The rap culture begun in the late 1970’s, and since, it has evolved and created iconic legends throughout the decades. Here is our list for the top ten greatest rap artist of all time.
The Wu-Tang clan emerged in 1993, after Dr Dre’s style of gangster funk had overtaken the hip hop world by storm. The rap group was based in Staten Island, New York, and was formed by nine MCs. The rapping clique raps about surreal and vicious violence of the hip hop world in 1995. (Link 1) The rap group's album “Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” was released in 1993 and was considered one of the greatest rap albums of all time. (Link 2)
“C.R.E.A.M” from the Wu-Tang Clan album “Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” is one of the most recognised Wu-Tang Clan songs. The song has been sampled in “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” from Drake feat. Jay Z (Link 3), “I Grew Up On Wu Tang” from The Game (Link 4) and lyrics from the song “C.R.E.A.M” was also featured on The Notorious B.I.G’s song “Notorious Thugs” where biggie spits the line, “I’ma tell you what a n***a told me, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me”” (Link 5)
N.W.A formed in the late 80’s on the west coast of the United States in Compton,CA. The five member crew featuring Eazy E, Dr Dre, Ice Cube, Yella and MC Ren provoked authorities and group after rapping about the black life culture and the discriminative police officers in Compton after the Rodney King beating. A fallout however occurred in the rap group, causing Ice Cube to leave the self made record label “Ruthless” to leave for “Lench Mob”, while Dr Dre moves to “Death Row” where he will work with Suge Knight to produce artist such as Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg. Dre would then leave Death Row Records to start his own label, “Aftermath” departing from Suge Knight, to produce artist such as Eminem. Eazy E was diagnosed with Aids and died shortly after the fallout had occurred. (Link 6)
The rapping group did release their debut album, “Straight Outta Compton” in 1988, and made three million album
sales. (Link 7) One of N.W.A’s more controversial songs within society at that time was “**** Tha Police”, which explained how Ice Cube, Mc Ren and Eazy E and fellow African Americans have been hassled by the authorities for their skin color. (Link 8).
N.W.A promote being uncensored and voicing your stance on topics. The rap group had a film, “Straight Outta Compton” produced in 2015 by Dr Dre and Ice Cube, about their career as rappers. Were O’shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube’s Son) plays the role of Ice Cube. The film raked in $56 million USD in the opening weekend of the film. (Link 9)
8) Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne began his rapping career as a harcore hip-hop teenager in New Orleans. Since the age of 11, Lil Wayne has progressed his career as a rapper. (Link 10) Lil Wayne has 27 albums from the years he has been present (1990s-2010s) One of Lil Wayne’s most praised albums is “The Carter III” which was released in 2008 (Link 11) with the label
he has been loyal to, Cash Money Records (Link 12). Lil Wayne has worked with artist such as Nicki Minaj, Drake, Tyga, Dj Khaled, Fall Out Boy and T-Pain. (Link 13)
Nas (based in New York) began his career with his classic debut, Illmatic in 1994 when he was only 21 years of age. (Link 14) He has self adapted himself to be the lead rap vocals of New York. Nas challenged Jay Z for the self proclaimed title to be the king of New York rap in his track “Ether” which was released in 2001 in his album “Stillmatic” in response to the shotts Jay-Z shot at Nas in his track “Takeover”.(Link 15)
Nas has a powerful flow which allows him to rap over a wide variety of beats by producers such as DJ Premier, Large
Professor and Pete Rock. (Link 16).
In the first week of Nas’ debut album “Illmatic” being released, the album only received a small 59,000 sales in the first week. However, by 2001, the debut album had reached Platinum and thus Nas’ career began. (Link 17).
Nas has recently featured in DJ Khaled’s album “Major Key” in the song “Nas Album Done” produced by Dj Khaled, Cool & Dre and 808-Ray were the song previews shorts for Nas’ upcoming album, due to be released soon. (Link 18)
6) Kanye West
From south-side Chicago, Kanye West started his career from a hip-hop beatmaker to a worldwide hit maker. Kanye worked with Jay Z from an early age and then debuted his first studio album “The College Dropout” with Jay-Z’s label Roc-A-Fella. (Link 19)
In 2007, Kanye released his third studio album “Graduation” the same time 50 Cent released his album “Curtis’ . Kanye topped 50 cent by securing the number one position on the Billboard top 200. “Graduation” sold 957,000
copies in the first week. This was known as the day when Kanye West defeated gangster rap.
In “Graduation” Kanye collaborates with Daft Punk in his lead single in the album, “Stronger”. (Link 20).
Kanye often samples a lot of pre-existing tracks into his music to make a new song. He has used tracks from artist to sample and create such as Puff Daddy, Brenda Lee, Drake, Giorgio Moroder, Desiigner and Kanye Himself. (Link 21).
Kanye is also not only a rapper, but has released his own fashion brand “Yeezy” which is a rough collection of clothing that goes for high prices. A Yeezy distressed jumper sells for $3,346 USD. (Link 22)
Kanye’s most successful clothing item would have to be his shoes “Yeezy 350 Boost”, which have earned their placement in the rap world, making it prestigious if you own a pair.
Kanye is a jack of all trade and continues to make music and experiment with other projects.
5) Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar aka K-Dot aka Kung Fu Kenny started his rapping career when he was only 16 years of age. The artist is a platinum-selling and Grammy-nominated rapper with four studio albums.
With approval of “The New King of the West Coast” by The Game, K-Dot was signed to Aftermath by Dr Dre,(Link 23) before leaving to join Top Dawg Entertainment with fellow artist such as Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock and Ab Soul. (Link 24)
Kendrick is known for creating a narrative in a compilation of songs in his albums. For example, his album “Good Kid, M.A.A.D city” narrated the life of living in Compton, CA. The home of Kendrick Lamar. His following album, “To Pimp A
Butterfly” is a more political album, were Kendrick shares his experiences of growing and becoming the new wave of rap, with the motif of reciting a poem he wrote, to Tupac Shakur. (Link 25)
Kendrick’s latest album “Damn.” has gained major success, peeking at number one in the Billboard 200 and receiving an impressive score of 96 on Metacritic.
“Damn.” by Kendrick Lamar features artist such as Rihanna, U2 and Zacari. (Link 26) The album tells a narrative about life and how it connects spiritually to God. The album is one of Kendrick’s best albums to date.
Eminem also known as The Real Slim Shady, is a controversial white rapper who grew up Detroit, Michigan. Eminem is rapid, obnoxious, unpredictable and one of the more angrier MCs. After living in the underground in Detroit, Eminem attended rap battles where he would freestyle and diss the opponent.
Later on in Eminem’s career, he would be found by former member of N.W.A, Dr Dre. In the fall of 1998, Eminem would debut with Aftermath his LP, “The Slim Shady LP”.
Eminem would then proceed to release his debut studio album, “The Eminem Show” with the hit single “Without Me”.
In Eminem’s album “Curtain Call”, Eminem works with artist Elton John in the song, “Stan” were a craved fan, not
noticed by Eminem, end his and his wife’s life in a car. The song is touching and moving and is the beginning to Elton’s and Slim’s friendship. (Link 27)
In 2002, the film “8 Mile” was released. The film was a biography to Eminem’s life before fame, starring Eminem himself. The film was extremely successful, winning one oscar and one thirteen other titles. (Link 28) The film was directed by Curtis Hanson, famous for other titles such as “L.A Confidential” and “Wonder Boys”. (Link 29)
From rags to riches, New York rapper Jay-Z turned himself into a major-label executive, making music, working with other artist like Kanye West, marrying Beyonce, and starting his own streaming service, Tidal. Jay-Z has experienced it all.
Jay-Z was born in 1969 in the Marcy Projects of Brooklyn, New York, where he would work with MC friends at school.
Jay-Z would then continue to take a risk and start his own record label “Roc-A-Fella” to release his debut album, “Reasonable Doubt”. The album only peaked at number 32 on the billboard 200, however, Jay-Z started to be recognised by fans, as Jay-Z continued his career and started to take off.
Jay-Z proceeded to work with artist such as Rihanna and created a duo album with fellow friend, Kanye West, “Watch The Throne”. (Link 30)
In Jay’s album “The Blueprint” he features a single, a diss track aimed at Mobb Depp and Nas, proclaiming himself to be, “The King of New York Rap”. Nas shot back with his track “Ether”. (Link 31)
More recently, Jay-Z released a streaming service, vowing to generate more revenue for artist. Artist working with Tidal include Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Madonna, Rihanna, Usher, J Cole and Jay-Z himself. (Link 32)
2) Tupac Shakur (2pac)
2pac is argued to be one of the greatest rappers of all time, definitely the voice of the west coast however. 2 pac was one of the most controversial rappers of his time, rivaling Snoop Dogg while he was in prison.
2 Pac debuted an album with Death Row “All Eyez on Me”, it peaked at number upon it’s February release.
2pac was praised in the Hip Hop world, he was allied with The Notorious B.I.G, until he was attacked while in Biggie’s company, becoming paranoid to The Notorious B.I.G. This sparked beef and controversy between the two rappers and the rap world became divided, With California rapper 2pac representin the west coast and New York rapper The Notorious B.I.G representing the east coast. (Link 33)
Following the attack, 2pac released the single “Hit Em Up” dissing Biggie and Bad Boy (Biggie’s Label). This diss track is one of the most memorable diss tracks of hip hop history. (Link 34) Biggie shot back at 2pac with his song, “Who Shot Ya”. (Link 35)
In 1996 while 2pac attended a boxing match in Las Vegas, Nevada, he left the event in a car with Suge Knight. While the two pulled up at a set of lights, a car beside Pac started firing at Pac and killed 2pac. Fourteen shots were fired and Tupac was hit six times. It still remains unknown who orchestrated the death of 2pac. (Link 36)
2pac’s legacy however will live on forever, one of his more popular songs being “California Love” featuring Dr Dre.
1 ) The Notorious B.I.G
To finish our list, the greatest rapper of all time is The Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls.
Biggie started out as a street hustler from a very young age, to the greatest rapper of all time. The Brooklyn rapper was arrested for being busted in possession with drugs. While in jail, the rapper wrote rap songs. He then left jail and started MC’ing in the streets of New York.
Biggie was then found by Sean “Puffy” Combs and joined the label “Bad Boy”.
Biggie has had enormous success with releasing five studio albums, only two were released when he was alive however. (Link 37)
Biggie had a flow that was smooth and sexy, and collaborated with artist such as Snoop Dogg, Eminem and his group, Junior Mafia.
Biggie was accused of attempting to assassinate west coast rapper, Tupac Shakur and was hated upon in the West Coast and by 2pac fans.
While attending the Music Awards on March 9, 1997 in California, Biggie, similar to 2pac’s death, was shot in his car while stopped at lights. It still remains unknown who orchestrated the death of Biggie Smalls. (Link 38)
In 2009, the movie “Notorious” was released, to be a biography to the life of Biggie Smalls. It opened with $20 million USD in the opening weekend. (Link 39)
Biggie had hit songs such as “Juicy”, “Hypnotize” and “Big Poppa”. He was one of the most successful rappers for his short lived life, and his flow was unique and one of a kind.
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Link 2: https://www.discogs.com/Wu-Tang-Clan-Enter-The-Wu-Tang-36-Chambers/master/25303
Link 3: http://www.whosampled.com/sample/226574/Drake-Jay-Z-Pound-CakeParis-Morton-Music-2-Wu-Tang-Clan-C.R.E.A.M./
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Link 8: https://genius.com/Nwa-fuck-tha-police-lyrics
Link 9: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1398426/
Link 10: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/lil-wayne-mn0000272689/biography
Link 11: https://www.discogs.com/Lil-Wayne-Tha-Carter-III-Instrumentals/master/93041
Link 12: https://www.discogs.com/label/19799-Cash-Money-Records
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Link 15: https://genius.com/Nas-ether-lyrics
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Link 22: https://www.farfetch.com/au/shopping/women/yeezy-season-3-distressed-jumper-item-11790220.aspx?storeid=9392&size=21&origin=product-search&bfdqbt=&source=pla&gclid=Cj0KEQjwmcTJBRCYirao6oWPyMsBEiQA9hQPbrN4-FmageyepOjyD4l-ejyASsi-xJZiPrShEdrcE5kaAlii8P8HAQ&gclsrc=aw.ds
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Link 31: https://genius.com/Jay-z-takeover-lyrics
Link 32: https://support.tidal.com/hc/en-us/articles/203055651-Who-Owns-TIDAL-
Link 33: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/2pac-mn0000921895/biography
Link 34: https://genius.com/2pac-hit-em-up-lyrics
Link 35: https://genius.com/The-notorious-big-who-shot-ya-lyrics
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Link 39: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0472198/?ref_=nv_sr_1