Where did rap music come from? What is the most popular rap music style? Who is the best rapper? While answering the first two questions may be easy, every rap fan has a list of the rappers they find best.
This topic can get contentious and even lead to a full-blown argument among those who take rap seriously. So naturally, everyone has their own opinion about rap music, and it's hard to choose a select few as the best.
Our list doesn't merely judge rappers on their popularity or the number of records sold. Neither do we stick to the clichéd stereotype of "old is gold."
Instead, what we base our criteria on is a pure unadulterated skill, regardless of whether the rapper is part of a major label or not. In addition, the rapper needs to have been on the rap scene long enough to prove their consistency.
As such, we'll be considering their rhymes, lyrics, and message. Some rappers on our list like to experiment with advanced rhymes, while some go for multisyllabic rhyming while keeping their songs fresh and messaging authentic.
While it may be hard to answer who invented rap music, this list will indeed confirm who cemented rap music in today's music scene!
While rap traditionalists might scoff at his placement on the list, Lil Wayne truly deserves a spot among the best American rappers count.
His auto-toned sing-song rapping might not be as true to the traditional form as some would expect, but his lyrics take the cake.
His art shines through in his clever rhyme schemes, multisyllabic rhyming, and wordplay.
Some even argue that he popularized analogies in rap using similes, introducing an element of surprise with the rap playing out like a joke with a punchline.
None of his lines are wasted, and they're chock full of surprises that you can't even absorb in one listen.
Unlike the rap giants of the 1980s and 1990s, who are generally considered icons in their own right, Kendrick Lamar is a rapper of modern times.
Having gained prominence in this decade, he changed rap music from the same old beats and gave it a new spin with his layered adlibs, triple and quadruple time rhythms, and multiple voices.
Although rap music has evolved naturally since the 2000s, much of that evolution belongs to Kendrick Lamar.
This Compton rapper and his lyrical content gave rap a new uplift, replacing traditional giants like Jay-Z and Andre 3000.
If we had to name the most prominent rapper of the post-2000s rap scene, it would have to be Kendrick Lamar.
Ghostface Killah embodies old-school rap, with its grit and character, symbolic of the 90s rapping scene.
Part of the Wu-Tang Clan, which established itself as the most demanding crew in the early hip-hop scene, Ghostface Killah stood out most prominently because of his unique lyrics.
His rhymes were coded in slang and stood out for their raw appeal. However, his solo records shined the most, not being constrained by the group's style, and he is free to explore his rhyme schemes.
Lauryn Hill is among the most versatile artists in the hip-hop scene. Part of The Fugees, she anchored her group in the 1990s hip-hop scene with her complex raps and velveteen vocals.
Since then, she made a bang with her 1998 debut evolving into her own rapping style, which mixes equal parts grit and vulnerability.
She is unparalleled in her ability to hit a nerve and transition into a gushy ballad afterward.
Tech N9ne probably has the best flow among contemporary rappers of this time. His music has featured in mainstream media, from popular films, TV and video games.
However, he remains independent instead of signing up with a famous label, but he finds success regardless.
His use of triplets, sextuplets, multisyllabic rhyming, rhyme schemes, and unique time signatures distinguish him from other rappers, and his energy is hard to match.
However, his only drawback is that he refuses to break away from his complexity. He sticks to the rules too hard and even invents new words to insert into the mix.
Kool G Rap
Kool G Rap makes our cut because many of the best rappers in the hip-hop industry tout this artist as their favorite. Indeed, if the best names acknowledge him, he must be worth the mettle.
Kool G Rap adopted multisyllabic rhyming early on while retaining his smooth New York rhythmic flow, setting the ground for many newcomers to follow through in his footsteps.
Although his Mafioso lyrical style never let him reach mainstream fame, he successfully developed his niche within the rap community.
His visual narratives, imagery, and breath control make him one of the most famous names in the rap world, and he'll immediately sound familiar because many rappers have tried to emulate his style within their music.
Royce Da 5'9"
Royce has been in the rap scene forever, even ghostwriting for P. Diddy and Dr. Dre and being the brains behind some of the top rap songs ever.
Among his notable style are his unique rhyme schemes, which he has given up for a more pop-oriented sound.
He is also very skilled in internal rhyming that can stand alone or feature as a part of the external rhyme. With time, his lyrics have become more mature and more challenging of the art of rap.
Nas has all of the skills of the rappers mentioned above and just that extra bit more. His rap style is less structured with the rules of rhyming and incorporates some looseness within the lyrics.
His flexibility allows him to expand his lyrical content and touch diverse topics, oscillating between casual and hard-hitting, which forces people to listen to what he's saying.
He happens to be an example of a rapper skilled in all types of rap styles, yet he still manages to incorporate them seamlessly to create his own rap style.
He has eight platinum records in a row and 12 Grammy nominations, with 30 million records sold. But, besides that, he also stays in the news for beefs with contemporaries like Jay-Z and Young Jeezy.
Shock rap is a rap niche best kept to the underground scene.
While most artists within this niche struggled ever to make it mainstream even after switching styles, Eminem remains one of the few names who broke through the barrier and reached mainstream popularity.
What distinguished Eminem is his explicit lyrics delivered in a thought-provoking, lyrical style. Some might consider it attention-grabbing, but at least it gets people to notice him and his music.
With time, Eminem has started toning down his rap to a more sing-song style to appeal to a broader audience.
However, when it comes to rap, Eminem is rightly known as the Rap God. While you may not know who invented rapping, Eminem undeniably took it to the next level.
His rap is unchallenged in terms of rhyme, vocabulary, complexity, and his freestyle skills are limitless and unparalleled in the industry.
Jay-Z, like Nas, has the potential to be overly complex in his rap but chooses not to be. Instead, his lyrical style veers towards a slightly looser, more flexible rhyme that isn't so hard on the ears.
This gives him room to hone his message and add layers of complexity within his verse. When you hear his lyrics, you immediately take him for a guy with tons of experience.
Jay-Z has made a name for himself in the rapping scene, which is why everyone loves him. He happens to be the wealthiest American musician and the first rap artist to become a billionaire.
He has earned a place in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, with 22 Grammy awards to his name. If you haven't heard of him, you're probably living under a rock.
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