Do you want to know the best rappers of all time?
When it comes to rap, there are a lot of different schools of thought. Some people believe that the best rappers are those who can tell a story, while others believe that the best rappers are those who can spit complex rhymes.
However, there is one thing that everyone can agree on – and that’s the fact that these 21 rappers are the best of all time. From old-school legends to modern-day icons, these are the best rappers in history.
List of the Best Rappers of All Time
1. The Notorious B.I.G.
The No. 1 spot on this list goes to the late The Notorious B.I.G., often referred to as Biggie Smalls or simply Biggie. The Brooklyn-born rapper is one of the most iconic figures in hip-hop and his influence can still be felt today.
Biggie’s emotional and brutally honest lyrics helped define a generation and he is widely considered to be one of the greatest rappers of all time.
Nas is one of the most respected rappers of all time and he has released a string of classic albums throughout his career. Nas has received overwhelming praise for his storytelling and lyricism, which has helped define East Coast hip-hop.
In addition, Nas has collaborated with some of the biggest names in hip-hop and he is widely considered to be one of the greatest rappers ever.
Jay-Z is one of the most iconic figures in hip-hop and he has a catalog of classic albums that have earned him critical acclaim. From his debut album Reasonable Doubt to his recent work 4:44, Jay-Z has become a master of his craft and is often regarded as one of the best hip-hop lyricists ever.
2Pac is one of the most iconic and influential rappers to ever hit the rap game. He is the most successful and controversial rapper ever, selling over 75 million albums worldwide. His debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, was released in 1991 and immediately garnered both critical and commercial success.
Best of all, his following albums, including All Eyez On Me and Me Against the World, further cemented his place as one of the all-time best rappers.
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5. André 3000
André Lauren Benjamin, better known as André 3000, is a rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer, and actor from Atlanta. He is best known for being one-half of the hip-hop duo Outkast, alongside Big Boi.
André 3000 is widely regarded as one of the best rappers of all time and his lyrics are packed with clever wordplay and social commentary. His style is unique, using intricate and often humorous metaphors to convey his message.
Moreover, he has been credited with helping to bring hip-hop into the mainstream with his accessible and commercial sound.
The most controversial rapper of all time, Eminem’s rise to fame was meteoric, and he has become one of the best-selling artists of all time. His highly technical flow and sharp lyrical content have made him a favorite among hip-hop fans.
Eminem’s music often reflects on social issues, such as poverty and drug addiction, with his songs often leading to critical discussions of difficult topics. He has been nominated for 15 Grammy Awards, winning 10, and is widely considered to be one of the greatest rappers of all time.
Rakim was one of the most influential and highly respected rappers of all time. He first gained recognition with his 1986 debut album “Paid In Full,” which is still regarded as one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever made. Rakim’s rhymes were complex, often with multiple internal rhymes and double entendres.
Moreover, his flow was smooth, his delivery crisp and he had an incredible ability to craft stories with his lyrics. His influence on the genre is still obvious today, with many of the top rappers citing him as an inspiration. Rakim will go down in history as one of the greatest and most influential rappers ever.
8. Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar is considered to be one of the best rappers of all time. He has been consistently releasing quality music since his debut in 2003 and has earned 11 Grammy Awards over the course of his career.
His lyrical content is often thought-provoking and creative, discussing subjects such as police brutality, his upbringing, and his faith.
9. Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill was a prominent figure in hip-hop during the late 1990s and early 2000s. She is best known for her solo work, including her debut album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It won five Grammy Awards and is widely considered one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time.
Her music is soulful and socially conscious, often dealing with topics such as love, heartbreak, racism, and faith. In addition to her solo work, Hill was a member of the Fugees with Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel.
10. LL Cool J
LL Cool J (born James Todd Smith) is a Grammy Award-winning American rapper and actor. He was one of the first hip-hop artists to crossover into mainstream success. His debut album, Radio, was released in 1985 and was a massive success, launching his career as a hip-hop artist.
He has since released a number of successful albums, including Mama Said Knock You Out (1990), Mr. Smith (1995), and G.O.A.T. (2000). He continues to be an influential figure in hip-hop and is known for his socially conscious lyrics, often focusing on topics such as poverty, racism, and violence.
Brad Terrence Jordan, better known as Scarface, is an American rapper and music producer. He rose to fame in the early 1990s for his acclaimed solo debut, The Diary.
His follow-up album, 1996’s The Untouchable, was also well received and Scarface is widely regarded as one of the best lyricists in rap.
He has released a total of 11 albums and is also known for his collaborations with other legendary rappers like Jay-Z, Nas, and Snoop Dogg. Scarface is also a businessman, philanthropist, and actor who has had roles in films such as Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and Django Unchained.
12. Black Thought
Black Thought is an American rapper and actor known for being the lead MC of the Philadelphia-based group The Roots. He is widely regarded as one of the best lyricists of all time and has been consistently praised for his outstanding lyrical work.
Moreover, he got his start in the music industry when he joined The Roots in 1992, and the group went on to achieve both critical and commercial success.
Black Thought has also released solo material, collaborating with some of the biggest names in the music industry, and has appeared in various television shows and movies.
13. Big Daddy Kane
Big Daddy Kane is another legendary rapper who has had a great influence on the hip-hop world. He is considered one of the greatest lyricists of all time, with an extensive vocabulary and creative delivery.
His style was unique, combining hard-hitting beats with complex rhymes and smooth delivery. He released his debut album, Long Live The Kane, in 1988 which was critically acclaimed and launched his career as one of hip-hop’s most respected MCs.
is a legendary MC and one of the founding fathers of hip-hop. He got his start in The Bronx in the late 1970s and was part of the popular rap group Boogie Down Productions. KRS-One is known for his socially conscious lyrics and has collaborated with some of the biggest names in hip-hop, including DJ Premier and Ice Cube.
His classic albums include Criminal Minded and Return of the Boom Bap. He continues to tour and release music and is one of the most respected and influential rappers in history.
15. Ghostface Killah
Ghostface Killah is another one of the most influential and celebrated rappers in the industry. He is a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, one of the greatest hip-hop groups of all time.
He has released several critically acclaimed solo albums and is renowned for his lyrical complexity and storytelling ability. His legacy in hip-hop will continue to be celebrated for years to come.
17. Snoop Dogg
No discussion of rap music is complete without mentioning the Doggfather himself, Snoop Dogg. The Long Beach, California native first came to fame with his debut album Doggystyle in 1993 and has since become one of the most iconic names in hip-hop. He’s a prolific artist, with 21 studio albums and countless guest appearances.
With his distinctive flow and effortless cool, Snoop Dogg has earned his place as one of hip-hop’s most beloved stars. He has been nominated for over two dozen Grammy Awards, and in 2015 was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Jadakiss is an American rapper from New York City. He’s best known as a member of the famous hip-hop trio, The LOX, alongside fellow rappers Styles P and Sheek Louch.
He has also had an impressive solo career, with four studio albums to his name and numerous collaborations with some of the biggest names in hip-hop. Jadakiss is renowned for his gritty lyrics and punchlines, which have earned him a strong following among fans of the genre.
One of the most influential and recognizable voices in hip-hop, DMX (born Earl Simmons) exploded onto the rap scene in 1998 with his debut album, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot.
His signature growl and hard-hitting lyrics made him a fan favorite and his success continued with four consecutive No. 1 albums throughout the late ‘90s and early 2000s.
20. Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne was one of the most successful rappers of the late 2000s. Wayne’s blend of southern rap and punk rock shaped the sound of hip-hop in the 2000s, and he was instrumental in popularizing mixtapes as a form of music distribution.
His albums Tha Carter, Tha Carter II, and Tha Carter III are considered classics by many rap fans. He also had huge success with his hits such as “A Milli” and “Lollipop”.
21. Kanye West
Kanye West has become one of the most iconic rappers in modern history. Not only has he released hit albums that have broken records, but his influence as a producer and songwriter is highly praised and influential in the hip-hop world.
Best of all, he has received numerous awards, including 21 Grammy Awards, and has created some of rap’s most memorable songs, such as “Gold Digger”, “Stronger”, and “All of the Lights.
Frequently Ask Questions
Who is the greatest rapper of all time?
This is highly subjective and opinions vary greatly. Some of the most commonly cited greatest rappers of all time include Jay-Z, Tupac, Eminem, Nas, Notorious B.I.G., and Rakim. All of these artists have achieved immense success in the hip-hop world and have left an indelible mark on the genre.
What is the most influential rap album of all time?
Again, opinions vary greatly on this one. Some of the most influential rap albums of all time include Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, Tupac’s All Eyez On Me, Nas’s’ Illmatic, and Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city.
These albums have shaped the sound of hip-hop and are considered classics by many fans.
What genres does rap encompass?
Rap encompasses a wide variety of genres including hip-hop, trap, grime, boom bap and others. Each of these genres has its own distinct sound, and all are essential parts of rap music.
Who are the best rappers of all time according to you and why?
Everyone has their own opinion of who the greatest rappers of all time are, and mine might not align with the general consensus. Topping my list are Eminem, Tupac Shakur, and Kanye West.
Eminem has managed to stay relevant in the rap industry for nearly two decades despite an ever-evolving soundscape and his storytelling is among the best I have ever heard in any genre.
Tupac’s sharp-tongued delivery brought a gritty realism to hip hop that had never before been seen on such a large scale and he was a pioneer for conscious rap. Lastly, Kanye West’s willingness to take risks and push boundaries both musically and lyrically sets him apart from many other MCs out there today.
With meaningful lyricism combined with boundary-pushing beats, it’s no surprise that he is often hailed as one of the greats.
What are the defining characteristics of a great rapper in your opinion?
From Melle Mel and Rakim to Cardi B and Drake, the world is blessed with a wide array of amazing rappers. For me, three characteristics stand out as the cornerstones of greatness in this genre.
Firstly, it takes creativity, a certain daringness of thought, to come up with bars that hit hard. Superb lyricism requires taking risks and pushing boundaries in order to stand out from the crowd.
Secondly, having a unique flow and rhythm drastically adds to a rapper’s overall appeal. While there are naturally competitors for the top places in rap music history, ultimately an individual style is something that truly sets great rappers apart from just good ones.
Lastly, genuine charisma ensures maximum impact when engaging with any audience – nothing fireworks on stage when an artist has no energy or charm!
All these elements culminate in defining what makes a great rapper in my opinion; combine them correctly and the sky is truly the limit!
Do you think that there is a certain type of music that is better suited for rap, or can any genre be used effectively for rapping purposes?
The beauty of rap music lies in its versatility; it can accommodate any genre. By no means does one genre need to be set aside for rapping; hip-hop fans embrace a wide variety of sounds, from traditional folk to electronic and beyond.
For those crafting a truly broad palette with their work, combining elements from many genres can make a track stand out in the field.
Ultimately, whether rap is placed into blues, jazz, soul, or any other kind of song, it’s still rap and that doesn’t ever change. As long as the artist knows how to use the right words and rhythms creatively, any genre can be used effectively for making great rap music.
Who are some of your favorite rappers and what do you like about their style/music/flow etc?
Two of my favorite rappers are J. Cole and Logic. I enjoy their music for many reasons; their lyrics are incredibly thought-provoking and often poignantly reflect their personal struggles.
They bring an interesting blend of hopefulness and darkness to their songs, which makes many of them very emotionally compelling. J. Cole’s introspective storytelling stands out from the pack, while Logic’s quick wit and rapid-fire flow are something I can listen to time and again.
Both bring a uniquely personal touch to their music that sets them apart from other artists in the rap scene, making them two of my favorite rappers.
How do you feel about the current state of the rap industry and where do you see it going in the future?
The rap industry is currently a thriving and highly popular genre of music. While the beats have remained relatively consistent over time, the lyrical content has seen considerable growth in recent years.
More and more rappers are utilizing their platform to discuss important topics such as mental health, racism, and police brutality in ways that are both meaningful and effective.
I believe that this trend will continue going forward, inspiring young listeners to be empowered by their own life experiences.
Additionally, I expect to see an increase in collaborations with other genres such as pop music that will create an even greater opportunity for artists to reach wider audiences.
Overall, the future of rap looks bright and exciting with new possibilities on the horizon.
Conclusion: Best Rappers of All Time
We hope this article has been helpful in giving you an overview of the history of rap and introducing some of the best rappers of all time.
Whether you’re just getting into hip-hop or have been a fan for years, the artists listed here are all worth checking out. From Run-DMC to Kendrick Lamar, these rappers have earned their place in the hip-hop hall of fame.
So, what are you waiting for? Put on your headphones and give these artists a listen! Who knows, you might just find your new favorite rapper.
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John is the Senior Content writer at BandMag. With 8+ years experience in content writing and SEO, he loves talking about content creation, SEO and his dog.