Lyricism is the key thing here though; you have some rappers who have catchy hooks/dances/verses, but can’t carry an album if you handed it to them. But lyricism is not the only criteria; rappers who have broken new ground also deserve consideration.
My list will have some people that may surprise, but I think true hip-hop heads know who’s who…let the debate begin:
The dirty dozen (in no particular order)
- Eminem. That one’s easy! There aren’t too many rappers as good as he is. As a hip-hop head going back to the days of The Sugar Hill Gang, I do not think he’s the best ever (as a lot of Johnny come latelys’ will say,) but he is certainly in the conversation with all of the greats on the microphone.
- Ludacris. Very, very underrated lyricist.
- Too Short. A legend, some people like him, some don’t, he one of the raunchuest to ever pick up a microphone, but his influence cannot be denied.
- Scarface Another legend. With the Geto Boys and as a solo artist, Scarface was in a class of his own.
- Andre 3000. Another underrated lyricist. Even Eminem said that Andre is one of the best rappers he’s ever heard. I happen to agree. Funky outfits aside, he is dope.
- UGK; Underground Kings (I take them together. One of the best groups in the history of hip-hop.)
- Lil Wayne. Like him or not, he is prolific. No one since Tupac has consistently created so much material.
- Drake. He is Kanye West without the attitude.
- Juvenile. Yeah Master P was the first big rapper from New Orleans, but Juvenile really showed us what that Southern slang was all about.
- Kanye West. Prolific hit maker that made intelligent lyrics and the preppie look cool again
- Young Jeezy. One of my personal favorites.
- Snoop Dogg. Another legend. His first album was a classic, and he’s showed staying power to remain relevant as long as he has.
Honorable Mentions-because I’ve always liked their music: Xzibit, Rass Kass, Eightball & MJG and TI.