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The Best Rappers of All Time Ranked by Fans

Hip hop was born in the Bronx in the ’70s, a voice for the streets, a way to spit truth over funky beats. Park jams were the battleground, and from humble beginnings, this culture blew up into a global force. Thousands of MCs have stepped to the mic, each one fightin’ to be the illest wordsmith in the game.

In recent years, cats like Lil Baby, Young Thug, Vince Staples, and Jack Harlow have taken up the torch, pushin’ the culture forward and makin’ way for the next wave. And all the while, hip hop heads debate the ultimate question: who’s the greatest MC of all time? We’re about to pay respect to the old-school legends who started it all and the new-school visionaries keepin’ the fire burnin’.

So let’s get into it, we ain’t talking about the Billboard Hot 100, right here the real hip hop heads rank the top 100 best rappers of all time, from Nas, Tupac, Jay-Z and Biggie, to Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Future and J. Cole, here are the top 100 best rappers of all time.



Essential listening: Illmatic (1994)

So here we are, the number one spot. When it comes to the illest MCs to ever bless a mic, Nasty Nas stands tallest amongst the best rappers of all time. From his groundbreaking debut verse on Main Source’s “Live at the Barbeque”, through to the best rap album Illmatic to his current King’s Disease series, he’s remained a constant force in hip hop’s ever-changing landscape for over three decades. Nas’ penchant for raw, unfiltered storytelling coupled with complex rhyme schemes and multisyllabic mastery has made him a revered figure in rap circles. Whether he’s kicking knowledge as the streetwise prophet or flexing his bravado as the untouchable Esco, Nas has continued to elevate the art of rapping and show what it means to be a true MC.



Essential listening: The Blueprint (2001)

In the pantheon of hip hop legends, Jay-Z’s name is synonym with greatness and embodies of the very essence of rap royalty. Hov has been hailed as the GOAT more than perhaps any other rapper in history, which is just a testament to how the culture views him. During the ’90s , he firmly established himself as one of the best rappers alive, dropping a string of classic albums that showcased his clever wordplay, slick punchlines, and intricate storytelling. Unlike Biggie and Nas, who were almost immediately celebrated as soon as they debuted, Jay had to fight tooth and nail to earn his position. From Reasonable Doubt to The Blueprint to 4:44 , Hov has dropped classic albums across three decades straight, and now with his current feature run which saw him body tracks like “What’s Free”, “God Did” and “Neck & Wrist”, it’s safe to say that he’s not going away anytime soon.



Essential listening: All Eyez on Me (1996)

Tupac Shakur is the most influential rapper of all time , period. Even during his lifetime, Pac transcended the world of hip hop and became a cultural icon. He more than just a rapper, he was poet, an activist, and an unapologetic voice for the marginalised. The raw introspection and vulnerable honesty in his music made him one of the most beloved (and imitable) artists in the culture, and his impact is still felt today through rappers like Lil Wayne and Kendrick. In the end, Pac’s greatness as a rapper was about more than just his technical skills or lyrical content. It was about his ability to connect with listeners on a deeply personal level and his willingness to bare his soul in his music, making him one of hip hop’s most important and celebrated figures ever.

André 3000


Essential listening: Aquemini (1998)

With a career spanning over three decades, this ATLien has consistently demonstrated his unmatched lyrical ability and versatile songwriting, earning him a place among hip hop’s elite. 3 Stacks made his mark as a wordsmith extraordinaire in the ’90s, blending complex rhyme schemes, clever wordplay, and an uncanny ability to switch from humor to profundity with ease. His verses on classic OutKast albums like ATLiens and Aquemini often highlighted raw vulnerability and a unique storytelling prowess that took listeners on a celestial journey. Even without a solo album to his name, Andre has managed to stay relevant in the conversation, with his sporadic features – Big Boi’s “Royal Flush”, Frank Ocean’s “Solo (Reprise)” and Kanye’s “Life of the Party” – often sending the internet into a frenzied debate.



Essential listening: The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)

It’s no secret that Eminem’s discography is a goldmine for pure rap aficionados. Whether it’s his storytelling skills in “Stan,” his introspection in “Cleaning Out My Closet,” or his self-deprecating humor in “Without Me,” the Detroit MC has consistently proven his ability to create compelling music that resonates with hip hop fans of all stripes. Em’s penchant for pushing boundaries, tackling controversial topics, and pushing the limits of what is considered acceptable in the culture has also solidified his reputation as a rap pioneer who had zero fucks to give. In the pantheon of hip hop greats, Em’s name stands tall (evidently). The white rapper has incredible wordplay, intricate rhyme schemes, and keen hitmaking skills has made him one of the most successful MCs of all time. Man, we found it hard narrowing down just 100 of best Eminem songs .



Essential listening: Life After Death (1997)

Despite his tragic passing on March 9, 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. left behind a rap legacy that can still hold up against any other rapper’s catalogue. Biggie’s approach to rhyming was characterized by his smooth yet powerful delivery, vivid imagery, and a keen sense of humor that balanced the gritty, often dark subject matter of his songs. Biggie’s flow was unparalleled. With a smooth cadence and a voice that commanded attention, he was able to switch effortlessly between various styles, proving that he could hold his own with the best of them, collaborating with fellow legends like Jay-Z, The LOX, and engaging in fierce rivalries with 2Pac, Nas and Raekwon, Biggie proved his dominance in every arena of rap imaginable.



Essential listening: Follow the Leader (1988)

There’s no question that you could easily argue for Rakim Allah to be the best rapper ever. The Wyandanch-born MC’s impact on hip hop is nothing short of monumental, with his revolutionary rhyme patterns and flow propelling the art form to new heights. By introducing complexity and a jazzy influence to rap, the God MC reshaped the landscape and became one of the most influential MCs in history .

Ice Cube


Essential listening: AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (1990)

Ice Cube’s legacy as one of the greatest rappers of all time is often overlooked by younger generations of hip hop fans. They might recognize him as a West Coast legend, but they often fail to appreciate the sheer magnitude of his contributions to the rap game. Cube’s absolute peak years between 1988 and 1992 is, without doubt, the greatest 5-year run by a rapper of all time .



Essential listening: Return of the Boom Bap (1993)

There should be no doubt in any rap fans mind that KRS-One is one of the top 10 rappers of all time. As a pioneering figure in both gangsta rap and conscious rap, KRS has played an instrumental role in shaping the culture and elevating the artform since the ’80s. During the ’90s, the Blastmaster continued to build upon his impressive legacy with a string of critically acclaimed albums that featured more of his commanding voice and unwavering dedication to the culture.

Kendrick Lamar


Essential listening: To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)

It didn’t take long for Kendrick to evolve from a rookie to a hip hop goliath with a solid case for being the GOAT. He’s got the imagination of an author and a poet’s pen, packing every verse full of vivid storytelling but with the pop appeal to make any track a club-shaking hit. His influence might not run as deep as someone like Jay-Z, but with a classic-stacked catalogue and dozens of GOAT-level verses under his belt, Kendrick has every right to be ranked alongside hip hop’s finest.



Essential listening: The Fix (2002)

A pioneer in the Southern rap scene, at a time when the region was still finding its footing, Scarface carved out a space for raw, honest storytelling that resonated with rap fans from all walks of life. As a founding member of the Geto Boys and as a solo artist, Face’s unique blend of gritty street narratives and introspective vulnerability set him apart from his contemporaries.

Lupe Fiasco


Essential listening: Tetsuo & Youth (2015)

By this stage of his career, there should be no doubt anymore that Lupe Fiasco is one of the greatest rappers of all time. Although sometimes overlooked by the mainstream, Lupe’s influence is undeniable – he’s inspired a generation of rappers to prioritize thoughtful raps and storytelling, showing that substance and commercial success can coexist together.

Lil Wayne


Essential listening: Tha Carter II (2005)

There’s a legendary story floating around about Lil Wayne during his prime mixtapes days. According to N.O.R.E., after Jay-Z returned in 2006 with Kingdom Come , it wasn’t long before Weezy would snatch the instrumental for “Show Me What You Got” and completely body it. What the New Orleans MC did to the track was so vicious and complete that it made Hov question his commitment to the game. That’s just one of many examples of how other rappers view Lil Wayne. Since his rapid rise in the 2000s, Wayne’s relentless work ethic, razor-sharp lyricism and fluid flow turn into an undeniable force in hip hop.

Chuck D


Essential listening: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)

Few voices in hip hop have carried as much weight and authority as the commanding baritone of Chuck D. As the driving force behind Public Enemy, he delivered powerful messages that resonated with fans and sparked important conversations.



Essential listening: Madvillainy (2004)

Hip hop’s supervillain is a hero to the culture, with a run of abstract classics that practically birthed the modern underground. With dense rhymes, a genius sense of wordplay and unlimited creativity, he crafted a formula never before seen in rap music, reinventing the rhyme scheme with some of the most complex patterns in rap history.

Black Thought


Essential listening: Cheat Codes (2022)

The lyrical Philly mastermind behind the legendary Roots crew, Black Thought has been schooling MCs since the early ’90s. With an unparalleled ability to weave intricate stories and drop thought-provoking bars off the top of the head, he’s solidified his spot among hip hop’s greatest.



Essential listening: Nothing Was the Same (2013)

No rapper, and I mean, no rapper has ever been able to sustain the consistent level of success and impact that the Toronto superstar has for the past 10+ years. That’s just facts. Old ’90s heads and conservative rap traditionalists might disagree, but Drizzy has been on top for longer than any of your favorite rappers in history. He’s just one of the most popular rappers that have ever existed.

Kool G Rap


Essential listening: Live and Let Die (1992)

While he emerged in the ’80s alongside titans like Rakim, Kane, and KRS, it was the ’90s where G Rap’s gritty narratives and mafioso persona truly flourished. As a great rapper of his generation and now the godfather of mafioso rap, G Rap’s cinematic storytelling and mobster comparisons set the stage for artists like Jay-Z and Raekwon to adopt a similar cinematic vision, while his technical prowess, featuring crazy internal rhyme schemes, set a new standard for lyricism and influenced a generation of East Coast rappers, from Big Pun and AZ to Biggie and Wu-Tang Clan.

Ghostface Killah


Essential listening: Supreme Clientele (2000)

Ghostface Killah has consistently delivered top-tier material for nearly three decades straight. From his early days with Wu-Tang Clan to his countless solo albums and guest appearances, Ghost has remained a fire-spitting presence in the rap game. The Stapleton-raised rapper has gone toe-to-toe with the likes of Kool G Rap, Slick Rick, Biggie, and Nas, cementing himself as one of the culture’s finest storytellers and best rappers of all time.

Method Man


Essential listening: Tical (1994)

With his melodic flow, husky voice, and unmatched charisma on the mic, Method Man has earned himself a reputation as one of the most captivating rappers of all time. While his solo output may not have reached the same heights as fellow Wu-Tang members like Raekwon, GZA, and Ghostface, Meth has consistently shone on group albums with his sing-a-long lyrical style and brilliant wordplay.

LL Cool J


Essential listening: Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)

LL Cool J laid down the blueprint for becoming a superstar in hip hop. That’s just fact. At just 16, he teamed up with Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, marking the birth of Def Jam Recordings with the release of his debut single, “I Need a Beat.” His first album, Radio , cemented the Queens rapper as a new school pioneer, but it was his sophomore release, Bigger and Deffer , that took him to the next level.

Big Daddy Kane


Essential listening: Long Live the Kane (1988)

Brooklyn’s own Big Daddy Kane emerged in the late ’80s alongside lyrical masterminds Rakim and KRS-One to help revolutionise the rhyming landscape. A member of the iconic Juice Crew and mentored by the legendary Marley Marl, armed with the smooth operator charm, gritty battle raps, and sharp fashion sense makes him the full package, securing his spot among the best rappers of all time.



Essential listening: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… (1995)

A staple figure of the ’90s New York rap game, Chef dominated hardcore East Coast hip hop with contributions on Wu albums and legendary feature appearances . Although his indecipherable slang and raw lyricism has kept him from reaching higher commercial peaks, Raekwon remains one of the most enduring rappers in hip hop and Wu-Tang Clan’s finest MC .



Essential listening: Muddy Waters (1996)

As one of the most animated and energetic performers in hip hop, Redman remains one of the most impactful MCs in the game today, even in his 50s. Making his debut on EPMD’s Business as Usual in 1990, Reggie Noble immediately captured hip hop’s attention with rough persona, rugged lyricism and raw flow. One of the best examples of a rapper’s rapper ( he’s one of Eminem’s favorite MCs ), Redman is cemented as one of the best rappers ever.

Masta Ace


Essential listening: A Long Hot Summer (2004)

From his iconic verse on Marley Marl’s “The Symphony” to his debut Take a Look Around to 2012’s MA Doom: Son of Yvonne , Masta Ace has proven time and time again that he is one of the most underrated rappers in the game. The Brooklyn rapper’s uncanny ability to adapt and reinvent himself across various eras of hip hop is a testament to his undeniable MCing talent and commitment to the art of rap.

Pusha T


Essential listening: Daytona (2018)

From the moment Clipse dropped Lord Willin’ in 2002, it was clear that the coke rap had gained a new heavyweight. With a lead single that was both infectious and groundbreaking, they changed the landscape of street rap seemingly overnight. Fast forward to 2022, and Pusha T’s latest project, It’s Almost Dry , cements his two-decade-long reign in the coke rap game, delivering bars with the same hunger and creativity that characterized the Clipse’s debut.



Essential listening: Like Water for Chocolate (2000)

Hailing from the Windy City, Common has conscious staple in hip hop ever since the mid-90s. The Chicago MC’s introspective and socio-political lyricism, combined with his conversational flow and ability to paint vivid pictures with his words, has made him one of the more important artists in a culture that is often criticised for its lack of substance.



Essential listening: It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot (1998)

As soon as DMX debuted, he had hip hop in a chokehold, dropping hardcore classics that catapulted him to the top of the mainstream in a single year. Every bit of success was deserved, because no MC has ever matched the explosive anger and raw delivery DMX had.

Big Boi


Essential listening: Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (2010)

Known for his smooth, streetwise flow and clever wordplay, Big Boi has always been a masterful storyteller, taking listeners on a journey through the streets of Atlanta and beyond. While Andre 3000’s eccentricity and eclectic style may have captured the spotlight, it was always Big Boi’s consistency and grounding presence that balanced the duo’s dynamic and made them one of the greatest hip hop duos .

Bun B


Essential listening: Ridin’ Dirty (1996)

As one half of the iconic duo UGK, alongside the late Pimp C, Bun B is a true Southern rap legend and helped to define the sound and style of Houston hip hop. His smooth, no-nonsense flow combined with vivid storytelling and a commanding voice made him one of the most respected rappers of his generation.



Essential listening: Kiss tha Game Goodbye (2001)

Jadakiss, a seasoned New York rap veteran and one-third of the gritty Yonkers trio, The LOX, has maintained his status as a formidable MC ever since he came into the game. With legendary collaborations, Jadakiss has shared tracks with some of hip hop’s most respected names, from Biggie and Nas to Jay-Z and DMX, and has always held his own against the best of them

J. Cole


Essential listening: 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014)

Since his 2011 debut, Cole has evolved into a lyrical titan and a guiding force within the rap community. The Dreamville MC has lit up tracks with artists across the rap spectrum, from Benny the Butcher and Wale to 21 Savage and Young Thug, and in the wake of destroyed microphones has cemented his position as one of the best rappers in the game today .

Snoop Dogg


Essential listening: Doggystyle (1993)

Snoop Dogg is not only a West Coast legend and a proud representative of L.A., but he is also arguably one of the most famous hip hop artists in history. His universal appeal transcends the genre, making him a household name across the globe, cementing his place as one of the greatest artist of all time. Long before other rap superstars took the charts by storm, it was the D-O-double-G who held the throne.

Kanye West


Essential listening: The College Dropout (2004)

As an artist, there’s no doubt that Kanye is top five of all time. But don’t sleep on him as a rapper. The Chi-town MC’s introspective lyricism, vulnerability, and unapologetic confidence have solidified his place among the all-time greats. From the culture-shifting debut, The College Dropout , where his storytelling and humorous wordplay made him an instant star to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch the Throne , which saw him go toe-to-toe with arguably the greatest rapper of all time, Kanye’s flow, delivery and content have only evolved over time.

50 Cent


Essential listening: Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2003)

It’s easy to forget about 50 Cent‘s career as a rapper these days, especially with his recent success in the entertainment world, but when he was the King of New York, he had his foot on the neck of every single other rapper trying to come for the throne. With his relentless confidence, undeniable charisma, and knack for crafting infectious hooks, 50 helped to revitalize gangsta rap and in the process, propelled his debut, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ , to 12 million copies sold worldwide .

Busta Rhymes


Essential listening: Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front (1998)

When it comes to energetic live performances and spitting liquid fire, Busta Rhymes is a true titan of the rap game. The Long Island-raised MC has been flexing his lyrical muscles and captivating rap fans with his high-octane performances for decades now.



Essential listening: Hell on Earth (1996)

With his menacing voice, deliberate flow and unrelenting grit, Prodigy played a pivotal role in shaping the darker, more visceral sound of New York boom-bap. While the Mobb Deep rapper may not have possessed the effortless rhyme schemes of Nas or the explosive delivery of Biggie, his talent lay in meticulously crafting each bar as a standalone masterpiece, delivered with an ice-cold, unwavering intensity.



Essential listening: Naughty by Nature (1991)

One of the world’s best rappers ever, this New Jersey-born MC is a technical marvel on the microphone. As the frontman of Naughty by Nature, Treach helped to perfect the hip hop success blueprint that was laid down by LL Cool J a few years before. Bringing a unique blend of street anthems and radio-ready hits, the New Jersey MC demonstrated an uncanny ability to balance these two facets of hip hop without ever sounding out of place.



Essential listening: Midnight Marauders (1993)

In his prime, Q-Tip was carrying New York on his shoulders, firmly within the top 50 greatest rappers on this list. As the frontman for A Tribe Called Quest, the Abstract is responsible for jazz rap staples like The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders , with fast-paced flows and limitless wit to keep up with the busy jazz beats.

Aesop Rock


Essential listening: Labor Days (2001)

From the depths of the New York underground, Aesop Rock has quietly proven himself one of the most technically skilled MCs ever, with the lyrical mastery to rival some of hip hop’s greats, placing him amongst many fan’s favorite rapper lists. Boasting the largest vocabulary of any rapper, Aesop’s verses are like cryptic puzzles to decipher, but with his endless supply of lightning-fast flows, it always sounds smooth.



Essential listening: Word of Mouf (2001)

One of the first crossover rap superstars to emerge from Atlanta, Ludacris dominated the 2000s with a string of multiplatinum albums and over a dozen top 40 hit singles. Luda’s momentum was so strong in the early 2000s that he snatched the King of Atlanta crown off OutKast, with a range that encompassed street anthems, lyrical bars, club bangers, and radio hits, the Atlanta MC was the total package: he could make huge crossover hits with Usher then jumps on grimy mixtapes with the likes of Nas and never sound out of place.



Essential listening: Cancer 4 Cure (20120

After forming an army of underground talent under his label Def Jux, El-P already had a legacy worth bragging about, but he refused to stop there. Ruling New York’s underground in the 2000s with his label and a gritty run of solo records, El-P handcrafted his own futuristic sound, practically birthing his own subgenre in rap.

Styles P


Essential listening: The World’s Most Hardest MC Project (2012)

From the grimy streets of Yonkers to the upper echelon of hip-hop, Styles P has built a reputation as one of the most skilled lyricists in the game . A founding member of The LOX, Styles’ contributions to the group’s success cannot be overstated, but it’s his solo work that truly showcases his prowess as an MC, unapologetically raw and deeply introspective.



Essential listening: Liquid Swords (1995)

GZA may not be as charismatic as Meth, captivating as Ghost, fly as Chef or as technical as Deck, but his mastery of linguistics and intricate rhymes have cemented his place among the greatest rappers of all time. Genius’ magnum opus, Liquid Swords , stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… as one of the best Wu-Tang Clan solo albums ever .

Pharoahe Monch


Essential listening: Internal Affairs (1999)

Pharoahe Monch, the Queens rapper is the king of complex rhymes, reigning supreme in the world of hip hop lyricism. Pharoahe’s dynamic flow and manic tone have earned him recognition as one of the most skilled and pure lyricists of all time . He’s simply a chameleon.

Gift of Gab


Essential listening: Nia (1999)

Representing the Bay Area for three full decades, there’s no denying that Gift of Gab was one of the most technically gifted MCs to ever grabu the mic. Spitting tongue-twisting rhymes was as easy as breathing for the Blackalicious star, changing up his tempo and cramming a dozen syllables into a few short seconds. His rapid-fire flow would have most rappers stuttering with their tongues in a knot, but for Gift of Gab, no speed was too fast.

Royce da 5’9″


Essential listening: The Allegory (2020)

Few rappers can consistently match Eminem’s lyrical prowess, but Detroit’s own Royce da 5’9″ has managed to do just that for the past two decades. As a vital part of the duo Bad Meets Evil and the supergroup Slaughterhouse, Royce has cemented his reputation as a lyrical heavyweight in the hip hop community with his complex rhyme schemes and precise flow.

Roc Marciano


Essential listening: Reloaded (2012)

After breaking off from Busta Rhymes’ Flipmode Squad in 2001, Roc Marciano spent the next two decades quietly crafting some of the most influential hip hop music that would later serve as the foundation for current rap acts like Westside Gunn, Boldy James and Mach Hommy.

Big L


Essential listening: Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous (1995)

Big L‘s tragic, untimely passing left the hip-hop community with an undeniable sense of loss and a lingering question: What if? Like Biggie and 2Pac, the late rapper’s potential seemed limitless, but he never had the chance to build a body of work as expansive as his contemporaries.

Killer Mike


Essential listening: R.A.P. Music (2012)

Starting his career alongside OutKast’s Big Boi, Mike established himself as a force to be reckoned with before embarking on his solo journey. Throughout the 2000s, he hustled with solid releases like Monster and the I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind series, showcasing his raw talent and ability to tackle social issues, easily placing him amongst the 50 greatest rappers.



Essential listening: Trap Muzik (2003)

The 2000s were all about the South, with Houston and Atlanta’s finest dominating the scene. Amidst this, T.I. audaciously declared himself the King of the South, and boy, did he deliver.



Essential listening: Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha (1999)

Kurupt’s unique blend of East Coast lyricism, due to his Philly roots, and West Coast bop has made him a rare entity in rap. As an integral member of Tha Dogg Pound alongside Daz Dillinger, he helped shape the West Coast gangsta rap sound that would come to define an entire era.

MC Eiht


Essential listening: We Come Strapped (1994)

A crucial figure in West Coast hip hop, Compton rapper MC Eiht has been a driving force in the L.A. rap scene for over three decades. Beginning with his role in the influential group Compton’s Most Wanted, Eiht’s signature style has consistently blended hard-hitting old-school beats with melodic R&B backdrops while sharing captivating stories from the streets.

Inspectah Deck


Essential listening: Wu-Tang Forever (1997)

With his precise delivery and mastery of various flows, Deck has proven his prowess as one of rap’s finest lyricists. The Shaolin rapper’s iconic verses on “Triumph” and “C.R.E.A.M.” have become etched into the minds of hip-hop fans.



Essential listening: Charity Starts at Home (2011)

Revolutionising conscious hip hop with a soulful twist, Phonte is a multitalented wizard on the mic who’s been making magic for decades. With a good case for being the best singer in rap history, Phonte’s talent can’t be understated.



Essential listening: Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 (1993)

When you’ve got rhymes like Guru, who needs a flashy delivery? He was proof that rapping wasn’t all about being in-your-face and animated, with a steady, nonchalant flow that allowed the MC to flex his lyrical muscles.

Big Pun


Essential listening: Capital Punishment (1998)

Bursting onto the scene with an unmatched energy and presence, his talent was as immense as his physical stature and was one of the first Latino rappers to achieve mainstream success – he was the first solo rap act to go platinum .

Mos Def


Essential listening: Black on Both Sides (1999)

A conscious hip hop pioneer, an abstract innovator, a master lyricist – there’s a million ways to praise Mos Def. Whether it be his razor-sharp conscious lyrics as part of Black Star, or his glitchy, lo-fi approach on The Ecstatic , Yasiin Bey is a musical chameleon who’s never been satisfied sticking to one style.

Kool Keith


Essential listening: Dr. Octagonecologyst (1996)

Kool Keith, a name synonymous with innovation and boundary-pushing, has undoubtedly earned his place among hip-hop’s elite with the work he’s put in over the decades. The Bronx-born rapper’s penchant for adopting multiple personas—ranging from Dr. Octagon and Dr. Dooom to Black Elvis—pioneered a new wave of creativity in rap, inspiring future generations of underground artists like MF DOOM .

Tech N9ne


Essential listening: All 6’s and 7’s (2011)

Tech N9ne is a living testament to the power of independence in hip hop. As one of the most successful independent rapper of all time, Tech N9ne, alongside his partner Travis O’Guin, has built a massive music empire from the ground up with their label, Strange Music.

Missy Elliott


Essential listening: Supa Dupa Fly (1997)

The Virginia-born triple threat raps, sings, and produces – she’s one of the most fearless and creative MCs to ever hit the rap game. Over the years, Missy has consistently pushed the boundaries of what hip hop can be, both sonically and visually. Her music videos are legendary, not to mention her legendary run 6 platinum albums in 7 years, clearly one of the best female rappers to have ever lived.

Slick Rick


Essential listening: The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (1988)

Hailing from the early ’80s hip hop scene, Slick Rick has earned his title as the greatest storytelling rapper of all time. Rocking his signature eye patch and smooth flow, Rick the Ruler captivated hip hop heads as a member of Doug E. Fresh & the Get Fresh Crew.

DJ Quik


Essential listening: Safe + Sound (1995)

Often compared to the iconic Dr. Dre, Quik’s impact as both a rapper and producer has shaped the course of West rap history, even though he might not get his due credit for it. But those well-versed in hip hop culture know that DJ Quik is undoubtedly one of the greatest hip hop artists to ever emerge from the West Coast .

Sean Price


Essential listening: Mic Tyson (2012)

A true titan in the underground hip hop world, Sean Price made a name for himself as part of the legendary Brooklyn collective Boot Camp Clik, before teaming up with Jahmal “Rock” Bush to create the duo Heltah Skeltah. Even before his untimely passing in 2015, the tough Brooklyn MC had already cemented himself as one of the greatest of all time.

Lauryn Hill


Essential listening: The Score (1996)

L. Boogie’s fusion of musical styles and her ability to effortlessly switch between spitting bars and crooning melodies have cemented her place in hip hop’s hall of fame. Her impact is unquestionable, both as a Fugee and a solo artist, even though her discography remains relatively lean.

Phife Dawg


Essential listening: The Low End Theory (1991)

Pioneering the lush sound of jazz rap with his partner-in-rhyme Q-Tip , Phife was vital in establishing the funky sound of ‘90s hip hop. Although Q-Tip may be the stronger lyricist, no MC will make you smile like Don Juice, channelling his inner Biz Markie with a range of witty rhymes and carefree flows.



Essential listening: Street Dreams (2003)

One of the slickest MCs to ever grace a mic, Fabolous has remained an enduring force in the rap game thanks to his consistency and ability to adapt with the times.



Essential listening: In a Major Way (1995)

Bay Area trailblazer E-40 has been a pioneer in the rap game since the early days of hustling tapes out of his car. Known for his unorthodox flow and unmatched wordplay, Earl Stevens popularized and coined countless slang terms that are still being used to this day.


Essential listening: The B. Coming (2005)

Beanie Sigel emerged in the 2000s as part of the Roc-A-Fella takeover and etched his name in hip hop history as a street rap legend hailing from Philly . His signature authentic storytelling and unflinching portrayal of street life made for some timeless classics.



Essential listening: Doe or Die (1995)

Though he never achieved the same mainstream recognition as some of his contemporaries, AZ has always remained a respected figure in hip hop circles. Considered one of the most underrated lyricists in rap history, AZ’s intricate wordplay and storytelling capabilities have garnered him a dedicated following among true hip hop heads.



Essential listening: The Preface (2008)

Often hailed as “Detroit’s best-kept secret,” Elzhi is a masterful lyricist whose technical prowess and intricate wordplay have made him one of the most revered MCs in recent history.

Freddie Gibbs


Essential listening: Bandana (2019)

Over the past two decades, Freddie Gibbs has battled his way through obstacle after obstacle, rising through the ranks of the rap game and solidified himself as a modern-day legend.



Essential listening: DS2 (2015)

With links to the legendary Atlanta production group Organized Noize (Rico Wade is his cousin), Future’s hip hop pedigree runs deep. With one foot in the drug game and the other foot in the studio while honing his songwriting skills, it wasn’t long before he fully embraced the rap game.



Essential listening: Rip the Jacker (2003)

Canibus burst onto the hip hop scene in the early ’90s as a lyrical powerhouse, known for his razor-sharp wordplay and exceptional freestyle ability. While his notorious beef with LL Cool J may have hindered his mainstream breakthrough, Canibus remained a stalwart in the underground scene, earning the respect of his peers and maintaining a loyal fanbase.

Young Jeezy


Essential listening: Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 (2005)

A legend since the early 2000s, Young Jeezy’s exhaustive catalog is packed full of his signature adlibs, motivational trap sermons and banging production.



Essential listening: Purple Haze (2004)

If there’s one thing for sure about Cam’ron standing in rap culture, it’s that his impact went well beyond his own music. With his penchant for innovative wordplay and audacious internal rhymes, Cam’s distinctive voice, captivating storytelling, and effortless charisma have left a lasting impression on the rap game.



Essential listening: Below the Heavens (2007)

Blu has been a driving force in the alternative West Coast hip hop scene, known for his introspective, everyday-man approach to rap, the Inglewood-born lyricist delves into subjects such as racism, black history, and his love for hip hop and music.

Del the Funky Homosapien


Essential listening: Eleventh Hour (2008)

While his cousin Ice Cube was running California’s gangsta rap scene, Del started off representing the jazzy and energetic sound of Oakland.

Lil’ Kim


Essential listening: Hard Core (1996)

Combining her unapologetically raunchy lyrics, fierce Brooklyn attitude, and undeniable talent in one highly marketable package, Lil’ Kim was integral to challenging the hip hop status quo and paving the way for future female rappers.



Essential listening: Control System (2012)

Spitting wisdom like a rap veteran but with the manic energy of a young rookie, Ab-Soul is an MC as consistent as he is underrated. Using the mic to confess all his woes, he’s been hailed as one of the most vulnerable rappers of his generation.



Essential listening: Eve (2019)

In a hip hop landscape often dominated by male artists, Rapsody has emerged as a formidable force, challenging the status quo with her immense lyrical prowess and thought-provoking content.

Talib Kweli


Essential listening: Train of Thought (2000)

Making his mark in 1997 as one half of the iconic duo Black Star, alongside Mos Def, Talib Kweli has evolved into the poster child of the conscious hip hop scene.



Essential listening: Rhyme Pays (1987)

Ice-T, the godfather of West Coast gangsta rap, changed the game, perhaps the first rapper to bring the gritty realities of street life to the forefront of popular music. His impact makes him more than just another rapper – he’s a hip-hop legend.



Essential listening: Bobby Digital in Stereo (1998)

RZA, the architect behind Wu-Tang Clan, is undoubtedly one of the greatest producers in hip hop . As a rapper, though, he can be hit-or-miss, but over time, RZA’s rap style evolved, favoring philosophical musings over the chaotic lyricism of his early days. His penchant for complex vocabulary and intricate concepts has sometimes led to convoluted verses. Nevertheless, his crazy performance on GZA’s “4th Chamber” is locked in as one of the greatest guest verses of all time .

Krayzie Bone


Essential listening: E. 1999 Eternal (1995)

Krayzie Bone is criminally underrated. His melodic blend of singing and fierce rapping made him Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony’s MVP. His solo work, like the Fixtape series and Thug Mentality 1999, is equally strong. A relentless grinder from ’95 to today, Krayzie deserves more recognition.

Nicki Minaj


Essential listening: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (2012)

Nicki Minaj, the self-proclaimed Queen of hip hop, has solidified her name amongst the greatest of the greats. Even with massive pop collaborations with Katy Perry and Ariana Grande in the bag, you can always count on Nicki to deliver bars when the times comes. Whether it’s her savage bars on “Lookin Ass,” her legendary feature on “Monster” or the playful “Barbie Dreams,” Nicki Minaj is always ready to show you why she’s one of the best rappers alive .

Pimp C


Essential listening: Too Hard to Swallow (1992)

As one half of UGK, Pimp C, with his Houston swagger and unfiltered rap bars, delivered a unique brand of Southern rap that resonated with rap fans far beyond his Port Arthur roots.

Juicy J


Essential listening: When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1 (2000)

Juicy J, co-founder of Three 6 Mafia, has been a game-changer in the rap world since the ’90s. With a deep-rooted Memphis sound, he’s not only a legend in the Southern scene but has remained relevant through his ability to adapt and collaborate with today’s hottest artists like A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, and Megan Thee Stallion.

The Game


Essential listening: The Documentary (2005)

Despite The Game’s occasional tomfoolery, there’s one thing that you can never take away from him – the man’s unwavering love for hip hop. With gritty storytelling, relentless flow, and an unmistakable voice that makes him one of the most iconic west coast artists of the past two decades.

Gucci Mane


Essential listening: The State vs. Radric Davis (2009)

Over the past two decades, Guwop, the undisputed king of trap , has revolutionized the Atlanta rap scene with his relentless work ethic, flood-the-market approach, and enormous influence on artists like Young Thug, Migos, Future, and Lil Uzi Vert. Though commercial success and mainstream superstardom has eluded him for the most part, there’s no denying that Guwop is one of the most influential and greatest rap artists of all time.

Too Short


Essential listening: Life Is…Too Short (1988)

Representing Oakland to the fullest, Too $hort has been a game-changer in the rap world since the 1980s. As a pioneering force in West Coast hip-hop, his influence has stretched far beyond the Bay Area, shaping the culture for generations to come.



Essential listening: Stakes Is High (1996)

Ever since ’89, Posdnuos has been blessing hip hop with some of the slickest jazz rap to ever grace the genre, displaying a level of consistency most MCs could only dream of.

Rick Ross


Essential listening: Teflon Don (2010)

Rick Ross, the boss of Miami’s hip hop scene , with his commanding husky voice he’s not only built up a impressive legacy as an MC, but as a mogul shaping the careers of numerous talented rappers like Meek Mill and Wale.

Brother Ali


Essential listening: Shadows on the Sun (2003)

Brother Ali, a tireless activist against racism and oppression, has made a name for himself in the hip hop world by infusing his music with powerful and and deep messages. Since his debut with Rites of Passage in 2000, the Minneapolis-based MC’s passion for hip hop and drive for change have remained steadfast, solidifying his position as one of the greatest underground rappers of all time .



Essential listening: Kamikaze (2004)

A pioneer of speed-rapping and once holder of the Guinness World Record for the fastest rapper in the English language, Twista boasts a remarkable three-decade-long career.

Ras Kass


Essential listening: Soul on Ice (1996)

Hailing from Watts, Los Angeles, Ras Kass has been a powerful force in the underground hip hop scene for over three decades. Though often underrated and not as frequently mentioned alongside other one of the greats of the West Coast, Ras Kass’ undeniable skill on the mic and unwavering consistency make him one of the greatest lyricists of all time .

Chief Keef


Essential listening: Finally Rich (2012)

Chief Keef almost single-handedly birthed a new subgenre to the hip-hop world at just 17 years old. With his unfiltered lyrics, dead-eyed flow, and raw DIY aesthetic, Reef’s melodic raps and slurred delivery on landmark releases like Back from the Dead and Finally Rich laid the foundation for the current drill and mumble rap scenes.



Essential listening: Harlem World (1997)

Coming up in the mid-90s under the name Murda Mase alongside fellow Children of the Corn MCs Big L, Cam’ron, and Herb McGruff, the Harlem rapper became one of the biggest rappers of the decade after signing to Bad Boy Records. Despite criticisms for leaving the rap game while he was scorching hot , Mase’s influence on the current crop of rappers – artists like Drake, Kanye or Pusha T – is undeniable.

MC Lyte


Essential listening: Lyte as a Rock (1988)

With her high-pitched, distinctive, and powerful voice, MC Lyte emerged as a female rapper who pioneered during the late 1980s. As a Brooklyn native, she began writing and rapping at just 12 years old, and her debut album, Lyte as a Rock , solidified her position as one of the leading female MCs of her time. There was no questioning that her skills rivalled those of her male counterparts of the ’80s .

Project Pat


Essential listening: Mista Don’t Play: Everythangs Workin (2001)

The Memphis rapper’s signature eerily calm tone, juxtaposed against the backdrop of bouncy yet sinister beats, has cemented Project Pat’s status as not only one of the most underrated artists to emerge from Memphis but also as a true innovator in the game.

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