Top 10 Rappers Of All Time

Jun 29, 2004

The Bottom Line All of these rappers are amazing, and I think you should listen to material from every one of them if you haven't already.

There are a TON of terrible rap artists out there. It's a shame, because they are the ones that quite often make the most money, and get the most radio play. People like Nelly and Master P are disgraces to Rap and the culture it represents. So I am here to inform you of my 10 personal favorite rappers of all time. Some may be debatable, but all of these are can't-miss MCs. I highly recommend each and every one of them.

10. Eminem
I’m starting off my list with the most controversial rapper of all time, Marshall Mathers, AKA Eminem. This cat was crazy on the underground scene, winning freestyle tournaments left and right, trying to make a living doing what he loved. He had an unnoticed underground release when he put out his first album Infinite, but young Marshall showed exactly that, infinite potential. He was spotted by rapper/producer Dr. Dre, who turned the Detroit native into a star. Em first appeared on the mainstream rap scene with the hit single My Name Is and was instantly turned into a star. His first major release, The Slim Shady LP is one of the most successful rap albums in recent history, but was topped by his own 2nd album, The Marshall Mathers LP. Unfortunately, things have gone downhill from these two albums, and Eminem has totally changed his style over to appeal to an even wider audience. But rap fans simply can’t forget his golden days when he was at the top of the rap game.

Recommended albums: The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP
Top 5 Songs: Stan, As The World Turns, Till I Collapse, Infinite, Bad Meets Evil

9. Jay-Z
“The Best Rapper Alive” That’s what the guy says about himself. I don’t know about that, but he’s pretty close. Jigga released his debut album Reasonable Doubt in the mid-90’s, and has since been nearly untouchable. It seems like everything Jay-Z touches sells, whether it be his albums or even his own clothing line. He has released one classic in Reasonable Doubt, and another possible one in The Blueprint. Most of his other albums are good aswell, with just a few exceptions that don’t even deserve to get mentioned in this. In 2003, Jay-Z supposedly ended his saga in rap with The Black Album, a hugely successful CD that bared not one, not two, but six chart topping singles. Sounds like a pretty good way to end a career. But despite the great finish, it is rumored that Jay-Z has signed a contract with Eminem’s label Shady Aftermath and will release an album under the alias S. Carter. An album with the beats from the infamous Dr. Dre...sounds pretty promising. Jay-Z will always be remembered as one of the icons of rap.

Recommended albums: Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint, The Black Album
Top 5 Songs: Dead Presidents II, Can’t Knock The Hustle, Big Pimpin’, Jigga That Ni**a, 99 Problems

8. GZA
At number 8, we come to The Genius, possibly the greatest lyricist to ever touch a mic. While he has been making a career out of being totally unknown, he has still established a place in most hardcore rap fans CD collections. GZA was unquestionably the best rapper in his group, The Wu-Tang Clan, possibly the biggest and greatest rap crew of all time. He has dropped jaws aplenty with his captivating and amazing wordplay on the mic, and has released a solo classic in Liquid Swords. Most people regard the greatest gem of his career as 36 Chambers, another classic album featuring GZA, but I feel Liquid Swords was an even greater work of genius from The Genius. While the average rap fans may not recognize him, hardcore hip-hop heads will always bow to him for his skill on the mic.

Recommended albums: Liquid Swords, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Legend Of The Liquid Sword
Top 5 Songs: B.I.B.L.E., C.R.E.A.M., Duel Of The Iron Mic, Cold World, Luminal

7. Ice Cube
Ice Cube’s been around for a while. Though he is probably known more for his work with NWA than his solo career, he is still widely known around the hip-hop community. Without Ice Cube, we might not have any certified gangsta rappers anymore today. Cube still represents himself and the West Coast to the fullest, bringing a style only he can to the table. The guy’s tough, you have to admit that from the start, but he is also a great lyricist, often providing though provoking lyrics over his typical banging beat. He can rap about everything ranging from girls, Cali, and of course, just having a good day. Ice Cube is a legend, and no matter what you think of him, you gotta show him some love for being real, and doing it in a great way.

Recommended albums: Straight Outta Compton, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, Death Certificate
Top 5 Songs: It Was A Good Day, Straight Outta Compton, F*ck Tha Police, My Summer Vacation, The Ni**a Ya Love To Hate

6. Nas
Ah...good ol’ Nasty NaS. Nasir Jones, AKA Nas, is a very interesting person when it comes to the history of his career. He dropped what was arguably the best album of all time, and then went on a pretty big drought in the game. He has released several gems over the course of his career, but fans often overlooked them. And Nastradamus was absolutely terrible. Now, let’s go to the positive points of his career. Illmatic was amazing. In my mind, it is clearly the greatest album in rap history, a certified classic. He also released another solid album after that in It Was Written, which is way overlooked in terms of sales, but is widely respected by nearly everybody who has heard of it. After that, he released Stillmatic, which was a big success in terms of popularity and content. Many also consider that album a classic, probably one of the top 5 albums to be released in the new Millennium so far. In 2002, he released The Lost Tapes, which was a collection of unreleased tracks compiled on one CD. Another great album, Nas showcases his rapping abilities over fitting production. He hasn’t released anything great since, but he plans to release his next album, Street Disciple sometime this year. Watch out for it...Nasty NaS might just be back.

Recommended albums: Illmatic, It Was Written, Stillmatic, Lost Tapes
Top 5 Songs: N.Y. State Of Mind, It Ain’t Hard To Tell, The World Is Yours, The Message, Rewind,

5. Big L
Only 5 left! To start off the second half, we have the late Big L. A legendary MC with an infinite amount of street credibility, Big L is the epitome of the MC. Another amazing lyricist on this list, L was known for both his amazing punch lines and freestyling ability. His first album, Lifestyles ov da Poor & Dangerous, is in my opinion one of the top 10 rap CDs of all time. He showcased his aggressiveness and skill on the album, tearing apart the mic with his vicious and cold-hearted rhymes. In his second LP, The Big Picture, he showed a bit of a softer and more commercial side. Not quite the same quality as his first release, but still a great listen. Big L made this list not only for the amazing rhymes he produced over the course of his career, but the ones that he could’ve been able to spit had his life not been cut short. Rest in Peace.

Recommended albums: Lifestyles ov da Poor & Dangerous, The Big Picture
Top 5 Songs: MVP, Ebonics, Put It On, All Black, 㤆 Freestyle

4. Notorious B.I.G.
What can be said about this legend that hasn’t been said yet? Biggie Smalls was an amazing talent, first scouted out by Bad Boy’s own Puff Daddy, now known as P. Diddy, in the 90’s. The two grew tight throughout the course of B.I.G.’s career, and Diddy still makes sure that everyone remembers this fallen legend. When Biggie released his first album, Ready To Die, he was instantly shot up to the top of the charts. He turned the heads of everybody across the nation with this classic LP, and turned into a huge mainstream icon. He was crowned as the King of New York, which was a big honor considering the huge amount of talent there. B.I.G. also had another album, Life After Death, which was released right around the time of his tragic slaying. The album had several hits, and is sometimes considered a classic despite its status of the infamous Double Album. After his death, Puffy also released Born Again, which was simply a CD of remixes of Biggie’s hits, a ploy to put money in his wallet. It is unfortunate that we had to lose such a great person and talented rapper, but in the time he spent here, he made an enormous impact on the game, and will always be considered one of the best.

Recommended albums: Ready To Die, Life After Death
Top 5 Songs: Juicy, Big Poppa, Hypnotize, Notorious Thugs, Suicidal Thoughts

3. Big Pun
Big Pun is the most underrated MC of all time, hands down. The main reason for this is that he hardly got to put out any work, he had only released one album before his death. But even if this was his only CD ever to hit stores, he would still have to be regarded as one of the greats. Fortunately, Pun has a slew of underground tracks available for download and even purchase, and his first CD, Capital Punishment has several of his best songs on it. Big Pun was an amazing talent in the rap game, and there’s not much to say about him, simply because he was just another MC. He didn’t try to be a cheap gimmick like other rappers, he was always himself. Pun had a style that was all his own, and that is why he’s one of the greatest. He combined personality and talent seamlessly, and this is why he is considered so amazing in my book, he was a special rapper. While he may not have released all the songs he could have, Pun will always be one of the greatest potential icons in my mind, and near the top of my list of the greatest rappers ever.

Recommended albums: Capital Punishment, Endangered Species
Top 5 Songs: Beware, Super Lyrical, Who Is A Thug, You Ain’t A Killer, I’m Not A Player

2. Tupac
He is the biggest icon in rap history. He is the epitome of all rap artists. He is the most widely respected rapper, possibly even musician, in the last 20 years. And yes, I am talking about Tupac Shakur. Tupac was simply phenomenal; there was no other rapper who could even come close to releasing the amount of brilliant work this man did. Although his life was tragically cut short, Pac is widely considered the best ever in his profession. He is still selling albums even after his demise, and even has whole new albums with his name on them being sold. This is just simply unheard of, nobody could still have new material being released and sold over 5 years after his or her death. Nobody except Tupac. Pac wasn’t just another rapper; he was at a whole different level than other MCs. Representing California to the fullest over the course of his life, Tupac gave the west coast the respect that it still has today. He gave rap the status that it has today; he was one of the main reasons that it became such a huge industry. His rhymes weren’t just about jewelry and women, they touched on nearly all objects from teen pregnancy to just having love for your mama. I could write a whole book about why Shakur makes this list with ease, but I’ll just leave it at this: Tupac was clearly an amazing rapper, and an even greater person. He made rap the industry that it is today.

Recommended albums: Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., Me Against The World, All Eyez On Me, Greatest Hits
Top 5 Songs: Changes, Dear Mama, California Love, Life Goes On, Brenda’s Got a Baby

“WHAT?! Tupac isn’t at Number 1?? Who could possibly beat him you idiot?!” If that’s what you thought to yourself, I’m not very surprised. But this next rapper is the only MC that truly fits at that Number One spot. If you’ve ever heard him before, you can understand. If you haven’t, go and pick up one of his albums. Now.

1. Rakim
Rakim...the God of rap. People might say Tupac was the rapper that turned the whole game around, which is true to a certain extent. But while Pac made some changes (no pun intended) to rap, Rakim revolutionized the game. He took hip-hop to another level. Without the GOAT, there wouldn’t be any Nas, Jay-Z...maybe even Tupac! Alright, now let’s just get to the point here. Paid In Full. The album that changed it all. This album was 5-10 years ahead of its time when it dropped late in the 80’s. Although Rakim hasn’t gotten nearly as much respect as he deserves from the average rap fans, people who truly know the game realize what Rakim did for it. This cat wasn’t just years ahead of his time, he was light years ahead of it. He made the advanced lyrical genre of music we all know and love what it is currently, only without that J-Kwon and Chingy crap. He has been one of the most influential people in all kinds of music in recent history, and although most rap fans might state that Pac is untouchable on the list of the greatest, you just make sure to tell them what you’ve learned today. Rakim is hands down the greatest rhymer to ever touch the mic.

Recommended albums: Paid In Full, Follow The Leader
Top 5 Songs: Paid In Full, I Ain’t No Joke, Follow The Leader, Eric B. Is President, I Know You Got Soul

Alright, we’ve made it to through the list! I’d like to thank everybody for reading it, and even more so, I’d like to thank the rappers I’ve mentioned for giving me something to listen to. They deserve to be commended for their accomplishments. In addition to the MCs listed above, I have compiled 5 more rappers who deserve to be listed:

Honorable Mentions
Kool G Rap
Big Daddy Kane

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Location: Aurora, CO, Aurora
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About Me: Single, love rap, sports, and women. That's all you need to know.