Hip-hop has grown and evolved into this current generation's music genre of choice. The youth have made that quite clear. The genre is extremely profitable and apparent in almost every strategic marketing plan today. Hip-hop is the new pop music, and thus it's driving the culture both musically and socially.
With hip-hop being the culture of choice for many people around the world, there are a variety of artists and styles that not only range in country of origin, but also decade in time. 70s hip-hop sounds much different than today's hip-hop, for example. The scope of the music is multi-dimensional.
There are so many artists that have become objectively great over the decades that the conversation of the greatest of all-time becomes a popular topic. We've rounded up the fifty greatest to ever spit into the mic. Check out the list for yourself and let us know if you agree with our stance in the comment section.
Drake has quickly become one of the most successful hip-hop acts in this current realm of music streaming and social media accessibility. The Toronto-born hip-hop artist has been able to remain consistent ever since arriving on the scene alongside Lil' Wayne underneath his Young Money record label and hasn't looked back since releasing his So Far Gone mixtape in 2009.
Now, with albums like Take Care and Nothing Was The Same underneath his belt, he's been able to solidify both a male and female following that has remained loyal throughout his career which is almost a decade long. Now, with his own OVO record label imprint, he's able to help other artists jumpstart their careers. Unfortunately, the ghostwriting rumors of the past have tainted his legacy as a true MC putting him at the fifty spot on this list.
49. Warren G
A lot of hip-hop purists would believe that Warren G doesn't get the credit he deserves as a hip-hop legend but, that's exactly what he is. The west coast hip-hop artist has been able to maintain a stable career over approximately three decades after arriving on the scene as Dr. Dre's cousin. His debut album, Regulate... G Funk Era, released in 1994, became critically acclaimed and he became another west coast hip-hop act that gained a massive following.
Warren G's rapping ability is one to be admired as he also became one-half of the notorious Dogg Pound rap group alongside Snoop Dogg's cousin in Daz Dillinger. The youngsters might not understand why he's ranked higher than Drake but anyone who is a true enthusiast and participant in the culture would know that he's an extremely impactful and important figure in the culture.
48. A$AP Rocky
A$AP Rocky is one of hip-hop's younger talents to prove that he's worthy of longevity in a cut-throat business like the music industry. And with casual hip-hop fans being extremely fickle, it's not a coincidence as to why he still remains a relevant figure in the hip-hop realm. First coming on to the scene with his 2011 mixtape, Love. Live. A$AP., he instantly was able to gain a youthful following that has stuck with him through thick and thin.
During the initial stage of his hip-hop career, A$AP Rocky and the A$AP Mob were a troublesome group that couldn't be controlled but these days, the multifaceted group have found their individual lanes including Rocky who's become an influencer in the fashion realm. Rocky still has a lot to prove in his career and the culture is waiting to see what he has in store next.
47. Talib Kweli
Some of you might be wondering why Talib Kweli is not ranked a lot higher than the 47th slot but he's a true underground king in the world of hip-hop and a true rapper's rapper. Matter of fact, Jay Z who is arguably the biggest and greatest rapper of our time has stated in song that he wished he could rap like Talib. Kweli's social commentary is built within his musical content and he's become an activist in his own right throughout the years. Kweli never misses a day destroying racist and xenophobic rhetoric and hate speech on Twitter.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Brooklyn-based rapper, check out his 1998 album alongside Mos Def self-entitled, Black Star, as well as his 2004 offering The Beautiful Struggle in order to gain perspective of his lyrical ability and complex content. He's truly a master of the art form.
When you think of the Wu-Tang Clan, GZA also known as The Genius is one of the first names people mention out of just muscle memory and there's a reason for that. With the Wu-Tang Clan having so much talent in just a single hip-hop group, it's easy to overlook one member of the other but, GZA's Liquid Swords album has placed him in a league of his own in regards to individual projects within the group which isn't an easy task with the lyricists like Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, and Method Man waiting to destroy you with their verses on selected tracks.
The days, GZA takes a more educational approach in regards to giving back to the hip-hop community. The Brooklyn rapper recently teamed up with an educational group in order to promote science via hip-hop.
Next up, is Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, better known by his stage name, RZA, who was the production mastermind behind the entire Wu-Tang Clan. What RZA might lack in lyrical depth and ability, he makes up for in his ability to put a project together. Throughout history, there has been some conflict within the group as RZA might have been granted access to a larger piece of the pie than his other bandmates.
RZA has been able to crack the seal on Hollywood as he's gotten roles in blockbuster movies and critically acclaimed television shows including scoring music for the Quentin Tarantino films, Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Volume 2, and was able to get roles in movies and shows like American Gangster, Californication, and Gang Related before making his directorial debut with the kung-fu film, The Man With The Iron Fists.
44. Cypress Hill
This is the first group to make the list, which some could argue that the entire group should not be able to make a best rappers list without individual pieces of work to critique but, as a collective, Cypress Hill is more than worthy of being recognized. The South Gate, California-based hip-hop group is the first Latino American hip-hop group to go multi-platinum after they took over airwaves with their 1991 hit, 'The Phuncky Feel One'/'How I Could Just Kill a Man'.
The group's unique cadence and gangsta content raised eyebrows around the country before what some their biggest hit 'Insane In The Membrane' became a crossover hit so big that the collective actually earned a set at the 1994 Woodstock. To this day, group member B-Real is a relevant part of hip-hop culture as he's now taken on a media roll with a large YouTube following.
Some younger followers of hip-hop might find this hard to believe but, at one point in time, Ice-T was one of the most feared musicians on the planet. Matter of fact, the government supposedly began to monitor the rapper after the release of his single 'Cop Killer' which many non-listeners of hip-hop misconstrued as the glamorization of police murders. But with the controversy, the dollars came in and he was able to record one of the greatest movie theme songs of all-time for the movie Colors.
These days, Ice-T is considered one of the godfathers of hip-hop and even plays a cop himself on the highly popularized crime drama television series, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The once gangsta rapper also played a cop in the notorious hood classic film, New Jack City. Talk about a 180.
42. Lupe Fiasco
Lupe Fiasco has always sparked a large debate in whether or not he was one of the greatest rappers of this current generation and from both analytical and objective viewpoints, the Chicago-based artist is deserving of recognition. When first arrived on the scene with his eclectic style and peaceful approach to the music genre, many thought he wouldn't last or be able to lyrically stand with the greats of the culture but he soon was able to prove his doubters wrong.
Lupe has made some controversial comments throughout his career but his ability to curate listen-worthy music and sell out large venues while remaining a conscious and knowledgeable public figure has allowed him to become both a mainstream and underground legend. These days, it appears that Lupe Fiasco is done with the music business and focuses more on martial arts as of late.
It might be a little early in Logic's career to be considered one of the greatest of all time but his following and popularity has generated millions of dollars in the hip-hop realm during his short career. It took Logic to put out four full bodies of work before he began to gain national recognition with the release of his 2013 mixtape, Young Sinatra: Welcome To Forever. After gaining his cult-like following, the accolades from Billboard and the plaques began to roll in.
His most recent single, '1-800-273-8255', also known as the suicide prevention hotline has raised suicide awareness tremendously and he's become an advocate for mental health awareness. Logic recently secured a $30 million deal with Def Jam Recordings so, we'll definitely be getting more content and music from the rapper in the near future.
40. Chance The Rapper
Chance The Rapper has become hip-hop's poster boy in the past year and a half with his positive demeanor, soul-inspired content, and ability to bring other top-notch hip-hop acts together to curate some rather amazing music. His second mixtape, Acid Rap, was the project that was able to propel him into mainstream popularity and allow him to gain multiple endorsements from companies like MySpace and Dockers.
His third mixtape, Coloring Book, released in 2016, was the first stream-only album that was both nominated and won a Grammy for its single, 'No Problems' featuring Lil' Wayne and 2 Chainz. In some ways, Chance The Rapper has changed how music will be honored and awarded with his Grammy win but, what's more important is his philanthropic work that has helped the youth and general public throughout his hometown of Chicago.
39. Mobb Deep
The Infamous Mobb Deep is one of the most legendary hip-hop acts/groups to come out of Queensbridge, New York. This is the second group to make the list and for obvious reasons as Havoc was known for his musical compositions and production while Prodigy was known for his lyrical content. The two are known for their hardcore gangsta content but later was able to become a mainstream act with the help of other production teams.
Their single 'Shook Ones Pt. II' is officially a hip-hop classic that will be played decades from now for younger generations to gain knowledge of the roots of hip-hop and allowed them to stand next to legendary New York hip-hop figures like the Notorious B.I.G, Jay Z, and Nas. Unfortunately, while battling sickle cell anemia, Prodigy passed away on June 20, 2017. He will forever be missed and recognized as one of the greatest to ever touch a mic.
38. Ol' Dirty Bastard
Ol' Dirty Bastard also known as Dirt McGirt, Osirus, Big Dirt, Ason Unique, and Big Baby Jesus is one of the most eccentric hip-hop personalities of all-time. As one member of the notorious Wu-Tang Clan, his unique cadence and vocal ability were utilized in order to curate some of the dopest choruses for the group's projects. His performance on 'Shame On A N****' and 'Protect Ya Neck' has influenced many hip-hop enthusiasts to favorite those particular tracks on Wu Tang's classic debut album.
ODB's solo projects produced mainstream hits like 'Brooklyn Zoo', 'Shimmy Shimmy Ya', and his legendary verse on Mariah Carey's 'Fantasy [Remix]. Unfortunately, McGirt ran into legal troubles after an MTV documentary showed the rapper pulling up to a local New York welfare office in a limousine with his family in order to receive benefits. Things took an even bigger turn for the worse after he passed away from a drug overdose in November of 2004, two days before his birthday. Rest in power to the Ol' Dirty Bastard.
37. Big Daddy Kane
A lot of hip-hop purists would consider it blasphemy to place Big Daddy Kane this high up on the list due to his influence on today's hip-hop legends like Jay Z, Nas, and the Notorious B.I.G. Big Daddy Kane was able to balance the flashiness of being a mainstream hip-hop artist of the '80s and the lyricism that many in the culture need in order to call a particular figure one of the greatest.
As one of the members of the legendary Juice Crew, Big Daddy Kane released his debut album Love Live the Kane which widened the eyes of many young people wanting to be MCs. His hits 'Ain't No Half Steppin' and 'It's A Big Daddy Thing' contributed to what many might consider the real Golden Age of hip-hop and to this very day, Big Daddy Kane is performing his classics internationally.
Raekwon also known as The Chef is yet another individual member of the Wu-Tang Clan to make the list solely on his ability and merit. Matter of fact, many could argue that Raekwon is probably the best lyricist in all of Wu-Tang and he proved his ability early during the group's first album. But it was his first solo effort that really allowed the Brooklyn rapper to gain notoriety, on the project entitled, Only Built For Cuban Linx.... The album was released as a purple cassette that became a legendary collector's item.
These days, Raekwon still is hopping on tracks with acts like Kanye West and other established hip-hop artists of this current generation. His flow and delivery are some of the most unique developed to this very day and his lyrical content makes him a respected figure in the hip-hop community. There's no telling him what he has up his sleeve next.
35. Slick Rick
Slick Rick The Ruler is probably the flashiest hip-hop artist of all-time, when it comes to jewelry and diamonds there isn't a rapper alive who can outlast the number of precious jewels Slick Rick has in his arsenal. But, the jewels aren't the reason why he's considered one of the greatest to ever touch a microphone. Slick Rick's unique delivery and seemingly lackadaisical flow have made his voice one of the most recognizable tones in the genre's history.
Unfortunately, in 1990, Slick Rick spent a total of seven years behind bars after shooting his ex-bodyguard who extorting money from the rapper and even threatened to kill him and his mother. But that still hasn't stopped his legacy with hits like 'La Di Da Di', "A Children's Story', and 'Hey Young World' which he still performs to this very day.
Scarface is probably one of the most influential hip-hop artists from the south. He's one-third of the classic hip-hop group, The Geto Boys, who have one best hip-hop Halloween hits in 'My Mind IS Playing Tricks On Me'. His lyrical content and deep raspy voice emote a multitude of feelings that most listeners and fans eventually can feel and relate to themselves, which is a rare trait most musicians possess.
His solo works could be considered underappreciated but his skill set and ability to stay in pocket while rapping makes him another one of those figures many would call a rapper's rapper. He's an industry favorite and the recent unveiling of his battles with mental health has only brought the culture forward in support of the Houston legend. His 2015 autobiography, Diary of a Madman, has opened another avenue for the rapper to tell his story that makes him all the more worthy of praise and respect.
33. The Game
The Game is semi-responsible for bringing west coast gangsta music back to the forefront with his 2005 major debut album, The Documentary. With the help of Eminem, Dr. Dre, and 50 Cent, The Game had the perfect support group to help his career take off and throughout the years, the Compton-based rapper has proved he has the ability to rap with some of the best talents of this generation.
The Game has eight studio albums under his belt which is a rarity to accomplish in such a cutthroat music industry and from the looks of things, he shows no signs of slowing down whatsoever. The rapper has been able to capitalize off of beefing with other rappers and curating diss tracks in order to gather an audience, which is a unique marketing method but he has freestyled an entire diss record for close to twenty minutes which is impressive in itself.
32. Lauryn Hill
Some might argue that Lauryn Hill has no place on a hip-hop artists list but, there's no denying that she has the lyrical ability to stand next to any emcee. Lauryn Hill was initially introduced to the general public as one-third of The Fugees in 1994 on their debut album, Blunted on Reality, which isn't the group's most memorable project but their second album, The Score, became world renowned after selling 17 million copies worldwide.
But it was her solo debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, that became a classic and officially made her a household name. She rapped, played the instrumentation on the album, and sung as well making it one of the most multifaceted projects of the '90s. In May 2013, Hill was sentenced to three months for tax evasions but since then hasn't been the same artist we've all come to know and love. Hill has a total of six children, five children of which with Rohan Marley.
31. Tech N9ne
Tech N9ne has had one of the most unique rises to prominence the hip-hop community has ever encountered. There's no denying that he has one of the fastest and best flows in hip-hop of all-time but his underground following has allowed him to become one of the most successful underground artists ever. He's remained an independent entity throughout his entire career after starting his own record label known as Strange Music.
Tech N9ne's illustrious music career has allowed his art to be used on major platforms such as television, movies, and even video games. It's almost a disappointment to not hear Tech's unique voice through the speakers when playing an EA Sports produced video game whether it be NFL Madden, MMA, or WWE 2K18. Tech N9ne will go down as one of the greatest underground artists of all-time due to his following and large body of work/discography.
30. Nate Dogg
Nate Dogg has one of the most soothing voices in hip-hop history some might consider the west coast hip-hop artist as the Frank Sinatra of rap. He's collaborated with every mainstream artist you could think of applying his mesmerizing voice to some classic choruses. Nate Dogg has worked with the likes of Tupac Shakur, 50 Cent, Eminem, Ludacris, Xzibit, Warren G, Dr. Dre, and more after starting off his music career in the group, 213 alongside his cousin, Snoop Dogg, and Warren G.
His solo career is one to be admired to as he dropped two albums in 1998 entitled, G-Funk Classics Volume 1 and Volume 2 while dropping a single-loaded album in 2001 entitled, Music & Me. His single 'Never Leave Me Alone' has eerily become his theme song as he recently passed away in 2011 after suffering from multiple strokes. Rest in power to the legendary Nate Dogg, gone but not forgotten.
29. Big Pun
This might be another entry a lot of hip-hop purists might suck their teeth at and Big Pun could arguably be the greatest emcee of all-time in a lot of people's eyes but, without an extreme mainstream presence, Big Pun has taken a huge leap backward landing at the 29th slot. The Terror Squad frontman was known not only for his complexly insane bars but also for his presence in the streets. Big Pun was a true street dude who happened to be extremely nice at rapping.
Many forget that Big Pun appeared as a guest feature on Fat Joe's 1995 album, Jealous One's Envy but, later became the lead rapper of his clique after quickly developing one of the best flows in hip-hop to this date. His popular single, 'Still Not A Player' gets club play to this day and his 1997 album, Capital Punishment is a certified classic amongst most rap fans.
T.I. is one of the few rappers from the 2000-era that stood the test of time and to this very day has the ability to put out some rather impactful music. T.I. is one of the inventors of this current hip-hop subgenre wave of trap music and even entitled his sophomore album, Trap Muzik. He's been able to illustrate his journey of a struggling drug dealer in the city of Atlanta, Georgia to rise as a multifaceted businessman who runs a multitude of legal businesses.
At one point in time, T.I. struggled with legal troubles after being arrested several times of gun and drug possession charges but today has become an advocate and activist for civil and human rights. There's also a good chance we'll be getting more music from the southern rapper in the near future to add to his already long discography.
Think of it this way, if there is no Redman there would be no Eminem. Redman was and still is one of Eminem's biggest musical influences and for obvious reasons. Many could also argue that Redman deserves to be higher up on the list and that's totally understandable. After being discovered by Erick Sermon of EPMD fame, Redman's music career took off and he never looked back. Bar for bar, there are few hip-hop artists that can be compared or that would want to hop on a track with the Newark, New Jersey rapper.
After linking with former Wu-Tang Clan rapper, Method Man, the two went on a tear musically and visually releasing projects in the form of movies and albums like the 1999 LP, Blackout! And Blackout! 2 that released a decade later. Their movie How High has become a stoner classic and makes an appearance on television from time to time. Redman is just now getting his recognition from the masses as one of the greatest to ever do it and he's a treasure to the culture.
There's a lot of misconceptions about Common with a lot of the younger generation assuming that he's always been this peaceful, docile member of the hip-hop community but that's not true at all. At one point in time, Common was one of the hardest mainstream rappers to come out of Chicago and even sparked a pretty big beef with west coast gangsta rapper, Ice Cube that almost turned violent. Luckily, Common found a new sense of consciousness and has been dropping classic albums ever since.
His 2000 album, Like Water For Chocolate, provided him with the respect and notoriety throughout the entire hip-hop community but it wasn't until his album solely produced by Kanye West entitled Be, that he won a Grammy for Best Rap Album. Now, Common has become the spokesperson for almost everything positive and he's everywhere from commercials to television shows to movies and still has the ability to drop a dope sixteen at any time.
25. Ghostface Killah
Ghostface Killah also known as Tony Starks and Pretty Tony is another eccentric member of the notorious and beloved Wu-Tang Clan and has deservedly made the list of hip-hop greats. At one point in time, Ghostface's stage name was taken literally as early in his career he wore masks on stage and during public appearances due to his troubles with the law. Luckily, the Wu-Tang Clan was able to rise to prominence and Ghostface was able to clear up his legal troubles.
His debut solo project, Ironman, was extremely well-received as it was followed up with his 2000 album, Supreme Clientele which features the street/club hit 'Cherchez LaGhost' that still gets multiple spins to this day. Ghostface's unique voice and delivery have allowed him to develop a cult-like following and the respect of his hip-hop peers. Oh, and yes the gold eagle is real...
24. Big L
Big L had so much potential to become one of the greatest hip-hop acts of all-time and even during his shortened career, he was able to achieve just that. Some would say that Big L is the best freestyler to ever live due to his witty wordplay and quick delivery. His seven-minute freestyle alongside Jay Z is constantly revisited and played by hip-hop purists around the world. Big L was able to release multiple projects with his first being, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous. His second album, The Big Picture, was released with the help of his manager Rich King in 2000.
Unfortunately, in February 1999, Big L was murdered in his hometown of Harlem, New York after being shot nine times by an unidentified shooter in a drive-by. To this very day, Big L is recognized and missed by the entire hip-hop realm and will forever be remembered as one of the greats.
23. LL Cool J
During the mid-80s there wasn't a kid alive who didn't want to be LL Cool J. Many would say that LL Cool J is the main reason why the musical genre became mainstream with his hits like 'Mama Said Knock You Out', 'I Need Love', and 'Going Back To Cali'. His debut album, Radio, was the first album to release on Def Jam Records which is now the biggest and most notable hip-hop record label in the world.
LL Cool J's music career has stood the test of time lasting over four decades but lately, LL has been in front of the camera as a cast member of the crime drama television series, NCIS: Los Angeles and also is the host of the hilarious celebrity game show, Lip Sync Battle. LL's influence over hip-hop will forever be respected as he continues to entertain the masses.
Ludacris has one of the most unique paths to a successful hip-hop career by starting off as a radio DJ and using the station's studio space to record his demo which eventually led to him signing to Def Jam Records and starting his own Disturbing Tha Peace hip-hop imprint. His 2001 album, Word of Mouf, is what really launched his career with his witty punchlines and insanely unique delivery, there isn't much Ludacris can't do on the mic.
These days, Ludacris has made quite the lane for himself in the Hollywood realm as a crucial cast member of the Fast & The Furious movie empire while appearing in a multitude of other blockbuster movies and television shows. We have a good feeling Ludacris is nowhere near done delivering content for the masses to enjoy and partake in.
KRS-One of Boogie Down Productions is one of the most lyrically dangerous emcees of all-time and to this very day. The Bronx-based hip-hop artist is one of the only hip-hop acts to successfully deliver gangsta rap and conscious rap projects throughout his career. He's also the self-proclaimed Teacha that's on a mission to teach the younger generations about the conceptualization of the culture we've all come to know and love in hip-hop.
With hits like 'Sound of the Police' and '9mm Go Bang' many would assume that KRS-One supports gun violence but after losing his longtime crony and business partner, Scott La Rock was killed in a shooting, KRS-One developed the nonprofit organization entitled, Stop The Violence to end gun violence in the black and hip-hop communities. Today KRS is considered another one of hip-hop's godfathers.
20. Lil' Wayne
Lil' Wayne is the influence behind this current generation of hip-hop artist, which some could argue is not a good thing but there are few musical runs in any genre that can stand next to the New Orleans-born hip-hop artist. During an interview in the '90s, Lil Wayne stated that he was going to be the best rapper alive and a decade later he proved just that by releasing an insane amount of great music in only a couple years span.
His rise to prominence as a solo artist started with his 2004 album, Tha Carter and after that, he never looked back. He could be considered the mixtape king and one of the hardest working members in the hip-hop community to this very day despite the fact that he's currently being held hostage by his Cash Money record label led by Bryan 'Birdman' Williams. Will Lil' Wayne's Tha Carter V album ever see the light of day? Who knows.
19. Mos Def
Mos Def is another one of hip-hop's most eclectic talents, some might question his work ethic due to the limited amount of work he's put out but his style of musicianship is one of the most unique. He's nearly unproducible but has some best all-around albums in hip-hop to this very day. His debut album, Black on Both Sides gained him notoriety as a solo act and was critically acclaimed and his work as one-half of Black Star, a hip-hop group alongside Talib Kweli launched him into superstar status among the hip-hop community.
Mos Def who goes by Yasiin Bey these days has a pretty professional filmography under his belt all the while being one of the more vocal rappers in regards to social and political topics including police brutality and overall human rights. Yasiin claims that his upcoming album, Negus in Natural Person will be his final music offering but, the hip-hop realm is hoping that his statement is fallacious.
18. Method Man
There's no denying that Method Man was the standout artist when Wu-Tang Clan first arrived on the scene and he's been able to maintain his superstardom not only in music but in acting as well. Method Man's first solo project, Tical, released in 1994 following the impactful Wu-Tang album, 36 Chambers. From there, Meth went on to work on musical projects with bandmate Red Man on two albums and even won a Grammy alongside Mary J. Blige for their song 'I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need To Get By' for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
Method Man still gets down on the mic from time to time but has spent a lot of time in front of the camera as of late starring in movies like How High, Belly, Red Tails, Keanu, Luke Cage, and the notorious HBO series, The Wire. Method Man has definitely shown poise throughout his career and has done a lot for the culture during his stint in the public eye.
17. Busta Rhymes
Busta Rhymes is another hip-hop legend with an extremely unique delivery with a thunderous voice and extremely animated style of wordplay. Busta Rhymes arrived on the scene as an unofficial member of the legendary Tribe Called Quest rap group. During his earlier years, he was known for his extremely fast style of spitting rhymes and freestyling which gained a lot of attention in his local hometown of Brooklyn, New York.
His debut album, The Coming, released in 1996 and since then he's released a ton of radio and mainstream hits including, 'Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check', 'Dangerous', 'Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See', and a ton more. Matter of fact, the New York rapper has been nominated for a total of eleven Grammys and to this very day finds a way to remain relevant in the hip-hop community with his support of upcoming hip-hop acts.
16. J. Cole
Some might not think that J. Cole is deserving to be this high up on the list especially being such a new act but, he hasn't dropped a single project that has been lackluster as of yet. Before making his way to the limelight, J. Cole was determined to produce a song for Jay Z and after many failed attempts, the North Carolinian hip-hop act finally got on the hip-hop mogul's radar and soon was signed to his Roc Nation imprint.
His 2011 debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story instantaneously gained a cult-like following and ever since then, the rapper has released his official studio projects with little to no promotion and went platinum every time. J. Cole also doesn't allow features on his projects and fully produces his own albums. There's no denying that he's extremely talented and could be a potential legend in the future if he continues with his insanely tenacious work ethic.
DMX is definitely one of the most polarizing and energetic hip-hop personalities of all-time. His raspy voice, intense delivery, dog barks, and prayers throughout his musical projects make him one of a kind and one of the greatest emcees of all time. His rise to prominence wasn't a pretty one as he endured an abusive childhood and spent time in group homes throughout his youth only to grow up and rob local drug dealers for their product and earnings.
His debut album, It's Dark & Hell Is Hot, sounds exactly like what you think it to be riddled with dark content, self-loathing storylines but yet provides you with a sense of overcoming and triumph. DMX has had mainstream success with singles like 'Ruff Ryders' Anthem', 'X Gon' Give It To Ya', 'Party Up [Up In Here]', and 'Slippin' but at times has struggled with substance abuse and several jail stints throughout his career. Hopefully, X gets things straight and continues to live a prosperous life.
14. Kanye West
Kanye West was once an ignored rapper who was able to curate and produce amazing beats but it wasn't long after that he became the megastar that he is today. In the early 2000s, Kanye was producing smash hits for Roc-a-Fella Records artist, Jay Z and in 2004, released his debut album, The College Dropout, under the same imprint. Many at the record label thought of Kanye as strange and sheltered but he soon proved that there was a method to his madness.
Since then, Ye has gone diamond in record sales worldwide and tours the globe after dropping a project when he chooses to. He's even entered the world of design and has helped adidas become one of the most selling brands in the United States with his YEEZY sneaker collection. After losing his mother in November of 2007, Kanye hasn't been the most stable mentally but hopefully, he finds the right group of people to support and truly care for his well-being.
13. 50 Cent
Prior to officially having a mainstream presence, 50 Cent took the route of the villain of hip-hop but, not before being shot with a total of nine bullets, one of which is still embedded in his jaw to this day and nearly losing his life in May of 2000. In 2005, he released his debut album produced by Eminem and Dr. Dre entitled, Get Rich or Die Tryin' and changed the entire landscape of hip-hop making everyone who was a fan of the genre into their own rendition of a gangsta.
Ever since then, 50 has had an insane following and has dropped tons of hit records and become of the savviest businessmen in the entire hip-hop realm. He became a multimillionaire after selling his stake in Vitamin Water to the Pepsi Corporation and has also become a hit on the silver screen and has even produced his own movies and television shows. His show Power is single-handedly keeping ShowTime afloat and he's currently working on several other acting projects as we speak. Not to mention, he's hilarious on social media.
Some could argue that Eazy-E doesn't belong on this list with the storyline of Eazy-E not originally writing his own rhymes but, many forget that the Compton rapper thought very little of hip-hop and was a true gangsta by the definition of the very word. Eazy-E became the standout member of the infamous hip-hop group named N.W.A with his uniquely high-pitched voice and hardcore delivery. His lyrical content was shocking during the release of the group's debut album, Straight Outta Compton, which helped instantly popularize the group.
His 1988, debut solo album, Eazy-Duz-It, is one of the best produced and live instrumentation hip-hop albums of all-time even with its highly questionable content. Unfortunately, we lost Eazy-E at the extremely young age of just 30-years-old due to complications with the AIDS virus. To this very day, his legacy lives on and will never be forgotten.
11. Andre 3000
Andre 3000 is probably the most eccentric and eclectic hip-hop artist of all-time and his body of work proves just that and why he is one of the greatest as well. Andre 3000 is known as one-half of the notorious and legendary hip-hop duo, Outkast alongside Atlanta rapper, Big Boi and surpassed superstardom with their list of albums. The two first arrived on the scene with their 1994 debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, which shook up the entire industry's perspective of southern hip-hop and after dropping hits like 'Jazzy Belle', 'So Fresh & So Clean', 'I Like The Way You Move', and 'Ms. Jackson' there was no denying that both Andre and Big Boi were a force to be reckoned with.
One flaw Andre 3000 might have is that he's never dropped an official solo album, the double disk, 'Speakerboxxx/The Love Below' could arguably be considered solo projects from both artists but still, puts an asterisk next to 3 Stacks name as the greatest of all time. Andre 3000 has supposedly retired from rap but pops up from time to time as a guest feature on other artist's projects. He recently released a two-song EP entitled, Look Ma No Hands, dedicated to his deceased mother this past Mother's Day.
Here's yet another hip-hop artist that is arguably the greatest of all-time simply due to his influence of some the greats of today. Rakim's lyrical ability and vocal cadence is one to be admired, no particular hip-hop artist really embodies cool the way that Rakim does and has throughout his lengthy music career. Rakim is one-half of the legendary hip-hop group Eric B and Rakim and their debut album, Paid in Full, released in July of 1987 became the blueprint for many patrons who wanted to become emcees.
With tracks like 'Eric B. For President', 'Pump Up The Volume', and 'Don't Sweat The Technique' the New York hip-hop act is able to tour internationally to this very day. It's not hard to find Rakim either being recognized for his work or teaching the youth about the culture of hip-hop as he truly a legend and a godfather to the entire art form and deserves all the praise in the world.
9. Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar coming in at the nine slot probably has raised a few eyebrows but the young Compton emcee has accomplished so much in a very short span of time. His independently released debut album, Section.80 dropped with the help of Top Dawg Entertainment in July 2011 and he hasn't looked back since. Kendrick Lamar also known as K.Dot teamed up with Dr. Dre and his Aftermath record label for the release of his second album, good kid, m.A.A.d city which launched him into superstardom.
Since then, he's won a total of eleven Grammys and is not only the first hip-hop artist to win a Pulitzer Prize for his album, DAMN but the first ever pop artist to win the iconic recognition award. There's really no telling what he has next on his list of accomplishments but there's no denying that he can out rap majority of today's hip-hop artists with ease.
8. Dr. Dre
Here's yet another arguable entry that has made the list due to his known history of having other artists write his lyrics for him in Dr. Dre but, what Dre lacks in lyrical ability he makes up for his legendary production ability. Originally starting out as a DJ in the group known as The World Class Wreckin' Cru, Dr. Dre was able to gain a rare knowledge in musicianship which later led to the curation of his first solo debut album entitled, The Chronic, that released in 1992 which became an instant classic. Dr. Dre then went on to release his sophomore offering entitled, The Chronic: 2001 which was certified as another hip-hop classic nearly a decade later.
Dre became known as a musical genius and helped mold the careers of other well-known hip-hop artists including Eminem, 50 Cent, and The Game. These days, the Compton rapper/producer is taking the tech world by storm after releasing his Beats by Dre headphones. With the millions rolling in from his endeavor, music doesn't appear to be his main focus currently but yet he still remains a legend in the hip-hop community.
7. Snoop Dogg
It's almost hard to believe that at one point in Snoop Dogg's early career he was nervous to even look up or look directly into cameras as he's now probably the most recognized figure in hip-hop ever. Coming on the scene on Dr. Dre's 'Deep Cover' single, Snoop raised several eyebrows with his smooth flow and cadence and later his debut 1993 album, Doggystyle was in heavy rotation around the country. Since then, he's released a total of sixteen solo projects which have all done well throughout his lengthy career.
These days, Snoop is running his very own youth football league and teaching local Los Angeles youth how to live as men and to use their resources to change their position in life. He also has a huge YouTube following, has appeared in tons of movies and television shows, and has entered the marijuana industry. His latest and first gospel album ever, Bible of Love, made it to number one on the Billboard charts. There isn't anything Uncle Snoop can't do.
6. Jay Z
Jay Z is probably the most successful hip-hop act turned businessman in the industry and everyone in the hip-hop realm is chasing to reach his status. Not to mention, he also has one of best flows and most unique voices in hip-hop of all-time. Ever since the release of his debut album in 1996 entitled, Reasonable Doubt, he's been a force to reckon with and has yet to fall off musically throughout his illustrious career. Jay has earned a total of 21 Grammys and a number of other accolades throughout his career but now, he's on a path of ownership.
Jay Z is currently the owner of major music streaming service Tidal, a record label imprint known as Roc Nation, an owner of several liquor brands, and runs a sports agency entitled Roc Nation sports. His lyrical ability and content have grown throughout the years and he's truly the first hip-hop act we've seen grow and not become cliche or unwarranted. Jay is the greatest of all-time in many fans eyes and for obvious reasons.
5. Ice Cube
Many tend to forget how impactful Ice Cube is as a hip-hop artist especially being that he's surpassed the music realm and has so many different types of credits under his belt. Ice Cube was the mastermind behind N.W.A and wrote most of the group's lyrics before breaking off the group and releasing his debut AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted in 1990. Ice Cube is also responsible for one of the greatest diss records of all-time aimed at his old bandmates of N.W.A, especially Eazy-E, entitled 'No Vaseline'.
Throughout the '90s Ice Cube was one of the hardest and unapproachable emcees in the game but things changed when he starred in and released his self-written movie entitled Friday in 1995. Cube already had several acting credits under his belt but with Friday becoming a hood classic it propelled his career into Hollywood which ultimately allowed him to star in and write several major motion pictures. The west coast hip-hop artist has his own production company called Cube Vision and recently started his own professional three-on-three basketball league called the BIG3.
Nas, the greatest hip-hop street poet of all-time comes in at the four spot and is recognized as one of the greatest for obvious reasons. When he released his debut album, Illmatic, in 1994, he was only 20-years-old and was able to relate to so many hip-hop enthusiasts the project became an instant classic. His ability to provoke emotion through his lyrical content and delivery is a skill that many have yet to master but he's been able to do throughout his lengthy and illustrious music career.
With hits like 'If I Ruled The World [Imagine That]', 'One Love', and 'Hate Me Now' Nas has gained both an underground and mainstream following and has lately found his own path to ownership as the associate publisher of Mass Appeal, a partial owner in the Bevel shaving blade company, and has several other business ventures underneath his belt. Consistency in his musical delivery can be argued but he's a legend nonetheless.
3. Notorious B.I.G.
The Christopher we acknowledge is Wallace and that just so happens to be the Notorious B.I.G.'s government name for those of you who might be confused. Biggie Smalls is one of the greatest to ever touch a microphone solely based on his lyrical ability, unique vocal range, cadence, and witty punchlines. B.I.G. had the ability to bring any group of people together with his music and gave people the confidence to feel great in their own skin and there aren't too many people live that can do that with their music.
With only two full bodies of work, the Notorious B.I.G. is considered as one of the greatest because nearly he verse he performed was curated to perfection. Biggie had songs for everyone ranging from the gentlest of women to the most hardcore street dudes and united hip-hop after he was gunned down in May 1997. We lost one of the greatest emcees ever due to mindless violence and the entire realized that following his passing. Rest in power to the Brooklyn legend.
Who would have thought that impoverished white kid from the slums of Detroit would become one of the greatest rappers of all-time? Apparently, he did especially being that he grew up reading the dictionary in order to increase his vocabulary for rhymes. With the help of Dr. Dre, Eminem was able to rise to prominence with his 1999 album, The Slim Shady LP, which gained him an insane following selling millions of records. His next album, The Marshall Mathers LP, took listeners on a journey into his dark and twisted mind as he rapped about his struggles with his mother and girlfriend.
Throughout his career, his projects have sparked controversy about domestic abuse and sociopathic behavior but Eminem reassured the public that it was pure entertainment until years later he revealed via his music that he struggled with prescription pain pill addiction that forced him to seek help. Now, the Detroit rapper continues to make music, which some might say is declining but as long as his health is intact and he's mentally stable all is well and he will remain another legend in the culture as well.
1. Tupac Shakur
The moment you've all been waiting for... Sitting at the number one spot is none other than the infamous Tupac Shakur. Tupac might not be the most lyrical or technical hip-hop artist to ever grace the planet but the way that his music impacted people is what makes him as special as he is to the hip-hop culture. Yes, Tupac did have misogynistic and violent lyrical content but with tracks like 'Brenda's Got A Baby', 'So Many Tears', and 'Dear Mama' he knew exactly what his people needed in order to make it another day.
We're all aware that Tupac is no longer with us after being shot several times in Las Vegas September of 1996. And it's amazing that someone with so much talent had so much influence on the world at just 25-years-old, we can only imagine what he would have been able to do today with more knowledge and experience under his belt but with Tupac being another sacrificial lamb to the realm of hip-hop, he will never be forgotten and will forever be a guide for all of us to live better lives. Rest well, Tupac Amaru Shakur.
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