Music

The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time  

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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.

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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, 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
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, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 from Staten Island, New York City. Members include RZA, GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God and Masta
13
Royce Da 5'9 is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
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, 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
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 "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
16
Tech N9ne is listed (or ranked) 16 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
17
KRS-One is listed (or ranked) 17 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
18
J. Cole is listed (or ranked) 18 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
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 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
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 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
21
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
22
Ghostface Killah is listed (or ranked) 22 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
23
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
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 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
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, 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