The future of music

50 Best Rappers of All Time (Greatest Rap Artists)

December 19, 2023
Best rappers of all time

I’ve selected the best rappers of all time, a lineup of the greatest rap artists whose lyrical prowess, flow, and influence have shaped the genre.

This article is a salute to the legends of rap, celebrating the icons who have set the bar in storytelling, innovation, and cultural impact.

Top rappers of all time

  • Eminem
  • Jay-Z
  • Kanye West
  • Mac Miller
  • 50 Cent
  • Kid Cudi
  • Kendrick Lamar
  • Lil Wayne
  • Tupac Shakur
  • Notorious B.I.G.

1. Eminem

Marshall Bruce Mathers, better known by his stage name Eminem, is an American rapper and record producer. 

He is credited with popularizing hip hop in Middle America. 

Famously, he is one of the only white rappers to have made it big in the hip hop genre. 

He released many transgressive pieces of work and has often been considered controversial.

2. Jay-Z

Jay-Z’s real name is Shawn Corey Carter. 

He is an American rapper, record producer and entrepreneur from Brooklyn, New York. 

He is also the founder of Manhattan-based talent and entertainment agency Roc Nation.

His wife Beyonce is one of the biggest pop stars in the world. 

He has been central to the success of many other artists, including Kanye West, J. Cole and Rihanna. 

3. Kanye West

Kanye West, often known by nicknames ‘Ye’ or ‘Yeezy’, is an American rapper, songwriter and fashion designer. 

He is considered one of the most influential hip hop artists of his generation. 

Alongside his musical achievements, he is known for being very controversial. 

He suffers with many mental health problems that often cause him to act recklessly.

He recently lost many of his biggest sponsors, such as Adidas, after he made anti-semitic comments online. 

4. Mac Miller

Mac Miller was an American rapper and producer.

He began his career at the age of fifteen, and broke through into the industry with the release of his mixtape K.I.D.S. 

He famously dated Ariana Grande, one of the world’s biggest pop stars. 

Miller struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, and sadly passed away from a drug overdose at his home when he was twenty-six years old.

Alongside Eminem, he is one of the few white rappers to have made it big in the industry. 

5. 50 Cent

50 Cent is an American rapper, actor and businessman. 

He was raised in Queens in New York, and began selling drugs at the age of twelve during the 1980s crack epidemic. 

He had been planning on releasing his first album when he was shot, meaning he had to delay the release.

He was then discovered by Eminem and signed to Shady Records. 

He became one of the best-selling rappers of all time

6. Kid Cudi

Kid Cudi, born Scott Mescudi, is an American rapper and producer, who has also dabbled in acting. 

His lyrics often focus on feelings of loneliness and depression, as well as his struggles with alcohol and drug abuse. 

He gained recognition after the release of his debut single, Day N’ Nite. 

He has since won two Grammy awards for his music. 

7. Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar is an American rapper and songwriter from Compton, California, who is often considered one of the most influential in the hip hop genre.

Although not in a gang himself, he apparently grew up around a lot of gang members.

He often experiments with styles outside of traditional hip hop, like jazz, funk, soul, and spoken word. 

He achieved his first number one single with “Bad Blood” in collaboration with Taylor Swift. 

He has sold over 70 million records in the US. 

8. Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne is an American rapper, considered one of the most influential of his generation. 

He began his career at the age of twelve.

He was signed by rapper Birdman, joining Cash Money Records as the youngest member. 

His 2008 album The Carter III won the Best Rap Album Grammy for that year. 

He has sold over 120 million records worldwide. 

9. Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur is considered one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide. 

He often addressed social issues in his music.

He was a central figure in the West Coast-based hip hop scene. 

In 1995, he served five months in prison on sexual abuse charges. 

The following year, he was shot six times in a drive-by shooting and passed away a few days later, leaving behind a musical legacy. 

10. Notorious B.I.G.

Notorious B.I.G. was a friend-turned rival of Tupac’s, and was considered a suspect in his shooting. 

However, he was also shot six months later and passed away soon after. 

Notorious B.I.G. was rooted in the East Coast hip hop scene.

He is known for his distinctly laid-back lyrical delivery.

An album was released two weeks after his death, and went on to reach number one on the Billboard 200 posthumously. 

11. Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg is an American rapper, who first found fame in 1992 when he featured on Dr Dre’s debut solo single, “Deep Cover”.

He was born in California and his father was a Vietnam war veteran that left the family when he was three months old. 

He has now sold over 23 million records in the United States.

He has had 17 Grammy nominations throughout his career. 

12. Drake

Drake, whose full name is Aubrey Drake Graham, is a Canadian rapper, singer and actor. 

He is considered one of the most influential artists of all time. 

Until recently, he held the record for the highest number of songs in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 at one time, with a total of nine songs in the top ten. 

He was recently beaten by Taylor Swift on this record, who managed to secure all ten spots in the top ten at one time. 

He first gained recognition for starring in a teen drama series called Degrassi: The Next Generation, before beginning his music career. 

13. Ms. Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill is an American rapper, singer, songwriter and actress from New Jersey. 

She is credited with being one of the most influential hip hop artists of all time, breaking down barriers for female artists in the industry. 

She was a member of hip hop group The Fugees before beginning her solo career.

Her debut album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill became one of the best-selling albums of all time. 

She has won many awards, including eight Grammys. 

14. Ice Cube

Ice Cube is an American rapper, actor and filmmaker. 

He is considered very influential in the popularization of “gangsta rap”. 

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of N.W.A in 2016. 

He grew up Los Angeles, with an older brother and a half-sister that was murdered when he was twelve years old. 

He began rapping aged fourteen, before joining N.W.A. 

15. J. Cole

J. Cole is an American rapper and songwriter that was born in a military base in Germany before he was raised in North Carolina. 

He gained recognition as a rapper after the release of a mixtape in 2007.

His debut studio album, Cole World: The Sideline Story was released in 2011 and debuted at the top of the Billboard 200.

In 2014, he received a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album for his 2014 record Forest Hills Drive. 

16. Busta Rhymes

Busta Rhymes is an American rapper and actor. 

He has received 12 Grammy Award nominations, making him one of the most-nominated artists without actually winning. 

He was an original member of Leaders of the New School, a hip hop group based in Long Island. 

He frequently makes appearances as a guest rapper on other artists’ records. 

He founded the record label Conglomerate. 

17. Dr. Dre

Dr. Dre is an American rapper and record producer. 

He was the co-founder of Beats Electronics, which was acquired by Apple Inc. in 2014. 

He began his career as a member of the World Class Wreckin’ Cru in 1985 before joining N.W.A.

His debut solo album, The Chronic (1992), made him one of the best-selling American artists in 1993. 

Since the 2000s, he has been largely focused on producing records for other artists. 

18. Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj is a Trinidadian-born rapper, singer and songwriter, who has also dabbled in acting. 

She is known for her sharp lyrics and animated flow. 

Her debut album Pink Friday reached the top of the Billboard 200 Albums chart upon its release.

“Super Bass”, a single from the album, reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and has since been certified platinum. 

She has often been cited as the “Queen of Rap” or the “Queen of Hip-Hop”.

19. Ludacris

Ludacris is an American rapper, actor and songwriter. 

He was born in Chicago but moved to Atlanta, Georgia when he was nine. 

It was here that he first began rapping, forming his own record label in the late 1990s.

He has won three Grammy Awards.

20. Q-Tip

Q-Tip is an American rapper, record producer, singer and DJ.

He is known for jazz-influenced style of hip hop.

He began his career as the producer for alternative hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest.

As a DJ, he has hosted the Apple Music 1 radio show Abstract Radio since 2015. 

He is considered one of the most acclaimed figures in hip hop. 

21. Andre 3000

Andre 3000 is an American rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer from Atlanta. 

He is best known for being part of the hip hop duo Outkast, alongside Big Boi.

The duo met in high school and signed to a record label shortly after graduating. 

Beyond his rapping and acting ventures, he has additionally been an entrepreneur and an advocate for animal rights. 

22. Megan Thee Stallion

Megan Thee Stallion, whose real name is Megan Pete, is an American rapper from Houston, Texas.

She first gained recognition through her freestyling videos on social media platforms like Instagram.

She released her debut studio album in 2020, called Good News.

Her songs “Savage” and “WAP” became number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100. 

23. Aitch

Harrison James Armstrong, known professionally as Aitch, is a British rapper from Manchester.

He was born in 1999, and released his breakthrough track “Straight Rhymez” in 2018.

In 2019, he released “Taste (Make It Shake)”, which brought his fame to new heights.

He has supported artists like Cadet and Wiley on tour. 

24. Slick Rick

Slick Rick is an English-American rapper and record producer.

He rose to fame in the 1980s with Doug E. Fresh & the Get Fresh Crew.

In 1986, he became the third artist to sign with the now infamous Def Jam Records.

His music has been sampled over 1000 times.

He was born in London, but his family migrated to the US in 1976.

25. Gucci Mane

Gucci Mane is an American rapper and record producer.

In 2005, he released his debut album Trap House. 

He is known for being a pioneer in the trap subgenre of hip hop music. 

In 2007, he founded his own record label called 1017 Records. 

He spent time in prison between 2014 and 2016.

26. Missy Elliot

Missy Elliot began her career with hip hop group Sista in the early 1990s.

She later joined the Swing Mob collective with her childhood friend Timbaland. 

She launched her solo career in 1991 with Supa Dupa Fly.

She has often been referred to as the “Queen of Rap”.

In the US, she has sold over 30 million records.

27. Jack Harlow 

Jack Harlow is a more recent phenomenon on the rap scene. 

He is an American rapper from Louisville, Kentucky, and was born in 1998.

He had his first breakthrough with “What’s Poppin’”, a single that went viral on TikTok.

His 2021 collaboration with Lil Nas X on “Industry Baby” reached number one on the Hot 100.

28. Prodigy

Prodigy was an American rapper that passed away in 2017.

He was part of the hip hop duo Mobb Deep along with fellow rapper Havoc. 

He was born in Long Island and raised in Queens. 

The duo met in high school, releasing their debut album in 1993. 

He battled with sickle cell disease, before passing away from an accidental choking in 2017. 

29. Common

Lonnie Rashid Lynn, better known by his stage name Common, is an American rapper and actor. 

He gained critical acclaim with his second studio album, Resurrection, which was released in 1994.

In 2003, he won the Grammy Award for the Best R&B Song for the Erykah Badu single “Love Of My Life”.

He co-starred in the 2014 film Selma, playing Civil Rights Movement leader James Bevel.

He won a Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Glory”, which he co-wrote and performed with John Legend for the film. 

30. Travis Scott

Travis Scott is an American rapper, whose real name is Jacques Bermon Webster II.

His stage name was created by combining the name of his favorite uncle with one of his rapper inspirations, Kid Cudi (whose real name is Scott Mescudi). 

He signed his first major-label contract in 2012 with Epic Records, signing a publishing deal with Kanye West’s GOOD Music. 

His second album Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight, released in 2016, became his first number one album in the Billboard 200.

At one of his concerts in November 2021, there was a mass-casualty crowd crush that resulted in several deaths. 

He has since been at the center of controversy and legal disputes over the matter. 

31. MF Doom

Daniel Dumile, better known as MF Doom, was a British-American rapper and record producer. 

He was known for his signature metal mask and “supervillain” stage persona.

He was born in London but moved to Long Island at a young age. 

In 1988, he began his career as a member of KMD.

His 2004 album Madvillainy, recorded with producer Madlib, is considered his greatest work and is regarded as a landmark album in hip hop. 

32. Nas

Nas is an American rapper from the East Coast hip hop community. 

His debut album Illmatic achieved universal acclaim upon release.

The album was inducted into the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry, and is considered one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. 

From 2001 to 2005, Nas was in a highly publicized feud with rapper Jay-Z.

After the feud was squashed, Nas signed to Jay-Z’s record label Def Jam Recordings. 

33. ASAP Rocky

ASAP Rocky (stylized as A$AP Rocky) is an American rapper, music producer and record executive.

He began his career with hip hop group ASAP mob.

His debut mixtape Live. Love. A$AP. gained critical acclaim and secured him a record deal. 

He has been dating Barbadian R&B singer Rihanna since 2020, and the two now have a child together. 

He has won many awards for his music, including two Grammys. 

He has directed many of his own music videos and sometimes directs for others, including other members of the ASAP Mob. 

34. Childish Gambino 

Donald Glover, also known by stage name Childish Gambino for his musical work, is an American actor, rapper, singer, comedian, director and producer.

He was hired at the age of 23 by Tina Fey to work on the sitcom 30 Rock, continuing on to a successful career acting in comedy shows.

He signed a record deal with Glassnote Records in 2011. 

He is best known for his singles “Redbone” and “This is America”.

He has won four Grammy Awards. 

35. XXXTentacion

XXXTentacion was an American rapper, singer and songwriter. 

He was seen by many as a controversial figure for his highly publicized legal troubles, including cases of battery and domestic violence.

His music often focused around depression and alienation, gaining him a cult fanbase. 

He is considered a leading figure in the emo rap genre.

He was murdered in 2020 at the age of 20, when he was shot near a motorcycle dealership in Florida. 

The attackers fled the scene in an SUV with his Louis Vuitton bag, which contained $50,000 in cash.

36. Logic

Logic is an American rapper and record producer from Maryland. 

He released his debut mixtape in 2010, called Young, Broke & Infamous. 

He went on to sign a record deal with Def Jam Recordings. 

His single “1800-273-8255” was designed to raise awareness about suicide prevention, taking its name from the US suicide prevention lifeline number at the time.

It became a top-ten hit worldwide. 

Logic is also an author and released a novel called Supermarket in 2019, which was accompanied by a soundtrack of the same name. 

37. Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper is an American singer, rapper and songwriter, born and raised in Chicago.

His father, Ken Williams-Bennett was an aide to the then-Senator Barack Obama. 

He gained global recognition following the release of his second mixtape, Acid Rap, in 2013. 

He then won three Grammy Awards for his third mixtape, Coloring Book. 

He is very involved in social activism in Chicago. 

38. Tyler, the Creator

Tyler Gregory Okonma, better known by his stage name Tyler, the Creator, is an American rapper and record producer.

He released his debut mixtape Bastard in 2009 and quickly gained recognition for his horrorcore and violent lyrical content. 

He has faced controversy over his very transgressive lyrics. 

In his second album Wolf, released in 2013, he began moving to a more alternative hip hop sound. 

39. Juice Wrld

Juice Wrld was an American rapper, singer and songwriter.

He was a leading figure in emo rap, beginning his career as an independent artist before signing a deal with Interscope Records in 2017.

His album Death Race for Love, released in 2019, became his first number one debut on the Billboard Hot 200. 

He died from a drug overdose in December 2019.

His first posthumous album Legends Never Die (2020) matched chart records for the most successful posthumous debut. 

40. Wiz Khalifa

Wiz Khalifa is an American rapper, singer, songwriter and actor. 

He released his debut album in 2006, titled Show and Prove. 

He was then signed to Warner Bros Records in 2007, releasing his Eurodance-inspired song “Say Yeah” in 2008, which became his first hit. 

He later signed with Atlantic Records and went for more of a pop-oriented approach, releasing “Black and Yellow”. 

The song, a tribute to his hometown of Pittsburgh, became a number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

41. Joey Badass

Joey Badass is an American rapper, singer and actor from Brooklyn, New York.

He began writing poetry and songs at the age of eleven. 

He is a founding member of hip hop collective Pro Era.

He released his debut mixtape 1999 in 2012 and received global recognition. 

In 2015, he allegedly broke a security guard’s nose before a performance in Australia. 

He made a TV appearance in Mr. Robot in 2016.

42. Method Man

Clifford Smith Junior, better known by his stage name Method Man, is an American rapper, songwriter, producer and actor.

He is a member of East Coast hip hop collective Wu-Tang Clan.

His stage name was inspired by the 1979 film Method Man. 

He currently stars in Power Book II: Ghost, a spin off of Power

His song “I’ll Be There For You / You’re All I Need To Get By” with Mary J. Blige won him a Grammy award. 

43. Lil Nas X

Montero Lamar Hill, better known by his stage name Lil Nas X, is an American rapper, singer and songwriter.

He made his breakthrough with his country rap single “Old Town Road”.

The single spent 19 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, making it the longest running debut number one since the chart debuted in 1958.

Lil Nas X came out gay during its chart-topping run, making him the only artist to do so while having a number-one record.

Time named him as one of the 25 most influential people on the Internet in 2019. 

44. Big Sean

Big Sean is an American rapper from Detroit. 

He started off by taking part in rap battles in his later high school years. 

In 2005, he heard that Kanye West was doing an interview nearby so headed to the radio station to perform for him. 

West was originally reluctant to hear him, but was impressed with his freestyling. 

Two years later, he was signed to West’s label GOOD Music. 

He has cited Eminem, Kanye West and the Notorious B.I.G. amongst his influences. 

He gained popularity after the release of his third mixtape Finally Famous Vol 3: Big. 

45. 21 Savage

21 Savage is a rapper based in Atlanta, Georgia. 

He was born in London but moved to Atlanta when he was seven.

His debut studio album Issa Album, released in 2017, peaked at number one on the Billboard 200.

He has worked a lot with rapper Drake, including a collaborative album by the duo released in 2022. 

The new album, Her Loss, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. 

46. Nelly

Nelly is an American rapper, singer, actor and entrepreneur.

He began his career with the hip hop group St Lunatics in 1993, before signing to Universal Records in 1999 as a solo artist.

He released his album Country Grammar, with the title track and “Ride Wit Me” going on to become top ten hits. 

He has won three Grammy Awards and nine Billboard Awards.

47. Jack Harlow

Jack Harlow is an American rapper from Louisville, Kentucky. 

He began his career in 2015, releasing EPs and mixtapes.

His first breakthrough was with his single “What’s Poppin’”, which became a trending song on TikTok.

It peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, and was nominated for a Grammy. 

His debut studio album, That’s What They All Say (2020), was certified platinum in the US.

His collaboration with Lil Nas X, “Industry Baby” became his first number one hit. 

48. Rejjie Snow

Rejjie Snow is an Irish rapper and songwriter from Dublin. 

He has a Nigerian father and Irish-Jamaican mother.

In 2011, he moved to the US and attended school in Florida to play soccer on an athletic scholarship.

After graduating high school the following year, he attended Art College on a soccer scholarship, studying film and design.

He dropped out after one semester to move back to Dublin and focus on his music career.

His debut EP Rejovich topped the iTunes hip hop chart, ahead of releases from J. Cole and Kanye West, when it was released in 2013. 

49. JPEGMafia

JPEGMafia, whose real name is Barrington Hendricks, is an American rapper, singer and record producer from Brooklyn, New York.

He spent his childhood in Flatbush, Brooklyn before moving to Alabama when he was 13.

There, he experienced a lot of racism, which has influenced his music. 

He has revealed that he had a “sexually, verbally, and physically abusive childhood”.

His 2018 album Veteran brought him worldwide acclaim. 

50. Loyle Carner 

Loyle Carner is a British hip hop musician. 

He released his debut album Yesterday’s Gone in 2017, achieving critical acclaim. 

He was born in Lambeth in South London and was raised in South Croydon by his mother and stepfather. 

His stage name is spoonerism of his double-barrelled surname, as his real name is Benjamin Coyle-Larner. 

He played his first official gig supporting MF Doom in Dublin in 2012.

Best Rappers of All Time – Final Thoughts

Whether you are a rap fan or not, it is impossible to deny the talent and hard work required to make it in the rap and hip hop industries. 

There are many stereotypes about the rap world, which many think focus purely on drugs, money and violence. 

But the genre is complex and diverse, and there is something for everyone in the genre.

Similar Articles: 

Best Female Rappers

Best Sad Rap Songs

Best 2000s Rap Songs

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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