The Best Rap Lyricists of All Time

Over 52.9K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of 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.

Most divisive: Game
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  • Nas
    Illmatic, Life Is Good, Untitled Nas album
    22,743 votes
    • Genres (Music): Hip hop music, Alternative hip hop, East Coast hip hop

    Heralded for his vivid storytelling and intricate wordplay, this Queensbridge rapper has established himself as a heavyweight in the hip-hop community since his groundbreaking debut in 1994. Constantly pushing boundaries within the genre, he seamlessly blends intricate internal rhymes with vivid imagery, tackling subjects such as urban life, politics, and introspection. His intellectual and introspective lyrics have earned him widespread acclaim and respect among his peers, solidifying his status as one of the greatest rap lyricists of all time.

  • Eminem
    The Marshall Mathers LP, The Slim Shady LP, The Eminem Show
    30,390 votes
    • Genres (Music): Hip hop

    With a penchant for razor-sharp wit and acrobatically complex rhyme schemes, this Detroit native has cemented himself as one of the most skilled and versatile wordsmiths in hip-hop history. His lightning-fast delivery, intricate metaphors, and unflinching honesty have left an indelible mark on the genre, while his ability to captivate audiences with his vulnerability and humor has propelled him to stratospheric levels of popularity. These skills combined make him a formidable force in the rap world and one of the greatest lyricists to ever grace the mic.

  • Kendrick Lamar
    good kid, m.A.A.d city, Section.80
    19,815 votes
    • Genres (Music): Hip hop

    Delivering witty, thought-provoking lyrics with unparalleled dexterity, this Compton-born rapper has emerged as one of the defining voices of his generation. His technical prowess extends beyond just wordplay, as he also experiments with unconventional structures, complex rhyme patterns, and a diverse range of flows. His introspective subject matter and ability to connect with listeners on an emotional level have allowed him to achieve both critical and commercial success, solidifying his place among the pantheon of great rap lyricists.

  • Tupac Shakur
    All Eyez on Me, Me Against the World, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory
    21,610 votes
    • Genres (Music): Hip hop music, Political hip hop, Gangsta rap, West Coast hip hop

    This iconic West Coast rapper captivated audiences with his raw honesty, unapologetic passion, and ability to craft emotionally charged narratives that echoed the struggles of his generation. Eloquent and evocative, his verses tackled themes of systemic oppression, poverty, and personal growth, utilizing multisyllabic rhyme schemes, varied cadences, and poignant poetic devices. With a career that spanned just a few short years before his tragic death, his impact on the genre and pop culture remains immeasurable, cementing his legacy as one of the most influential rap lyricists of all time.

  • The Notorious B.I.G.
    Ready to Die, Life After Death, Born Again
    18,386 votes
    • Genres (Music): Hip hop music, Hardcore hip hop, East Coast hip hop, Gangsta rap, Mafioso rap

    Boasting an uncanny ability to weave intricate, vivid narratives with seemingly effortless flow, this Brooklyn-born rapper's larger-than-life persona and exceptional technique have become the stuff of legend. With an unparalleled ear for melody and instinctive knack for making complex rhyme schemes feel instantly accessible, he made a lasting impact on the hip-hop world despite a tragically short career. His untimely death may have left fans wondering what could have been, but there's no denying his undeniable skill and natural charisma place him among the all-time greats.

  • Wu-Tang Clan
    Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, Wu-Tang Forever, 8 Diagrams
    8,420 votes
    • Genres (Music): Hip hop music, Hardcore hip hop, East Coast hip hop, Gangsta rap, Mafioso rap

    Hailing from Staten Island, this groundbreaking collective of MCs introduced the world to a unique blend of gritty street tales, martial arts-inspired wordplay, and razor-sharp lyricism. Each member possesses a distinct style and ability, showcasing an unparalleled chemistry that allows them to effortlessly bounce intricate rhymes off one another. The group's innovative approach to storytelling, combined with their immense collective talent, has earned them a deserved place among the greatest rap lyricists of all time.