The 2000s was a unique period for hip-hop music.
Gangsta rappers like Dr. Dre were still popular figures in the music scene.
The Outkast were only getting better.
Everybody was experimenting with new styles.
There was the emergence of social media in the mid-2000s.
But for most 90s rappers, there was an even bigger threat; new artists.
The era saw the rise and rise of would-be influential figures like Eminem and Kanye West.
And as Jay-Z led the cultural triumph of hip-hop music, it was clear this would go down as one of the most successful eras in music history.
Below are the 30 best 2000s rappers.
From 50 Cent to Lil Wayne, join us as we break down the list of the greatest 2000s rappers to ever do it.
Table of Contents
- 1. Jay Z
- 2. Eminem
- 3. Outkast
- 4. 50 Cent
- 5. Lil Wayne
- 6. Missy Elliott
- 7. Kanye West
- 8. Nas
- 9. Snoop Dogg
- 10. Ludacris
- 11. Busta Rhymes
- 12. Andre 3000
- 13. Method Man
- 14. Akon
- 15. Savage
- 16. Bow Wow
- 17. Big Sean
- 18. M.I.A.
- 19. Drake
- 20. Sean Paul
- 21. Nelly
- 22. Cam’ron
- 23. Fat Joe
- 24. DMX
- 25. Ice Cube
- 26. Kendrick Lamar
- 27. Redman
- 28. Rick Ross
- 29. Ja Rule
- 30. Pitbull
- Best 2000s Rappers – Final Thoughts
1. Jay Z
Shawn Corey-Carter, best known as Jay Z, had to be the first name on this list.
He’s an iconic figure in the hip-hop scene and one of the best 2000s rappers.
Jay-Z emerged as an era-defining figure of the 2000s with his best-selling albums The Blueprint and The Black Album.
His lyrical prowess and influence on a generation of rappers have earned him 23 Grammy Awards.
Some of his best songs include “Where I’m From,” “Dead Presidents II,” and “Big Pimpin.”
Oh! He’s also married to fellow artist and cultural icon Beyoncé Knowles.
Eminem is a popular figure from Michigan who rose to fame in the late 1990s with his The Slim Shady LP album.
There was never turning back for the American rapper after releasing hit singles “My Name Is” and “The Real Slim Shady.”
Known for his speed rapping technique, Eminem captured audiences with his witty punch lines and, sometimes, dark subject matter.
By 2001, he had become one of the biggest names in rap music, selling millions of records worldwide.
Eminem is best described as a versatile rapper.
And even though some of his songs took a satirical look at serious issues, he also released powerful hits like “Lose Yourself” and “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” that resonate with modern listeners.
Outkast was one of the most innovative and successful hip-hop duos of the 2000s.
Their hits like “Hey Ya!” and “Ms. Jackson” took over radio airwaves in the early 2000s, becoming staples of popular culture.
The group introduced Southern rap to a wider audience and popularized the hip-hop subgenre “Dirty South.”
With clever lyrics and upbeat tunes, Outkast left an indelible mark on the 2000s rap music scene.
4. 50 Cent
You guessed it right.
Curtis James Jackson III, better known as 50 Cent, was one of the biggest names in the American rap scene from 1996 to the 2000s.
He exploded onto the rap scene with his debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin,’ released in 2003.
His hard-hitting rhymes and street-wise nature earned him a global appeal, ruling the music charts as one of the best rappers from the 2000s.
50 Cent was one of the leading forces of the new gangsta rap wave of the late 1990s and has written his name in the history books.
Even though he hasn’t had much success over the last decade, the rapper is still widely respected for his contribution to the music scene.
He’s ventured into other businesses, starred in movies, and influenced a generation of new rappers.
5. Lil Wayne
A few artists influenced the 2000s rap industry as much as Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.
He’s the self-proclaimed ‘best rapper alive,’ a master of hooks, and the undisputed hip-hop king who’s dominated the music charts for as long as we can remember.
Lil Wayne launched his music career at only 12, becoming the youngest-ever rapper signed by Cash Money Records.
He’s been an ever-present figure in hip-hop since debuting as part of the Hot Boys in 1997.
Wayne announced his arrival in the music scene in 1999 with a solo debut album, Tha Block Is Hot.
He maintained popularity with his 4th album, The Carter (2004).
Dwayne’s slick flow, witty bars, and masterful storytelling have seen him consistently ranked among the greatest MCs of all time.
6. Missy Elliott
Missy Elliott burst onto the scene in 1997, solidifying her position as one of the top female rappers during the 2000s.
She crafted hits like “Work It” and “Get Ur Freak On,” which succeeded commercially.
Her music videos were always filled with an eccentric style, catchy hooks, and bold visuals.
Her contribution to hip-hop has made her one of the best female rap acts ever.
7. Kanye West
There are 2000s rappers.
Then, there are 2000s rappers who changed the game.
Kanye West belongs in the second category, alongside Jay-Z and Lil Wayne.
‘Ye changed the game when he stepped into the limelight during the mid-2000s.
After signing with Roc-A-Fella Records in 2002, Kanye recorded The College Dropout, catapulting him into stardom.
He was praised for his production techniques, insightful lyricism, and boundary-pushing.
The Atlanta-born rapper is a true cultural icon and one of the greatest artists from the 2000s.
His most outstanding albums throughout this era include The College Dropout (2004), Late Registration (2005), Graduation (2007), and 808s & Heartbreak (2008).
Kanye’s best songs from the 2000s include “All Falls Down,” “Gold Digger,” and “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.”
Nas was one of the most influential rappers of the 2000s.
He was praised for his lyrical prowess and natural storytelling ability.
He was instrumental in bringing East Coast hip-hop to the mainstream with his albums Illmatic and Stillmatic.
Nas was revered for his skills on the mic and his ability to captivate listeners with his conscious-driven lyricism.
He worked with celebrated hip-hop legends, including Large Professor, L.E.S., and Pete Rock.
9. Snoop Dogg
As one of the pioneers of the West Coast hip-hop sound, Snoop Dogg established himself in the rap industry during the 2000s.
His popularity goes back to the early 90s after featuring on Dr. Dre’s debut single, “Deep Cover.”
Snoop Dogg reigned supreme with his memorable G-funk beats and laid-back flows.
He was well-known for his collaborations with Dr. Dre, Warren G, and Nate Dogg.
Snoopy showed versatility with his hit single “Drop It Like Its Hot” and his collaborations with Pharrell Williams.
He’s been lauded for his charisma and calm demeanor, cementing his place in hip-hop history.
Throughout his career, the California-born rapper has sold over 20 million albums in the US, won multiple awards, and earned 17 Grammy nominations.
Atlanta native Ludacris was a force to be reckoned with in the early 2000s rap industry.
The rapper rose to fame with his second album, Word of Mouf, which was certified 3x Platinum by the RIAA.
He established himself in the rap scene with animated delivery and clever wordplay.
He collaborated with many of the industry’s elite, including Usher, Mariah Carey, Nelly, and Justin Timberlake.
Ludacris also ventured into other businesses, starring in films such as Crash and Gamer.
His undeniable influence on the rap game earned him his rightful spot amongst the greatest 2000s rappers.
11. Busta Rhymes
Busta Rhymes has worked with many artists and is most known for his outrageous and often humorous flow.
He has been a genre veteran and a mainstay in the rap industry since the late 80s.
His most popular songs include “Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check” and “Break Ya Neck.”
The rapper was also featured on Chris Brown’s 2005 smash hit single “Run It!”
Busta’s success over two decades speaks volumes about his staying power in an ever-changing industry.
Even though he isn’t as popular today, his influence on the 2000s rap music is undeniable.
12. Andre 3000
Andre 3000 emerged as one of the biggest hip-hop stars in the early 2000s.
He formed Outkast alongside Big Boi, and their albums Aquemini, Stankonia, and Speakerboxxx/The Love Below have gone down as classics within the genre.
Their albums were often noted for their fusion of hip-hop, funk, jazz, and soul, displaying Andre’s expansive musical ability.
Despite maintaining a low profile in recent years, he still produces excellent music today.
13. Method Man
Method Man was an integral part of the Wu-Tang Clan’s rise to prominence in the early 90s and has been a hip-hop mainstay since then.
His solo album Tical is often cited as one of the most influential hip-hop albums of the ’90s, and his solo singles like “Bring The Pain” and “Release Yo’Delf” are staples of the genre.
He’s best remembered for his high-profile collaboration with Mary J Blige on their Grammy Award-winning singles “I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need To Get By” and “All I Need.”
Akon began his career as a successful hip-hop producer, working with artists like 50 Cent and G-Unit before breaking out with the 2004 hit single “Locked Up.”
He followed up with the hits “Smack That” and “I Wanna Love You,” further proving his pop music prowess.
His career hasn’t slowed since, featuring on tracks by Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, and T-Pain, among the rest.
Savage, born Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, is a hip-hop artist from Atlanta, Georgia.
He made his mark on the rap scene with his debut single, “Picky,” reaching the Top 10 of the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2016.
He’s known for his melodic and dramatic lyrics and has collaborated with some of the biggest names in rap music, such as Drake, Cardi B, and J Cole.
16. Bow Wow
Bow Wow has been part of the rap game since he was 13, and he’s still going strong in 2023.
He rose to fame with the classic hit “Bounce With Me” and other singles like “Let Me Hold You,” “Shortie Like Mine,” and “Outta My System.”
He’s collaborated with artists like Snoop Dogg and Jermaine Dupri and even starred in the classic 2003 comedy movie Like Mike.
His albums, such as Beware of Dog and Doggy Bag, are still undisputed club bangers today.
17. Big Sean
Big Sean has been one of the most consistent rappers since his 2011 emergence with his debut album, Finally Famous.
His singles “I Don’t F*ck With You,” “Bounce Back,” and “Blessings” have all become rap classics, and his albums Hall Of Fame and Dark Sky Paradise are considered hip-hop essentials.
He has collaborated with everyone from Drake to Eminem to Kanye West, proving his versatility and longevity in the rap game.
M.I.A. burst onto the rap scene in 2002 with her ground-breaking mix tape Arular, becoming one of the most influential female artists of the 2000s.
Her pioneering blend of dancehall, world music, and politically conscious rhymes set her apart, and she was soon collaborating with big-name acts in Diplo and Jay-Z.
Her unique style captivates audiences, and her singles “Paper Planes” and “Boyz” are widely regarded as two of the best 2000 rap songs.
Her inspirational work challenges conventions and redefines the boundaries of the hip-hop genre.
Aubrey Drake Graham, popularly known as Drake, has had an incredible run in the rap game since his emergence in 2006.
His mega-hit “Best I Ever Had” established him as a force to be reckoned with, and his subsequent releases only confirmed this status.
His albums Take Care, Nothing Was the Same, and Views are widely considered some of the best rap albums of the decade.
He’s also proven to be a fantastic collaborator, having worked with some of the biggest names in rap, including Future, Lil Wayne, and Nicki Minaj.
From a Billboard standpoint, Drake is one of the greatest rappers to ever do it.
He’s etched his name in the record books with his consistency, stunning versatility, and hits for every occasion.
20. Sean Paul
Sean Paul is another important name in the pantheon of 2000s rap greats.
His blend of dancehall, reggae, and hip-hop was genuinely revolutionary, and he quickly became one of the most beloved rappers of the decade.
His albums Dutty Rock and Imperial Blaze showcased his talents
He collaborated with some of the biggest names in the business, from Beyoncé to Jay-Z.
The rapper’s hit singles “Temperature” and “Get Busy” still get played in clubs today, proving that Sean Paul’s influence is timeless.
With hits like “Hot In Herre,” “Dilemma,” and “Air Force Ones,” Nelly was one of the most popular and successful rappers of the early 2000s.
His unique rap style was refreshing and made him one of the decade’s most recognizable artists.
He won three Grammy awards during his heyday, including Best Rap Album in 2003.
Although he’s had some missteps, he remains an influential figure in hip-hop.
Cam’ron first made waves in the early 2000s with his albums Come Home With Me and Purple Haze, featuring hit singles like “Oh Boy,” “Hey Ma,” and “Down And Out.”
His unique style was attention-grabbing, with his smooth delivery and witty punch lines becoming a staple of the early 2000s hip-hop industry.
He has since become one of the most successful rappers of all time, with his critically acclaimed albums and hit singles.
23. Fat Joe
Fat Joe has been a mainstay in the rap industry since the early ’90s, but his career took off in the early 2000s with hits like “Lean Back” and “What’s Luv.”
His bold and honest lyricism made him an instant fan favorite, becoming one of the biggest names in rap at the time.
He has since released several albums and received a Grammy nomination for his 2017 album Plata O Plomo.
Widely regarded as one of the best hardcore rappers of all time, DMX’s trademark growl earned him respect from his fans and foes alike.
He released five studio albums between 1998 and 2003, selling millions of records worldwide and earning Grammy nominations.
His single “Party Up (Up In Here)” reached #27 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and is considered one of his signature songs.
His final studio album, Exodus, was released in May 2021, a month after the rapper’s untimely death from a cocaine-induced heart attack.
25. Ice Cube
Ice Cube is one of the original gangsta rappers of the late 1980s who became an acclaimed actor and movie director.
His song “It Was a Good Day” became iconic for its memorable chorus and optimistic outlook on life.
Ice Cube has become one of the most successful rap artists, releasing nine studio albums between 1990 and 2010.
He’s still going strong in the rap game, with his latest album Everythang’s Corrupt receiving critical acclaim upon its release in 2018.
Cube is also an outspoken political figure, advocating for social justice and police accountability.
In 2016, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the 80s hip-hop group N.W.A.
Ice Cube’s best songs from the 2000s include “Hello,” “Why Me?” and “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It.”
26. Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar is one of the most influential rappers of the last decade.
His lyrical content is often lauded for its deep introspection and poetic imagery.
With hits like “Alright” and “Humble,” Lamar has become an icon for his generation and an inspiration for upcoming artists.
Lamar has released several albums throughout his enviable career, including the most recent, To Pimp a Butterfly, in 2015.
His sound has evolved, but he remains one of rap music’s most prominent voices.
Redman, a prominent hip-hop collective Def Squad member, is renowned for his wit and comedic delivery.
His debut album, Whut? Thee Album was a classic of early 90s hip hop, featuring singles such as “Time 4 Sum Aksion” and “Tonight’s Da Night.”
After collaborating with Method Man, Redman went solo with two more highly acclaimed albums, Muddy Waters and Doc’s da Name 2000.
He has since released five more solo albums, the latest being Mudface (2015).
28. Rick Ross
An undisputed heavyweight of Southern rap, Rick Ross has been at the top of his game since 2006.
His larger-than-life persona helped define the trap genre in the mid-2000s, with each of his seven major label albums becoming certified gold or higher.
One of his greatest achievements is the critically acclaimed Teflon Don album which peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200.
Ross later founded his record label Maybach Music Group, which launched the careers of Meek Mill and Wale, among others.
29. Ja Rule
Ja Rule rose to prominence in the early 2000s with his Mafioso rap style.
His collaboration with Jennifer Lopez and Ashanti on the single “I’m Real” was a massive hit, and his other singles, “Put It On Me” and “Always on Time,” were positively received by music critics.
Ja Rule released five albums between 1999 and 2012, achieving platinum and double-platinum certifications for all of them.
He’s been absent from the spotlight, focusing on his business ventures and other interests.
A Latin American sensation, Pitbull is one of the most popular rap artists of the 2000s.
His style fuses hip-hop with reggaeton and Latin pop, creating a distinctive sound that has become career-defining.
He has released multiple chart-topping singles, such as “Timber” and “Give Me Everything.”
Pitbull has won numerous awards for his contribution to music, including multiple Latin Grammy Awards.
He is also a devoted philanthropist, founding the Sports Leadership Arts And Management (SLAM) Charter School in his hometown of Miami.
Pitbull’s tireless efforts have earned him admiration from fans worldwide, becoming one of the most beloved 2000s rappers.
Best 2000s Rappers – Final Thoughts
Everybody associated artists like Ice Cube with the 80s gangsta rap that became the new wave in the decade’s hip-hop scene.
But these artists were still going strong in the early and mid-2000s, laying the foundation for a new generation of rappers.
The 2000s might have been a tumultuous time in rap history, but it was also a flourishing decade that gave us some of the best hip-hop casts of all time.
From Jay-Z to Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Drake, the emergence of social media couldn’t come at a better time for this crop of musicians.
No wonder this decade is always regarded as one of the most successful in hip-hop music history.
If you’ve been looking for the standout 2000s rappers, there you go.
Of course, the list is subjective.
But there’s no doubt these artists had the most influence on the decade’s rap scene.