Ever since I got mixed up in this rough and tumble world that is music blogging almost four whole weeks ago, (man time flies, haha) I keep getting approached by people, begging me to put out a definitive list of the greatest rappers of all time. Hordes of people up and down Broad Street, in and out of buildings, knocking on my door at 3 a.m. just to get even the smallest taste of my absolutely conclusive opinions. Well, boy, do I have some great news for all of you anxious Peter's Reader'sÔout there: it's here. The complete, unabridged list of the greatest rappers to ever pick up a pen. Seriously, guys, this list is less cut down than a National Park Pre-Trump administration (but let's stick to music).
Before we dive into the list, let's establish the criteria that was used to make it. The length of an artist's career isn't weighted very heavily since many of the most talented lyricists died before they were able to put out more than a couple of albums. Instead, attributes like wordplay, flow, punchlines, and overall creative rhyme ability are the main factors in each artist's ranking. I like being impressed by thinking that someone took the time to sit down and write what I'm listening to.
1. MF DOOMGiphy
Probably the least recognizable name on this list, MF DOOM is pound for pound the most talented artist on this list (except for maybe Pun, because… you know). I've never heard anything even close to as intricate as MF DOOM's rhyme patterns. It's not uncommon to hear him rhyme every word in a line for an entire bar, and then start all over again. Though he does sound like he's been rapping with a severe sinus infection for the past 20 years, there simply hasn't ever been a more creative or skillful rapper than Daniel Dumile.
2. Big LGiphy
"Oh great here comes another scarcely known 90's rapper from New York, what a surprise". When I first heard Livestylez Ov da Poor & Dangerous, Big L's first and only LP, I felt idiotic for having missed out on this music for so long. Thank goodness for you guys, I am here to spread the Gospel according to Lamont. Big L's discography includes a great mix of tracks with laugh-out-loud funny punchlines, and more thought provoking songs about racism and the state of life on the streets. Similar to Pun, he was killed on the verge of a major record deal that was sure to skyrocket him to mainstream success. P.S. Google "Big L and Jay Z Stretch and Bobbito Freestyle", you're welcome.
Marshall Mathers, or as my uncle calls him: trailer park Vanilla Ice. I could think of maybe one other person with as extensive of a vocabulary as Eminem and it isn't Machine Gun Kelly. While Slim Shady may not be exactly what he used to be, it's hard to deny the impact that he's had not only on the music industry, but on the landscape of American culture in general. The perfect anti-hero against the establishment of the late-Clinton, early-Bush years, Eminem's three album stretch of The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP, and The Eminem Show, will probably never be topped.
I really couldn't think of anything fun to say about Nas, since the man is all business all the time, so I googled, "Funny things about Nas" and boy do I have a hot scoop for y'all. first time Nas had tried Chinese food, his friend told him to hold his plate out the window and then dumped it down from the floor above. So… there's that. Regardless, (shout out to Paulie Walnuts), Nas is the best introspective rapper ever. His albums are so dense with thoughtful content that it's almost guaranteed you'll have to play it back a couple of times or risk missing something important. If Kanye didn't drop the ball so hard on last summer's Nasir, I think Nas just may have been a little higher on this list.
5. The Notorious B.I.G.Giphy
"Damnit Peter, we let you disrespect Tupac at 9, insult Jay-Z at 7, and we even let it slide when you included that dude Reginald. But are you gonna really stand there and put Biggie Smalls at number 5?!? That may just constitute blasphemy!" Alright, alright I understand the outrage on this one. While Biggie is normally in just about everyone and their grandmother's top 2, he landed a little bit south on mine.
By no means is it a knock on his abilities, numbers 2-5 are so close they're almost interchangeable, I just think the next few guys (or girls, no spoilers), just edge him out a little bit. When it comes to flow, Biggie is by far number 1. Hypnotizeis just about the smoothest song that's ever been written. Another great whose life was cut short, B.I.G. fundamentally changed music forever in his short time in the game.
6. Big PunisherGiphy
There may be no more interesting human being to ever pick up a microphone than Big Pun. At 5'7 (just missing the Venn Diagram), and nearly 700lbs, Pun died of heart failure while right at the cusp of main stream success. The legacy he left behind really is nothing short of fascinating for better or worse. From helping to launch the careers of Remy Ma and Fat Joe, to bringing fans on stage just to violently throw them back into the crowd Pun was about as unpredictable as they come. His intricate rhymes and insane flow would have made him a household name had he been able to control his weight problem. BONUS: Petey D's Assignment of the Week: Go listen to Twinz by Big Pun and Fat Joe, it might just change your entire outlook on the universe.
While we're all here in the Trust Tree, and since I'm holding Teddy the Truth Bear, I have to come clean on this one. Up until I actually sat down to write this, I wasn't planning on including Jay-Z on this list. *Everyone Gasps*. I know guys, I know. Really tough stuff to swallow but it's true, if for no other reason than that his music is very hard to get a hold of, so I just haven't heard as much of it as I would like to (the Blue Print Series, Reasonable Doubt, etc.). But then I remembered 4:44, Watch the Throne, The Black Album, and all of the other amazing projects that I do have access too, and realized that just from that small sample of his work, Jay more than deserved a spot on this list.
Also, I get he's a 'business, man', but screw Tidal.
8. Kendrick LamarGiphy
At 5 feet and 5 inches tall, Kendrick Lamar is one of the rare few to land in the middle part of a Venn Diagram describing the best artists of our generation, and people who I am taller than. In fact, it's pretty much just Kendrick, Lil Wayne, Danny Devito and Ron from the Jersey Shore who occupy that coveted little overlap. Pushing aside the fact that he's a short little short person, Kendrick's lyrical dexterity right now really is second to none. He's exactly the kind of guy that, when listening to his music, you can picture him writing each song meticulously and making sure that each word and syllable is purposeful. The modern-day Tupac.
I hope it isn't controversial to say that Tupac is easily among the top three rappers alive today (If you're reading this Pac, please come home, rap could really use your help right about now. P.s. I hear Malaysia is lovely this time of year). I know that I may cause a bit of an Uproar with ranking Tupac so low, but it's my list and you've already read this far so you might as well grow up and hear me out. While he is obviously deserving of a top ten spot, there are simply just eight guys who I think are just a lil bit better than him, which I think is a pretty good spot to be in. That being said, Tupac was one of the most thoughtful lyricists ever, regardless of genre. Through his poetry, Shakur was able to cement his place as a true civil rights leader, and a cultural icon.
I know what you're going to say. "Peter, you're gonna sit there and tell me that a guy named Reginald Noble is the 10th best rapper of all time? I mean come on, a name like that sounds like it should belong to the Duke of York's pet hedgehog or something!" To which I would respond, "First of all, great joke as always, valued reader. Second of all, I'm standing. And third of all, yes, I am going to tell you just that, and he's probably worthy of being higher on this list." Redman truly is your favorite rapper's favorite rapper. Besides having one of the most unique deliveries of all-time, Redman has probably had the biggest overall impact on hip-hop besides the almighty Rakim.
11. Lil WayneGiphy
After meticulously crafting this list in the most profound and scientific way possible, pretty much just writing names down and a little distracted doodling for what can only be described as a laborious 45 minutes, I came to a stark realization: I probably can't, in good faith, include Lil Wayne in my top 10. I just wouldn't be telling the truth to those who count on me the most, my Peter's Reader'sÔ. So after some soul searching and a quick bathroom break, (everything came out fine, thanks for asking) I decided to rock the world of lists to its very core and make mine go up to 11.
I wouldn't call myself a pioneer per , I prefer the term 'trailblazer'. Anyway, Wayne's inclusion on this list should be a surprise to no one. In terms of quotable punchlines, Weezy is up there with the best. And while sheer size of discography is not a criteria, something should be said about Lil Wayne's consistently high quality over a remarkable number of projects.