Hip-hop is 44 — A look at the 10 greatest rappers of all time
“Yes yes y’all and it don’t stop.” And it hasn’t till date, regardless of how constantly evolving the global music industry has been.
On August 11, 1973, an eighteen-year-old Jamaican-American DJ, Kool Herc, threw a back-to-school jam at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, New York.
During his set, he decided to do something different. Instead of playing the songs in full, he played only their instrumental sections (or “breaks”).
During these “breaks,” his friend Coke La Rock hyped up the crowd with a microphone — and the reaction was epic. And with that, hip-hop was born.
Today the genre has transcended in many forms but has remained the same.
In celebration of its 44th anniversary, here are the 10 greatest hip-hop artistes of all time — in no particular order.
Through Nas and a few others before him, storytelling in rap became an art form. The New York rapper, however, took it to a new level in the 90s when he held sway and was untouchable by his peers.
His 1994 album, Illmatic, ranks among the top classic albums of all time. To many hip-hop heads, all the tracks on Illmatic were classics.
After two decades in the music industry, Nas remains a pivotal figure in rap, earning respect for his influence on present day rappers and expansive body of work.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Jay-Z is one of the greatest lyricists of his time.
When he couldn’t get a foothold in the industry, Jay decided to stand alone as an independent artiste, with no record label. Ever since he’s been on a roll.
‘Reasonable Doubt’, to many, is the best album by Jay-Z, who recently became the first rapper to get inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.
If there was a rap bible, Tupac would be one of the prophets. A revolutionary, poet, gangster, rapper, actor, activist, Tupac Shakur was the total package.
Tupac, who started out as a backup dancer, went on to sell over 75 million records and become world revered, even in death.
Tupac’s songs were dynamic and divisive but the one that stood out was ‘Hate Them All’ which was released after he served his time in jail. His double-disk album ‘All Eyez On Me’ is one of best selling hip-hop albums.
Christopher Wallace, known as Notorious BIG or Biggie, released his debut album, ‘Ready To Die’ in 1994 and became a force to reckon with in the eastern coast of Brooklyn, sparking a rivalry between him and Tupac, who was considered the king of the west coast.
Biggie was the master of wordplay and deft lyricism; many rappers, since his death, have been influenced by his style and delivery.
16 days after he was killed in 1997, his double-disk album ‘Life After Death’ went platinum.
Rapper and producer, Eminem, born Martial Mathers, may be the most commercially successful and the most charted rapper of all time.
He’s had ten number-one albums on the Billboard 200 and has sold over 100 million albums worldwide.
The Marshall Mathers LP released in 2000 was his most iconic body of work, featuring global hits like ‘Stan’ and the ‘Real Slim Shady’.
Lil Wayne has made more mixtape than he’s made albums. The rapper made the act of making mixtures popular in the United States after he attained success with his successive releases.
Although he started out with the defunct group, ‘Hot Boys’, he grew into a formidable MC after meeting and collaborating with Birdman. The pair’s successes culminated in the creation of a record label, YMCMB.
Known for his brilliant use of metaphors and punchlines, Lil Wayne has released several revered hip hop albums in the last decade, among which are Tha Carter series.
A Tribe Called Quest
Formed in 1985, A Tribe Called Quest is an American hip-hop collective and is originally composed of MC and main producer Q-Tip, MC Phife Dawg, DJ and co-producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad and MC Jarobi White, who left the group in 1991 after the release of their debut album.
Regarded as the pioneers of alternative hip-hop music, the group released six albums between 1990 and 2016.
Their debut album, ‘People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,’ was considered a rap classic.
Dr Dre, Eazy E, Ice Cube, DJ Yellah, DOC and MC Ren, who make up NWA, are Compton natives.
NWA was a polarising hip-hop group that glamourised the gangster culture in Los Angeles and made popular the gangsta rap subgenre. They sang about drugs and the streets as well as police brutality and corruption.
Throughout the length of their career, they courted and lived with controversies generated by their lyrics.
NWA is widely considered one of the most influential groups in the history of hip hop.
Their song ‘Fuck The Police’ was their most controversial, so much so that it attracted the attention of the FBI.
Their 1988’s Straight Outta Compton album is one of the most influential rap records of all time.
New York based rap group, WuTang, is composed of east coast rappers RZA, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface killer, Inspekta Deck, and U-God.
Their 1993 debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), is considered to be one of the greatest albums in hip-hop history.
The Wu-Tang Clan is regarded as the best rap group till date.
OutKast is an American hip-hop duo formed in 1991 and composed of Atlanta-based rappers André 3000 Big Boi. The duo helped popularise southern hip-hop while experimenting with diverse genres such as funk, psychedelia, techno, and gospel.
OutKast’s debut album ‘Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik’ released in 1994, gained popularity not just for its name but its chart success.
The group in 2000 released the critically acclaimed Stankonia which included the singles Ms Jackson and B.O.B.
In 2003, the duo released the double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, which featured the number one singles ‘Hey Ya’ and ‘The Way You Move’.
The record would go on to clinch a Grammy award for album of the year.
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