Deciding on the greatest MC of all time is quite the challenge. Hundreds of great contenders have joined the music scene over the past few decades, making it near impossible to title just one MC as the reigning leader.
With the above being said, however, we still enjoy a challenge. With help from Hip Hop Wiki’s list of the best rappers, we’ve put together 30 of the greatest. Read on to discover more about these MC’s and how they reshaped the world of music.
30. Masta Ace
Masta Ace had a whole lot of rappers surrounding and supporting him, but it’s his own talents that made it onto this list. He’s full of wit and charm, taking influence from some of the biggest names in the industry.
AZ is another rapper that is far too underrated. Although he takes a different, more intelligent, approach to rapping and all that comes with it, this is what makes him stand out from the crowd.
28. Talib Kweli
Talib Kweli has been mastering the art of songwriting since a very young age, heightened by the fact that he grew up in an educational background. He soon started using hip-hop to empower the community around him, making him well respected far and wide.
GZA is no doubt one of the most highly praised MC’s in the Wu-Tang Clan. He knows how to compliment smart metaphors, delivering them with nothing other than a smooth and enticing beat.
26. Black Thought
Black Thought is another rapper that isn’t afraid to experiment with sound. He is considered the “scientist” of the hip-hop world, constantly evolving and using his knowledge to deliver hit after hit.
25. Big L
Although murdered at the young age of 24, Big L made enough of a mark on hip-hop to last a lifetime. In the short period he was active, he made enough material to influence generations of aspiring rappers. It’s safe to say that his talent and legacy still lives on.
24. MC Lyte
MC Lyte came in soaring after assisting Sinead O’Connor with a hit dance song and making some very bold moves in her personal life. It’s safe to say that MC Lyte does not do things quietly, which as an MC, is the best way to be.
23. Pharoahe Monch
Pharoahe Monch is arguably one of the most prominent lyricists around. His broad views and ability to take his fans to another world has long been recognised, making his music the perfect escape.
22. Kanye West
It’s near impossible to come across someone who hasn’t heard of Kanye West. With lifestyle affairs and controversial opinions put to one side, he’s undoubtedly one of the best producers around. His technique and flow evolves with every album, making us all intrigued for more.
21. Mos Def
There aren’t many MC’s like Mos Def. In his short stint before turning to acting, he made upbeat hip-hop tunes that even your grandparents would enjoy. Focusing on nothing but clean lyrics and a good time, we hope to see more Mos Def inspired music in the future.
In our opinion, Redman is an incredibly underrated rapper, which is why he deserved to be featured on this list. He has a lively persona that switches with each performance, keeping his audience on their toes while dropping unforgettable beats.
19. Big Pun
Big Pun was the first solo Latino rapper to go platinum, which is more than enough of a statistic to prove his greatness. He’s known for delivering fast rhymes backed with a whole lot of fire – something that the rap scene can’t get enough of.
18. Lauryn Hill
Although times are certainly changing, there haven’t been many female influences in the world of rap as we know it. There are, however, some amazing exceptions. Lauryn Hill has been providing us with non-stop beats since 1998, proving that absolutely anyone can enter the world of rap.
Common has been on the hip-hop scene for well over two decades, telling stories of his troubled past through meaningful poetry and catchy bars. He came from the streets, and in the world of rap, you can use this to your favour.
16. Chuck D
Chuck D is a hugely influential figure and has been for quite some time. He has a very cutthroat approach to rapping, paying no attention to who he’s intimidating in the process.
15. André 3000
André 3000 is undoubtedly one of the most multi-talented rappers in the industry. He doesn’t just rap – he sings, acts and plays guitar, too! Although he’s yet to release his own standalone album, the impact that André 3000 has when featuring on singles is more than enough.
14. LL Cool J
LL Cool J is a prime example of a rapper that moves with the times. While some rappers get stuck in their way and start to fall behind, LL Cool J forever reinvented his landscape, experimenting with new tunes and appealing to the masses.
13. Slick Rick
With a name as cool as Slick Rick, it was clear that this rapper was only destined for greatness. Although his career dipped between visits to jail, Ricky Walters always came back stronger and with yet enough story to tell.
12. Kool G Rap
If hardcore hip-hop is more your vibe, then you’ll have a lot of respects to pay to Kool G Rap. Classed as the “grandfather of hardcore hip-hop”, Kool G Rap will forever be known for unbeatable rhymes that came straight from the streets.
We can all agree that Scarface will forever hold the title of “voice of the hood”. With an iconic name to suit such an iconic presence, he grasped mainstream music with both hands and tweaked it to make it his own. He knew how to get the crowds going, succeeding every time.
10. Ice Cube
Before Ice Cube showed his comedic side on the 21 Jump Street films, he paved a way for himself in the world of rap. With a not-so-subtle voice and incredibly (almost cult-like!) fanbase, Ice Cube proved that you don’t have to have an iconic style to succeed. It’s all about charisma.
9. Kool Moe Dee
Kool Moe Dee is responsible for creating “battle rap” as we know it. He’s long had a career in music and acting, winning gigs thanks to his incredible wit and strong presence. You wouldn’t wanna mess with Kool Moe Dee.
It’s safe to say that Eminem was going to feature on this list at some point. His ability to rap faster than lightspeed is recognised by many, matching his incredible skill to combine dystopian rhymes with complex beats. Eminem has positively impacted many of our lives and will forever continue to do so.
KRS-One is another rapper that uses his platform to create a more positive light. He takes experience and stories from violence on the streets and turns them into songs inspired by hope and harmony.
6. Big Daddy Kane
Labelled as the “original king of swagger”, Big Daddy Kane has a lot going for him. His charm and confidence oozes when on stage, and when off stage, it continues to shine through the clothes he wears. Big Daddy Kane is responsible for making the world of rapping so much more about music; it’s a lifestyle.
Jay-Z is a prime example of a rapper that went from rags to riches. He’s long provided hope to the younger generation of aspiring rappers, proving that if you put in the hustle, the rewards will come flooding in. Jay-Z is the epitome of rapping combined with marketing.
Tupac Shakur is no doubt the most transcendental rapper of all time. His legacy has reached every corner of the world, with rappers far and wide trying oh-so hard to imitate his influence.
3. The Notorious B.I.G
The Notorious B.I.G will forever be considered as an absolute legend in the world of MC’s. He made his mark on everything he touched, enticing audiences of any age or gender. His flow was unbeatable, and there’s never been an MC quite like him since. He set the stakes very high.
It doesn’t matter what Nas is rapping about – the way in which he delivers any form of lyric is outstanding. While some of his songs are considered to be “novelty”, Nas keeps his dedicated fan base gripped with his quick-witted nature and classic approach to albums.
Many rap enthusiasts far and wide agree that Rakim deserves the greatest MC crown. This is mainly due to the fact that he is so distinguishable from the rest. While a lot of other rappers focused on drugs and weapons, Rakim took it upon himself to shine a more positive light on his music. Celebrating his incredible skills, Rakin focused on positive lyrics that would make a difference. He is also responsible for introducing multisyllabic rhymes into the world of rap. Pure talent.
With so many great MC’s out there, choosing just 30 of them felt near impossible. Who do you believe to be the greatest rapper of all time? We’d love to hear your views.
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