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The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time 

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Originally by Ranker Community
Updated May 1, 2020 394.9k votes 41.5k voters 427.3k views 206 items

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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
Tupac Shakur is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Political hip hop & Gangsta rap; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: All Eyez on Me, Me Against the World, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, Still I Rise, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z..., + more

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

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2
Eminem is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Genre: Hip hop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: The Marshall Mathers LP, The Slim Shady LP, The Eminem Show, Infinite, Recovery, + more

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

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3
Nas is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Alternative hip hop & East Coast hip hop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Illmatic, Life Is Good, Untitled Nas album, It Was Written, Stillmatic, + more

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

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4
Kendrick Lamar is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Genre: Hip hop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: good kid, m.A.A.d city, Section.80, Overly Dedicated, Memories Back Then, + more

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

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5
The Notorious B.I.G. is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Hardcore hip hop & East Coast hip hop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Ready to Die, Life After Death, Born Again, Duets: The Final Chapter, Greatest Hits, + more

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

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6
Wu-Tang Clan is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time

Albums: Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, Wu-Tang Forever, 8 Diagrams, The W, The Swarm, + more

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

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7
André 3000 is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Alternative hip hop & Rock music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Royal Flush, Class of 3000: Music Volume One, DoYaThing, The Sleazy Remix

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

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The Best Songs Feat. Andre 3000 #613 of 2,044 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #14 of 255 The Greatest Rappers Of All Time

8
Rakim is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Hardcore hip hop & East Coast hip hop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: The 18th Letter, The Archive: Live, Lost & Found, The Master, Addictive, + more

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

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#54 of 255 The Greatest Rappers Of All Time #18 of 138 The Dopest Rappers of the '90s #6 of 235 The Best New York Rappers

9
J. Cole is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
raynakuzio added Genre: Hip hop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Born Sinner, The Warm Up, Friday Night Lights, Cole World: The Sideline Story, The Come Up, + more

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

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10
Ghostface Killah is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Hardcore hip hop & East Coast hip hop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Ironman, Supreme Clientele, Fishscale, Fried Fish, Bulletproof Wallets, + more

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

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The Best Ghostface Killah Songs #1,367 of 2,044 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #38 of 255 The Greatest Rappers Of All Time

11
Method Man is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Hardcore hip hop & East Coast hip hop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Tical, 4:21... The Day After, The Riddler, I'll Be There for You/You're All I Need to Get By, Tical 0: The Prequel, + more

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

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The Best Songs Feat. Method Man #43 of 255 The Greatest Rappers Of All Time #13 of 138 The Dopest Rappers of the '90s

12
Outkast is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time

Albums: Stankonia, Aquemini, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, ATLiens, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, + more

Outkast (stylized as OutKast) is an American hip hop duo formed in 1992 in East Point, Georgia, composed of Atlanta-based rappers André "André 3000" Benjamin (formerly ...more

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13
Ice Cube is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Alternative hip hop & Political hip hop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, The Predator, Death Certificate, Lethal Injection, Laugh Now, + more

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

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14
Mos Def is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Alternative hip hop & Rock music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Black on Both Sides, True Magic, The New Danger, The Ecstatic, Mos Dub, + more

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

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15
Big L is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time

Albums: The Big Picture, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, Children of the Corn: The Collector's Edition, The Archives 1996–2000, Harlem's Finest – A Freestyle History, + more

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

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The Best Big L Songs #66 of 255 The Greatest Rappers Of All Time #90 of 214 The Best New School Rappers

16
Royce da 5'9" is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Hardcore hip hop & Midwest hip hop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Rock City, Street Hop, Death Is Certain, Lost and Found, The Bar Exam 3: The Most Interesting Man, + more

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

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#995 of 2,044 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #35 of 255 The Greatest Rappers Of All Timelisted on The Complete List of Rappers Who've Been in Prison

17
Ranker Video
Genre: Hip hop music, Ragga & Dancehall; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: When Disaster Strikes…, The Big Bang, The Coming, Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front, C'Mon (Catch 'em by Surprise), + more

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

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18
A Tribe Called Quest is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time

Albums: The Low End Theory, Midnight Marauders, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, The Love Movement, Beats, + more

A Tribe Called Quest was an American hip hop collective formed in 1985 and originally composed of MC and main producer Q-Tip, MC Phife Dawg, DJ and co-producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and MC ...more

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19
N.W.A is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Gbi KalibataCity added

Albums: Straight Outta Compton, Niggaz4Life, Greatest Hits, Family Tree, 100 Miles and Runnin', + more

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

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20
Redman is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Muddy Waters, Whut? Thee Album, Doc's da Name 2000, Blackout!, Red Gone Wild: Thee Album, + more

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

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21
MF Doom is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Nightstalker55 added Genre: Hip hop music, Alternative hip hop & East Coast hip hop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Vaudeville Villain, Operation: Doomsday, Special Herbs and Spices, Volume 1, Special Herbs, + more

Daniel Dumile (born 1971), better known by his stage name MF Doom (stylized in all caps), is a US-based English rapper, songwriter, and record producer from Long Island, New York. Best known for ...more

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#1,999 of 2,044 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #79 of 255 The Greatest Rappers Of All Time #88 of 214 The Best New School Rappers

22
KRS-One is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Alternative hip hop & Hardcore hip hop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Hip Hop Lives, Return of the Boom Bap, Criminal Minded, The Kristyles, KRS-One, + more

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

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#811 of 2,044 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #122 of 255 The Greatest Rappers Of All Time #31 of 138 The Dopest Rappers of the '90s

23
Ranker Video
Genre: Hip hop music, Horrorcore & Hardcore hip hop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, ...And Then There Was X, Grand Champ, + more

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

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24
Raekwon is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, East Coast hip hop & Mafioso rap; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Instrumentals, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II, Immobilarity, Avenging Eagles, The Lex Diamond Story, + more

Corey Woods (born January 12, 1970), better known by his stage name Raekwon () , is an American rapper and a member of Wu-Tang Clan. He released his solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... in ...more

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The Best Raekwon Songs #83 of 255 The Greatest Rappers Of All Time #37 of 138 The Dopest Rappers of the '90s

25
Big Pun is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Hardcore hip hop & East Coast hip hop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Capital Punishment, Yeeeah Baby, Endangered Species, The Legacy: The Best of Big Pun, It's So Hard, + more

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

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