Sick bars, this is what we are looking for when putting together the best rappers of all time: who has can pull out best rhymes of the bag, who has sold the most records worldwide and who’s singing and rapping talents is undisputed. This is to say that if Dr Dre isn’t on this list merely because he has been the one producing them all, rather than the one performing some of the best rap songs of all time.
Marshall Mathers is the world’s bestselling artists on top of being one of the rappers of all time: from his beginnings in 1996 with his debut Album Infinite, Eminem has been producing some of the best rap songs of all times. From an obstinate and irreverent flow to the latest single Walk on Water featuring Beyoncé, Eminem has been able to express himself and use his talent to appeal and produce music with some of the greatest rap and pop artists since the 2000s.
With over 75 million records sold worldwide, Tupac Shakur is one of the greatest rappers of all time, despite the short live career due to his premature death in 1996 at age 25. Born in East Harlem, 2Pac has put in his songs some of the most representative themes of the society around him, including racial issues: amongst his most famous songs Changes, Hit ‘Em Up, and California Love. He also formed the group Thug Life in 1993 with Big Syke, Macadoshis, his stepbrother Mopreme Shakur and Rated D. The timeless meaning of 2Pac’s Change can speak to our generations and the once to come:
Come on come on
I see no changes wake up in the morning and I ask myself
Is life worth living should I blast myself?
Discovered by Dr. Dre in the early ‘90s, the Long Beach native has been producing music for over 25 years now: from his debut Doggystyle in 1993, to Doggfather in 1996, through his many troubles with the law – mainly for possession – his Rastafari announcement in 2012 and is reggae phase, until his 2017 new Album Neva Left, Snoop Dogg has been a stellar rapper, one of the most original rappers of all times. Amongst Snoop Dogg’s famous songs ‘Gin &Juice’, ‘Midnight Love’ and ‘Drop it Like it’s Hot’.
He was only 9 years old when he made his way in New Orleans in the world of rap: from his 1999 debut Tha Block Is Hot to his Tha Carter album series, Lil Wayne has been able to establish himself amongst the best rappers ever with his great skill in playing with words, beats that are playful and just ‘dope’: but that’s not all, in 2017 the best rappers of the like of Future and Drake have all been mentored by Lil Wayne. ‘A Milli’ is one his most famous songs together with ‘6Foot 7Foot’.
A product made in Compton, the California born rapper is an award-winning artist, first spotted by producer Dr.Dre, who later signed him under the label Aftermath Entertainment, a hub in which rap A stars of the calibre of Eminem were being produced. Lamar’s highly anticipated major-label debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, came out in 2012: with its low-key production and the atmospheric beats it which gain it wide acclaim worldwide. In 2017 Lamar has released his latest album ‘Damn’, which includes the hot single ‘Humble’, at the top of the best rap songs of 2017.
After teaming up with Big Boi to form Outkast, he has always been considered one of the most eccentric rapper and music personality of the last decade. This is where the realistic stereotype of the male black gansta rapper, the pimp one too, is completely put against the surrealistic and futuristic elements of his aesthetic, also known as Afrofuturistic or even rap nerd. In 2007, Andre 3000 started working as a solo artist, contributing and featuring some of the best performers out there. Only recently he announced he has quit rapping for good.
Also known as Biggie Smalls, Notorious B.I.G. is the symbol of east Coast gangsta rapping. His career was short lived as he was murdered at the age of 24 in Los Angeles. Bad Boy Records against Dr Dre productions from the West Coast. Notorious B.I.G won his battle thanks to his warm baritone, with his 6ft 3 in, 280 lbs and a wonky left eye, he debut with the album Ready to Die in 1994. He is the only rap artist who ever performed with Michael Jackson: it happened on the song ‘This Time Around’.
One of the greatest living rappers, Jay-Z has up to now 10 number one albums under his belt: his style is able to combine different genres, from R&B to eighties electropop. From his humble beginnings in Brooklyn, beginnings that started on the streets, and it was only after the encounter with East Coast rapper Jonathan Burke that his rapping career had the first big break. Then in 1997 came the collaboration on Life after death by Notorious B.I.G – after his death – and from there success came J-easy. Amongst his most famous tunes 99 Problems, Hard Knock Life and Empire State of Mind ft Alicia Keys.
Thanks to his intricate lyrics and his technical rhymes (internal rhymes that is), Busta Rhyme has to be considered one of the best rappers of all time: his unexpected fashion style combined with accelerated bars, make him an 11 Grammy Award winner. One of the most iconic rappers of the 90s and one of the top lyricist ever, with 9 albums released and some his hot hits are “Dangerous”, Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” and “Turn It Up (Remix)/Fire It Up”.
Amongst female rappers, Missy Elliot is the one – to be fair and honest – that could stand a chance amongst her colleagues in the early 2000s, when she came out with ‘Get Ur Freak On’, from This is Not a Test album. She won four Grammy awards and sold 30 million records in the USA. In 2017 she has released the album ‘I’m Better’, confirming that even after her 10 year career break started in 2005 due to health problems (Graves disease).
She once stated on the Graham Norton show that she makes up her own words, to the public’s dismay, she could actually speak a whole different kind of English. The girl is bonkers, we all know that, be she’s extremely talented: the girl can rap. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Nicki Minaj has been able to convert the family struggles into pure talent, making her one of the best rappers of all times.
Did you know that one of the best rappers of now and probably of all times attended Jewish school in Toronto? The only black person in the school possibly, a little bit like being the only white rapper in a blackman dominated world (It’s Eminem we are talking about). Drake is on crest of the wave now, after signing with Lil Wayne’s label Young Money Entertainment. He did not have his first big break as a rapper though: he dropped out of school to become an actor, and in fact he later became a star in TV show Degrassi for 7 years. His first Number one album was Thank Me Later, worth the Gold Platinum Album.
One of the best rappers ever, a music producer, a fashion designer, married to Kim Kardashian. The personal life and the controversial tweets made him very popular over the news, together with some bad temper episode during social events, and has even had a ‘best Kanye West’s outbursts’ chart made especially to mock his flamboyant personality. With
7 number one hits, 5 platinum album and 21 Grammy awards op to 2013, regardless of all the media buzz, he is one of the best rap talents of all times.
LL Cool J
One of the most iconic faces of 80s rap, LL Cool J has been able to reinvent himself over the years: from Mama said Knock you out ‘Ladies Love Cool James’ and the early beginnings with the label Def jam (founded by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons) to becoming an actor. His G.O.A.T. single in 2001 was a great hit and proved that he could juggle between his acting and rapping career with great majesty.
Dirty Dozen: the Detroit rap group include some of the best rappers of all time, with six member creating an alter ego each time. Formed in 1996, the group went mainstream, after Eminem’s success: Purple Pills, Fight Music and How Come are just some of their best songs. When the dozen was formed it included Eye-Kyu, Eminem, Bizarre, Proof, Fuzz Scoota, Mr. Porter, Bugz, Kuniva, DJ Head, Dirty Ratt, B-Flat, Charging Solider, Killa Hawk and Chaos Kid.
Big Daddy Kane
Speed syncopated rap is what makes Big Daddy Kane different from some of the other best rappers in history: his debut single Raw was released in 1987, but what established him amongst 90s rappers was the with the hit Ain’t No Half Stepping, from 1988’s Long Live the Kane and later the album It’s a Big Daddy Thing.
Straight out of Queens, raised by his grandmother after his mum – a drug dealer – died in a fire, a case that was never solved when he was only 8 years old. Rough life started early for him, drug dealing, arrest and bootcamp: after that his rapping career took off. But his style of rapping was no stranger to the gangsta lifestyle, and soon it became all autoreferential as in 2000 James Jackson was victim of several shootings, which left him severely injured. One of the best creators of club rap tunes ever.
Dennis Coles, after the successes with Wu-Tang Clan he went on a solo career and in 1996 he released his album Ironman. His name is taken from 1979 kung-fu film The Mystery of Chessboxing’s villain. After his debut he went on with widely acclaimed works such as Supreme Clientele, Fishscale, More Fish, and The Big Doe Rehab. What is his trademark? The loud, fast paced flow and the cryptic slang.
When 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G died there was a void to fill, in all senses: DMX was able to fill in and become the new king of rap in those years. His grit, his big and tattooed physique are what you get together with barking lyrics: the trouble childhood, the troubles with the law are all there, but rap was his way out. His best selling album is And Then There Was X released in 1999, which includes the power hit Party Up.
Ice Cube isn’t one of the best rappers of all time only because he was one of the members of N.W.A., the group that started the all rapping matter off – together with Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, DJ Yella and MC Ren. Ice Cube went on with his solo career in 1989, a career centred on rapping and on acting too. From the first album AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted to starring in the movie Straight Outta Compton, the biographic movie of N.W.A, Ice Cube is a living legend in rap history.