Hip Hop Legends: Top 10 Rap Stars of All-Time
By Brandon I. Brooks
Sentinel Entertainment Editor
What defines being “the greatest Rap Star of all-time?”
That is a question that every fan of hip-hop has asked them self since day one of falling in love with the culture.
Is it the money? Is it the sound? Is it the look? Maybe it is the final sound scan numbers? Or maybe it is who is Googled the most or downloaded? Seriously, ask yourself, what makes hip-hop’s elite, ELITE?
Why do we respect these guys beyond the microphone? Ask yourself.
I recently par took in a debate that made me bring this conversation to the forefront.
The reason I really wanted to put this list together was for the debate to continue and constantly be analyzed. Even I know that you cannot truly have one definitive list. There are so many reasons why one rapper could be above the rest.Â
So whether you are a true fan of hip-hop music or not the debate is constant and ever growing.Â
The “Top 10 Rap Stars of All -Time” list was put together with a five key categories in mind:
1.) Lyrical Content
4.) Sales (Sound Scan)
5.) Legacy (the word “Legend” comes to mind when you think of the artist)
With these five components in mind, I set out to put an “A-1 list” together that represents the culture I grew up loving and still love to this very day.
Each rapper on this list has affected more than just music. They have made strides economically, socially, politically and some just went against the grain to get what they got.
However you want to define it, this list is the LIST. Time to debate!
Top 10 Rap Stars of All-Time
- Tupac Shakur is one of the greatest selling artists of all-time in any genre selling close to 40 million albums. Similar to Elvis Prestley, his global appeal has spawned continuous debate about the story behind his death and the possibility of a “fake death.” 2Pac was a promising actor and many believed him to be a better actor than rap artist. He was loved for his political awareness and the fact that he would speak his mind even if it put him in a compromising position.
2.) Notorious B.I.G.
- Biggie Smalls is the best “rapper” when it comes to cadence and flow. He had an undeniable unique style that exuded through his voice and lyrical rhythm. With one album (“Ready to Die”) he became arguably the greatest rapper of all-time. If there ever a verse that had to define hip-hop, Biggie’s first verse from his first single “Juicy” would define hip-hop best – “It was all a dream, I used to read word up magazine, Salt-N-Peppa and Heavy D up in the limousine, hangin’ pictures on my wall, every Saturday Rap Attack Mr. Magic Marley Marl.”
- He is arguably the “most financially successful” rap artist of all-time having a net worth of over $500 million. He has sold 40 million albums world-wide and counting and even inked a $150 million dollar with AEG. Oh yeah, and did I forget to mention that he is part owner of the New Jersey Nets. “Hova” as he is called in the rap world for being the “God emcee,” has taken the lifestyle of rap to another level connecting the genre with style and elegance. He is the “Swagger” of hip-hop. And his wife being Beyonce doesn’t hurt his personal. From the corner to the boardroom will be the legacy of “Hova” and its honestly exciting to think what he will he accomplish next.Â Â
4.) Ice Cube
- Ice Cube is the most underrated and disrespected rapper of all-time. He use to get the respect he deserved but over the last 10 years it’s like the true hip-hop heads forgot “who started this gansta sh*t.”Â Ice Cube broke ground for every rapper when he hit the scene with NWA. After the group split and Cube became a solo artist, he embarked on arguably one of the greatest Hollywood journeys of all-time. With a historic eight albums under his belt, the vet continues to flex for the West Coast. From south central to the walk of fame, Cube continues to break ground in Hollywood as a producer, director, screenwriter and actor. He proved that crossing over doesn’t always mean you sold out, it can also mean you got PAID!
5.) LL Cool J
- LL Coo J stands for “Ladies Love Cool James.” That name right there lets you know this guy isn’t your ordinary rapper. He has released an unthinkable 13 studio albums with the same label Def Jam. Many call him the Marvin Gaye of rap music. Basically, LL provided the romantic ballads that rap music needed to grow and ultimately evolve. His collaborations allowed R&B to mix with rap music. But don’t get it twisted, his legendary battles with Canibus and Kool Moe D proved that LL can battle with the best of anyone. LL is also a very successful actor and producer as his crossover to film and television continues to blossom and bring about new opportunity.Â
6.) Snoop Dogg
- Snoop is arguably the number one character in hip-hop history. I swear this guy will be around forever because the older he gets, the more “player-like and cool” he seems. When he entered the game at age 18, he seemed as though he was a prophet knowing the life beyond his years. Even now as he continues to make music and film, one thing for sure is you always know Snoop is going to be the same. He is the most consistent rapper of all-time because he gives you the smooth gangster 24 hours a day. So whether you like him or not you have to love someone who is doesn’t hide their true colors. Snoop loves black and gold for Long Beach and he love green for money and weed. Anybody have a light?
- NAS is the “rappers rapper.” He has that voice that every emcee tries to emulate. There’s no other way to say it but his raspy delivery is dope. His first album “Illmatic,” is arguably the greatest rap album of all-time. NAS is the guy that every rapper wants on their project, even if they don’t want to admit it. At times to his own failing, he is all over the place but what you can do when your mind is speaking on every subject matter? Lyrics are what matters most and NAS always speaks on the real. After going to rap battle with Jay-Z on the microphone, I always tell people that NAS won the rap battle because he made Jay-Z respond a second time when there was nothing else to be said.
- Sometimes you just got the skill and that’s all there is too it. Eminem has the skill and the mind of an evil genius. His sadistic songs prove he is a mind like no other but no matter the subject content he is a great author and orator. He brings the listener to his world and does just that, makes them listen. Many critics argue Eminem to be the greatest lyricist ever because the way he rhymes and puts sayings together. He rides a variety of beats as though he can rhyme with any artist. When you listen to his music you almost always forget he is white and just focus on his style and charisma.Â
9.) 50 Cent
- Sometimes you are just in the right place at the right time and other times you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just ask 50 Cent who took a tragedy of being shot 9 times and turned it into the most renowned hip-hop story in history. 50 Cent took the legacy of Eminem and Dr. Dre and created a path that no one could have imagined. He has turned rap music into an empire that expands way beyond the genre of music. With an investment into Viatmin Water it is reported that after Coca-Cola purchased the company back in 2007 50 Cent made a reported $100 million dollars after taxes. Can you say Cha-Ching!!
10.) Lil Wayne
- In the era when the say “Hip-Hop is dead,” Lil Wayne seems more alive than any rapper in the history of the genre. To be specific, Lil Wayne might be the most popular rapper of all-time. Everybody knows Lil Wayne just ask President Obama who mentioned the rapper during a speech on the campaign trail. No matter your feelings of his style and persona, the thing is you can’t deny him as an artist. He is multi-talented and versatile beyond belief. Wayne is evolving with music and not allowing himself to stay in a box (stay tuned for his Rock album) and it’s rare to see a rapper on that path as an artist. It’s actually very refreshing! So when you look past the “Bling Bling” and the tattoo tears, underneath the persona of Lil Wayne is talent beyond belief.Â