Hip-hop is a genre that has been evolving and expanding for over 50 years, producing some of the most influential and talented artists in music history. But who are the best rappers of all time? How do we rank them based on their skills, achievements, impact, and legacy? This is a question that has sparked endless debates and controversies among fans, critics, and even the rappers themselves. There is no definitive answer, as different criteria and preferences may lead to different results. However, based on some common factors such as lyrics, flow, body of work, cultural influence, and longevity, we can attempt to create a list that reflects the consensus of hip-hop heads around the world. Here are the top 9 best rappers of all time, ranked.
9. Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne has established himself as one of the most prolific and successful rappers of the 21st century. His meteoric career, which began as a teenage prodigy at Cash Money Records alongside Birdman and the Hot Boys, catapulted him to stardom. With albums like the Tha Carter series, mixtapes such as Dedication and Da Drought series, and notable projects like No Ceilings and Sorry 4 the Wait, Lil Wayne showcased his witty wordplay, versatile delivery, and imaginative metaphors. Despite facing prison time during his career, Lil Wayne’s influence on a generation of rappers through the use of auto-tune, punchlines, and unconventional rhymes is undeniable, earning him a position as one of the foremost MCs of his era and an enduring figure in hip-hop history.
8. Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar is a rap icon of the 2010s, with four albums that blend art, society, self, and lyrics. He rose from the West Coast with Black Hippy, a rap crew. He broke out with good kid, m.A.A.d city, a tale of his Compton upbringing. Kendrick then dropped To Pimp a Butterfly, a jazz-funk album on race, politics, and identity. His third album DAMN. was a personal and introspective work that earned him a Pulitzer Prize. He also produced the music for Black Panther, a film that showcased his musical diversity and cultural influence. He is among the best rappers of his era and all time.
Jay-Z is one of the most successful and influential rappers of all time, with 14 number-one albums, 22 Grammy Awards, and a net worth of over $1 billion. From the streets of Brooklyn to rap royalty and business mogul, he co-founded Roc-A-Fella Records and Rocawear, launched Roc Nation and Tidal, and even owns a piece of the Brooklyn Nets. Married to pop sensation Beyoncé Knowles, he’s dropped legendary albums like Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint, The Black Album, American Gangster, and 4:44, collaborating with music giants like Kanye West, Dr. Dre, Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, and more.
KRS-One, a revered rapper, teacher, philosopher, and activist, is one of the most influential rappers of all time. Renowned as an exceptional MC and educator, he’s known for his conscious, educational lyrics, powerful delivery, and innovative style. Rising to fame in the 1980s with Boogie Down Productions, he pioneered hardcore and political rap through albums like “Criminal Minded,” “By All Means Necessary,” and “Edutainment.” His solo career boasts hits like “Return of the Boom Bap,” “I Got Next,” and “The Sneak Attack.” KRS-One also founded the Temple of Hip Hop movement, promoting hip-hop as a culture and way of life. His impact on rappers like Nas, Rakim, and Big Daddy Kane is immeasurable.