The Greatest Rapper of All-Time

This topic can’t be done enough. Well it can, and it is, but every year its fun to see what people are thinking. I included just about everyone who I feel is probably worthy of a vote or two. This isn’t a definitive list and I’m sure somebody is going to suggest Big Pun or 2Pac. And in the words of the great Eddie Murphy “Haha very funny muthafucka.”  Surely, none of those dudes have a shot at winning this when you have the god Rakim up in here. Voice, delivery, content, originality, influence, catalog and longevity. Think about that when voting for who you feel is the GOAT.

The Greatest Rapper of All-Time

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18 Responses to “The Greatest Rapper of All-Time”

  1. DJ Hector V says:

    Top of my list would be Black Thought & GZA too!

  2. Use_My_Words says:

    I think when you talk about greatest you have to consider longevity as well as the other qualities you mentioned. How long have they been able to do it at a high level?

    I agree that DJ Hector V that Black Thought should be added to this list.

  3. philaflava says:

    I love Black Thought more than anyone, he is on my list of top 10 emcees of all-time, though I know on most peoples list he is lucky to crack top 25.

    That said, nobody should ever say Black Thought is a better rapper than Rakim, then Nas, then Kool G. Rap. You can say he has made more albums but his impact, the way he was just years ahead of his time, the subject matter and his delivery should easily make every person say Rakim over GZA or Black Thought.

    Think about it.

  4. HughPhug says:

    i love me some Black Thought too, would be at the top of my favorite list with the likes of Kweli, Mos Def, Pos. But i think greatest (not personal favourite) i think its Rakim, Chuck and KRS. I can’t say one is greater than the other. if i had to choose one, i think i’d go with Rakim, he has damaged his rep as much as KRS by dropping some inanely dull shit in the last 10 years. Chuck maybe most important, but i think Ra gets it.
    Greatest flow? i think Nas, and he doesnt even make my personal top 20 favourites based on content released

  5. Mike Check says:

    These are all good points being made so far, but to expand on the Rakim perspective, I think you have to disassociate the emcee from their music when considering who is the GOAT.
    In Rakim’s case, the overall package (music & lyrics) is often mediocre, but you take those same rhymes as an acapella and lay them over some better production and he still kicks as hard today as he did 10 years ago. His style and flow are timeless, proven by the fact he’s not had to change like so many others have.

    With the exception of Biggie (who wasn’t around long enough), all of these rappers have put out at least one lame duck album.

    Great post, this conversation never gets tired.

  6. philaflava says:

    In all fairness, Rakim is 45 years old. Imagine an athlete in his 40s. Rakim was light years ahead of any rapper lyrically. He is a product of the 80s, so there was no Primo, Dre, Pete Rock or Alchemist back then. The production is what it was. But mediocre? You’re the first to use that word talking about his lyrics.

    But I agree with you, almost everyone has a bad album or two or three…

    • Mike Check says:

      I don’t think you can make the comparison to an athelete. An athlete’s physical performance depreciates over time because the human body ages, but the mind doesn’t follow the same aging patterns. It could even be argued that Rakim’s IQ should in theory be higher at 45 than when he was 19 and entered the game.

      Over the years hip hop has pushed almost every boundary there is, so what prevents Rakim (or anyone else) from being so ground breaking today is that there is very little left to do. It’s no different from the early skateboarders and BMXer’s that mastered lots of tricks, compared to today’s generation that can only build on those foundations and add new variations to the old tricks.

      When I said Rakim was often mediocre I was mostly thinking of the production on his solo efforts. His first few albums were outstanding, but by the time he went solo, there was Primo, Pete Rock and plenty of others that could have done a better job!

      From a personal perspective, one of the key things that makes Rakim more timeless than others is that his social commentary is very general but cleverly worded. His avoidance of discussing topics like the current US president, world events or specifically naming people means that his message will apply in almost any decade (unless we suddenly eradicate poverty, wars etc).

      The more I look at this list objectively, the more I think Ice Cube and Jay-Z shouldn’t be up there (IMHO). Good to see Eminem up for consideration too, so often overlooked because of his commercial success, but a lyrical genius.

      • philaflava says:

        Of course you can. Every performer, whether its an actor, rapper or athlete has a prime. Michael Jordan had it. Nolan Ryan had it. Al Pacino had it. Rakim had it.

        With rappers, when they become older, they become disconnected. Their lifestyles change. Their interest changes. They’re no longer as hungry or have the same struggles that they once discussed in their music. Music itself changed. What Rakim would talk about in ’88 NOBODY would dare talk about in 2014.

        From 1987 to 1992, I don’t think there was anyone in the rap world who would deny him being the best. An amazing catalog, tremendous influence and really classic cut after classic cut. Everybody wanted to be Rah.

        His decline started once he came out of retirement and while The 18th Letter was decent everything after that started to suffer and that is the only time I would use mediocre in a sentence to describe Rakim, but certainly not his lyricism.

        As for Ice Cube and Jay-Z, you don’t think they should be up there but are happy to see Eminem. Do you realize Ice Cube is the only solo artist to have back to back to back classic albums. Even if don’t want to include Predator, Amerikkka’s Most Wanted and Death Certificate are the two greatest back to back albums in rap history. When you factor in his NWA days, he most certainly does but like I was saying, those were his prime years. A lot of people don’t realize just how great Cube was in the early 90s. I would say after Rakim, Cube became the best rapper of until ’93.

        • Mike Check says:

          I beg to differ. Yes, everyone has their prime, but it’s not always in their youth.
          Everybody goes through changes, that’s no excuse for becoming a worse rapper, it should give you different subjects to discuss. Hunger is probably the main point that makes the greatest difference in almost any profession.

          There were mediocre moments on the 18th Letter. Overall it was a strong album, but there was definitely some mediocre productions. Let me be clear, it’s not Rakim that’s mediocre, its the production, and as a result the overall package becomes mediocre.

          Cube had a great start and was very influential, nobody should dispute his early achievements. But over the alst 20 years he’s been so hit and miss.
          Plenty of people have had great early successes and are still putting out music, but for me that doesn’t automatically give them a tick for the ‘catalogue’ and ‘longevity’ categories. I just don’t think Cube is top 10, my personal opinion.
          And I think many would argue that BDK or Ice-T had back to back classic albums long before Cube did, and there are probably other contenders for that title too (not meaning to open the debate about what defines a classic).

        • Mike Check says:

          On a slightly different level, if you think about someone like Q-Tip, he ticks almost all of your suggested categories and was mighty influential through his production too. But he’s not someone you would typically see on a suggested GOAT list.

          There’s a gap for recognising this type of artist, the ones who aren’t the most critically acclaimed lyricists, but have contributed so much in various ways. Maybe the next poll….

          • philaflava says:

            ​Neither Ice T or BDK had consecutive albums remotely as good as Amerikka’s Most or Death Certificate . That’s not just my opinion, that is pretty much the universal consensus.

            RE: Q-Tip

            Tip was a really good rapper, who happens to be an amazing producer too. As a group, ATCQ is top notch but as a lyricist (top 10), I’m not sure he makes it. He may be right outside. I’d probably be more inclined to include Posdnous over him and Black Thought.

          • Sam says:

            Tip is also apt for this particular debate because he has continued to release incredible music even into his 40s. The Renaissance is better than several Tribe albums IMO. I know that’s probably an outsider opinion here, but he’s always the first guy I bring up when I hear people talking about “rap is a young man’s game,”

  7. samboyle says:

    Andre 3000 SMFH cant be serious

  8. Mike Check says:

    Hmm, you’ve changed the viewpoint from facts to opinions. You initially said “Ice Cube is the only solo artist to have back to back to back classic albums”, that’s not true, others had done it before him. Whether you or I like the artists or the albums is irrelevant.
    Cube’s album’s probably were stronger, but they were also from a different time and somewhat difficult to compare to Kane’s or Ice-T’s.

    I wasn’t suggesting that Tip was top 10, just pointing out that there is potentially a different type of GOAT that contributes to the game on more levels than just lyricism.
    Black Thought had slipped my mind. He should replace Jay-Z 😉

  9. Matthew says:

    I said Eminem. No doubt, there are some legends on this list, but Eminem to me perfected the art. If we’re going to say who the “greatest” rapper is, then I think the most important thing to consider is the actually craft of emceeing which the rapper displays. I don’t think I need to boast about the quality of what Em has put out, but I think his impact is even more important than legends like Rakim or KRS or Kool G. I would say the late 80s and early 90s was the Golden Era of rap. There were a ton of great artists, and there was a lot of room for talented artists to make a name for themselves. A lot of guys on this list have molded rap. That is an achievement and deserves a lot of attention. But I think if you consider how shitty most rappers were who had any type of notoriety in the late ’90s, and at this point, how much was already done in rap – how little room there was to really make a name for yourself and influence the art in a really impact way, like guys in the late 80s and early 90s were able to, then Eminem’s achievements in terms of his mark on the art become a lot more important.

    Now, Eminem is my choice first and foremost because I think he perfected the flow, delivery, put out the greatest amount of good material, and unlike the majority of even great rappers, he consistently switched up his flows and pushed himself album after album (at least until Relapse imo.. he switched up his style on later releases, but I can’t say I’m a fan), and wrote some of the greatest songs in hip hop. So that’s why I picked him, all due respect to the other guys on this list.

  10. Matthew says:

    I didn’t mean to say his impact is more important, just that it might be just as impressive considering how late to the rap scene he was.

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  12. Pete Concrete says:

    If biggie can make it on this list then Big Pun should be there to. But I agree with the rest of the pack Black Thought needs to be on the list… Andre 3000???? Ahhh come on!

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