“Top 5 MCs you ain’t gotta remind me, top 5 MCs: you gotta rewind me” – Kanye West
Every rap fan has been involved in a debate regarding their top 5 list of the greatest rappers of all time. It usually starts off with Person 1 asking Person 2 their list, Person 2 states their list then Person 1 just looks at Person 2 in disgust because their list is “wrong”. Person 1 than states their list and this is followed by both sides passionately defending their lists for however long they want. Rinse and repeat.
The following is my Top 5 list in no particular order because that would honestly take too long to decide. Fair warning, this list is based on my personal taste, so I am really leaning into my bias on this one.
The hip hop storytelling extraordinaire and one half of legendary duo OutKast, is on this list because his lyrics paint a picture in my head every time I listen to him. But storytelling isn’t his only strength. His lyrical prowess allows him to bend words and make complex rhyme schemes which have resulted in some of the most iconic verses of all time, most notably his final verse on Aquemini. Despite semi-retiring from the rap game and never releasing a solo project like his Outkast partner Big Boi, every time he jumps on a track for a feature with another artist, people want to hear what 3 Stacks has to say. Plus the man gave us “Hey Ya!” even if it isn’t a rap song, it is still one of the best songs ever. That alone deserves a spot on this list.
Take a look at Kanye West’s discography. Now compare it to any rap artist in the game and ask yourself this, “Which discography is more diverse?”. The answer is Kanye West every single time. As of writing this, Kanye has 8 studio albums to his name, and no two are alike. The producer/rapper has something for every type of hip hop fan. Songs like “Power” make you like the most confident person ever. But songs like “Heartless” make you wanna cry about that ex that did you dirty. There is no denying that the man has range. Not to mention the fact that he made “My Beautiful, Dark Twisted Fantasy” which in my opinion is one of the best albums ever. But that is a whole other list.
A lot of people are probably going to get mad at this pick but like I said, this is based on my personal preference. Drake is the greatest hit maker the rap game has ever seen. According to Billboard, Drake holds the record for the most entries on the Billboard Hot 100 by a solo artist with over 160 entries. Being at the height of your career in the era of streaming and social media definitely helps him get this record though. In terms of range, Drake has made rap songs, full on pop music, dancehall and r&b all of which have garnered huge amount of success. Plus every time he features on somebody else’s song, that song is pretty much guaranteed to do well. Oh and he’s from Toronto so as a resident of the GTA, I feel it would be blasphemous to not put him on this list.
13 No. 1 albums. 21 Grammys. Iconic verses. Business mogul. Trailblazer. These are the things that come to mind when I think of JAY Z. JAY Z has been a trendsetter ever since he started his career. He released his debut album by starting his own label, Roc-A-Fella Records, after several other labels turned him down. He was the first rapper to fully embrace streaming when he made a deal with Samsung for the release of his 12th album “Magna Carta Holy Grail”. He has worked with pretty much every legend in hip hop, young and old. From Biggie Smallz, to Dr. Dre, to Kanye West, to Drake, and many more. But JAY Z is also a trailblazer outside of the world of hip hop. From his sports agency Roc Nation, to partial ownership of the Brooklyn Nets which he later sold, to his Rocawear clothing line and many other business ventures, JAY Z has paved the way for many of today’s artists and shown them that they can expand their reach and influence beyond music. To quote the man himself, he’s not a businessman. He’s a business, man.
I know that I said that this list was in no particular order but if I had to pick one, I would pick Eminem as my favourite rapper of all time. I will admit that his most recent work has been underwhelming, but I would argue that it is more of a production issue rather than a decline of Eminem’s rapping ability. Regardless, at his best, Eminem is easily one of the best to ever do it. Due to his amazing ability to write complex rhymes and use them to paint a picture, Eminem has not only gained the respect of fans but also his peers. Eminem is among the best selling artists of all time and he is the best selling rapper of all time. He was the first rapper to win an Oscar for Best Original Song for “Lose Yourself”, the song he wrote for the movie “8 Mile” which he also starred in. He had one of the greatest runs in hip hop history starting with his major label debut the Slim Shady LP, followed by Marshall Mathers Lp and The Eminem Show. All 3 of which went on to win the Grammy for Best Rap Album and the latter two went on to be certified Diamond (10x Platinum). At his best, if he jumps on a track to feature on your song, that’s Eminem’s song now. Lastly, battle rapping is a big part of being a rapper and Eminem hasn’t been involved in a rap beef he didn’t win. All of this and more is why Eminem is my favourite rapper of all time.
So who is on your Top 5 list?
Ashar Ahmed aka Thunderous Overlord