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Who Really IS The Greatest Rapper Of All Time?

Updated on January 8, 2013

Is there a more loaded question in Hip-Hop? Has there ever been a more enticing debate in Hip-Hop? It's a debate that sparks long winded organized debates as well as visceral shouting matches that end in feelings getting hurt. To complicate things further there really is no right answer(which of course is what makes the question so much fun to debate) and there are quite a few rappers that someone could make a decent case for them being the best to ever touch the mic. This is a question I've both thought about a lot and have debated a lot and I figured I'd do a post on this topic. Plus in light of CNN anointing Nas to be the best lyricist of all time it left me wondering if I were to create a list who would be on it? Who would top it? Why? So I figured why not? After loads of thought here's my top 5 MC's Of all time.

1. 2Pac: Tupac Shakur in my mind is probably the most well rounded rapper of all time. Whatever style or sub-genre or lyrical theme he was doing he excelled at it. Whether I'd socially conscious, gangsta rap, party tracks, revolutionary tracks he did it all at a high level, with passion. He was a cathartic and soul baring with lots and lots of talent. His lyrical content was deep and always thought provoking even on some of his most harshest tracks. By the end of his short career he'd mastered every skill need to be a great MC Flow, Content, Passion etc. Some will say he wasn't the most technically skilled rapper but he was still technically great and made up for anything he lacked when it came to that with passion and lyrics we all can relate too. Not to mention that most of his best songs/albums are some of the most impact full in hip-hop history.

Classic Albums: Me Against The World, All Eyez On Me, The Don Killuminati: Seven Day Theory.

2. The Notorious B.I.G: The Notorious B.I.G is easily the second most famous legend in raps history but his legend really hasn't much to do with that. Biggie was just so talented that even though he only made two albums they both ended being considered classics at the end of the day and all he needed to cement his spot on any greatest of all time list. If 2Pac was passion and content then Biggie was the exact other side of the coin. The Notorious one probably had the greatest flow of all time and was technically masterful, he just had this natural talent for piling rhymes within a bar. He could do that and still make it sound smooth and stylish. He also had a storytelling ability that was out of this world.

Classic Albums: Ready To Die, Life After Death

3. Jay-Z: Jay-Z, if there's one thing you can say about him is that he's pretty consistent. If his album haven't been classics for the most part they've been all good. What really gives Jay-Z and edge over the rappers I put below him is that I believe Jay to be a little more well rounded and from street tracks to radio cuts he's done both the perfection. As far as his rapping skills go what can be said he's very technically skilled and his deepest material like ''Dead Presidents'' and ''D' evils'' are some of the most philosophical takes on life on the streets as you'll come by.

Classic Albums: Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint

4. Nas: Lyrically one could make the argument that no one has better. When we talk about street poets there are few better than Nas and few on his level. Since 94' when he dropped Illmatic which is widely considered one of the best if not the best rap album of all time he's been celebrated a one of Hip-Hop's best word smiths. A vivid story teller, with some consciousness as well. He hasn't slowed down either since he began either still one of the best in rap now.

Classic Albums: Illmatic, It Was Written

5. Eminem: Rounding out my top 5 is Eminem who at his best is really one of not only the best rappers ever but one of the funniest exhilarating to listen to. Slim never hesitated to put his listeners in head first into the swimming pool of drama that was his life especially early in his career and that created some classic LP's. This made him both interesting and relate able. He's witty, sarcastic, violent personally and at times laugh out loud funny. One of the most technically proficient rappers of all time with one of most unique rap voices of all time. Then there's the fact that he broke color barriers by being undeniably good and of course paved the way for other white rappers in the mainstream today.

Classic Albums: The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP

Honorable Mentions: Rakim, KRS-One, LL Cool J, Andre 3000, Big Daddy Kane, Ice Cube, Big L)

Who's in your top 5? And why?

Side Note: This list is very objective. Some may ask why no underground rap artist, but really when it comes to all around greatness you have to have the universal appeal of being great to both indie audiences and mainstream.

By: Patrick Griffin II


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      For ME

      2Pac ... by far

      then Biggie then Em then Nas then Jay z

    • profile image


      4 years ago


    • Lydia Sweatt profile image

      Lydia Sweatt 

      5 years ago from Dallas, TX

      This is a great list. My favorite lyricist is Nas by far - no one can take my mind on a ride like he can. But when you say "rapper", I understand that it means all-around artist, and I reluctantly agree that Tupac is #1 lol. But good info, I completely agree with this list.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Hm I'd never put tupa in 1st place , I like him but his style's easy hes got a great voice for it that's a fact , same thing with biggie . if you, like I pay more attention to the flow and lyrics Id go more for nas , lord finesse is wway underated , nobody can touch his style xp and big l, then biggie and tupac on 5 , and I'd skip eminem and jay z they're not worthy in a top 5

    • AsAboveSoBelow profile image


      5 years ago

      Honestly, I believe that the emcees who should be nominated for the top spot (if there were one and I'll get to that in a minute) aren't even on the tongues of most people. If you want to go based on the more popular/commercial aspect of the music, I, personally would have to nominate Big Pun or Andre 3000 above anyone. Not only for lyrical prowess, but versatility with subject matter as well. I get tired of hearing the same subject over and over. Now, as far as in the Underground/Hardcore/True School realm of Hip-Hop, what a lot of people dub, "The Real Hip-Hop" scene, there are entirely too many great emcees with varying styles to choose just ONE as the greatest of all time. Aesop Rock, Immortal Technique, El-P, Slug, R.A. The Rugged Man, Del The Funkee Homosapien, Mos Def, Afu-Ra, the list is literally endless. Choosing one above all would be like picking one martial artist out of the thousands, perhaps millions, that there are in the world. Irrespective of the variables involved. What style they practice. Their particular understanding of said style. Why they practice it and therefore how far they can go with it. Etc. I just appreciate the true emcees for who they are and what they bring to the table. Also for the fact that they show all of us what kind of potential we as human beings have.

    • UMHiram profile image

      Unique Hiram 

      5 years ago from Midwest

      Great Hub and I thoroughly love the top three rappers (Tupac, Biggie & Jay Z) that you have listed. Eminem is definitely a great rapper ... although I'm not a big Nas fan, he is very lyrical with his raps. Voted up, thanks for sharing!

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I think rap is interesting because it seems to be the only genre to have the greatest. Genres like pop and soul have queens like Madonna and Aretha but they're never said to be the greatest- just considered as part of the list. Your list has all of the rappers I would imagine putting on a list like this and you have great reasons. Nice hub.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Interesting subject. I don't think we'll ever know who the greatest rapper of all time is...there are so many good lyricists out there...


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