostface, and taken Deck to a new level as an artist.
29. MC Eiht
Born: May 22, 1971 (age 51)
Recent releases: Official (2020), Lessons (2020), Revolution in Progress (2022)
One of the most unheralded West Coast rappers of all time, MC Eiht is synonymous with his hometown of Compton, California. Making his name as part of the seminal hip hop group, Compton’s Most Wanted, MC Eiht went on to pursue a solo career that was just as impactful as his crew. Over the past few years, the Compton legend has continue to put out quality music, most notably the DJ Premier executive produced Which Way Iz West and 2022’s Revolution in Progress.
28. Kanye West
Born: June 8, 1977 (age 45)
Recent releases: Jesus Is King (2019), Donda (2021), Donda 2 (2022)
As a Kanye West fan, it hurts to see the rapper-producer’s recent fall from grace. You could argue that The Life of Pablo, released over six years ago, was his last great album, and even that project sounded rushed and unfocused in spots. It’s very like that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the best hip hop album of the 2010s, was the last album he was fully focused on. Since then, fashion, politics and a variety of other things have pulled his attention away from the music. Still, this is Kanye West we’re talking about, and even his unfocused state is better than 90% of the artists out there, as we saw with Donda.
27. Styles P
Born: November 28, 1974 (age 47)
Recent releases: Presence (2019), Styles David: Ghost Your Enthusiasm (2020), Ghosting (2021), Wreckage Manner (with Havoc) (2021)
Styles P has one of the strongest work ethics in the rap game today. The Yonkers rapper has been consistently putting out music pretty much every year since he debuted in the ’90s. As a group, The LOX are known for their affiliation with major labels like Bad Boy, Ruff Ryders and Interscope, but as a solo artist, Styles P is part of the independent scene where he is much more suited. It’s the type of environment that enables him to put out great projects like Styles David: Ghost Your Enthusiasm and Wreckage Manner with Havoc, one of the best rap albums of 2021.
Born: April 4, 1981 (age 41)
Recent releases: The Tonite Show with Curren$y (with DJ Fresh) (2020), Spring Clean (with Fuse) (2020), The OutRunners (with Harry Fraud) (2020), The Director’s Cut (with Harry Fraud) (2020), Bonus Footage (with Harry Fraud) (2020, Welcome to Jet Life Recordings (with Jet Life) (2021), Welcome to Jet Life Recordings 2 (with Jet Life) (2021), Collection Agency (2021), Still Stoned on Ocean (2021), Pilot Talk IV (2021), Highest in Charge (with Trauma Tone) (2021), Matching Rolexes (with Kino Beats) (2021), Regatta (with Harry Fraud) (2021), Continuance (with The Alchemist) (2022), Spring Clean 2 (with Fuse) (2022)
Speaking about the hardest working rappers in the game, you can’t talk work ethic without mentioning Styles P’s music brother Currensy. The New Orleans, Louisiana rapper has built an entire career out of dropping music at a relentless rate. While you would never go to Currensy for the hardest bars, best flows or wittiest punchlines, the Jet Life boss has carved a lane out for himself, positioning himself as the best at creating smooth, lifestyle music perfect for smoking up.
25. Busta Rhymes
Born: May 20, 1972 (age 50)
Recent releases: Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God (2020)
Busta Rhymes dropped A Future Without a Past… with Leaders of the New School in 1991. His latest album, Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God, came out in 2020. 29 years later. The high energy, rapid-fire flowing MC is just one of the many examples of why age is just a number in hip hop. Whether it’s jumping on a hit single with Chris Brown, trading bars with Kendrick Lamar or talking coke with the Griselda crew, Busta Rhymes is a timeless figure in the rap game.
24. Tech N9ne
Born: November 8, 1971 (age 50)
Recent releases: N9na (2019), Enterfear (2020), Asin9ne (2021)
The most successful independent rapper of all time, Tech N9ne and his partner Travis O’Guin has built a sprawling music empire in the heart of Missouri. It all started out with Tech and his unique brand of hardcore (verging on horrocore) music that blends mind-blowing flows and incredible technical abilities to capture an underground fanbase. After decades of grinding away, one show at a time, one fan at a time, one piece of merchandise at a time, Strange Music is now one of the top hip hop record labels of all time.
23. Westside Gunn
Born: July 27, 1982 (age 40)
Recent releases: Flygod is an Awesome God II (2020), Pray for Paris (2020), Who Made the Sunshine (2020), Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Sincerly, Adolf (2021), Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Side B (2021), Peace “Fly” God (2022)
It may not feel like it, just because of how recent his come-up has been, but Westside Gunn is a 40-year old rapper who dropped his first mixtape in 2005. However, due to legal troubles the Buffalo businessman-artist didn’t release any further music between 2006-2011.
But once he came back to the rap game, it was with the intention of taking Buffalo into the big leagues. Since his landmark 2016 debut, Flygod, West has led Griselda on an industry takeover, including big name co-signs from Jay-Z and Eminem, major label signings and management deals with Roc Nation. One of the hardest working people in hip hop today, Westside Gunn churns out masterpieces like it’s nothing to him.
22. Jay Electronica
Born: September 19, 1976 (age 46)
Recent releases: A Written Testimony (2020), Act II: The Patents of Nobility (The Turn) (2020)
In an ideal world, if hip hop heads around the world had gotten their way, Jay Electronica would be 5-6 albums deep by now. Unfortunately that’s not how life works, and we’ve only been blessed with the one album so far, two if you count the leaked Act II: The Patents of Nobility (The Turn). None of that takes away from the fact that Jay Electronica is, and has always been, one of the very best rappers in the game. Whenever he decides to rap, whether it’s dropping loosies like “Call of Duty” or jumping on Kanye’s “Jesus Lord,” it’s always an event when enigmatic MC blesses us.
21. Big Boi
Born: February 1, 1975 (age 47)
Recent releases: Boomiverse (2017), The Big Sleepover (with Sleepy Brown) (2021)
While his partner-in-rhyme has gone off the grid, popping up every now and then for a devastating guest verse or to play a flute, Big Boi has been staying on his grind. The ATLien released his long-awaited debut album, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, back in 2010 and has been putting out new music regularly ever since, along with juggling his film & TV ambitions. While Andre has always been the more acclaimed MC of the duo, Big Boi’s track record proves that he belongs right up there in the conversation.
20. Lloyd Banks
Born: April 30, 1982 (age 40)
Recent releases: The Course of the Inevitable (2021), The Course of the Inevitable 2 (2022)
Lloyd Banks’ recent resurgence makes me happy. As a big fan of the G-Unit movement back in the day, Banks’ low-key demeanour and seemingly endless punchlines made him my favourite member of the group. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the most prolific. Before his comeback in 2021, Banks had only dropped three albums in over 15 years, though he did have a handful of classic mixtapes in rotation. Then The Course of the Inevitable happened, and the old Banks was right there trading bars with the likes of Freddie Gibbs, Benny the Butcher, Roc Marciano and Styles P like he never left.
19. Method Man
Born: March 2, 1971 (age 51)
Recent releases: Meth Lab Season 2: The Lithium (2018), Meth Lab Season 3: The Rehab (2022)
If you ever need a reminder of just how incredibly dope Method Man is (although I’m not sure why you would), go have a listen to the Wu rapper spit on Conway’s “Lemon.” The Griselda MC, who is absolutely one of the best rappers right now, drops a great, memorable verse, then Meth just comes through and completely obliterates Conway on his own track. The scary part was just how effortless he made it seem. Method Man doesn’t have anything else left to prove, but somehow he’s still rapping with the same hunger and fluidity he had since the early ’90s. Legendary shit.
Born: May 27, 1975 (age 47)
Recent releases: Friday on Elm Street (with Fabolous) (2017), Ignatius (2020)
I have to be honest, Jadakiss’ performance at the Verzuz against Dipset played a big role on his standing on this list. That’s not to say that he hasn’t been dropping consistent music – his collaboration with Fab on Friday on Elm Street was dope as fuck – it’s just that his presence that night at Madison Square Garden was a reminder of why he’s been as successful as he is, for as long as he is. Reeling through classic LOX cuts, legendary freestyles, R&B joints and New York anthems, Jadakiss commanded the arena’s attention for the entire night and proved why he was one of the best to ever hold a mic.
Born: March 2, 1975 (age 47)
Recent releases: RTJ4 (2020)
One of the greatest and most influential hip hop artists of all time, El-P has had a huge hand in shaping the underground sound of a number of eras. At first, it was as part of Company Flow releasing music on Rawkus Records, one of the great rap record labels; then it was launching Definitive Jux and working on classics like Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein; then it was his string of legendary solo projects like Fantastic Damage and Cancer 4 Cure. And now, in his latest act, he’s the rapper-producer of Run the Jewels. Quite an esteemed career, and he doesn’t even get the accolades that he deserves.
16. Roc Marciano
Born: February 11, 1978 (age 44)
Recent releases: Mt. Marci (2020), The Elephant Man’s Bones (with The Alchemist) (2022)
In case you don’t know it, Roc Marciano is a certified veteran who has been doing this rap shit for the past two decades. Coming into the game as part of Busta’s Flipmode Squad, Roc’s career took several twists and turns before settling into his role as an underground OG. First it was Marcberg in 2010, Reloaded two years later, Marci Beaucoup in 2013, and now fast-forward to 2022 and he’s just dropped another masterpiece, The Elephant Man’s Bones, this time with The Alchemist. Westside Gunn and his Griselda crew may be getting all the accolades recently for reviving the underground boom-bap, but Roc’s been the figurehead of this movement for decades now.
15. Ghostface Killah
Born: May 9, 1970 (age 52)
Recent releases: The Lost Tapes (with Big Ghost Ltd.) (2018), Ghostface Killahs (2019), Czarface Meets Ghostface (with Czarface) (2019)
As the main rapper flying the Wu-Tang flag high since the early 2000s, Ghostface has never taken his foot off the pedal when it comes to releasing quality music. One of hip hop’s most gifted storytellers, Ghost is simply one of the best of conjuring up vivid images through his grasp of the English language. That’s why rappers like Kanye or Kendrick go to him for a guest verse, they just know they won’t get it like that anywhere else. Over the past decade, Ghost has released over a dozen projects, solo and collaborative, and he’s not stopping anytime soon.
14. Andre 3000
Born: May 27, 1975 (age 47)
Recent releases: N/A
Andre 3000 hasn’t dropped an album since 2006’s Idlewild. That was over 15 years ago, and yet he’s still regularly in the conversation of the best rappers alive. And I don’t mean in the conversation like Rakim or Big Daddy Kane are in the conversation – their greatness is secured but people talk about them with a sense of looking back. People talk about Andre 3000 in the same breath as any great rapper doing it right now. Every verse he drops is an event, stirring up a frenzy on Twitter, whether it’s what he did on Frank Ocean’s “Solo (Reprise),” Rick Ross’ “Sixteen”, or more recently, Kanye’s “Life of the Party.” He is the most singular rapper on this list and one of the greatest of all time.
13. Royce da 5’9″
Born: July 5, 1977 (age 45)
Recent releases: PRhyme 2 (with DJ Premier as PRhyme) (2018), Book of Ryan (2018), The Allegory (2020)
Royce da 5’9″ had been through the ringer before finding his groove as a hip hop artist. After turning down a deal with Dr. Dre to sign with Tommy Boy Records, Royce had a falling out with Eminem and D12, bounced around different labels, and never really found his place as a rapper, despite how lyrically talented he was. Things began to change in the 2010s. First with the revival of Bad Meets Evil, the formation of Slaughterhouse, his Bar Exam mixtape series, and then linking up with DJ Premier to become the rap duo PRhyme. Suddenly, Royce da 5’9″ hadn’t just resurrected his rap career, he was one of the best rappers alive.
12. Killer Mike
Born: April 20, 1975 (age 47)
Recent releases: RTJ4 (2020)
This list of the best rappers over 40 years old are filled with artists who encountered numerous career setbacks and managed to find a way around it. Killer Mike is one of them. As a member of the Atlanta rap collective, Dungeon Family, Killer Mike put his name on the map with features on OutKast songs like “Snappin’ & Trappin'” and “The Whole World” as well as Hov’s “Poppin’ Tags,” but he found most of his success as an underground artist with a penchant for speaking social issues. That is, until he linked up with El-P in 2013 to form Run the Jewels and as a result, took his rap career to a whole other level. Not only is Killer Mike now one of the most iconic rappers of his generation, Run the Jewels is one of the best rap duos ever.
11. Lil Wayne
Born: September 27, 1982 (age 40)
Recent releases: Tha Carter V (2018), No Ceilings 3 (2020), Funeral (2020), Trust Fund Babies (with Rich the Kid) (2021)
There’s no way to describe Weezy F. Baby’s rap career other than to say he’s GOAT-worthy. For someone who’s been in the game for as long as he has and has accomplished as much as he has, it would come to a big surprise to many fans that he only just turned 40 years old this year. When he joined the Hot Boys in 1997 at the age of 14, there was no way to know just how far he’d go over the next three decades.
Peep at Wayne’s catalogue and you’ll find classic mixtapes, classic albums, classic features, classic verses, not to mention he helped usher in Drake and Nicki Minaj, two of the most influential rappers of the 2010s. It would be superfluous to say it, but I’m going to say it anyway: Lil Wayne is without doubt one of the greatest rappers of all time.
Born: October 17, 1972 (age 50)
Recent releases: Kamikaze (2018), Music to Be Murdered By (2020)
Eminem may be long past his prime but even a past-his-prime Eminem can rhyme better than most of the rappers out here today. After the critically maligned Revival which saw Em sink to his lowest artistic point, the Detroit MC came back swinging. First it was the Kamikaze surprise drop which included numerous disses towards people like Machine Gun Kelly, Joe Budden, Lil Yachty, and plenty more. Then came Music to Be Murdered By which featured some of the strongest music Em had released in a while, as well as a murderers row of guest appearances from the likes of Royce, Black Thought, and Young M.A. The bottom line is: even if the haters don’t want to admit it, Eminem has still got it.
9. Danny Brown
Born: March 16, 1981 (age 41)
Recent releases: uknowhatimsayin¿ (2019), TV62 (as Bruiser Brigade) (2021)
While it may seem like Danny Brown is part of the same generation as Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Drake and A$AP Rocky, the fact is the Detroit rapper has been grinding in this rap game for a minute now. After failed stints at Roc-A-Fella and G-Unit Records because of his unique aesthetic and failure to adhere with the traditional gangsta rapper look, Danny Brown found success when he embraced his independence – artistically and business-wise. Since dropping XXX in 2011, the high-pitched voice MC has been at the forefront of experimental hip hop with a string of acclaimed albums, including Old, Atrocity Exhibition and U Know What I’m Sayin?.
8. Conway the Machine
Born: February 16, 1982 (age 40)
Recent releases: From King to a God (2020), Lulu (with The Alchemist) (2020), No One Mourns the Wicked (with Big Ghost) (2020), If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed (with Big Ghost) (2021), God Don’t Make Mistakes (2022), What Has Been Blessed Cannot Be Cursed (with Big Ghost) (2022)
Westside Gunn might be the brains behind Griselda and Benny the Butcher might be the shooter, but Conway the Machine is the heart and soul of the Buffalo crew. A tour de force in rapping about his personal trauma, Conway balances his trapping tales with vivid life stories more masterfully than any other rapper in the game right now. In recounting the 2012 shooting that left his face paralysed or talking about his depression, Conway uses his wordplay and flow to strike a powerful chord in listeners.
7. Lupe Fiasco
Born: February 16, 1982 (age 40)
Recent releases: Drogas Wave (2018), Tape Tape (with Soundtrakk) (2020), Drill Music in Zion (2022)
There’s something about the way Lupe Fiasco raps, or maybe it’s the way his voice sounds, that gives listeners the feeling that he’s a timeless artist with simply no age. The phenomenally-gifted Chicago MC dropped classics a major label artist with Atlantic Records, but it’s the later, independent phase of his career where he’s making music that’s more captivating than ever before. Being independent suits a rapper of Lupe’s calibre and creativity. It’s what enables him to create masterpieces like Drogas Wave, a quick EP with Kaelin Ellis and more recently, an album as lush and bold as Drill Music in Zion.
6. Boldy James
Born: August 9, 1982 (age 40)
Recent releases: The Price of Tea in China (with The Alchemist) (2020), Manger on McNichols (2020), The Versace Tape (2020), Real Bad Boldy (with Real Bad Man) (2020), Bo Jackson (with The Alchemist) (2021), Super Tecmo Bo (with The Alchemist) (2021), Killing Nothing (with Real Bad Man) (2022), Fair Exchange No Robbery (with Nicholas Craven) (2022)
In between 2013’s My 1st Chemistry Set and 2020’s The Price of Tea in China, Boldy James went through a lot of trials and tribulations. A failed stint with Nas’ Mass Appeal Entertainment and legal troubles from his hustling life gave the Detroit rapper some pause in his rap career. So when Boldy came back to the game, it was with a vengeance. In the past couple years alone, he’s put out 7 releases, including three albums with The Alchemist and two albums with Real Bad Man. With vivid hustling tales wrapped around a monotone, matter-of-fact delivery, Boldy James is one of those rare rappers who manages to capture an audience’s attention without raising his voice.
5. Black Thought
Born: October 3, 1973 (age 49)
Recent releases: Streams of Thought, Vol. 1 (2018), Streams of Thought, Vol. 2 (2018), Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cane & Able (2020), Cheat Codes (with Danger Mouse) (2022)
One of the top names that come to mind when you think of an older rapper ageing gracefully in his later years, Black Thought is rhyming and performing as good as he’s ever been. After 20+ years and a dozen releases as The Roots’ lead MC, Thought made his solo debut in 2018 with Streams of Thought, Vol. 1 where he teamed up with 9th Wonder for the full release. The formula worked and Thought would continue to release new projects with a different producer each time – Salaam Remi, Sean C and more recently, Danger Mouse. Younger artists need to study Black Thought to learn how to stay hungry and focused in this fickle rap game.
4. Freddie Gibbs
Born: June 14, 1982 (age 40)
Recent releases: Bandana (with Madlib) (2019), Alfredo (with The Alchemist) (2020), $oul $old $eparately (2022)
It would be very hard to argue against Freddie Gibbs being the best rapper alive. He’s got the rapping skills, a blend between 2Pac’s gruff delivery and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony melodies; he’s got the catalogue, Bandana and Alfredo are certified classics; and he’s certainly got the star power. A dexterous lyricist with the ability to switch between smooth melodies and aggressive bars, Gibbs is now a major label artist who’s bordering on becoming a full-blown superstar.
Born: December 4, 1969 (age 52)
Recent releases: 4:44 (2017), Everything Is Love (with Beyoncé as the Carters) (2018)
Jay-Z’s lack of solo output these past few years hides the fact that he’s become a preeminent feature killer. From the show-stopping “What’s Free”, to the dope-boy anthem “Neck & Wrist”, to the epic “God Did,” Jay-Z has more than made up for his lack of albums by jumping on the occasional guest verse that twists the internet into a frenzy. By now, the 52-year old New York rapper has done more than enough to stake his claim as hip hop’s rightful king, everything else is just icing on the cake.
2. Pusha T
Born: May 13, 1977 (age 45)
Recent releases: Daytona (2018), It’s Almost Dry (2022)
On May 14, 2002, Virginia rap duo Clipse dropped their game-changing debut single “Grindin'” that spoke to trappers from all over the nation. On April 22, 2022, almost 20 years to the date, Pusha T dropped his fourth studio album, It’s Almost Dry. That’s two decades of coke rapping at the highest level. No-one else has been able to do this besides maybe Hov and Jeezy. The crazy thing is that Pusha isn’t staying current based on a sense of nostalgia or anything like that, he really is keeping up with these young guns bar for bar, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Freddie Gibbs, Lil Uzi Vert, YBN Cordae or Benny the Butcher.
Born: September 14, 1973 (age 49)
Recent releases: King’s Disease (2020), King’s Disease II (2021), Magic (2021), King’s Disease III
In between August 21, 2020 and December 24, 2021, Nas really dropped three albums that are worthy of entering the top ten of his catalogue. That’s three great albums dropped in under 18 months. No rapper in history has been able to go on a run that strong, that late in their rap career. Nas was already cemented as one of the best rappers when he came out in the ’90s, but what he’s gone on to do over the next three decades is unprecedented. Like Kanye said in his wild Drink Champs interview, “Nas was ordained by God to be the greatest rapper of all time.” We might not agree with Kanye on a lot of things, but we’re not going to debate that.