The world of hip hop is huge. Between Tupac, Eminem and The Notorious B.I.G., the industry has thrived for years. Now, we’re lining up a definitive list of the world’s greatest rappers. Where skill is considered, we feel a few attributes, ideas, lifestyles and philosophies contribute. Whether it’s an action-packed vocabulary or an arsenal of jokes, the hip hop artists listed below have something to offer.
Truly legendary MCs both display a tight sense of rhythm and have the ability to match a beat in new, exciting ways. Sure, lyricism matters, but words aren’t necessarily everything. Story matters, too. If the story is compelling, the beat is awesome and the lyrics pack a punch, the song tends to stick around.
Hip hop music was developed in the United States, boasting a chanted, rhyming speech pattern. Developed by hip hop’s stylistic subculture elements, DJing, MCing, turntables, graffiti writing and break dancing, hip hop music is identified by its synthesized beats, beatboxing, rapping and turntable use.
It came about in the 1970s, spawned from New York City block parties. While hip hop might’ve been prevalent in the Bronx, it grew out of neighborhoods across the nation. Hip hop was officially recorded for television, and radio, in 1979. Largely, the genre’s surrounding poverty lifestyle held it back from mass appeal. Hip hop’s growth, acceptance and prevalence had difficulty outside ghetto neighborhoods.
As hip hop evolved, however, it adopted sampling technology, drum machines, mixers and record-break styles. Turntablists started beatmatching, scratching and toasting over record beats. Later, rapping was redefined by Warp 9, DJ Kool Herc, Fab Five Freddy, Marley Marl, Kurtis Blow and more. In the 1980s, “new school” hip hop arose. The Golden Age of hip hop, meanwhile, took off in the early 1990s. Notable Golden Age hip Hop artists include Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Big Daddy Kane, A Tribe Called Quest and Slick Rick.
Many regional hip hop styles have emerged in previous decades, including Atlanta hip hop and Southern rap. From its birth to present day, the genre is going strong. In recent years, artists like OutKast and Kanye West have dominated the industry. If you really want to test your trivia skills, you should take our quiz below. We’ve lined up the world’s top 75 hip hop artists. Can you tell who’s who? These famous artists span all the way back to the 80s, but you’ll surely find some modern musicians in the mix. Let’s get started.