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The 500 Greatest Rappers of All Time

I have been an online writer for over six years. I am passionate about books, philosophy, music, and the music industry.

Hip hop music, also known as rap music has become a singular entity of freeform expression that has taken poetic flow to a whole new level. The type of rhythm and rhyme structure employed by rappers gives unique identity to their songs. The rapping skills showcased by hip hop artists is testimony to the fact that poetry in motion is far from dead. Some of the best rappers exhibit varied vocal styles with sequenced instrumentation to bring alive memorable anthems based on real life experiences.

The list below showcases an epic list of rappers who have taken hip hop musicality to new heights. If you have a view, opinion, or suggestion, let us know in the comments section.

The 10 Greatest Rappers of All Time

1. Eminem

2. Kendrick Lamar

3. Jay-Z

4. Tupac Shakur

5. The Notorious B.I.G.

6. Nas

7. Kanye West

8. Lil Wayne

9. 50 Cent

10. Drake

What Is Rapping in Hip Hop Music?

In the realms of hip hop, the term rapping refers to a musical form or musical expression of vocal delivery that employs or incorporates three components, content, flow, and rhythmic speech. Rhythm, rhyme, and cadence encompassed with street vernacular is chanted or performed in diverse ways over a beat or sequenced musical accompaniment. Rappers incorporate different rhyming techniques while rapping to change dynamics in structure.

Also known in circles as emceeing, spitting, and rhyming, rapping associates with quick speech and repartee. The lyrical techniques incorporated in rapping differ in accordance with the performer’s style. Complex wordplay fused with a start and stop vocal delivery gives rappers their signature groove and flow. Rapping styles have evolved in every decade with performers fusing diverse vocal techniques to create textural changes in delivery.

#11—20

11. Travis Scott

12. Rakim

13. T.I.

14. J. Cole

15. XXXTentacion

16. Snoop Dogg

17. Ice Cube

18. DMX

19. ASAP Rocky

20. Future

What Is Flow in Hip Hop?

In hip hop flow refers to interaction of rhythms and rhyme. How rhyme schemes and rhythms transition with beats greatly determines flow in hip hop songs. Stressing syllables in time and staying on beat is the centrifugal element that dictates a rapper’s flow. Although flow and delivery are distinctly different, at times the term “flow” is used to identify with aspects of delivery such as volume, pitch, and timbre. The different ways in which the lyrics accentuate with the beat dictate variations and changes in flow.

Typically lyrics in hip hop and rap are in line with four stressed beats and varying syllables, however in new hip hop styles, the symmetry of beats is rather dynamic and keeps changing thereby creating signature rhythmic offbeats. The metrical structure in the chorus and verse change in accordance with rhythmic patterns, rhyme schemes, and rhyming techniques. While new school flows are known to be complex, old school flows are associated with aesthetics and simplicity.

Travis Scott at the 2019 Openair Frauenfeld in Switzerland.

Travis Scott at the 2019 Openair Frauenfeld in Switzerland.

#21—40

21. LL Cool J

22. The Game

23. Andre 3000

24. Diddy

25. Busta Rhymes

26. MC Hammer

27. Tyler, the Creator

28. Big Daddy Kane

29. Dr. Dre

30. Nicki Minaj

31. Redman

32. Daddy Yankee

33. Eazy-E

34. Cardi B

35. Kool G Rap

36. Method Man

37. Ghostface Killah

38. Royce da 5’9”

39. Q-Tip

40. Big L

Flow Styles of Rappers

Different flow styles are incorporated by rappers in their songs. The rapid dynamics of hip hop songs are determined with word flow and delivery. The different ways in which a rapper uses rhythmic techniques also shapes the flow of a song a great deal. Some of the rhythmic techniques often used by rappers are flams, syncopation, triplets, rests, 16th notes and 32nd notes.

When rapping is done in different time signatures, the feel and dynamics resurrect to a whole new level. Flow transitions sound mesmerising when tempo and time signatures change. Some of the flow styles used by old school rappers and new school rappers are

  • The Rubik’s Cube
  • Sung Rhythmic Style
  • The Chant
  • Straight Forward
  • Offbeat Style
  • The Syncopated Bounce
  • Percussion-Effusive Style
  • 2-5 Flow
  • Speech-Effusive Style
Drake at Sound Academy in his Toronto hometown, August 11, 2011.

Drake at Sound Academy in his Toronto hometown, August 11, 2011.

#41—60

41. 2 Chainz

42. Fabolous

43. Childish Gambino

44. MF Doom

45. KRS-One

46. Ice-T

47. Juice Wrld

48. Common

49. Kid Cudi

50. Ludacris

51. Wiz Khalifa

52. Lil Dicky

53. Raekwon

54. 21 Savage

55. Logic

56. Pharrell Williams

57. Missy Elliot

58. Slick Rick

59. Mos Def

60. Lil’ Kim

Origins of Hip Hop: How the Genre Came Into Being

Although it is hard to pinpoint when hip hop music took shape, the roots of the genre spread in the ‘70s. Early forms of hip hop served as a voice for youth from low-income areas and marginalized backgrounds. The movement reflected political, social, and economic realities that affected the lives of these youth.

As immigrants from Puerto Rico and Caribbean countries started arriving in New York City, they found it hard to establish a foothold in the city. Immigrants had a difficult time finding jobs and making ends meet. Block parties in New York which became excessively popular with African American, Latino, and Caribbean youth from the Bronx in the ‘70s also became a meeting place to vent out and express through different music mediums.

While initially DJs incorporated different forms of funk and soul music at block parties, gradually DJs started experimenting by isolating percussive breaks of popular tunes, a technique associated with dub music from Jamaica. To extend breaks in cycles, DJ Kool Herc started experimenting with two turntables using a mixer to switch back and forth between two records. Herc’s creative experiments of using record players to produce sounds paved the way for a multitude of techniques now used by hip hop DJs.

Grand Wizzard Theodore, a hip hop DJ is credited to inventing the scratching technique and needle drop technique which later became the signature sound of DJs. As DJs adopted the practice of utilizing turntables with experimental intricacies and vocal delivery, the party jam blueprint diversified as an independent entity known as hip hop.

Nicki Minaj at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, November 26, 2010.

Nicki Minaj at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, November 26, 2010.

#61—80

61. Grandmaster Flash

62. Lupe Fiasco

63. Warren G

64. Queen Latifah

65. Nelly

66. Big Pun

67. Will Smith

68. Lauryn Hill

69. Xzibit

70. Ja Rule

71. AZ

72. Tech N9ne

73. Gucci Mane

74. DJ Kool Herc

75. Prodigy

76. MC Lyte

77. Lil Uzi Vert

78. Bad Bunny

79. Jadakiss

80. Mac Miller

How Emceeing Paved the Way for Hip Hop in Mainstream

Emceeing became an integral part of the spoken word movement in the ‘70s with performers initially using scrambled wordplay, rhythmic spoken delivery, and rhymes without an accompaniment and gradually with a beat.

While the role of a MC (Master of Ceremonies) originally was to host a staged DJ dance event by connecting the performer with the crowd, gradually the role of the emcee started getting diverse with spoken one-liners, diabolic humour, sarcasm and wit becoming the essential MCing requirements to pump up crowds.

As tongue-in cheek exchanges between the emcees, rapping performers, and crowds became rampant at block parties, spoken word battles became the flavor at these events with both Emceees and rapping performers trying to outdo each other with their originality of word play.

These battles became a hit with youth at DJ parties and dance parties. Political and social commentary interspersed with double entendres and rhythmic wordplay became hugely popular at spoken word jams and parties. Eventually, spoken word jams, rhyming, and rhythmic wordplay transitioned into a single entity known as rapping. As rapping styles formed by their poetic forms of wordplay accompanied with sequenced beats came in to the forefront, a number of rappers started releasing their unique blend of music independently and garnered a huge following in the underground music scene. With the advent of the ‘80s hip hop emerged with a bang in mainstream.

Ever since hip hop made its way into mainstream in the early years, it has evolved in every decade in accordance with youth preferences, cultural movements, and technological advances. While old school hip hop rappers and new school hip hop rappers differ significantly in styles, they remain rooted in the true essence of freeform expression and progressive ideologies. While we cannot predict what trends will influence the future of hip hop and rap, one thing’s for sure, rappers will continue to own the reins of mainstream globally.

Future at Sound Academy in Toronto on July 11, 2014.

Future at Sound Academy in Toronto on July 11, 2014.

#81—100

81. Nate Dogg

82. Big Sean

83. Post Malone

84. Killer Mike

85. DMC

86. Scarface

87. Chance the Rapper

88. Black Thought

89. Guru

90. Macklemore

91. Ol’ Dirty Bastard

92. Chuck D

93. Juvenile

94. Schoolboy Q

95. Pusha T

96. ASAP Ferg

97. Doja Cat

98. Meek Mill

99. Immoral Technique

100. Foxy Brown

#101—150

101. Jeezy

102. Iggy Azalea

103. Coolio

104. RZA

105. will.i.am

106. Joey Badass

107. Master P

108. Twista

109. Wyclef Jean

110. Playboi Carti

111. G-Eazy

112. Heavy D

113. Big Boi

114. Rick Ross

115. Talib Kweli

116. Polo G

117. Machine Gun Kelly

118. Denzel Curry

119. E-40

120. Fat Joe

121. Wale

122. Cam’ron

123. Quavo

124. Krayzie Bone

125. Hopsin

126. Aesop Rock

127. Flo Rida

128. Pimp C

129. Roddy Ricch

130. Afrika Bambaataa

131. Megan Thee Stallion

132. Chingy

133. Young Thug

134. Lil Tjay

135. GZA

136. Joyner Lucas

137. M.I.A.

138. PSY

139. B.o.B.

140. Layzie Bone

141. Kodak Black

142. Ski Mask the Slump God

143. Obie Trice

144. Lloyd Banks

145. Jermaine Dupree

146. Timbaland

147. Yelawolf

148. Juicy J

149. Chamillionare

150. Lil Yachty

#151—200

151. Fetty Wap

152. A Boogie wit da Hoodie

153. Eve

154. YG

155. Chief Keef

156. Bow Wow

157. DaBaby

158. Sir Mix-a-Lot

159. Waka Flocka Flame

160. Ty Dolla $ign

161. Ab-Soul

162. Anderson .Paak

163. Moneybagg Yo

164. T-Pain

165. French Montana

166. Biz Markie

167. Swae Lee

168. CeeLo Green

169. YNW Melly

170. Vince Staples

171. Lil Pump

172. The D.O.C.

173. Kevin Gates

174. Bizzy Bone

175. NLE Choppa

176. Lil Nas X

177. MC Ride

178. Tyga

179. Erik Sermon

180. Mase

181. Saweetie

182. DJ Quik

183. Pitbull

184. B-Real

185. Kurupt

186. 6ix9ine

187. Inspectah Deck

188. Verbal Jint

189. Pharoahe Monch

190. YBN Cordae

191. NF

192. YoungBoy Never Broke Again

193. MC Ren

194. Trippie Redd

195. Lisa Lopes

196. Vic Mensa

197. Bun B

198. Offset

199. Dizzee Rascal

200. Jack Harlow

#201—250

201. Baby Bash

202. Remy Ma

203. Lil Tecca

204. Kid Ink

205. Danny Brown

206. Jay Rock

207. Yung Lean

208. Tee Grizley

209. Big K.R.I.T.

210. Masta Ace

211. Del the Funky Homosapien

212. Mystikal

213. Pete Rock

214. Afroman

215. Proof

216. Boosie Badazz

217. Lil Jon

218. Birdman

219. Young Buck

220. Rod Wave

221. Gunna

222. Oxxxymiron

223. Trick Daddy

224. Nav

225. J.I.D.

226. Pooh Shiesty

227. Too $hort

228. Havoc

229. Grandmaster Caz

230. J-Kwon

231. Treach

232. Skepta

233. Michael Franti

234. Kurtis Blow

235. Tragedy Khadafi

236. Bobby Shmurda

237. Lil Durk

238. Shelly FKA DRAM

239. 42 Dugg

240. Nipsey Hussle

241. Too Short

242. StaySolidRocky

243. Masta Killa

244. Baby Keem

245. Soulja Boy

246. Da Brat

247. Paul Wall

248. Daz Dillinger

249. Morray

250. Spoonie Gee

#251—300

251. ZillaKami

252. Key Glock

253. Isaiah Rashad

254. Styles P

255. MC Eiht

256. Joe Budden

257. Azealia Banks

258. Melle Mel

259. Ace Hood

260. Big Freedia

261. Shock G

262. Lord Finesse

263. Cappadonna

264. Saul Williams

265. Don Toliver

266. Lecrae

267. Trina

268. Schoolly D

269. Phife Dawg

270. Murs

271. Pop Smoke

272. Wiley

273. Jim Jones

274. Swizz Beatz

275. CL Smooth

276. Devin the Dude

277. Takeoff

278. Dom Kennedy

279. 24kGoldn

280. Lil Peep

281. Desiigner

282. Jeru the Damaja

283. Arabian Prince

284. Latto

285. B.G.

286. Rich the Kid

287. Amine

288. Guerilla Black

289. Khia

290. Mike Ladd

291. Freddie Gibbs

292. Russ

293. YBN Nahmir

294. Dave East

295. King Von

296. PnB Rock

297. G Herbo

298. Sage the Gemini

299. Bizarre

300. J. Dilla

#301—350

301. N.O.R.E.

302. Lil Skies

303. Sha-Rock

304. Mac Dre

305. King T

306. J Hus

307. Sean Price

308. Mellow Man Ace

309. U. God

310. Sleepy Hallow

311. Mistah F.A.B.

312. Riff Raff

313. Cage

314. Tay-Kay

315. Project Pat

316. Kid Frost

317. Tim Dog

318. Vast Aire

319. Smokepurpp

320. Gangsta Boo

321. Julez Santana

322. EL-P

323. Crooked I

324. Young M.A.

325. Iamsu!

326. Noname

327. Fredro Starr

328. Droop-E

329. Kool Keith

330. Yella Beezy

331. Lil Xan

332. Piles

333. Grand Daddy I.U.

334. Keak da Sneak

335. Jean Grae

336. Haystak

337. Problem

338. Jay Electronica

339. Lil’ Flip

340. MC JIn

341. K Camp

342. Tinie Tempah

343. Lady B

344. Hi-C

345. Young Dolph

346. Ugly God

347. Jay-O

348. Vinnie Paz

349. Fivio Foreign

350. Blueface

#351—400

351. Tory Lanez

352. JT the Bigga Figga

353. Bishop Lamont

354. Yung Joc

355. CL

356. Tone Loc

357. Fredo Santana

358. Memphis Bleek

359. CPO Boss Hogg

360. Blu

361. GoldLink

362. Kool Savas

363. Papoose

364. Baby Tate

365. Dizzy Wright

366. Spider Loc

367. Kardinal Offishall

368. Belly

369. Skyzoo

370. Mac Mall

371. Kitty

372. Consequence

373. Willie D

374. Smino

375. Ras Kass

376. WC

377. Asher Roth

378. MC Solar

379. Bia

380. Kreayshawn

381. Bhad Bhabie

382. Lil B

383. Brotha Lynch Hung

384. Futuristic

385. Big Noyd

386. EST Gee

387. Joell Ortiz

388. Cassidy

389. Azad

390. Nardo Wick

391. Craig Mack

392. Dresta

393. Lil Mosey

394. JPEGMafia

395. Celly Cell

396. Sage Francis

397. Kano

398. Yung Bleu

399. Jidenna

400. Blaze Ya Dead Homie

#401—450

401. Magic

402. GLC

403. Sheek Louch

404. Joe Budden

405. Yo Gotti

406. Casey Veggies

407. Lil Keed

408. Angie Martinez

409. Benny the Butcher

410. k-os

411. Diabolic

412. Mims

413. Immortal Technique

414. R.A the Rugged Man

415. Kid Capri

416. Termanology

417. JID

418. Masked Wolf

419. Robb Banks

420. Kevin Abstract

421. Hoodie Allen

422. Canibus

423. JT Money

424. Saigon

425. Killah Priest

426. Richie Rich

427. Lord Infamous

428. Nine

429. Kuniva

430. Heems

431. Currensy

432. Rich Homie Quan

433. Westside Boogie

434. Rittz

435. CJ Fly

436. Buckshot

437. Rah Digga

438. Kam

439. Chino XL

440. No Malice

441. Rich Boy

442. Mick Jenkins

443. Craig G

444. Houdini

445. Evidence

446. Phife Dwag

447. Kutt Calhoun

448. Apathy

449. Reef the Lost Cause

450. Coi Leray

#451—500

451. Rico Nasty

452. Domo Genesis

453. Headie One

454. Sheck Wes

455. Grieves

456. Webbie

457. Frenchie

458. Illa J

459. Rhymefest

460. Torae

461. Drag-On

462. Homeboy Sandman

463. Shwayze

464. Pouya

465. Mike Jones

466. Beedie

467. Nature

468. Shyheim

469. Tony Yayo

470. Jarren Benton

471. Duke Deuce

472. Kyle

473. Little Simz

474. Indo G

475. Bas

476. Yung Gravy

477. Rapsody

478. JayDaYoungan

479. Saba

480. Milo

481. Rockie Fresh

482. Hussein Fatal

483. P.O.S.

484. Rye Rye

485. Oddisee

486. J.R. Writer

487. Westside Gunn

488. Token

489. Open Mike Eagle

490. Kokane

491. J-Live

492. iLoveMakonnen

493. Cozz

494. Gorilla Zoe

495. Hurricane Chris

496. Cupcakke

497. Kirko Bangz

498. Quando Rondo

499. J.I the Prince of N.Y

500. Mr. Lif

Who Is Your Favorite Rapper?

© 2022 Ansel Pereira