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The Top 50 Greatest Rapper 5-Year Runs of All Time

Hip hop has always been seen as a culture dominated by the youth, with the hottest new rappers artists emerging every year to push the boundaries and take the genre in different directions. But for some rappers, one hot year of success isn’t enough. For these true legends of the game, a five-year run of dominance is just the beginning.

From the 1980s to the present day, there have been a number of rappers who have managed to stay on top for an extended period of time. These are the artists who have consistently released classic albums, dropped unforgettable verses, and cemented their place in the pantheon of hip hop greats.

The earliest 5-year runs in hip hop history can be traced back to the 1980s, when artists like Run-DMC, LL Cool J, and Rakim ruled the streets and clubs. These legendary MCs not only laid the foundation for the culture, but also helped to establish hip hop as a viable commercial force. Moving into the 1990s, rappers like 2Pac, Ice Cube, and Big emerged as the most iconic rap figures, dropping some of the greatest rap music ever in a short-span of time. As we moved into the 2000s and beyond, the landscape of hip hop continued to shift and evolve, as artists like Eminem, Lil Wayne, Kendrick, J. Cole and Drake have come up in the game to dominate with their next level lyricism and hot new flows.

So let’s get into it. From Ludacris, T.I., Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy to Nas, Jay-Z, 2Pac and Ice Cube, here are the top 50 greatest rapper 5-year runs of all time.

50. Westside Gunn: 2016 – 2020

Notable releases: Flygod, Hitler Wears Hermes IV, Hitler Wears Hermes V, Westside Doom (with MF Doom), Supreme Blientele, Hitler Wears Hermes VI, Flygod is an Awesome God, Hitler Wears Hermes VII, WWCD (with Griselda), Flygod is an Awesome God II, Pray for Paris, Who Made the Sunshine

Guest appearances: Royce da 5’9″ – “Overcomer”, Conway The Machine – “Spurs 3”, Benny the Butcher – “Echo Long”, Benny the Butcher – “War Paint”

In five years, Westside Gunn went from an underground local rapper from Buffalo to doing GQ interviews alongside the late, great Virgil Abloom, receiving co-signs from Jay-Z and appearing on Kanye albums. Off the strength of the immaculate Flygod, Westside and Conway became the first rappers out of Buffalo to sign to a major label when they inked a deal with Shady Records, and it’s just been all uphill from there.

49. Rick Ross: 2008 – 2012

Notable releases: Trilla, Deeper Than Rap, Teflon Don, Self Made Vol. 1 (with Maybach Music Group), Rich Forever, Self Made Vol. 2 (with Maybach Music Group), God Forgives, I Don’t

Guest appearances: Freeway – “Lights Get Low”, Ace Hood – “Cash Flow”, DJ Khaled – “Out Here Grindin”, Bun B – “You’re Everything”, DJ Khaled – “All I Do Is Win”, Kanye West – “Monster”, DJ Khaled – “Welcome to My Hood”, Lil Wayne – “John”, DJ Khaled – “I’m on One”, Birdman – “Born Stunna”, French Montana – “Pop That”, DJ Khaled – “I Wish You Would”, Nicki Minaj – “I Am Your Leader”, Kanye West – “Devil in a New Dress”, The Game – “Heavy Artillery”, Wale – “Ambition”, Drake – “Lord Knows”, Meek Mill – “Maybach Curtains”

Ever since his 2006 debut, the stellar Port of Miami, Rick Ross has amassed one of the most enviable catalogues in hip hop today. A consummate professional that doesn’t rely on big hype cycles or huge singles, Ross just keeps it simple – great music packaged into great albums, dropped consistently. 10 solo albums, three group albums, and four mixtapes later, Ross hasn’t missed yet.

48. Freddie Gibbs: 2016 – 2020

Notable releases: You Only Live 2wice, Fetti (with Curren$y and The Alchemist), Bandana (with Madlib), Alfredo (with The Alchemist)

Guest appearances: Curren$y – “Stash House”, Phonte – “Change Of Mind”, Boldy James – “S.N.O.R.T.”, Westside Gunn – “$500 Ounces”, Conway the Machine – “Seen Everything but Jesus”, Benny the Butcher – “One Way Flight”

Freddie Gibbs’ journey to becoming one of the best rappers alive right now was a decade-long process in the making. After establishing himself as a cult hero and underground king with the Madlib-produced Piñata, Gibbs continued to build on his catalogue, steadily grinding it out with quality releases. Then 2019 and 2020 happened. Gibbs dropped two AOTY contenders back-to-back, signed a partnership with Warner Records, murdered every single feature he was on, and suddenly he was in the conversation for being one of the greatest to ever do it.

47. Tyler, the Creator: 2017 – 2021

Notable releases: Flower Boy, Igor, Call Me If You Get Lost

Guest appearances: Frank Ocean – “Biking”, Kali Uchis – “After the Storm”, GoldLink – “U Say”, Lil Yachty – “T.D”, Jaden – “Noize”, Westside Gunn – “327”, Freddie Gibbs – “Something to Rap About”, Snoh Aalegra – “Neon Peach” / “In the Moment”, Westside Gunn – “The Fly Who Couldn’t Fly Straight”

Outside of Kanye West and OutKast, there hasn’t been a greater artistic evolution than Tyler, the Creator. The Tyler who sat on the stool eating cockroaches in the “Yonkers” video is a completely different rapper from the one who made Igor or Call Me If You Get Lost. But one thing remains consistent, his desire to consistently experiment and push the boundaries of hip hop music.

46. Busta Rhymes: 1996 – 2000

Notable releases: The Coming (1996), When Disaster Strikes… (1997), The Imperial (with Flipmode Squad) (1998), Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front (1998), Anarchy (2000)

Guest appearances: Rampage – “Wild for da Night”, Keith Murray – “Yeah”, Fugees – “Rumble in the Jungle”, Tracey Lee – “The After Party (The Theme II)”, Puff Daddy – “Victory”, Redman – “Da Goodness”, Rah Digga – “Imperial”, Pharoahe Monch – “Simon Says (Remix)”

Between ’96 and 2000, Busta Rhymes dominated the rap game like no other rapper. From his debut, The Coming,” through to When Disaster Strikes… and Extinction Level Event, he kept the bangers coming. His work with Flipmode Squad on The Imperial and unforgettable guest spots (Puff Daddy’s “Victory,” Fugees’ “Rumble in the Jungle,” just to name a few) only added to his legendary status. By the time Anarchy rolled around in 2000, it was clear: Busta’s insane flow and magnetic charisma had earned him one of the illest 5-year runs in hip-hop history.

45. Young Thug: 2013 – 2017

Notable releases: 1017 Thug, Black Portland (with Bloody Jay), Young Thugga Mane La Flare (with Gucci Mane), Tha Tour, Pt. 1 (with Birdman and Rich Homie Quan, as Rich Gang), Barter 6, Slime Season, Slime Season 2, I’m Up, Slime Season 3, Jeffery, Beautiful Thugger Girls, Super Slimey (with Future)

Guest appearances: Tyga – “Hookah”, T.I. – “About the Money”, Rae Sremmurd – “Throw Sum Mo”, Travis Scott – “Mamacita”, Jamie xx – “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”, Yo Gotti – “Rihanna”, Bankroll Mafia – “Bankrolls on Deck”, Lil Yachty – “Minnesota”, Gucci Mane – “Guwop Home”, Rick Ross – “Trap Trap Trap”, Travis Scott – “Skyfall”, Travis Scott – “Nothing But Net”, Lil Uzi Vert – “Yamborghini Dream”, Travis Scott – “Maria I’m Drunk”, T.I. – “Peanut Butter Jelly”, Chance the Rapper – “Mixtape”, Nipsey Hussle – “Thug Life”, Meek Mill – “Offended”, Drake – “Sacrifices”, Drake – “Ice Melts”, 21 Savage – “Whole Lot”

Young Thug emerged in 2013 as an interesting rapper with seemingly limitless potential under the banner of Gucci Mane’s 1017 Records. Starting with the release of “1017 Thug” under Gucci Mane’s tutelage, he went on to drop a flurry of projects like “Barter 6,” “Jeffery,” and the “Slime Season” series, solidifying his place among the most innovative rappers of his era. His inimitable style and infectious energy shone through on guest appearances, such as T.I.’s “About the Money” and Drake’s “Sacrifices.” By 2017, he had transformed into a fully-fledged artist who was cemented as one of the most creative and influential rappers of his generation.

44. J. Cole: 2014 – 2018

Notable releases: Revenge of the Dreamers (with Dreamville Records), 2014 Forest Hills Drive, 4 Your Eyez Only, KOD

Guest appearances: Jeremiah – “Planez”, Janet Jackson – “No Sleeep”, Bas – “Night Job”, Spillage Village – “Can’t Call It”, Royce da 5’9″ – “Boblo Boat”, Miguel – “Come Through and Chill”, Rapsody – “Sojourner”, 21 Savage – “A Lot”, Wale – “The Pessimist”, Joey Bada$$ – “Legendary”, Jay Rock – “OSOM”, Bas – “Tribe”, Wale – “My Boy (Freestyle)”, Moneybagg Yo – “Say Na”

During the early 2010s, there were only two names from the new generation that had fully captured hip hop’s attention: Kendrick Lamar and Drake. With the release of his masterpiece major label debut, the Compton rapper quickly propelled himself into best rapper alive status, while the OVO head honcho had just dropped Take Care and built a name for himself as a certified features killer. The Fayetteville MC was in the conversation, but he wasn’t being spoken about like that. It wasn’t really until 2014 Forest Hills Drive that Cole jumped into the top-tier of hip hop, going number one and hitting platinum status with an album that had no features. Since then, he’s continued to run in his own lane, topping the charts whenever he drops and stirring up the rap world into a frenzy with each feature verse.

43. Ja Rule: 1999 – 2004

Notable releases: Venni Vetti Vecci (1999), Rule 3:36 (2000), Pain Is Love (2001), The Last Temptation (2002), Blood in My Eye (2003, R.U.L.E. (2004)

Guest appearances: Blackstreet – “Girlfriend/Boyfriend”, Erick Sermon – “Get Da Money”, N.O.R.E. – “Live My Life”, Jennifer Lopez – “I’m Real (Murder Remix)”, Jennifer Lopez – “Ain’t It Funny (Murder Remix)”, Mary J. Blige – “Rainy Dayz”, Fat Joe – “What’s Luv?”, Irv Gotti – “Down 4 U”

From the late ’90s to early 2000s, Ja Rule ruled the airwaves with his unique fusion of gritty street tracks and bubbly R&B duets. Releasing a string of successful albums like Venni Vetti Vecci, Rule 3:36, and Pain Is Love, the Murder Inc. rapper demonstrated an uncanny ability to churn out chart-topping hits on a whim. His memorable guest appearances on tracks like Jennifer Lopez’s “I’m Real (Murder Remix)” and “Ain’t It Funny (Murder Remix),” as well as Fat Joe’s “What’s Luv?,” only added to his growing legacy. By the end of this 5-year run, Ja Rule’s blend of raw mleodies and catchy hooks had solidified his status as one of the biggest hitmakers in hip hop history. If only 50 Cent hadn’t come along…

42. Master P: 1996 – 2000

Notable releases: Ice Cream Man (1996), Ghetto D (1997), MP da Last Don (1998), Only God Can Judge Me (1999), Ghetto Postage (2000)

Guest appearances: Silkk the Shocker – “The Shocker”, Mia X – “I Wanna Be With You”, LL Cool J – “4, 3, 2, 1”, Destiny’s Child – “With Me Part II”, Montell Jordan – “Let’s Ride”, Scarface – “Homies & Thuggs”, Soulja Slim – “Street Life”, 8Ball – “Pure Uncut”, Naughty by Nature – “Live or Die”

Master P’s relentless hustle from the early ’90s into the 2000s helped to transform No Limit into a powerhouse record label, while simultaneously positioning the Southern regional scene to take over the rap game. Blazing a trail with hits like “Mr. Ice Cream Man”, “I Miss My Homies”, “I Got the Hook Up!” and “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!”, the No Limit founder was instrumental in shifting hip hop’s attention away from the East and West, and towards New Orleans. Not to mention his collaborations with the likes of LL Cool J and Destiny’s Child helped broaden his appeal, so that by the 2000s, Master P’s street-tailored flow and entrepreneurial vision had helped to establish the South as the new epicentre of the rap game.

41. Nicki Minaj: 2010 – 2014

Notable releases: Pink Friday (2010), Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (2012), The Pinkprint (2014)

Guest appearances: Ludacris – “My Chick Bad”, Trey Songs – “Bottoms Up”, Kanye West – “Monster”, Birdman – “Y.U. Mad”, Rick Ross – “You the Boss”, Drake – “Make Me Proud”, Waka Flock Flame – “Get Low”, French Montana – “Freaks”, Rich Gang – “Tapout”, Busta Rhymes – “Twerk It”, Wale – “Clappers”, Juicy J – “Low”, Beyonce – “Flawless (Remix)”, Rae Sremmurd – “Throw Sum Mo”

Nicki Minaj’s meteoric rise from 2010 onwards was nothing short of spectacular, as the new Young Money signee quickly became a global phenomenon. Before her debut album even dropped, she was already in high demand, delivering jaw-dropping features on tracks like Ludacris’ “My Chick Bad” and Kanye West’s “Monster.” Nicki’s pop sensibilities on albums such as Pink Friday and Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded catapulted her to international superstardom, yet she never lost touch with her hip-hop roots. With The Pinkprint, Nicki proved she could still serve up deep lyrical rap cuts while sustaining her run as one of the biggest pop artists in the world. With these five years, Nicki cemented her spot as one of the greatest female rappers of all time.

40. Cam’ron: 2001 – 2005

Notable releases: Come Home with Me, Diplomatic Immunity (with The Diplomats), Diplomatic Immunity 2 (with The Diplomats), Purple Haze

Guest appearances: DJ Clue – “Fantastic 4, Pt. 2”, Birdman – “Ghetto Life”, DMX – “We Go Hard”, Lil’ Flip – “All I Know”, Young Gunz – “Look in Your Eyes”, Beanie Sigel – “Wanted (On the Run)”, Juelz Santana – “Dipset (Santana’s Town)”, Jim Jones – “Certified Gangstas” / “Crunk Muzik”, Kanye West – “Gone”, Juelz Santana – “Shottas” / “Murda Murda”

While Cam’ron never managed to truly capture the King of New York crown during the early to mid-2000s – there was just too much heat at the time from Jay-Z, Nas and 50 – the Harlem legend racked up an incredible run during his time. In 2002 alone, he dropped three classic mixtapes with Dipset, released his biggest album Come Home with Me, and dominated the charts with “Oh Boy” and “Hey Ma.”

39. Juvenile: 1999 – 2003

Notable releases: Tha G-Code (1999), Project English (2001), 600 Degreez (2002), Juve the Great (2003)

Guest appearances: Lil Wayne – “Tha Block Is Hot” / “Respect Us”, Jay-Z – “Snoopy Track”, B.G. – “Bling Bling”, Big Tymers – “Number One Stunna”

Fresh off dropping his monumental third album, 400 Degreez, at the end of 1998, Juvenile came into ’99 as the hottest rapper in the game. “Follow Me Now” and “Ha” were already getting heavy rotation, so when the Cash Limit rapper followed up with “Back That Azz Up,” it was just the icing on the cake. Juvenile would continue to dominate the Southern rap scene for the next few years, as he helped position Cash Limit as the next powerhouse record label, ultimately reaching his zenith with his 2003 album, Juve the Great, which featured “Slow Motion,” a future Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper featuring the late, great Soulja Slim.

38. Redman: 1992 – 1996

Notable releases: Whut? Thee Album, Dare Iz a Darkside, Muddy Waters

Guest appearances: EPMD – “Head Banger”, Erick Sermon – “Swing It Over Here”, Keith Murray – “How’s That”, MC Eiht – “Nuthin’ But the Gangsta”, Lords Of The Underground – “What I’m After”, Montell Jordan – “Somethin’ 4 Da Honeyz (Human Rhythm Remix)”, Kris Kross – “Tonite’s tha Night (Kris Kross Redman Remix)”, Keith Murray – “Yeah”, 2Pac – “Got My Mind Made Up”, Busta Rhymes – “Flipmode Squad Meets Def Squad”

When you talk to rap fans about Redman, it’s a general consensus that he’s a dope MC. But I don’t think most of them know just how dope, dope, dope of a rapper he is. Reggie was low-key the best rapper alive of the ’90s, from his solo work to collaborations with EPMD, he always brought out the funk and destroyed every verse he spit.

37. Guru: 1991 – 1995

Notable releases: Step in the Arena (1991), Daily Operation (1992), Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 (1993), Hard to Earn (1994), Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Vol. 2: The New Reality (1995)

Guest appearances: Heavy D – “A Buncha Ni**as”, The Brand New Heavies – “It’s Getting Hectic”, De La Soul – “Patti Dooke”, Digable Planets – “Borough Check”, Group Home – “Serious Rap Shit”

Even while he was busy revolutionising the East Coast rap scene alongside DJ Premier with back-to-back classics – Step in the Arena, Daily Operation, Hard to Earn – Guru still found time to pursue a solo career. Dropped in 1993, in between Gang Starr’s third and fourth album, Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 was a milestone in jazz-rap that saw the Boston-born rapper collaborate with the likes of jazz greats like Donald Byrd, Lonnie Liston Smith, Roy Ayers and Zachary Breaux in an incredible fusion of two genres.

36. Q-Tip: 1990 – 1994

Notable releases: People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1990), The Low End Theory (1991), Midnight Marauders (1993)

Guest appearances: Deee-Lite – “Groove Is in the Heart”, Heavy D – “Don’t Curse”, Black Sheep – “La Menage”, De La Soul – “A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays'”, Big Daddy Kane – “Come on Down”, Del the Funky Homosapien – “The Undisputed Champs”, Run-DMC – “Come on Everybody”, Organized Konfusion – “Let’s Organize”, Beastie Boys – “Get It Together”

A true renaissance man of the hip hop world, Q-Tip wasn’t just the lead rapper for A Tribe Called Quest, but also the lead producer and frontman for the group. Between 1990 and 1993, Tip quarterbacked three straight classics from the Queens trio, albums that would cement them as arguably the greatest rap group of all time. In between creating history with Tribe, Tip also popped up on a bunch of deep album cuts for ’90s rap greats and found time to produce “One Love” for Nas.

35. Big Daddy Kane: 1987 – 1991

Notable releases: Long Live the Kane, It’s a Big Daddy Thing, Taste of Chocolate, Prince of Darkness

Guest appearances: Marley Marl – “The Symphony”, Quincy Jones – “Prologue (2Q’s Rap)”, Quincy Jones – “Jazz Corner of the World”, Public Enemy – “Burn Hollywood Burn”, Heavy D & the Boyz – “Don’t Curse”, Freddie Foxxx – “Heal Yourself”

In the same year that Rakim dropped his landmark debut, Paid in Full, and shifted the rapping landscape, Big Daddy Kane released his debut single, the classic 12″ “Raw”, which also contributed to the evolution of rhyming. Between 1987 and 1991, Kane was consistently in the conversation of the best rappers alive, often against peers like Rakim and Kool G Rap, and while he experienced a notable drop-off after It’s a Big Daddy Thing, he still remains one of the best rappers of all time.

34. Method Man: 1993 – 1997

Notable releases: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (with Wu-Tang Clan), Tical, Wu-Tang Forever (with Wu-Tang Clan)

Guest appearances: GZA – “Shadowboxin'”, LL Cool J – “4, 3, 2, 1”, The Notorious B.I.G. – “The What”, Spice 1 – “Hard To Kill”, GZA – “Gold”, Raekwon – “Wu-Gambinos”, Raekwon – “Ice Cream”, Ol’ Dirty Bastard – “Raw Hide”, 2Pac – “Got My Mind Made Up”, Foxy Brown – “Ill Na Na”, Redman – “Do What Ya Feel”, Mobb Deep – “Extortion”

What happened on Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) will never happen in hip hop again. Nine completely unique and incredible MCs breaking out of Shaolin and lacing killer verses over RZA’s crazy production; it was just unheard of then. Out of the 9 rappers, it was Method Man with the husky voice and butter flow whose star shone the brightest. Between 1993 and 1997, Meth emerged as the biggest star from the Wu, was one of the few rappers who collaborated with both Pac and Big, and dropped one of the best and biggest rap singles of the ’90s.

33. Young Jeezy: 2005 – 2009

Notable releases: Boyz n da Hood (with Boyz n da Hood) (2005), Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 (2005), The Inspiration: Thug Motivation 102 (2006), Cold Summer (with U.S.D.A.) (2007), The Recession (2008)

Guest appearances: Gucci Mane – “Icy”, Bun B – “Get Throwed”, Christina Milan – “Say I”, Slim Thug – “Diamonds (Remix)”, Ludacris – “Grew Up a Screw Up”, Fabolous – “Diamonds”, DJ Drama – “5000 Ones”, Birdman – “100 Million”, Usher – “Love in This Club”, DJ Khaled – “Out Here Grindin”, Akon – “I’m So Paid”, Ciara – “Never Ever”, Kanye West – “Amazing”, Drake – “I’m Goin’ In”, Rihanna – “Hard”

By the mid-2000s, with the emergence of Houston-based rappers like Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Chamillionaire and Slim Thug, it was clear that hip hop was in the midst of a Southern takeover. At the forefront of the Atlanta movement was the raspy-voiced Young Jeezy who rapped motivational trap sermons like he was holding church on the streets. Between his major label debut, Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 and his 2008 magnum opus, The Recession, as well as chart-topping collabs like Usher’s “Love in This Club”, Jeezy was running the game with ease during his 5-year run.

32. Nelly: 2000 – 2004

Notable releases: Country Grammar (2000), Nellyville (2002), Sweat (2004), Suit (2004)

Guest appearances: Jagged Edge – “Where the Party At”, ‘N Sync – “Girlfriend (Remix)”, Brian McKnight – “All Night Long”, Murphy Lee – “Hold Up”

Nelly’s melody-driven sing-songy rap style was one of the most influential trends of the 2000s, propelling the St. Louis superstar into one of hip hop’s all-time hitmaking greats. “E.I.”, “Ride wit Me”, “Batter Up”, “Hot in Herre”, “Dilemma”, “My Place”, “Over and Over”, Nelly had his albums packed full of non-stop bangers. And let’s not forget his legendary collabs—Nelly could jump on any track and turn it into gold. From Jagged Edge’s “Where the Party At” to ‘N Sync’s “Girlfriend (Remix)”, he proved he could vibe with anybody. Bottom line? Nelly didn’t just dominate the charts—he straight up owned the early 2000s with his infectious melodies and unforgettable hooks.

31. Kool G Rap: 1988 – 1992

Notable releases: Road to the Riches (with DJ Polo), Wanted: Dead or Alive (with DJ Polo), Live and Let Die (with DJ Polo)

Guest appearances: Marley Marl – “The Symphony”, Marley Marl – “The Symphony, Pt. II”, Heavy D & the Boyz – “Don’t Curse”, Roxanne Shanté – “Deadly Rhymes”, The Brand New Heavies – “Death Threat”

Off the strength of his verse on “The Symphony” alone, Kool G Rap established himself as one of the most fearsome MCs of the 1980s. While Rakim and Kane are usually touted as the figureheads of lyrical rap from that era, G Rap was always lurking in the shadows, waiting to completely shred a verse apart. During his run in the late ’80s to early ’90s, G Rap transformed from a relentless Queens spitter into one of the most influential rappers of all time. Legends like Nas, Biggie, Jay-Z, Raekwon and Ghostface are all cut from the Kool G Rap mafioso cloth.

30. Bun B: 2005 – 2009

Notable releases: Trill (2005), Underground Kingz (with UGK) (2007), II Trill (2008), UGK 4 Life (with UGK) (2009)

Guest appearances: Pimp C – “I’sa Playa”, Slim Thug – “3 Kings” / “I Ain’t Heard of That”, Paul Wall – “They Don’t Know”, Webbie – “Give Me That”, Yo Gotti – “Gangsta Party”, T.I. – “Front Back”, DJ Kay Slay – “Can’t Stop the Reign 2006”, Mike Jones – “My 64”, Method Man & Redman – “City Lights”, Ginuwine – “Trouble”, Drake – “Uptown”

After Pimp got locked up in 2002, Bun B took the UGK torch and held it up high with a phenomenal guest feature run that let everyone know that the Port Arthur duo was still alive and thriving. Bun then parlayed that solo success into his debut album, Trill, which featured the all-time Southern classic “Get Throwed”, before reuniting with Pimp when he got out for their fifth album, Underground Kingz. The last UGK album released while Pimp C was still alive, the album was the duo’s first number-one hit and also featured the Grammy-nominated “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You).”

29. Ghostface Killah: 1996 – 2000

Notable releases: Ironman, Wu-Tang Forever (with Wu-Tang Clan), Supreme Clientele, The W (with Wu-Tang Clan)

Guest appearances: Babyface – “This Is for the Lover in You (Puffy Combs Remix)”, Jodeci – “Freek’n You (Remix)”, Cappadonna – “97 Mentality”, RZA – “Bobby Did It (Spanish Fly)” / “Holocaust (Silkworm)”, Pete Rock – “Tha Game”, Method Man & Redman – “Run 4 Cover”, Mos Def – “Ms. Fat Booty (Part II)”, Busta Rhymes – “The Heist”

After turning in a star-making performance on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, Ghostface followed up with the classic Ironman, spit the greatest Wu-Tang verse of all time on “Impossible” (according to RZA anyway), and dropped the first great rap album of the new millennium with Supreme Clientele. Ghost had previously showcased his abstract, off-the-wall rhyming style on earlier records, but on his sophomore album, he took it to a whole new dimension, resulting in one of the greatest Wu albums ever.

28. Andre 3000: 1996 – 2000

Notable releases: ATLiens, Aquemini, Stankonia

Guest appearances: Goodie Mob – “Black Ice (Sky High)”, Cool Breeze – “Watch for the Hook”, Slick Rick – “Street Talkin'”, Mystikal – “Neck uv da Woods”, 8Ball & MJG – “Throw Your Hands Up”

Andre 3000 is another rapper who has never been satisfied with maintaining the status quo and consistently pushed the boundaries of his craft with each subsequent release. ATLiens, Aquemini and Stankonia is quite possibly the greatest three-album run by a hip hop act of all time, although you’d have to contend with Tribe and Mobb Deep if you want to go there.

27. Prodigy: 1995 – 1999

Notable releases: The Infamous, Hell on Earth, Murda Muzik

Guest appearances: LL Cool J – “I Shot Ya (Remix)”, Nas – “Live Ni**a Rap”, Pete Rock – “Tha Game”, Big Pun – “Tres Leches (Triboro Trilogy)”

There was just something about Prodigy’s voice, his creeping flow, his menacing threats, that made you think whenever you listened to him, “this is the best rapper who has ever lived.” The Infamous, Hell on Earth and Murda Muzik is as perfect a three-album run as you can get, but then there’s the guest verse that he dropped on “I Shot Ya (Remix).” Even surrounded by hungry newcomers – Keith Murray, Fat Joe and Foxy Brown – who all dropped career-high verses, Prodigy’s Illuminati-referencing imagery blew them all out the water.

26. Naughty by Nature: 1991 – 1995

Notable releases: Naughty by Nature (1991), 19 Naughty III (1993), Poverty’s Paradise (1995)

Guest appearances: D-Nice – “Time to Flow””, Queen Latifah – “Rough…” / “Coochie Bang…”, 2Pac – “5 Deadly Venomz”, 2Pac – “Loyal to the Game”, Boyz II Men – “Vibin’ (The New Flava)”, South Central Cartel – “No Peace”

Between 1991 and 1995, Naughty by Nature were trailblazers in the rap scene, expertly bridging the gap between street credibility and radio-friendly hits.

With their infectious anthems and undeniable hip-hop roots, Naughty by Nature were trailblazers in the early rap game as they figured out how to bridge the gap between street credibility and radio-friendly hits. LL Cool J had done it a few years earlier but the New Jersey-based group took it to the next level. Their self-titled debut album laid the foundation with huge crossover hits like “O.P.P.” and “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”, while 1993’s 19 Naughty III doubled down on that formula with the smash single “Hip Hop Hooray.” Towards the end of the group’s incredible run, Naughty by Nature cemented their legendary status with Poverty’s Paradise, which went on to make history as the first-ever winner of the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.

25. Missy Elliott: 1997 – 2001

Notable releases: Supa Dupa Fly (1997), Da Real World (1999), Miss E… So Addictive (2001)

Guest appearances: SWV – “Can We”, Lil’ Kim – “Not Tonight”, Total – “What About Us?”, Timbaland & Magoo – “Up Jumps da Boogie”, Total – “Trippin'”, Melanie B – “I Want You Back”, Timbaland – “Here We Come”, Memphis Bleek – “Is That Yo Chick (The Lost Verses)”, Janet Jackson – “Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)”

With her one-of-a-kind style, Timbaland’s production, and all-consuming aritistry, Missy Elliott cemented herself as one of the greatest hip hop artists of all time with her 5-year run. Kicking off with the game-changing Supa Dupa Fly, she smashed records when the album became the highest-charting debut for a female rapper at the time. Da Real World further cemented her status, featuring hits like “She’s a Bitch,” “All n My Grill,” and “Hot Boyz.” Missy’s third album, Miss E… So Addictive, boasted club anthems “One Minute Man” and “Get Ur Freak On,” earning her two Grammy Awards. Throughout this era, Missy collaborated with R&B and rap heavyweights like SWV, Lil’ Kim, Total, and Timbaland, proving she was a powerhouse not only as a solo artist but also as a versatile and in-demand guest performer.

24. Ludacris: 2000 – 2004

Notable releases: Back for the First Time (2000), Word of Mouf (2001), Chicken-n-Beer (2003), The Red Light District (2004)

Guest appearances: Missy Elliott – “One Minute Man”, Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz – “Bia’ Bia'”, Trina – “B R Right”, Missy Elliott – “Gossip Folks”, Chingy – “Holidae In”, Usher – “Yeah!” / “Lovers and Friends”

One of the first major Atlanta rappers (outside of OutKast) to emerge in the 2000s, Ludacris played an important role in the pending Southern takeover with a string of successful releases, including Back for the First Time, Word of Mouf, Chicken-n-Beer, and The Red Light District. Luda’s blend of mind-boggling flows, witty punchlines and broad appeal led to big hits like “What’s Your Fantasy,” “Rollout (My Business),” “Saturday (Oooh Oooh),” and “Stand Up.” With his versatile style and dynamic raps, Luda landed on a number of high-profile features alongside Missy Elliott, Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz, Trina, Chingy, and Usher. His collaboration with Usher and Lil Jon on “Yeah!” earned him his first Grammy Award.

23. Future: 2014 – 2018

Notable releases: Honest, Monster, Beast Mode (with Zaytoven), 56 Nights (with DJ Esco & 808 Mafia), DS2, What a Time to Be Alive (with Drake), Evol, Future, Hndrxx, Super Slimey (with Young Thug), Beast Mode 2 (with Zaytoven), Wrld on Drugs (with Juice Wrld)

Guest appearances: Young Scooter – “DISFunction”, Travis Scott – “3500”, Ty Dolla Sign – “Blasé”, Jadakiss – “You Can See”, Timbaland – “UFO”, A$AP Ferg – “New Level”, DJ Khaled – “I Got the Keys”, 21 Savage – “X”, Lil Uzi Vert – “Seven Million”, French Montana – “No Pressure”, Rick Ross – “Green Gucci Suit”, Young Jeezy – “No Tears”, Travis Scott – “High Fashion”, A$AP Rocky – “Fine Whine”, Meek Mill – “Jump Out the Face”, Drake – “Grammys”, Chance the Rapper – “Smoke Break”, Fabolous – “Check On Me”, 2 Chainz – “Doors Open”, Rich The Kid – “No Question”, Drake – “Blue Tint”, Nicki Minaj – “Sir”, Lil Durk – “Spin The Block”

“Tried to make me a pop star and they made a monster.” Before we get into it, let’s get one thing clear – Honest is not a bad album. There are some classic Future records on there that have stayed in rotation like “Look Ahead”, “Move That Dope”, “Honest” and “Benz Friendz (Whatchutola).” It just wasn’t what Future wanted to put out. So he regrouped with DJ Esco and Metro Boomin and went on one of the most legendary mixtapes runs of all time, dropping Monster, Beast Mode and 56 Nights within a span of 6 months. Then came the albums. DS2, a top five trap album ever made, came in July 2015 and his collaboration with Drake, What a Time to Be Alive, came just a few months later.

22. Chuck D: 1987 – 1991

Notable releases: Yo! Bum Rush the Show, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Fear of a Black Planet, Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black

Guest appearances: Ice Cube – “Endangered Species (Tales from the Darkside)”

As the story goes, after dropping their debut album Yo! Bum Rush the Show in 1987 and hitting the road with LL Cool J and Eric B. & Rakim, Chuck D heard “I Know You Got Soul” and thought it “was the best fuckin’ record I had heard in my fuckin’ life.” The Long Island duo’s revolutionary single inspired Public Enemy to record “Rebel Without a Pause” and the accompanying It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. But it didn’t stop there. Public Enemy’s subsequent releases, Fear of a Black Planet and Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black marked quite possibly the greatest album run by a hip hop group ever – right up there with OutKast and A Tribe Called Quest.

21. KRS-One: 1987 – 1991

Notable releases: Criminal Minded, By All Means Necessary, Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop, Edutainment

Guest appearances: Just-Ice – “Going Way Back” / “Moshitup”, D-Nice – “The TR 808 Is Coming”, Queen Latifah – “Evil That Men Do”, D-Nice – “Rhymin’ Skills”

You could chop up KRS-One’s career into two distinct stages, and either one of them would be eligible for this list. For instance, you can take his Boogie Down days from 1987 to 1991, or you can pick his solo career from 1993 to 1997 where he dropped three incredible albums – Return of the Boom Bap, KRS-One and I Got Next. The point is, longevity and consistency plays a huge role when you’re talking about the GOAT rappers, and The Blastmaster has certainly made his case time and time again over the last 30 years.

20. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony: 1994 – 1998

Notable releases: Creepin on ah Come Up (1994), E. 1999 Eternal (1995), The Art of War (1997)

Guest appearances: The Notorious B.I.G. – “Notorious Thugs”, Master P – “Till We Dead and Gone”

From 1994 to 1998, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s revolutionary rap style captivated the hip hop world with their innovative blend of harmonizing vocals, rapid-fire rhymes and mesmerising flows. It all began with their debut EP, Creepin on ah Come Up, which showcased their unique sound on the breakout hit “Thuggish Ruggish Bone.” With the release of their second album, E. 1999 Eternal, the group soared to new heights, achieving multi-platinum success and earning a Grammy for their emotional tribute to mentor Eazy-E with “Tha Crossroads.” The album’s other hits, “1st of tha Month” and “East 1999,” cemented their place as legends in the rap game. Their 1997 offering, The Art of War, continued to showcase their evolution while they graced tracks alongside legends like Biggie, 2Pac, and Master P.

19. Kendrick Lamar: 2013 – 2017

Notable releases: To Pimp a Butterfly, Untitled Unmastered, DAMN.

Guest appearances: 50 Cent – “We Up”, T.I. – “Memories Back Then”, Schoolboy Q – “Collard Greens”, Tech N9ne – “Fragile”, Fredo Santana – “Jealous”, Pusha T – “Nosetalgia”, Mike Will Made It – “Buy the World”, Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me”, Jay Rock – “Pay for It”, Glasses Malone – “Thuggin'”, DJ Khaled – “Holy Key”, Danny Brown – “Really Doe”, Travis Scott – “Goosebumps”, Rich the Kid – “New Freezer”, Ab-Soul – “Kendrick Lamar’s Interlude”, Dr. Dre – “Genocide”, Dr. Dre – “Darkside / Gone”, Dr. Dre – “Deep Water”, Jay Rock – “Vice City”, Kanye West – “No More Parties in LA”, Future – “Mask Off (Remix)”, Big Sean – “Control”

After dropping his major label debut, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, which shook up the hip hop world, Kendrick went on a victory lap, bodying guest features, left, right and centre. We don’t even have to mention his verse on “Control.” There wasn’t a rapper alive who was safe from the Compton rapper’s bars – not unless you were Nas, Jay-Z, Eminem or Andre 3000. But the true greatness in Kendrick’s five-year run is that after the monumental success of Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, he took a complete left-turn and dropped a complex, jazz-funk masterpiece that completely pushed back on any expectation you might have had from him. Good Kid, M.A.A.D City was the album that made him the best rapper of 2012, but To Pimp a Butterfly is what put him in the conversation of greatest rappers of all time.

18. MF DOOM: 1999 – 2004

Notable releases: Operation: Doomsday, Black Bastards (as Zev Love X with KMD), Take Me to Your Leader (as King Geedorah), Vaudeville Villain (as Viktor Vaughn), VV:2 (as Viktor Vaughn), Madvillainy (with Madlib as Madvillain), Special Herbs + Spices Volume 1 (with MF Grimm), Mm..Food

Key guest appearances: Prefuse 73 – “Black List”, MF Grimm – “Foolish” / “Voices Pt. 1”, Scienz of Life – “Yikes!” , The Herbaliser – “It Ain’t Nuttin'”, Madlib – “Stepping Into Tomorrow”, De La Soul – “RockCo.Kane Flow”, Prince Po – “Social Distortion”

Honestly, you could just take MF DOOM’s output in 2004 and he would be eligible for his list. Madvillainy and Mm..Food are two of the best rap albums ever dropped, and they stand tall amongst the rapper’s crowning achievements. Kicking off his 5-year run with the iconic debut Operation: Doomsday, DOOM continued to showcase his distinct voice and lyrical prowess through a string of idiosyncratic albums. From Black Bastards to Vaudeville Villain and Madvillainy, the masked rapper deftly navigated various personas, such as Zev Love X, King Geedorah, and Viktor Vaughn. The latter, a collaboration with Madlib, solidified MF DOOM’s place among hip hop’s underground royalty.

17. Drake: 2011 – 2015

Notable releases: Take Care, Nothing Was the Same, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, What a Time to Be Alive (with Future)

Guest appearances: DJ Khaled – “I’m on One”, Lil Wayne – “It’s Good”, Waka Flocka Flame – “Round of Applause”, Rick Ross – “Stay Schemin'”, 2 Chainz – “No Lie”, French Montana – “Pop That”, Meek Mill – “Amen”, A$AP Rocky – “Fuckin’ Problems”, Kendrick Lamar – “Poetic Justice”, DJ Khaled – “No New Friends”, YG – “Who Do You Love?”, Lil Wayne – “Believe Me”, Nicki Minaj – “Only”, Big Sean – “Blessings”, The Game – “100”, Meek Mill – “R.I.C.O.”, Future – “Where Ya At”, Migos – “Versace (Remix)”, 2 Chainz – “I Do It”

Drake’s control over the rap game this past decade has been widely documented. There hasn’t been a rapper in history who has been able to sustain his level of success and relevance for as long as he has. Artists like DMX and 50 Cent had arguably higher peaks, but their time was shorter. Jay-Z has been successful for longer, but he never had a 10-year stretch like Drake has. To really put Drake’s dominance into perspective, you need to look at the years where he didn’t drop an album and still ran shit. The Toronto rapper was one of the best rappers alive in 2012, based off of guest verses on “Stay Schemin'”, “No Lie”, “Pop That”, “Fuckin’ Problems” and “Poetic Justice” alone. Then in 2014, he drops a SoundCloud loosie, “0 to 100 / The Catch Up”, which goes platinum and gets nominated for a fucking Grammy, all while snapping on tracks like “Trophies”, “Believe Me” and “We Made It (Remix).”

16. T.I.: 2004 – 2008

Notable releases: Urban Legend (2004), King (2006), T.I. vs. T.I.P. (2007), Paper Trail (2008)

Guest appearances: Destiny’s Child – “Soldier”, Slim Thug – “3 Kings”, Young Dro – “Shoulder Lean”, Justin Timberlake – “My Love”, R. Kelly – “I’m a Flirt”, DJ Khaled – “We Takin’ Over”, DJ Drama – “5000 Ones”, Ludacris – “Wish You Would

Between 2004 and 2008, T.I. transformed from an Atlanta trap hero to the biggest rapper on the planet. Flexing his razor-sharp lyricism and Southern swagger across four albums, T.I. commercial success began to skyrocket when “Bring Em Out” became his first top ten hit and King became his first number one album. This culminated in his 2008 album, Paper Trail, which became a monster hit on the charts, spawning eight singles, four of which reached the top five of the Billboard Hot 100, and two hitting number one (“Whatever You Like” and “Live Your Life”).

15. Scarface: 1990-1994

Notable releases: We Can’t Be Stopped (with Geto Boys), Mr. Scarface Is Back, Till Death Do Us Part (with Geto Boys), The World Is Yours, The Diary

Guest appearances: Compton’s Most Wanted – “N 2 Deep”, Kool G Rap – “Two to the Head”, Too Much Trouble – “Still on the Run”, 5th Ward Boyz – “Studio Gangster”

Scarface’s run as part of the Geto Boys would be enough to warrant placement on this list. The Houston group’s single “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” – produced and written by Scarface – became one of the biggest and best songs of 1991. But then as a solo artist, Scarface dropped his magnum opus, The Diary, in 1994, almost a decade since debuting as a rapper. Even looking outside of his five-year run, Scarface might be one of the few rappers in history to have dropped three classic albums in three different decades – Grip It! On That Other Level (1989), The Diary (1994), The Fix (2002).

14. Rakim: 1986 – 1990

Notable releases: Paid in Full (with Eric B.), Follow the Leader (with Eric B.), Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em (with Eric B.)

Guest appearances: Jody Watley – “Friends”, Mica Paris – “Contribution”

Rakim’s impact on the rhyming landscape was so profound and influential that you have to separate hip hop history into two eras – before Rakim and after Rakim. With the release of their debut single “Eric B. Is President”, backed by the even-harder “My Melody,” Eric B. & Rakim completely changed rap music. Seemingly overnight, loud, abrasive rappers like Run-D.M.C. sounded dated and old school, while a crop of new talent, like KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap, led by Rakim became the new innovators. The craziest thing is that, as impactful as Paid in Full was, the Long Island duo’s follow-up, Follow the Leader is even better, with the rhyming and production being taken up a notch further.

13. Run–DMC: 1984 – 1988

Notable releases: Run-D.M.C. (1984), King of Rock (1985), Raising Hell (1986), Tougher Than Leather (1988)

Guest appearances: Kurtis Blow – “8 Million Stories”

Run-DMC may not have had the greatest 5-year run, but they certainly had the most important. With iconic albums like Run-D.M.C., King of Rock, Raising Hell, the Queens trio were instrumental in breaking down barriers and opening the door for hip hop’s golden age. Their groundbreaking music video for “Rock Box” became the first-ever hip-hop video to be broadcast on MTV, while their innovative collaboration with Aerosmith on “Walk This Way” bridged the gap between rap and rock audiences, creating one of the most memorable hits of the 1980s. Outside of their impact on music, Run-DMC’s endorsement deal with Adidas marking the beginning of hip hop fashion and brand deals as we know it today. Bottom line: Run-DMC’s 5-year run secured them as one of the most influential rap acts of all time.

12. Snoop Dogg: 1992 – 1996

Notable releases: Doggystyle, Tha Doggfather

Guest appearances: Dr. Dre – “Deep Cover”, Dr. Dre – “Fuck wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)” / “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” / “Lyrical Gangbang” / “Stranded on Death Row” / “Bitches Ain’t Shit”, The Lady of Rage – “Afro Puffs”, 2Pac – “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted”, Nate Dogg – “Never Leave Me Alone”

From 1992 to 1994, with the release of The Chronic, Doggystyle and the Murder Was the Case soundtrack, Snoop really was the rapper everyone else wanted to be. Isn’t it saying something when Biggie, after selling 2 million records with Ready to Die, rapped on his sophomore album: “I’m sittin’ in the crib dreamin’ about Lear jets and coupes, the way Salt shoops and how to sell records like Snoop.” But the Long Beach rapper’s reign didn’t stop there – he made a classic feature on Pac’s “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” and his sophomore album, Tha Doggfather, kept the momentum going, debuting at number one on the charts and eventually earning double-platinum certification.

11. LL Cool J: 1986 – 1990

Notable releases: Bigger and Deffer (1987), Walking with a Panther (1989), Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)

Guest appearances: N/A

After emerging as Def Jam’s flagship artist in 1985 with the release of his debut album, Radio, LL Cool J was well-positioned to become the biggest rapper in the game. The Queen rapper’s sophomore album solidified his status as a rap icon, showcasing hits like the aggressive “I’m Bad” and the groundbreaking romance rap ballad “I Need Love.” The album’s massive success, selling over two million copies in the US and topping Billboard’s R&B chart, underscored his wide-ranging appeal. Despite the mixed reception of 1989’s Walking with a Panther, LL rebounded in 1990 with the release of the critically acclaimed Mama Said Knock You Out. Produced by Marley Marl, this hard-edged, double-platinum album marked a turning point in LL’s career, demonstrating his ability to stay relevant and adapt to the evolving hip-hop landscape.

10. Nas: 1994 – 1998

Notable releases: Illmatic, It Was Written, The Firm: The Album (by The Firm)

Guest appearances: Kool G Rap – “Fast Life”, AZ – “Mo Money, Mo Murder Homicide”, Raekwon – “Eye for a Eye (Your Beef is Mines)”, Large Professor – “One Plus One”, Mobb Deep – “Give It Up Fast”, AZ – “How Ya Livin'”, Fat Joe – “John Blaze”, Noreaga – “Body in the Trunk”, DMX – “Grand Finale”

When we were putting together this list, it felt kinda weird to have Nas at number 10, and not in the top 3 or top 5 at least. After all, this is the Queensbridge prodigy who dropped the culture-shifting Illmatic, which saw him crowned as a master lyricist and storyteller, followed it up with 3x platinum It Was Written and dropped some of the best guest verses throughout the ’90s. But, the truth is, Nas’ greatness is spread out over longer periods, rather than being jam-packed in a few years like a DMX or Eminem. That being said, Nas’ output between ’94 and ’98 alone, along with his features for Kool G Rap, Mobb Deep, Fat Joe, Raekwon and DMX, is enough to vault him into the best rappers of all time.

9. Kanye West: 2007 – 2011

Notable releases: Graduation, 808s & Heartbreak, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Watch the Throne (with Jay-Z)

Guest appearances: The Game – “Wouldn’t Get Far”, T-Pain – “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’) (Remix)”, Estelle – “American Boy”, Lil Wayne – “Lollipop (Remix)”, Young Jeezy – “Put On”, T.I. – “Swagga Like Us”, DJ Khaled – “Go Hard”, Keri Hilson – “Knock You Down”, Clipse – “Kinda Like a Big Deal”, The-Dream – “Walkin’ on the Moon”, Rick Ross – “Maybach Music 2”, Kid Cudi – “Make Her Say”, Jay-Z – “Run This Town”, Rick Ross – “Live Fast, Die Young”, Lloyd Banks – “Start It Up”, Katy Perry – “E.T.”

At the start of Kanye’s five-year run, he was making an ode to his big brother; by the end of it, he was collaborating on a full album with Jay-Z. For a rapper who grew admiring Hov and watching him afar during the 1999 Hard Knock Life Tour, those Watch the Throne must have been hard to imagine. With each release during his epic run, Kanye shifted culture and pushed hip hop music to its very edges: Graduation was so ahead of its time that it dictated music trends for the next few years, without 808s & Heartbreak you probably don’t get Drake and a number of other rappers today, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, well, it’s the best hip hop album of the 2010s.

8. Jay-Z: 1999 – 2003

Notable releases: Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, The Blueprint, The Best of Both Worlds (with R. Kelly), The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse, The Black Album

Guest appearances: Memphis Bleek – “What You Think of That”, Ja Rule – “It’s Murda”, Beanie Sigel – “Raw & Uncut”, Scarface – “Guess Who’s Back”, Cam’ron – “Welcome to New York City”, Talib Kweli – “Get By (Remix)”, OutKast – “Flip Flop Rock”, Pharrell – “Frontin”, Freeway – “What We Do”

Jay-Z’s run from 1999 to 2003 is about as perfect as he could have planned it. Once Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life hit and became the best-selling album of his career, Hov ruled the rap game, dropping consistent multiplatinum number ones and staying on top of new jacks by dropping scene-stealing features. During his five-year run, the Roc-A-Fella boss released two undisputed classic albums, both of which would be considered in the top five of his catalogue, all before announcing his retirement, just in time to hand the torch over to 50 Cent.

7. Lil Wayne: 2004 – 2008

Notable releases: Tha Carter, Tha Carter II, The Suffix, The Dedication, Like Father, Like Son (with Birdman), Dedication 2, Da Drought 3, Tha Carter III, Dedication 3

Guest appearances: Destiny’s Child – “Soldier”, Cam’ron – “Touch It or Not”, Currensy – “Where da Cash At”, Fat Joe – “Make It Rain”, OutKast – “Hollywood Divorce”, Lloyd – “You”, DJ Khaled – “We Takin’ Over”, Playaz Circle – “Duffle Bag Boy”, The Game – “My Life”, T-Pain – “Can’t Believe It”, T.I. – “Swagga like Us”, Jay Rock – “All My Life (In the Ghetto)”

Earlier on, we spoke about Future’s legendary mixtape run where he dropped three classics in just under 6 months. And as incredible as Future was, Lil Wayne’s mixtape run is undisputedly the greatest of all time. After declaring that he was the very best rapper alive on Tha Carter II, he went on to prove the statement. On Like Father, Like Son, on Dedication 2, on Da Drought 3, all while murdering guest appearances on the side. ThenTha Carter III dropped, and Lil Wayne was officially the best rapper alive, and the biggest rapper alive.

6. The Notorious B.I.G: 1993 – 1997

Notable releases: Ready to Die, Conspiracy (with Junior M.A.F.I.A.), Life After Death

Guest appearances: Heavy D & the Boyz – “A Buncha Ni**as”, Super Cat – “Dolly My Baby (Extended Bad Boy Remix)”, Mary J. Blige – “What’s the 411? (Remix)”, Eddie F – “Let’s Get It On”, Craig Mack – “Flava in Ya Ear (Remix)”, Ron G – “Stop the Breaks”, Jay-Z – “Brooklyn’s Finest”, Lil’ Kim – “Drugs”, The LOX – “You’ll See”, Puff Daddy – “Young Gs” / “Victory” / “Been Around the World” “It’s All About the Benjamins (Remix)”

What Biggie accomplished in five years is more than what 90% of all rappers have achieved in a 20-year career. Actually, you know what? What Big accomplished on Life After Death alone is more than what 90% of rappers have achieved in their lifetime. If you really want to understand the greatness of The Notorious B.I.G., then you just need to examine his sophomore album. Over the course of 25-tracks, the Brooklyn MC demonstrates his superiority across every facet of rapping. Want incredible storytelling joints? There’s “Somebody’s Gotta Die”, “Ni**as Bleed” and “I Got a Story to Tell.” Want battle raps? Big went at Nas, Rae, Ghost and Jeru on “Kick in the Door.” How about club songs? “Hypnotize” had it on lock. Radio singles? “Mo Money Mo Problems” was a smash. Concept tracks? You can’t go wrong with “Ten Crack Commandments.” Introspective? Big goes deep with “Miss U.” I could go on and on, but the point is, Big proved he was the master rapper on Life After Death. Plus, you can’t forget the legendary features he did during his time alive. From Jay-Z’s “Brooklyn’s Finest” to Puffy’s “Young Gs”, Biggie locked down his position as one of the greatest guest rappers of all time off just a handful of dope features.

5. DMX: 1998 – 2002

Notable releases: It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, …And Then There Was X, The Great Depression

Guest appearances: The LOX – “Money, Power & Respect”, Onyx – “Shut ’em Down”, DJ Clue – “It’s On”, Jay-Z – “Money, Cash, Hoes”, Jay-Z – “Murdergram”, Jermaine Dupri – “Get Your Shit Right”, Cam’ron – “Pull It”, Foxy Brown – “Dog & a Fox”, Nas – “Life Is What You Make It”, The LOX – “Ryde or Die”, Ja Rule – “It’s Murda”, Eve – “Scenario 2000”, Busta Rhymes – “Why We Die”, LL Cool J – “Fuhgidabowdit”, Jadakiss – “Uh-Hunh!”

DMX’s time at the top of the rap game wasn’t long, but boy, did he make the most of it. During a time where Puffy and Boy Boy had the radio charts on lock, DMX came through representing the streets and became a phenomenon. The Yonkers rapper became the second hip hop artist to top the charts twice in one year (the first was 2Pac in 1996), and even more impressive, DMX became the first artist ever to have his first five albums debut at number one on the Billboard 200.

4. 50 Cent: 2002 – 2006

Notable releases: Guess Who’s Back?, 50 Cent Is the Future (with G-Unit), No Mercy, No Fear (with G-Unit), God’s Plan (with G-Unit), Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Beg for Mercy (with G-Unit), The Massacre

Guest appearances: Lil’ Kim – “Magic Stick”, Eminem – “Never Enough” / “Encore”, The Game – “”Westside Story” / “How We Do” / “Hate It or Love It”, Lloyd Banks – “I Get High” / “Warrior, Pt. 2”, Young Buck – “I’m a Soldier”

I don’t think we’re ever going to see another rapper again who was able to capitalise off his position as much as 50 Cent did, in as short a time. After making a name for himself in the streets and industry of a handful of classic mixtapes, 50 quickly captured the attention of Eminem and Dr. Dre. Once Get Rich or Die Tryin’ dropped February 6, 2003 for any other rapper out there. But it wasn’t that 50 Cent overwhelmed the rap game with his debut. It’s also about the way he leveraged the success into a bunch of other things: starting G-Unit Records, dropping Beg for Mercy at the end of 2003, launching Tony Yayo, Lloyd Banks and Young Buck all into platinum-selling superstars, and plenty more. Everything 50 touched during his five-year run turned into gold. Peep The Game’s debut album, The Documentary. Do you think it would have sold 5 million without 50 contributing the hooks for “Westside Story”, How We Do” and “Hate It or Love It”? I don’t think so.

3. 2Pac: 1992 – 1996

Notable releases: Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z…, Thug Life: Volume 1 (with Thug Life), Me Against the World, All Eyez on Me, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (as Makaveli)

Guest appearances: MC Breed – “Gotta Get Mine” / “Comin’ Real Again”, Eddie F – “Let’s Get It On”, Spice 1 – “Jealous Got Me Strapped”, E-40 – “Dusted ‘n’ Disgusted”, Too Short – “We Do This”, E-40 – “Million Dollar Spot”, MC Hammer – “Too Late Playa”, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony – “Thug Luv”, Scarface – “Smile”

It’s actually crazy that Pac’s five-year run was pretty much the bulk of his entire recording career – he made his recording debut on Digital Underground’s 1991 song “Same Song” and passed in September 1996. Before Wayne, Gucci and Future, Pac was the epitome of a prolific artist. Even during his early days, he was known for being restless in the studio and wanting to create music as quickly as possible. But after he was released on bail from Clinton Correctional Facility on October 12, 1995, he was a man on a mission, obsessed with recording as much material as possible. The first thing he did was hit the studio and record “Ambitionz Az a Ridah” and “I Ain’t Mad at Cha” on the same night. After that, it was a wrap. All Eyez on Me became the biggest album of 1996, and Pac was the unstoppable force turning Death Row Records into an even bigger rap juggernaut.

2. Eminem: 1999 – 2003

Notable releases: The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP, The Eminem Show, 8 Mile soundtrack

Guest appearances: Biggie – “Dead Wrong”, Sway & King Tech – “The Anthem”, DJ Clue – “What the Beat”, Dr. Dre – “What’s the Difference” / “Forgot About Dre”, Jay-Z – “Renegade”, 50 Cent – “Patiently Waiting” / “Don’t Push Me”, DMX – “Go to Sleep”, Obie Trice – “Shit Hits the Fan” / “We All Die One Day”

Eminem was just the perfect combination of talent meets timing. A supremely-gifted lyrical phenomenon from Detroit linking up with the greatest hip hop producer of all time, who also had an uncanny ability to take the controversial and make it commercial. With Em’s five-year run, you can look at it from a few different angles. You can talk sales – The Marshall Mathers LP sold 1.78 million copies in its first week, The Eminem Show sold 1.3 million – or you can talk classic songs – “My Name Is”, “The Way I Am”, “Stan”, “Sing for the Moment”, “‘Till I Collapse” – or you can talk bars – “Renegade”, “Patiently Waiting”, “Forgot About Dre”, “Dead Wrong.” Just take your pick.

1. Ice Cube: 1988 – 1992

Notable releases: Straight Outta Compton (with N.W.A.), AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, Kill at Will, Death Certificate, The Predator

Guest appearances: The D.O.C. – “The Grand Finale”, Public Enemy – “Burn Hollywood Burn”, King Tee – “Played Like a Piano”, Too $hort – “Ain’t Nuthin’ But a Word to Me”, Del tha Funkee Homosapien – “Hoodz Come in Dozens”, Kool G Rap – “Two to the Head”

To be honest, you could take any of the top five rappers on this list, slide them into the top spot and it would make sense. But for my money, Ice Cube has the strong claim for having the greatest five-year run of all time. Rap fans these days don’t really understand the true greatness of Ice Cube – just peep his position on a lot of these GOAT lists. I think the younger hip hop heads know that he’s a West Coast legend and one of the most influential icons ever, but they don’t know he’s truly a one-of-a-kind rapper. Ice Cube really managed to drop four certified classics – Straight Outta Compton (with N.W.A.), AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, Death Certificate and The Predator – and a classic EP (Kill at Will was also the first rap EP to go platinum), all within five years. Granted, The Predator may not be on the same level as Cube’s first two albums, but “When Will They Shoot?”, “Wicked”, “It Was a Good Day”, “Check Yo Self”, “Say Hi to the Bad Guy” – come on! The bottom line is: what Cube managed to achieve between 1988 and 1992 had never been done again in the history of rap music, and the albums he put out during those five years alone are enough to warrant him placement at the very top of the greatest rappers of all time list.

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