Top 10 Rappers of All Time
This list prioritizes quality and volume of work over album sales or historic impact. MCs with smaller discographies, or those who were involved primarily in groups, are disadvantaged.
And as all lists include bias so does mine towards not only my taste but to what I have been exposed to. Certain artists may have had less of an impact on my music taste, and are therefore pushed down the list.
#1 - Lil Wayne
This man has so many bars he doesn't even know them all. Lil Wayne has survived at least 2 or 3 different waves of hip hop, and he comes out on top as one of the greatest lyricists and hit-makers in history.
#2 - Jay-Z
In some ways, Jay-Z has been free-styling his whole career. Unlike many rappers, he memorizes each verse before getting in the booth. Beyond that, as the biggest MC to survive the violent 90s hip-hop era, he is positioned as the godfather of modern hip-hop, and for good reason.
#3 - Ghostface Killah
This list is about solo rappers, so after much deliberation, Ghostface Killah gets the Wu-Tang clan spot. Because, to me, Ghostface represents the high mark of skill and influence for that entire group, to the point where he has spawned the careers of a few similarly popular rappers who "borrowed" his overall flow and style.
#4 - Kool Keith
Aka Dr. Octagon, aka Dr. Dooom, aka Crazy Lou, Black Elvis, etc. He invented weird rap all the way back in '96. He is an absolute pioneer in hip-hop and paved the way for many other acts. Himself putting out some of my favorite indie rap records of all time.
#5 - MF DOOM
Really a guy who tried every possible rhyme in every possible combination. He represents the kind of underground hip-hop that Kool Keith helped invent. MF DOOM is someone who is known as the headiest of hip-hop communities as well as the goofiest.
#6 - Gucci Mane
Gucci is the godfather of mumble rap. And I love mumble rap. It's a bullshit moniker, but it has stuck, so let's own it. Mumble rap is about the art of squeezing the hardest bar possible into the most unassuming and tight place, all while flaunting about how dope your life is. Mumble rap deserves its respect and therefore so does Gucci Mane.
#7 - Bizzy Bone
Bizzy was the most memorable aspect of Bone Thugz 'N Harmony, for me, and had a not insignificant solo career also. Bizzy and Bone Thugs really represent the first and best of the chopper style. Bizzy also spanned a lot of different subject matters and had great storytelling prowess.
#8 - Kool G Rap
Everyone says "your rapper's favorite rapper" with this guy and it is absolutely true. I skipped over a lot of early MCs but I could not skip this one. I admittedly learned about Kool G kind of retroactively, after I had come to love a lot of the artists he inspired. Similarly to Kool Keith, his flow and subject matter are so advanced that you will find it hard to believe what year some of these records came out in. A true visionary.
#9 - J. Cole
One of the best storytellers in the game and is even able to put out hype tracks and bangers with the best of them. Cole is one of the guys on this list that sometimes gets the wrong kind of attention. I feel like he has shown a level of consistent quality that is hard to ignore.
#10 - Eminem
I felt that it was impossible to have a top 10 without including Eminem. That is how good his first 3 major releases are. I, however, will not forgive him for D12 and his later work. My inclusion for Em here is a nod of respect toward his place in hip-hop history and how absolutely brain-melting he was in the beginning. One of the best lyricists in hip-hop history, and even with his success coming mostly from being the first good white rapper, he did actually rise to the occasion and had a huge impact.
Only choosing ten is rough, and I left out some huge names. But I tried really hard to choose who I genuinely think are the best rappers of all time. My bias is what music I prefer to listen to. While also taking a serious look at their entire catalog of music.