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The Most Influential Hip Hop Pioneers

Updated June 14, 2019 46.4k views8 items

The hip hop music industry has seen many influential acts and businessman over the years. Some have had more of an impact than others, making them the most influential hip hop pioneers. This list includes both past and present names that have helped mold the genre into what it is today. The groups and rappers and this list helped paved the way for hip hop to gain mainstream acceptance.

Who some hip hop's most influential artists? You can't have any list with Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, N.W.A, Public Enemy and Grandmaster Flash. These artists contributed to the growth of the genre more than anyone else has, and have been rewarded accordingly. They are some of the greatest of all time, and thus, belong on this list. 
  • Photo: mediadeo / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Grandmaster Flash

    Grandmaster Flash of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five is probably the most influential hip hop name on this list. He has the distinction of being the first hip hop/rap artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he was also the mastermind behind three DJing techniques that are still widely used today: the backspin technique, punch phrasing and scratching.

    Grandmaster Flash's albums include Super Rappin, The Message, They Said It Couldn't Be Done and The Bridge: Concept of a Culture.
  • Photo: John Shore Photography / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0


    After Grandmaster Flash, the most influential hip hop pioneers are Run-D.M.C., which included members Joseph "Run" Simmons, Daryl "D.M.C." McDaniels and Jason "Jam-Master Jay" Mizell. Run-D.M.C. was the second group to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were also the first group in hip hop to get a Gold record and be nominated for Grammy.

    Run-D.M.C.'s biggest hits include "Walk This Way", "It's Tricky", "Down with the King" and "My Adidas".
  • Public Enemy

    Video: YouTube

    Public Enemy is a hip hop group that formed in 1982 and is still active today. It's past and current members include Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, the S1W, DJ Lord, Daniel Mcgowan, Khari Wynn, Terminator X, The Bomb Squad and Brian Hardgrove. Like Run-D.M.C., Billboard Magazine lists Public Enemy as one of the great artists of all time. They are also a Long Island Music Hall of Fame inductee.

    Public Enemy's biggest hits include "Fight the Power", "911 is a Joke", "Can't Truss 'Em" and "Shut 'Em Down".
  • Photo: zzellers / flickr / CC-BY 2.0


    N.W.A, or N***az Wit Attitudes, was a hip hop group that was active from 1986 until 1991. It's members included Arabian Prince, DJ Yella, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube and MC Ben. Both Dr. Dre and Ice Cube went on to have highly successful careers as solo artists in the hip hop genre. Ice Cube even made it big in the film industry.

    N.W.A. was ranked #83 on Rolling Stones' 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. They're hit songs include "Straight Outta Compton", "Gangsta Gangsta", "Always Into Somethin" and "Chin Check".