It's an understatement to say that the 10 best rappers of all time changed the game. Rap is an ever-changing musical landscape and the best rappers are the catalysts for those changes. Flow, lyricism, and swagger are what makes a great MC, regardless of generation…getting shot seems to help, too.
- Notorious B.I.G. Biggie is the reason people rap the way they do today. His skills were untouched, his flow supernatural, and the fact that he became a fat cock-eyed sex symbol attests to his unrivaled swagger. No figure has ever been as endearing as this enormous rapper from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and he will forever be credited with changing the game of rap. As one half of the biggest feud in hip-hop history – Biggie vs. Tupac – Biggie’s name will remain notorious in his “Life After Death.”
- Nas. Mr. Nasir Jones can be credited as the best technical rapper of his generation. During a feud with Jay-Z, Nas solidified his stance as rap's best with a crushing track called "Ether." Though his raps took a more popularized slant in the ‘90s, he has consistently delivered cutting-edge material over the course of the last fifteen years. His first album, "Illmatic", is widely considered the greatest hip-hop debut of all time.
- Jay-Z. Generally referred to as the best rapper alive, Jay-Z claimed the crown as rap's heir apparent following the shooting deaths of Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. Also representing Brooklyn, Jay-Z’s fiery narratives and smooth flow help put hip-hop’s birthplace on the map. And his marriage to R&B’s finest, Beyonce, only helped him in the swagger department.
- Ghostface Killah. Ghostface first made his mark as a member of the heralded rap group Wu-Tang Clan, but has since separated himself from the pack as the most skilled solo artist of the bunch. Yes, Method Man may be the most popular Wu-Tang member, but popularity and skill are not always synonymous. Ahem, Vanilla Ice. Ghostface’s solo albums have been hailed by critics and fans alike for their silly-smartness and surrealism.
- KRS-One. The smartest MC of all time, KRS is a poet amongst rappers. He pre-dated raps movement towards guns and drugs and instead delivered lyrics with a message, speaking to the spirit and the mind of the hip-hop lover.
- Rakim. If KRS-One was the brains, Rakim was the greatest lyricist of all time. Along with partner Eric B., Rakim is credited with making New York hip-hop part of mainstream music in the ‘80s. If your favorite rapper does not list Rakim as one of their influences, you should consider finding a new favorite rapper.
- Tupac Shakur. Tupac was rap's greatest storyteller of all-time. His ability to convey the gangster lifestyle was unmatched. His popularity and notoriety exceeded that of any hip-hop artist of his time. The shooting deaths of Tupac and Biggie remain rap’s biggest stories EVER. He was a rapper first, but changed the game by developing his rap success into international widespread popularity.
- Eminem. Though his abilities supersede his race, it is important to note that Eminem, aka Marshall Mathers, is the only white rapper ever taken seriously by popular media. His flow is as fast and on point as anyone in the game, and his ability to cut people down with words is second to none. In an entertainment business that speaks largely to race, he has transcended that argument.
- Easy-E. Along with NWA, Eric "Easy-E" Wright can be crowned as one of the fathers of gangster rap. Easy was known for a laid back flow that was juxtaposed against his lyrical tales of street violence, drugs, and overt sexuality.
- Lil' Wayne. Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. is one of the best hip-hop artists alive. With a playful swagger and a reputation as one of the most original lyricists of all-time, Lil’ Wayne’s audience spans from Michael Phelps to neighborhood pushers. Neither gangster nor intellectual, Lil' Wayne is in a class by himself in terms of innovating the game with his clever lyrics and playful hooks.
With Blue Ivy Carter in the mix, Jay-Z might have to rewrite a hit song.
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