Hip Hop Artists The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time  

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241.9k votes 24.2k voters 276.6k views 209 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. 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.

1
9,996 3,790
Eminem is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Eminem 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
7,722 3,276
Nas is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Nas 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
5,968 2,549
The Notorious B.I.G. is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
The Notorious B.I.G. 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
7,557 2,463
Tupac Shakur is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Tupac Shakur 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
4,397 1,787
Rakim is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Rakim 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

6
6,254 2,433
Kendrick Lamar is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Kendrick Lamar 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

7
3,916 1,859
Ice Cube is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Ice Cube 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
4,163 1,604
André 3000 is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
André 3000 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
3,248 2,609
Jay-Z is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Jay-Z 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
2,814 1,313
Mos Def is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Mos Def 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
2,743 1,234
Big L is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Big L 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
2,304 966
Method Man is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Method Man 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
2,211 1,143
KRS-One is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
KRS-One 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
2,225 1,167
Big Pun is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Big Pun 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
3,309 1,340
J. Cole is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
raynakuzio added J. Cole 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

16
1,904 1,188
Common is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Common 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

17
2,359 405
Wu-Tang Clan is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Wu-Tang Clan Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, Wu-Tang Forever, 8 Diagrams Wu-Tang Clan is a singer and film score composer.

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1,622 944
Talib Kweli is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Talib Kweli 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

19
1,689 602
Ghostface Killah is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Ghostface Killah 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

20
1,823 1,118
Snoop Dogg is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Snoop Dogg 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

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Ranker Video
Busta Rhymes 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
1,372 630
Raekwon is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Raekwon 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

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1,319 877
Slick Rick is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Slick Rick 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

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1,259 725
Scarface is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Scarface 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

25
1,291 470
Redman is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Redman 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

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1,511 848
Immortal Technique is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Immortal Technique 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

27
1,628 685
A Tribe Called Quest is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
A Tribe Called Quest 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

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Ranker Video
DMX 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

29
1,737 1,117
Lupe Fiasco is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Lupe Fiasco 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

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1,279 589
Royce Da 5'9 is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Royce Da 5'9

31
1,378 687
Lauryn Hill is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Lauryn Hill 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

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1,372 632
GZA is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
GZA 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

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1,299 972
50 Cent is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
50 Cent 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

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1,145 622
Big Daddy Kane is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Big Daddy Kane 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

35
1,312 675
Tech N9ne is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Tech N9ne

36
1,467 941
Dr. Dre is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Dr. Dre 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

37
1,266 283
Outkast is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Outkast 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

38
1,127 592
Black Thought is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Black Thought Book of Judges Tariq Trotter is a rapper and film actor.

39
1,035 734
L.L. Cool J is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
L.L. Cool J

40
1,072 864
Hopsin is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Hopsin 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

41
988 652
Jadakiss is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Jadakiss 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

42
1,046 567
Ludacris is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Ludacris 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

43
941 680
Eazy-E is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Eazy-E 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

44
812 408
Public Enemy is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Public Enemy It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Fear of a Black Planet, Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black Public Enemy is an American hip hop group consisting of Chuck D, Flavor Flav, DJ Lord, The S1W group, Khari Wynn and Professor Griff. Formed in Long Island, New York in 1982, they are known for ...more

45
1,285 1,354
Lil Wayne is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Lil Wayne Tha Carter III, Tha Carter II, Tha Carter Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr., known by his stage name Lil Wayne, is an American rapper, songwriter, and entrepreneur from New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1991, at the age of nine, Lil Wayne joined Cash ...more

46
1,475 1,608
Kanye West is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Late Registration, The College Dropout Kanye Omari West is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, director, painter, entrepreneur, and fashion designer. West first gained prominence as a producer for Roc-A-Fella ...more

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749 534
Kool G Rap is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Kool G Rap Road to the Riches, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Live and Let Die Nathaniel Thomas Wilson, better known by his stage name Kool G Rap is an American rapper. He hails from the Corona neighborhood of Queens, New York City. He began his career in the mid-1980s as ...more

48
638 153
N.W.A is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Gbi KalibataCity added N.W.A 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

49
538 617
Big Sean is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Eldo Seitaj added Big Sean 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

50
814 553
T.I. is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
T.I. King, Urban Legend, Trap Muzik Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr., better known by his stage name T.I., is an American rapper, record producer, and actor. He signed his first major label record deal in 1999, with Arista Records ...more