Music

The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time  

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Originally by Ranker Community
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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
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 (born October 17, 1972), known professionally as Eminem (; often stylized as EMINƎM), is an American rapper, songwriter, record producer, record executive, film ...more
2
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
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 (May 21, 1972 – March 9, 1997), known professionally as The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls, or Biggie, was an American rapper. He is widely considered to be ...more
4
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 ( TOO-pahk shə-KOOR; born Lesane Parish Crooks, June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996), also known by his stage names 2Pac and Makaveli, was an American rapper and actor. He is ...more
5
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 (born June 17, 1987) is an American rapper, songwriter, and record producer. He is regarded as one of the most skillful and successful hip hop artists of his ...more
6
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. (born January 28, 1968), 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 ...more
7
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 (born June 15, 1969), known professionally as Ice Cube, is an American rapper, actor, producer, director and writer. Ice Cube initially gained recognition in 1984 as a member of ...more
8
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 (born May 27, 1975), better known by his stage name André 3000 (formerly Dre), is an American musician and actor best known for being part of hip hop duo ...more
9
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 (born December 4, 1969), known professionally as Jay-Z (stylized as JAY-Z), is an American rapper, songwriter, producer, entrepreneur, and record executive. Considered among ...more
10
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 (; born Dante Terrell Smith; December 11, 1973), better known by his stage name Mos Def (), is an American rapper, singer, actor and activist. Best known for his music, Bey began his ...more
11
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 (May 30, 1974 – February 15, 1999), known professionally as Big L, was an American rapper. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most lyrical rappers of all time, and ...more
12
Wu-Tang Clan is listed (or ranked) 12 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 an American hip hop group formed in the New York City borough of Staten Island in 1992, originally composed of rapper-producer RZA and rappers GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Method Man, ...more
13
Royce da 5'9
Rock City, Street Hop, Death Is Certain
Ryan Daniel Montgomery (born July 5, 1977), better known by his stage name Royce da 5'9", is an American rapper and songwriter. He is best known for his longtime association with Eminem as ...more
14
Big Pun is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Capital Punishment, Yeeeah Baby, Endangered Species
Christopher Lee Rios (November 10, 1971 – February 7, 2000), better known by his stage name Big Pun (short for Big Punisher), was an American rapper. Emerging from the underground hip hop scene ...more
15
Redman is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Muddy Waters, Whut? Thee Album, Doc's da Name 2000
Reginald Noble (born April 17, 1970), better known by his stage name Redman, is an American rapper, DJ, record producer, and actor. He rose to fame in the early 1990s as an artist on the Def Jam ...more
16
KRS-One is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Hip Hop Lives, Return of the Boom Bap, Criminal Minded
Lawrence "Kris" Parker (born August 20, 1965), better known by his stage names KRS-One, and Teacha, is an American rapper and occasional producer from The Bronx, New York. He rose to ...more
17
J. Cole is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
raynakuzio added Born Sinner, The Warm Up, Friday Night Lights
Jermaine Lamarr Cole (born January 28, 1985) is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer. Born on a military base in Germany but raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Cole ...more
18
Tech N9ne is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Everready, Anghellic, Absolute Power
Aaron Dontez Yates (born November 8, 1971), better known by his stage name Tech N9ne (pronounced "tech nine"), is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, actor, and ...more
19
N.W.A is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Gbi KalibataCity added Straight Outta Compton, Niggaz4Life, Greatest Hits
N.W.A (an abbreviation for Niggaz Wit Attitudes) was an American hip hop group from Compton, California. They were among the earliest and most significant popularizers and controversial figures ...more
20
Method Man is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Tical, 4:21... The Day After, The Riddler
Clifford M. Smith Jr. (born March 2, 1971), better known by his stage name Method Man, is an American rapper, record producer and actor. He is known as a member of the East Coast hip hop ...more
21
Ranker Video
When Disaster Strikes…, The Big Bang, The Coming
Trevor George Smith Jr. (born May 20, 1972), known professionally as Busta Rhymes, is an American rapper, singer, musician, record producer, record executive, and actor. Chuck D of Public Enemy ...more
22
Ghostface Killah is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Ironman, Supreme Clientele, Fishscale
Dennis Coles (born May 9, 1970), better known by his stage name Ghostface Killah, is an American rapper, songwriter and actor and member of the Wu-Tang Clan. After the group achieved ...more
23
Ranker Video
It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood
Earl Simmons (born December 18, 1970), known professionally as DMX, is an American rapper and actor. He began rapping in the early 1990s, and released his debut album, It's Dark and Hell Is Hot ...more
24
Talib Kweli is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Quality, Liberation, The Beautiful Struggle
Talib Kweli Greene (; born October 3, 1975) is an American rapper, entrepreneur, and activist. Kweli earned recognition early on through his collaboration with fellow Brooklyn rapper Mos Def, ...more
25
Snoop Dogg is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Doggystyle, Tha Doggfather, Tha Last Meal
Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. (born October 20, 1971), known professionally as Snoop Dogg, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, media personality, entrepreneur, and actor. His ...more