Hip Hop Artists The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time  

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260.5k votes 26.1k voters 288.8k views 208 items

A list of the best rap lyricists of all time. Since hip hop and rap music became popular at the beginning of the 1980s, many fans of the genre have focused on the message described in each rapper's lyrics. A form of street poetry, rap lyrics focus on many different things, dependent on who is speaking of the harsh realities of the streets. Others, contrarily, rap about the glamorous life and what it's like to live large. Sometimes, lyrical rappers fluctuate between both of these extremes.

The best lyrical rappers are universally respected by both their peers and fans for the honesty and the way they use their words in a creative fashion. Some of the most respected wordsmiths came from the golden age of hip hop. Here, you had groups like Sugar Hill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, N.W.A. and Black Star and individual rappers like KRS-One and Nas who are universally known as the best lyricists of all time. On the other side of the coin, you have two of the greatest rappers of all time, Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., who connected with millions of hip hop fans due to their strong lyrics that touch on the harsh realities of urban culture. A rapper who has switched from rapping about his rough upbringing to glitz and glamour is Jay Z. His debut album was universally praised for talking about life in Brooklyn during his youth, and his recent album was panned for praising brands like Tom Ford and excess.

This list includes many of greatest rappers of all time, who are also among the genre's most popular as well. The one thing these rappers have in common is their lyrics are considered some of the best in the history of hip hop music. These top lyricists are the greatest of all time, and it's up to you to decide who is the best lyricist in rap music. Cast your votes below.

list ordered by

1
10,899 4,067
Eminem is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
The Marshall Mathers LP, The Slim Shady LP, The Eminem Show Marshall Bruce Mathers III, better known by his stage name Eminem, is an American rapper, record producer, songwriter, and actor. In addition to his solo career, he is a member of the group D12, ...more

2
8,282 3,500
Nas is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Illmatic, Life Is Good, Untitled Nas album Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, better known as Nas, is an American rapper, songwriter, record producer and actor. He is the son of jazz musician Olu Dara. Since 1994, Nas has released eight ...more

3
6,496 2,754
The Notorious B.I.G. is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Ready to Die, Life After Death, Born Again Christopher George Latore Wallace, better known by his stage names The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie or Biggie Smalls, was an American rapper. Wallace was raised in the Brooklyn borough of New York ...more

4
8,237 2,640
Tupac Shakur is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
All Eyez on Me, Me Against the World, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory Tupac Amaru Shakur, also known by his stage names 2Pac and briefly as Makaveli, was an American rapper, songwriter, and actor. Shakur has sold over 75 million records worldwide, making him one ...more

5
6,727 2,588
Kendrick Lamar is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
good kid, m.A.A.d city, Section.80 Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, better known as Kendrick Lamar, is an American hip hop recording artist from Compton, California. In 2004, Lamar signed to Carson-based independent record label, Top ...more

6
4,689 1,935
Rakim is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
The 18th Letter, The Archive: Live, Lost & Found William Michael Griffin, Jr., better known by his stage name Rakim, is an American rapper. One half of golden age hip hop duo Eric B. & Rakim, he is widely regarded as one of the most ...more

7
4,216 2,015
Ice Cube is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, The Predator, Death Certificate O'Shea Jackson, Sr., better known by his stage name Ice Cube, is an American rapper, record producer, actor, and filmmaker. He began his career as a member of the hip-hop group C.I.A. and later ...more

8
4,441 1,723
André 3000 is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Royal Flush, Class of 3000: Music Volume One, DoYaThing André Lauren Benjamin, better known by his stage name André 3000, is an American rapper, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and actor, best known for being ...more

9
3,506 2,771
Jay-Z is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Watch the Throne, The Black Album, Reasonable Doubt Shawn Corey Carter, known by his stage name Jay Z, is an American rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur. He is one of the most financially successful hip hop artists and entrepreneurs in ...more

10
2,996 1,425
Mos Def is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Black on Both Sides, True Magic, The New Danger Yasiin Bey, better known by his former stage name Mos Def, is an American hip hop recording artist, actor, and activist from Brooklyn, New York City, New York. Best known for his music, Mos Def ...more

11
2,905 1,359
Big L is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
The Big Picture, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, Children of the Corn: The Collector's Edition Lamont Coleman, best known by his stage name Big L, was an American hip hop recording artist, born and raised in Harlem, New York City, New York. Coleman embarked on his career in rapping, with ...more

12
2,505 1,072
Method Man is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Tical, 4:21... The Day After, The Riddler Clifford Smith, better known by the stage name Method Man, is an American rapper, record producer, and actor. He took his stage name from the 1979 film Method Man. He is perhaps best known as a ...more

13
2,356 1,234
KRS-One is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Hip Hop Lives, Return of the Boom Bap, Criminal Minded Lawrence Krisna Parker, better known by his stage names KRS-One, and Teacha, is an American rapper and occasional producer from The Bronx, New York City, New York. KRS-One rose to prominence as ...more

14
3,625 1,443
J. Cole is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
raynakuzio added Born Sinner, The Warm Up, Friday Night Lights Jermaine Lamarr Cole, better known by his stage name J. Cole, is an American hip hop recording artist, songwriter and record producer from Fayetteville, North Carolina. Cole first received ...more

15
2,346 1,279
Big Pun is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Capital Punishment, Yeeeah Baby, Endangered Species Christopher Lee Rios, better known by his stage name Big Pun, was an American rapper and actor, the first Latino rapper to attain Platinum sales status as a solo act. Big Pun emerged from the ...more

16
1,418 535
Redman is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Muddy Waters, Whut? Thee Album, Doc's da Name 2000 Reginald "Reggie" Noble, better known by his stage name Redman, is an American MC, rapper, DJ, record producer and actor. He came to fame in the early 1990s as an artist on the Def Jam ...more

17
2,018 1,244
Snoop Dogg is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Doggystyle, Tha Doggfather, Tha Last Meal Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr, best known by his stage name Snoop Dogg, is an American recording artist and actor from Long Beach, California. His music career began in 1992, when he was discovered ...more

18
1,699 669
Ranker Video
When Disaster Strikes…, The Big Bang, The Coming Trevor Tahiem Smith, Jr., better known by his stage name Busta Rhymes, is an American rapper, producer, and actor from Brooklyn. Chuck D of Public Enemy gave him the moniker Busta Rhymes, after ...more

19
1,425 645
Royce Da 5'9 is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Royce Da 5'9

20
2,027 1,274
Common is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Resurrection, Be, Like Water for Chocolate Lonnie Rashid Lynn, better known by his stage name Common, is an American hip hop recording artist and actor from Chicago, Illinois. Common debuted in 1992 with the album Can I Borrow a Dollar? ...more

21
2,575 461
Wu-Tang Clan is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, Wu-Tang Forever, 8 Diagrams Wu-Tang Clan is a singer and film score composer.

22
1,708 1,019
Talib Kweli is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Quality, Liberation, The Beautiful Struggle Talib Kweli Greene is an American hip hop recording artist from Brooklyn, New York City, New York. Kweli also earned recognition through his work with fellow Brooklyn-bred rapper Mos Def, in ...more

23
1,449 1,056
50 Cent is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Get Rich or Die Tryin', Get Rich or Die Tryin' / The Massacre, Street King Immortal Curtis James Jackson III, better known by his stage name 50 Cent, is an American rapper, singer, entrepreneur investor and actor from New York City. Born in the South Jamaica neighborhood of the ...more

24
1,645 1,017
Dr. Dre is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
The Chronic, 2001, Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang / Let Me Ride Andre Romelle Young, known by his stage name Dr. Dre, is an American record producer, rapper and entrepreneur. He is the founder and current CEO of Aftermath Entertainment and Beats Electronics. ...more

25
786 187
N.W.A is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Gbi KalibataCity added Straight Outta Compton, Niggaz4Life, Greatest Hits N.W.A was an American hip hop group from Compton that is widely considered to have been among the earliest and most significant popularizers of the gangsta rap and west coast hip hop subgenres ...more

26
1,419 733
Tech N9ne is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Tech N9ne

27
1,569 736
Ranker Video
It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood Earl Simmons, better known by his stage names DMX and Dark Man X, is an American rapper and actor. In 1999, DMX released his best-selling album ...And Then There Was X, which featured the hit ...more

28
1,791 667
Ghostface Killah is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Ironman, Supreme Clientele, Fishscale Dennis Coles, better known by his stage name Ghostface Killah, is an American rapper and prominent member of the Wu-Tang Clan. After the group achieved breakthrough success in the aftermath of ...more

29
1,450 688
Raekwon is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Instrumentals, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II, Immobilarity Corey Woods, better known by the stage name Raekwon, is an American rapper and a member of the Wu-Tang Clan. He released his solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... in 1995, and has since ...more

30
1,398 927
Slick Rick is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, The Art of Storytelling, The Ruler's Back Ricky Walters, better known by his stage name Slick Rick, is a Grammy-nominated English rapper. He has also been known as Rick the Ruler, MC Ricky D, and Ricky Dee. He began his career in late ...more

31
1,341 778
Scarface is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
The Diary, The Fix, Mr. Scarface Is Back Brad Terrence Jordan, better known by his stage name Scarface, is an American rapper. He hails from Houston, Texas and is a member of the Geto Boys. He is originally from the city's South Acres ...more

32
1,722 722
A Tribe Called Quest is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
The Low End Theory, Midnight Marauders, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm A Tribe Called Quest was an American hip hop group that was formed in 1985, and is composed of MC/producer Q-Tip, MC Phife Dawg aka Phife Diggy, and DJ/producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad. A fourth ...more

33
1,589 911
Immortal Technique is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Revolutionary Vol. 2, Revolutionary, Volume 1 Felipe Andres Coronel, better known by the stage name Immortal Technique, is an American rapper and urban activist. Most of his lyrics focus on controversial issues in global politics. The views ...more

34
1,823 1,169
Lupe Fiasco is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Food & Liquor, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Part 1 Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, better known by his stage name Lupe Fiasco, is an American rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur. He rose to fame in 2006 following the success of his debut album, Lupe ...more

35
1,184 920
Hopsin is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Knock Madness, Raw, Haywire Marcus Jamal Hopson, better known by his stage name Hopsin, is an American rapper, record producer, director and actor from Los Angeles, California. In 2007, he was signed to Ruthless Records, ...more

36
1,471 737
Lauryn Hill is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, MTV Unplugged 2.0, Ms. Hill Lauryn Hill is an American singer–songwriter, rapper, producer, and actress. She is best known for being a member of the Fugees and for her solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Raised in ...more

37
1,437 676
GZA is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Liquid Swords, Grandmasters, Pro Tools Gary Grice, better known by his stage names GZA and The Genius, is an American rapper and songwriter. A founding member of the hip hop group, the Wu-Tang Clan, GZA is known as the group's ...more

38
1,220 659
Big Daddy Kane is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Long Live the Kane, It's a Big Daddy Thing, Daddy's Home Antonio Hardy, better known by his stage name Big Daddy Kane, is a Grammy Award-winning American rapper who started his career in 1986 as a member of the rap group the Juice Crew. He is widely ...more

39
1,385 307
OutKast is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Stankonia, Aquemini, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below Outkast was an American hip hop duo formed in 1992, in East Point, Atlanta, Georgia, composed of Atlanta-based rappers André "André 3000" Benjamin and Antwan "Big ...more

40
1,193 631
Black Thought is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Book of Judges Tariq Trotter is a rapper and film actor.

41
578 350
Tech N9ne is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Everready, Anghellic, Absolute Power Aaron Dontez Yates, better known by his stage name Tech N9ne, is an American rapper. In 1999, Yates and Travis O'Guin founded the record label Strange Music. He has sold over two million albums ...more

42
638 341
Cypress Hill is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
doremifasola added Cypress Hill, Black Sunday, III - Temples Of Boom Cypress Hill is an American hip hop group from South Gate, California. Cypress Hill was the first Latino-American hip hop group to have platinum and multi-platinum albums, selling over 18 ...more

43
1,116 771
L.L. Cool J is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
L.L. Cool J

44
1,054 694
Jadakiss is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
The Last Kiss, Kiss of Death, Kiss tha Game Goodbye Jason Phillips, better known as Jadakiss, is an American rapper. He is a member of the group The LOX. Jadakiss is one of the three owners of the imprint known as D-Block Records. In early 2007, ...more

45
1,139 604
Ludacris is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Theater of the Mind, Word of Mouf, Back For the First Time Christopher Brian "Chris" Bridges, better known by his stage name Ludacris, is an American rapper, entrepreneur and actor. Along with his manager, Chaka Zulu, Ludacris is the ...more

46
575 397
Xzibit is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
At the Speed of Life, 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz, Restless Alvin Nathaniel Joiner, better known by his stage name Xzibit, is an American rapper, actor, and television host. He is known as the host of the MTV show Pimp My Ride, which brought him ...more

47
628 669
Big Sean is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Eldo Seitaj added Finally Famous, Hall of Fame, Finally Famous Vol. 3: Big Sean Michael Leonard Anderson, known professionally as Big Sean, is an American rapper from Detroit, Michigan. Big Sean signed with Kanye West's GOOD Music in 2007, Def Jam Recordings in 2008, ...more

48
397 248
Proof is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
HopsinIsHip added Searching for Jerry Garcia, Grown Man Shit, I Miss the Hip Hop Shop DeShaun Dupree Holton, better known by his stage name Proof, was an American rapper and actor from Detroit, Michigan. During his career, he was a member of the groups Goon Sqwad, 5 Elementz, ...more

49
238 114
Joyner Lucas is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
princ3ss.13 added Joyner Lucas is an American rapper from Worcester, Massachusetts.

50
1,014 734
Eazy-E is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Eazy-Duz-It, It’s On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa, Eternal E Eric Lynn Wright, better known by his stage name Eazy-E, was an American rapper who performed solo and in the hip hop group N.W.A. Wright is affectionately called "The Godfather of Gangsta ...more