Connect with us


The Top 25 Best Underground Rappers of All Time




Let’s give praise to Roc Marciano and Westside Gunn for leading the charge for the revival of underground hip hop. Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed an explosion of talent and quality releases emerge from hip hop’s subterranean.

Ever since the mid to late-90s when the commercial success of rap labels like Roc-A-Fella and Bad Boy widened the split between mainstream and underground hip hop, the underground scene has become a fascinating place full of dope MCs with incredible creativity. With the emergence of independent labels like Definitive Jux, Rawkus and Stones Throw Records, dope underground rappers are abound everywhere.

From MF DOOM, Mos Def and Aesop Rock, to Kool Keith, El-P and Roc Marciano, here are the top 25 best underground rappers of all time.

25. R.A. the Rugged Man

Discography: Die, Rugged Man, Die (2004), Legends Never Die (2013), All My Heroes Are Dead (2020)

R.A. the Rugged Man is a skilled rhymer with a flow that fluctuates from steady and confident to incredibly quick. What he lacks in a lengthy discography, he more than makes up for in his consistency as an MC in albums like 2020’s All My Heroes Are Dead. What’s most impressive about his style is his rhyming ability, delivering a never-ending stream of rhymes in each verse that few others could match.

While he’s a rapper who’s never achieved much mainstream success, he’s beloved within the hip hop community for his ability to make a hard-hitting track with some of the most complex rhymes and one of the grimiest deliveries in all of hip hop. When he’s got the mic, you can always hear the passion in his bars. From his early Rawkus days to the 2020s, R.A. the Rugged Man has consistently proved that he is one of the best underground rappers ever.

24. Benny the Butcher

Discography: 17 Bullets (2016), Tommy Devito’s Breakfast (with Cuns) (2017), A Friend of Ours (2018), Tana Talk 3 (2018), The Plugs I Met (2019), Burden of Proof (2020), The Plugs I Met 2 (with Harry Fraud) (2021), Pyrex Picasso (2021), Tana Talk 4 (2022)

One of the core members of Griselda Records, alongside his cousins, Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher is currently one of the best rappers in the game right now. Of the three, the Black Soprano Family head honcho has the most vicious delivery, embracing a quick and aggressive way of rapping where he always sounds driven to impress and dominate.

He flourishes on cold, gritty production as seen on Tana Talk 3 where he raps mercilessly over the chilling beats of The Alchemist and Daringer. More recently, he’s shown his versatility as a rapper, teaming up with Hit-Boy for Burden of Proof and rapping alongside mainstream legends like J. Cole and Drake (albeit a leaked track). Benny is a rapper who isn’t afraid to experiment, dipping his toes into mainstream sounds but maintaining his legend status in the underground. 

23. Necro

Discography: I Need Drugs (2000), Gory Days (2001), The Pre-Fix for Death (2004), The Sexorcist (2005), Death Rap (2007), Die (2010), Murder Murder Kill Kill (2012), The Notorious Goriest (2018)

Necro is among the most unique rappers in hip hop, embodying such an original sound which he calls “Death Rap”. His lyrics are similar to horrorcore rap, describing the gruesome ways to torture and kill his victims, which makes for an equally disturbing and captivating experience. The anger in his voice and the vulgarity of his lyrics makes Necro’s style quite unlike that of any other rapper, with that aggression built upon by the death metal-inspired instrumentals he often uses.

His music is hypnotic in the way it transports the listener into this vile and violent world. He’s never stopped making Death Rap since establishing his own label, Pyscho+Logical-Records, in 1999. Even today, few MCs have replicated his horrifying sound, and even fewer have been able to create an underground brand like Necro.

22. Conway the Machine

Discography: From King to a God (2020), Lulu (with The Alchemist) (2020), No One Mourns the Wicked (with Big Ghost) (2020), If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed (with Big Ghost) (2021), God Don’t Make Mistakes (2022), What Has Been Blessed Cannot Be Cursed (with Big Ghost) (2022)

Conway the Machine is a founding member of the influential Griselda Records, currently leading today’s underground movement. He’s an incredible rapper accustomed to dark and grimy beats such as on Reject 2 and The G.O.A.T.. His witty lyrics are full of clever punchlines and wordplay. He’s also a rapper who thrives at his most personal moments.

Conway has had a stressful past (to put it lightly) with depression and crime, such as when he survived getting shot. Through his lyrics, he describes how he’s handled that trauma. This makes his music all the more powerful, with something new to learn about Conway in each song. His music is especially engaging, not only because it’s hard-hitting and grimy, but because he’s a transparent writer who isn’t afraid to get personal with his listeners.

21. Open Eagle Mike

Discography: Unapologetic Art Rap (2010), Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes (2011), 4nml Hsptl (2012), Dark Comedy (2014), Hella Personal Film Festival (2016), Brick Body Kids Still Daydream (2017), Anime, Trauma and Divorce (2020), A Tape Called Component System with the Auto Reverse (2022)

Open Mike Eagle is a comedian as well as a rapper, and that sense of humour can be heard in all his music. He’s an articulate rapper whose words paint such vivid pictures about his life, his everyday experiences, and his history.

A great example is his concept record Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, where he details a life in the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago where Mike once lived. There is so much to discover about him in each project, making his music feel so heartfelt and genuine. He raps in a cool, cynical tone, with his comedic writing full of charm that provokes a laugh as well as leaving an emotional impact.

20. Company Flow

Discography: Funcrusher (1996), Funcrusher Plus (1997)

Company Flow is a legendary hip hop trio consisting of rappers El-P and Bigg Jus, as well as DJ Mr. Len. Their masterpiece, Funcrusher Plus, was released in 1997 to critical acclaim for its futuristic and forward-thinking sound. The album’s soundscape is ominous and minimalistic at points, with El-P and Bigg Jus contrasting the cold instrumentals with their enraged deliveries which almost comes off as shouting.

Company Flow are amazing for the fresh sound they brought forward in the ‘90s, but also for the fierce energy they bring to each and every track. On top of that, their writing is often poignant, such as on the heart-breaking “Last Good Sleep” where El-P opens up about his abusive stepdad. Despite their relatively limited output, there is no doubt that Company Flow is one of the most influential underground rap acts of all time.

19. Billy Woods

Discography: Camouflage (2003), The Chalice (2004), Terror Firma (2005), Emergency Powers: The World Tour (2007), Indonesia (2009), Cape Verde (2010), History Will Absolve Me (2012), Dour Candy (2013), Race Music (2013), Today, I Wrote Nothing (2015), Known Unknowns (2017), Rome (2017), Paraffin (2018), Hiding Places (2019), Terror Management (2019), Shrines (2020), BRASS (2020), Haram (with The Alchemist) (2021), Aethiopes (2022), Church (2022)

Billy Woods has achieved GOAT status in the modern underground. He’s got a drunken, unhinged style of rapping. He’s never afraid to rap off beat or use drumless and messy instrumentals which few other rappers would think possible to rhyme over. In contrast to his uncontrollable flow, Billy has a tight and precise pen, writing some of the most evocative and conceptual tracks in modern rap.

This makes Billy’s music so unique, with a distinctive delivery, and a sharp sense of lyricism which gives his music incredible replay value. He’s a rapper who balances quality and quantity perfectly. His run from 2012’s History Will Absolve Me to 2022’s Church is one of the most consistent in hip hop history, rarely taking a break between projects.

18. CunninLynguists

Discography: Will Rap for Food (2001), SouthernUnderground (2003), A Piece of Strange (2006), Dirty Acres (2007), Oneirology (2011), Rose Azura Njano (2017)

When it comes to underground rappers, the conversation often gravitates towards the East and West coasts, but CunninLynguists are evidence of the amazing underground music coming out of the south. The Kentucky-based group consists of Kno, Deacon the Villain, and Natti. Kno handles production, building some of the most luscious and intricate beats in rap music.

With the classic A Piece of Strange and the incredible Oneirology years later, CunninLynguists have cemented themselves as masters of their craft, making music as gorgeous as it is hard-hitting. They are expert lyricists as well, rapping about complex ideas and metaphors such as on Oneirology, a concept album about dreams. The group are unapologetic in their originality, never failing to deliver thought-provoking concepts and hypnotic instrumentals.

17. Elzhi

Discography: The Preface (2008), Lead Poison (2016), Elzhi & Khrysis are Jericho Jackson (with Khrysis as Jericho Jackson) (2018), Seven Times Down Eight Times Up (2020), Zhigeist (with Georgia Anne Muldrow) (2022)

Elzhi is a Detroit rapper whose love for hip hop is clear in his music. From his early days in Slum Village to his 2022 album Zhigeist, he’s maintained that same youthful energy and never lost what made him such a fresh and exciting MC. He’s a great lyricist accustomed to jazzy boom bap beats to match the punch of his own voice, always giving an engaging performance with his raw and enthusiastic delivery.

The legendary Detroit MC encapsulates the fierce and rugged sound of ‘90s hip hop. While ‘90s legends change their sounds, Elzhi is keeping the rough sound of boom bap alive with classics like Elmatic and The Preface, with the same longevity and creativity as his idols like Slick Rick and Nas. A certified rap OG who’s still keeping it fresh to this day, Elzhi is one of the greatest underground rappers of all time.

16. Atmosphere

Discography: Overcast! (1997), God Loves Ugly (2002), Seven’s Travels (2003), You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having (2005), When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (2008), The Family Sign (2011), Southsiders (2014), Fishing Blues (2016), Mi Vida Local (2018), Whenever (2019), The Day Before Halloween (2020), WORD? (2021)

Atmosphere is a duo consisting of rapper Slug and producer Ant. Slug has dedicated most of his career to Atmosphere, thriving on Ant’s warped and abstract style of production, so to mention one without the other would not be right. What makes Slug appealing is his avid storytelling ability, rapping through all sorts of characters and personas to detail his history and his love life.

What also makes Slug stand out is how normal he is: he’s not had the traumatic or action-packed past of many rappers. He’s a regular person with a story to tell, and his vivid lyrical style and animated delivery make that story captivating.

15. J-Live

Discography: The Best Part (2001), All of the Above (2002), The Hear After (2005), Then What Happened? (2008), S.P.T.A. (Said Person of That Ability) (2011), Around the Sun (2014), His Own Self (2015), How Much Is Water? (2015)

Before launching his hip hop career, J-Live was an English teacher, and that knowledge shines through in his music. Not only does he have a quick-witted pen and a knack for storytelling, but he’s a master when it comes to switching up his flow. The song “Them That’s Not” from The Best Part is a great example of J-Live’s ability.

He speeds up and slows down with the tempo, using his voice like an instrument in harmony with the beat. He’s not only an MC with a smooth style, but one who is acutely aware of his talent, and as such, he uses his technical ability to the fullest. One of the most underrated MC-producers of all time, J-Live is cemented as a legendary underground rapper.

14. Vinnie Paz

Discography: The Psycho-Social, Chemical, Biological & Electro-Magnetic Manipulation of Human Consciousness (1997), Violent by Design (2000), Visions of Gandhi (2003), Legacy of Blood (2004), Servants in Heaven, Kings in Hell (2006), A History of Violence (2008), Season of the Assassin (2010), Violence Begets Violence (2011), God of the Serengeti (2012), The Thief and the Fallen (2015), The Bridge and the Abyss (2018), The Cornerstone of the Corner Store (2016), The Pain Collector (2018), As Above So Below (2020), The Funeral and the Raven (2021), Burn Everything That Bears Your Name (2021), Tortured In The Name of God’s Unconditional Love (2022)

Vinnie Paz raps with a hoarse voice and a rageful delivery, matching the brutal and often graphic nature of his lyrics. While his music isn’t horrorcore, he’s no stranger to violent imagery, detailing the various ways he murders his victims over explosive hardcore production. What sets the Philly rapper apart from most is his iconic delivery, embodying so much rage and emotion that few rappers could hope to convey.

Moreover, he’s not one-note, rapping about all sorts of topics from his religion to world politics. While his style is distinct, he doesn’t box himself into one sound. This makes for an exciting catalogue of work where he’s always tackling new styles, from classic boom bap to grimy abstract hip hop.

13. Boldy James

Discography: My 1st Chemistry Set (with The Alchemist) (2013), The Price of Tea in China (with The Alchemist) (2020), Manger on McNichols (with Sterling Toles) (2020), Real Bad Boldy (with Real Bad Man) (2020), Bo Jackson (with The Alchemist) (2021), Super Tecmo Bo (with The Alchemist) (2021), Killing Nothing (with Real Bad Man) (2022), Fair Exchange No Robbery (with Nicholas Craven) (2022), Mr. Ten08 (with Futurewave) (2022)

Boldy James has quickly risen to legend status within the underground, with a run of nine albums this decade which has cemented him as one of the most consistent in the game. Boldy has a cold and laidback style of rapping. What he lacks in a wild and emotive flow, he makes up for in his clever lyrical touch and deeply personal moments.

What makes him stand out in the Griselda crew is his versatility: whether it be the cinematic Manger on McNichols with Sterling Toles, his grimy albums with The Alchemist, or the ominous sound of his collaborations with Real Bad Man, Boldy adapts to each sound effortlessly, never afraid to tackle a new style. While the low-key Detroit spitter has really only started making an impact these past few years, he’s quickly shot up into the underground rap hall of fame.

12. Immortal Technique

Discography: Revolutionary Vol. 1 (2001), Revolutionary Vol. 2 (2003), The 3rd World (2008)

Immortal Technique makes some of the most unapologetic and political hip hop in the underground. His style follows a traditional East Coast sound with punching drums and catchy, looping samples, but where he really shines is in his lyrics. Immortal Technique is vocal about his left-wing politics, using his music as a stand against racism, oppression, war, among other contentious subjects.

He’s vivid and rageful in the messages he conveys, filled with captivating anger as he raps about corruption in the world and the ways it must change. While he’s achieved some commercial success with Revolutionary, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, he’s never let go of the powerful messaging that made his music so special. Side note: “Dance With The Devil” is one of the greatest storytelling rap songs of all time.

11. Brother Ali

Discography: Rites of Passage (2000), Shadows on the Sun (2003), The Undisputed Truth (2007), Us (2009), Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color (2012), All the Beauty in This Whole Life (2017), Secrets & Escapes (2019)

Outside of his music, Brother Ali is a dedicated activist against racism and oppression, and those themes come through in his music in the form of optimistic and impactful messages. He’s a rapper prone to touch on contentious and political subjects, but his light-hearted delivery and smooth choice of production make for a nice contrast against those lyrical themes.

The end product is an accessible and bright style of hip hop which is still powerful, balancing mainstream appeal with lyrical substance perfectly. Since his debut Rites of Passage in 2000, Brother Ali’s passion for hip hop and drive for change have never changed, and is firmly cemented as one of the greatest underground rappers of all time.

10. Westside Gunn

Discography: Hitler Wears Hermes (2012), Hitler Wears Hermes 2 (2014), Hitler Wears Hermes 3 (2015), Hitler Wears Hermes 4 (2016), Flygod (2016), Hitler Wears Hermes 5 (2017), Hitler Wears Hermes 6 (2018), Supreme Blientele (2018), Flygod is an Awesome God (2019), Hitler Wears Hermes 7 (2019), Pray for Paris (2020), Flygod is an Awesome God II (2020), Who Made the Sunshine (2020), Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Sincerly, Adolf (2021), Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Side B (2021), Peace “Fly” God (2022), 10 (2022)

Arguably the most important underground artist in recent history, Westside Gunn has been able to dominate the scene in a way that no other rapper has been able to before him. With a distinct, high-pitched voice combined with an absurdist lyrical style and over-the-top adlibs, reminiscent of Wu-Tang, Westside has been able to push the Griselda brand forward with sheer work ethic and output.

As well as being a memorable rapper, Gunn has an impeccable ear for beats, borrowing the talents of Daringer, The Alchemist, and other legendary producers to help construct his brand of grimy, underground hip hop. His greatest skill is in his versatility and album curation, taking talents from all over the hip hop spectrum to enhance his sound and bring the underground to new heights. Whether it be classic boom bap, abstract, or trap, Gunn has tried it.

9. Ka

Discography: Iron Works (2008), Grief Pedigree (2012), The Night’s Gambit (2013), Honor Killed the Samurai (2016), Descendants of Cain (2020), A Martyr’s Reward (2021), Languish Arts (2022), Woeful Studies (2022)

Ka has one of the most unique sounds in hip hop. His production choice is often drumless, taking away the punch of his beats to create vivid and dark atmospheres for his songs. The Brooklyn rapper’s rhyming is understated, rarely conveying much energy on his tracks, but instead focussing on his cadence, his rhyme skill, and impeccable lyrics.

What makes Ka special is not only his distinctly atmospheric style, but his incredible sense of wordplay. You’ll seldom find a bar from Ka which isn’t at least a double entendre. The way he articulates himself is an artform in itself. While his music isn’t the easiest to get into, that patience is rewarded with some of the best writing in hip hop history.

8. Talib Kweli

Discography: Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star (with Mos Def as Black Star) (1998), Train of Thought (with Hi-Tek as Reflection Eternal) (2000), Quality (2002), The Beautiful Struggle (2004), Eardrum (2007), Liberation (with Madlib) (2007), Revolutions Per Minute (with Hi-Tek as Reflection Eternal) (2010), Habits of the Heart (with Res as Idle Warship) (2011), Gutter Rainbows (2011), Prisoner of Conscious (2013), Gravitas (2013), Fuck the Money (2015), Indie 500 (with 9th Wonder) (2015), The Seven (with Styles P) (2017), Radio Silence (2017), Gotham (with Diamond D) (2021), No Fear of Time (with Yasiin Bey as Black Star) (2022)

Talib Kweli came on to the scene in 1997 alongside Mos Def to form Black Star. He’s a cool-headed MC with dozens of flows and an articulate tone, fitting well with his politically-charged lyrics focussing on the struggles of black people. He’s a phenomenal rapper for his smooth technical ability, but also for the way he inserts politics into all his music, giving his albums an added layer of impact as they act as protests against the corrupt and oppressive.

From Black Star and Reflection Eternal to his solo work, Talib is an MC who has never been afraid to speak his mind, so when you hear a verse start, you know it’s going to be powerful. Starting from the late ’90s to present day, Talib has repeatedly proved why he’s one of the greatest underground rappers of all time.

7. Aesop Rock

Discography: Music for Earthworms (1997), Float (2000), Labor Days (2001), Bazooka Tooth (2003), None Shall Pass (2007), Skelethon (2012), The Impossible Kid (2016), Spirit World Field Guide (2020), Garbology (with Blockhead) (2021)

Aesop Rock is a master lyricist, able to articulate himself in countless ways, with one of the largest vocabularies of any rapper. His lyrics are cryptic but rich in meaning, making for tracks which may come off as verbose off first listen, but with close attention, the genius in them is obvious.

His ability as a storyteller and a crafter of concepts is extraordinary, whether it be the wild world of Spirit World Field Guide or the metaphor of recycling used to represent sampling and reflection as seen in Garbology. From his 2001 classic Labor Days to now, Aesop’s lyrical ability and imagination have remained some of the most entertaining in the genre.

6. Roc Marciano

Discography: Marcberg (2010), Reloaded (2012), Marci Beaucoup (2013), Rosebudd’s Revenge (2017), RR2: The Bitter Dose (2018), Behold a Dark Horse (2018), Kaos (with DJ Muggs) (2018), Marcielago (2019), Mt. Marci (2020), The Elephant Man’s Bones (with The Alchemist) (2022)

Roc Marciano is a pioneer in the underground, popularising drumless hip hop and showcasing that a rap song doesn’t need a catchy drum pattern to hit hard. His strongest attribute is his lyricism, with the same dense rhyme schemes and clever wordplay as Ka, but with more of an emphasis on punchlines and witty bars rather than deeper meanings.

From his classic Reloaded to 2022’s The Elephant Man’s Bones, Marciano’s ability as an MC has never wavered, delivering complex verses and unorthodox hip hop year after year. While his fierce delivery and flow make for an incredible rapper, it’s his ability to push boundaries and break new ground in the genre which marks him as one of the greatest.

5. Mos Def

Discography: Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star (with Talib Kweli, as Black Star) (1998), Black on Both Sides (1999), The New Danger (2004), Manifest Destiny (with Ces and DCQ, as UTD) (2004), True Magic (2006), The Ecstatic (2009), December 99th (with Ferrari Sheppard, as Dec 99th) (2016), Negus (2019), No Fear of Time (with Talib Kweli, as Black Star) (2022)

Mos Def, now known as Yasiin Bey, is one of the most charismatic rappers of all time. Look no further than his solo debut, Black On Both Sides, to see just how much emotion and character he can express in his words. Not only is his delivery dynamic, but his writing is also stellar. As a legend in the conscious hip hop scene, he’s able to articulate his issues with society and culture in such a profound way. Coupled with his ability to switch up his sound – such as the experimental The Ecstatic – Mos Def is one of hip hop’s most creative figures, and greatest rappers of all time, period.

4. Blu

Discography: Below the Heavens (with Exile, as Blu & Exile) (2007), The Piece Talks (with Ta’Raach, as C.R.A.C.) (2008), Johnson&Jonson (with Mainframe, as Johnson&Jonson) (2008), theGodleeBarnesLP (rereleased in 2021 as God is Good) (2010), Her Favorite Colo(u)r (2011), Jesus (2011), Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them (with Exile, as Blu & Exile) (2012), York (2013), Good to Be Home (with Bombay) (2014), Bad Neighbor (with MED and Madlib) (2015), Cheetah In The City (with Union Analogtronics) (2016), Gods In The Spirit, Titans In The Flesh (with Nottz) (2018), The Blueprint (with Shafiq Husayn) (2018), A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night (with Oh No) (2019), True & Livin’ (with Exile, as Blu & Exile) (2019), Ground & Water (with Damu The Fudgemunk) (2019), Miles (with Exile, as Blu & Exile) (2020), The Color Blu(e) (2021)

Blu continues to push forward the sound of jazz rap with a West Coast swagger and vintage polish. He’s an introspective, everyday-man rapper whose subject matter ranges from racism and black history, to his love for hip hop and music as a whole. Unlike many rappers who dedicate their verses to witty one-liners and clever wordplay without much thematic cohesion, Blu is all about the album experience.

Great examples are The Colour Blu(e), an album revolving around the different meanings of “blue”, or Miles, a celebration of hip hop and black culture. No matter the topic, Blu gives it his all, with vivid lyricism and thematic focus, leading to some of the greatest albums in modern rap music. From the game-changing Below the Heavens to his latest work, Blu has repeatedly shown the hip hop world why he’s one of the greatest underground rappers.

3. El-P

Discography: Funcrusher (1996), Funcrusher Plus (1997), Fantastic Damage (2002), High Water (2004), I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead (2007), Cancer 4 Cure (2012), Run the Jewels (2013), Run the Jewels 2 (2014), Run the Jewels 3 (2016), RTJ4 (2020)

From El-P’s beginnings in Company Flow to his modern work in Run the Jewels, he has continued to impress new generations of hip hop fans with his ferocious delivery, touching lyrics, and futuristic production. In his early work, the New York rapper proved himself an impeccable storyteller with despairing tracks like “Stepfather Factory” and “Last Good Sleep” which detailed his troubled childhood.

More recently, his style has become more comedic than personal, but his over-the-top delivery and crude punchlines still make for an amazing performance. El-P is as well-rounded as a rapper can be, with the sound technical ability, lyrical versatility and production mastery of a GOAT contender.

2. Kool Keith

Discography: Dr. Octagonecologyst (1996), Sex Style (1997), First Come, First Served (1999), Black Elvis/Lost in Space (1999), Matthew (2000), Spankmaster (2001), Nogatco Rd. (2006), The Return of Dr. Octagon (2006), Dr. Dooom 2 (2008), Tashan Dorrsett (2009), Love & Danger (2012), Demolition Crash (2014), El Dorado Driven (2014), Feature Magnetic (2016), Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation (2018), Controller of Trap (2018), Keith (2019), Computer Technology (2019), Saks 5th Ave (2019)

You won’t find many rappers as creative and strange, or with a more prodigious output than Kool Keith. His lyrics often come off as profane and ludicrous, but that’s part of what makes him such an entertaining artist. When he adopts a persona – whether it be Dr. Octagon from the classic Dr. Octagonecologyst or Dr. Dooom from First Come, First Served – he fully embraces the character, switching up his style to fit whoever he plays.

His delivery is manic, and his production choice distorted, with the two forces bouncing off each other to form a strange and alien sound for hip hop. When Kool Keith tires of an idea, he always has another one, reinventing himself and proving his longevity time and time again. As a co-founding member of golden age group Ultramagnetic MCs to his recent albums, Kool Keith has consistently operated on the fringes of hip hop and shaped underground rap music.


Discography: Mr. Hood (1991) (as Zev Love X with KMD), Operation: Doomsday (1999), Black Bastards (2000) (as Zev Love X with KMD), Take Me to Your Leader (2003) (as King Geedorah), Vaudeville Villain (2003) (as Viktor Vaughn), VV:2 (2004) (as Viktor Vaughn), Madvillainy (2004) (with Madlib as Madvillain), Mm..Food (2004), Special Herbs + Spices Volume 1 (2004) (with MF Grimm), The Mouse and the Mask (2005) (with Danger Mouse as Danger Doom), Born Like This (2009) (as Doom), Key to the Kuffs (2012) (with Jneiro Jarel as JJ Doom), NehruvianDoom (2014) (with Bishop Nehru as NehruvianDoom), Czarface Meets Metal Face (2018) (with Czarface), Super What? (2021) (with Czarface)

MF DOOM is at the heart of underground hip hop. Hundreds of rappers cite him as one of their biggest inspirations, and that is because there is no other rapper like MF DOOM. His rhyming ability was otherworldly; consistently packing dozens of rhymes into only a handful of lines and managing to cram as many meanings into a bar as he could rhymes. DOOM’s technical and lyrical ability was unmatched and, on top of that, his creativity was astounding.

DOOM adopted many personas, using samples of cartoons in his albums to mimic the narratives of the characters he played. His skill as a rapper, imagination as a writer, and added polish as a producer were all elite. All rappers should strive to be as multifaceted as the masked rapper. With a catalogue as deep and varied and whimsical as his, it is very clear that MF DOOM is the greatest underground rapper of all time.

The post The Top 25 Best Underground Rappers of All Time appeared first on Beats, Rhymes & Lists.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The Top 30 Best-Selling Rappers of All Time





Let’s be real, commercial success and selling records matter in hip hop culture. You can be anti-mainstream all you want and decry the record labels for pushing sales, but at the end of the day, it’s what the genre thrives on.

Hip hop is a competitive culture and what can be more competitive than capturing the number one over your rivals? While 50 Cent arguably made sales the focal point for a lot of rappers, the truth is, record numbers were important before him, and they’re going to be important long after him. On this list, we’re going to look at the best selling rappers of all time, according to certified US numbers.

So let’s get into it. From MC Hammer, Salt-N-Pepa, and Cypress Hill, to Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Drake, here are the top 30 best-selling rappers of all time.

30. Vanilla Ice

Certified units sold: 7.5 million

Best selling albums:

  • To the Extreme (1990)

Many hip-hop fans will likely cringe at this Florida one-hit wonder’s presence on this list. However, anyone who was around in 1990 when “Ice Ice Baby” dropped knows just how ubiquitous the track was. Vanilla Ice was everywhere, dominating MTV and the airwaves. Although he never was able to recreate the hype of his debut, remarkably Robert Van Winkle (aka Vanilla Ice) has managed to stay in the public eye in the 30 years since his dubious success. He has done so primarily by not taking himself too seriously, working in reality TV and through musical collaborations in both hip-hop and indie rock.

29. Kendrick Lamar

Certified units sold: 7.5 million

Best selling albums:

  • good kid, m.A.A.d city (2012)
  • DAMN. (2017)

Kendrick Lamar made his major label debut in 2012 with the album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, and with that record established himself as one of the best rappers alive for many years to come. With that record he introduced to the mainstream hip-hop community, an icon whose story began years earlier. The legend was born in Compton when a teenage Kendrick first started making noise in the West Coast scene. More than a decade has passed since Kendrick’s early mixtapes and that debut album. Few artists are able to consistently top both the charts and every critic’s ‘best of’ list. Fewer still of those artists are making hip-hop music. In terms of both commercial success and critical acclaim, all Kendrick Lamar does is win.

28. Salt-N-Pepa

Certified units sold: 8 million

Best selling albums:

  • Very Necessary (1993)

Salt-N-Pepa have been breaking new ground since they were first cutting independent singles in New York City’s now legendary mid-80’s hip-hop club and DJ scene. It was the birth of the genre. Rap was evolving from house party mixtapes to the airwaves as hip-hop specialty shows popped up across the country. Cheryl James (salt), Sandra Denton (Pepa) and their teenage DJ Deidra Roper (Spinderella) were at the heart of it all. The MTV era skyrocketed them to superstar status. They would eventually go on to set countless records as the biggest selling female hip-hop act of all time.

27. Nicki Minaj

Certified units sold: 8 million

Best selling albums:

  • Pink Friday (2010)
  • Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (2012)

Nicki Minaj is the undisputed modern queen of hip-hop. An artist very much of the moment, the best-selling rapper has survived and thrived by living at the cutting edge of American life, artistically and culturally speaking. From her ever evolving physical style to her distinctive flow and theatrical presence, Nicki has embraced and defined this period of hip-hop and of popular culture at large. In return for her innovations, fans have rewarded the rapper with record sales that place her among the biggest selling artists of all time.

26. Cypress Hill

Certified units sold: 8 million

Best selling albums:

  • Cypress Hill  (1991)
  • Black Sunday (1993)

West Coast stoner rap icons, Cypress Hill have moved millions of units thanks to their immense genre-defying popularity and their impressive longevity. The band originally formed in 1988 and nearly thirty-five years later they continue touring the world and making records. The group’s sound connected early on with both hip-hop fans and the growing, multicultural alternative movement of the 1990’s. Rocker fans of crossover groups like the Beastie Boys found a lot to like in Cypress Hill’s weed friendly rhymes and often metal-fueled funk grooves. The prolific rappers have produced 10 studio albums and countless collabs in both rock and hip-hop.

25. Ice Cube


Certified units sold: 8 million

Best selling albums:

  • The Predator (1992)

Ice Cube has worn a lot of hats since making his incendiary debut as the lyrical mastermind behind the world’s most successful and notorious gangsta rap group. The West Coast icon’s impact on the genre is immeasurable – from his rapping style, slang and overall aesthetic. In the three decades since, the influential rapper has launched a legendary solo career as well as a blockbuster track record as an actor.

24. Wu Tang Clan

Certified units sold: 8.5 million

Best selling albums:

  • Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
  • Wu-Tang Forever (1997)

New York City hip-hop provocateurs, Wu-Tang Clan burst onto the 90’s scene with a gritty, real and stylistically revolutionary sound. Musically and lyrically they were hard, funny and  unfaltering in their authenticity. Their mix of storytelling street rap, boom-bap beats and Kung-fu imagery brought hardcore underground to the mainstream and changed hip-hop forever. While you would imagine that the Wu’s unique blend of gritty lofi production and esoteric lyricism would only appeal to a niche audience, the fact is they were global superstars who went multiplatinum on several occasions.

23. Ja Rule

Certified units sold: 8.5 million

Best selling albums:

  • Rule 3:36 (2000)
  • Pain Is Love (2001)

Joke all you want about him now, but the fact is Ja Rule owned the charts in the early 2000s. The Murder Inc. rapper topped hip hop and pop sales lists for his solo work as well as collabs with high-profile artists like Jennifer Lopez and Christina Milian with his unique brand of hardcore rap mixed with catchy melodies. Before that, the Queens MC helped define the sound of the new era. In recent years he has expanded his empire into all areas of media, but no-one will forget the commercial impact he had in his prime.

22. Lauryn Hill

Certified units sold: 9 million

Best selling albums:

  • The Score (with Fugees) (1996)
  • The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)

Ms. Lauryn Hill was already a multi-platinum superstar when she left the Fugees to launch a solo career. Then she made history with her debut Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. With that album she blurred the lines between hip-hop, jazz and r&b and in the process helped create what we now call neo-soul. While she only dropped two major releases in his recording career, those two records were enough to cement her as one of the best-selling rappers of all time.

21. Dr. Dre

Certified units sold: 9.5 million

Best selling albums:

  • The Chronic (1992)
  • 2001 (1999)

Dr. Dre has created some of the most iconic hip-hop music of all time. First, as the primary sound architect of NWA, he defined West Coast gangsta rap for generations. As a producer and label owner he has helped launch some of the biggest careers in music. Finally, his 1992 solo album The Chronic is considered a hip-hop classic.

20. Master P

Certified units sold: 10 million

Best selling albums:

  • Ghetto D (1997)
  • MP da Last Don (1998)

New Orleans rapper-turned-music mogul Master P has been in the game from the beginning. After coming up in the old-school he hit the 90’s with a vengeance. Through his No Limit records he helped launch dozens of careers. Setting an example for future hip-hop generations, the successful artist turned his success into a multi-industry entrepreneurial empire.

19. Nas

Certified units sold: 11 million

Best selling albums:

  • Illmatic (1994)
  • It Was Written (1996)
  • I Am… (1999)

Nas was the personification of New York rap lyricism when he dropped his legendary debut album Illmatic. He is one of a handful of names thrown around when critics assemble their ‘best rapper of all time’ lists. Known equally for his lyrical skills and technical prowess on the mic, Nas has remained a central figure in hip-hop for nearly 30 years.

18. Lil Wayne

Certified units sold: 11 million

Best selling albums:

  • Tha Carter III (2008)
  • Tha Carter IV (2011)

Lil Wayne has been churning out platinum crossover hits for more than two decades, as one of the most skilled MCs in hip hop history. However, the secret to the Young Money rapper’s success is in his longevity. In a career that started when he was 12, the rapper has collaborated with the biggest names in hip-hop, R&B and pop. In the process, he’s charted atop Billboard several times and sold millions of records, making him one of the best-selling rappers of all time.

17. N.W.A.

Certified units sold: 11.5 million

Best selling albums:

  • Straight Outta Compton (1988)

In 1987 NWA released their debut album and changed the music industry forever. The record launched successful solo careers for founding members Ice Cube, Eazy E and Dr. Dre, and created a sea change in hip-hop that can still be felt today. Their story has since become the stuff of Hollywood legend, thanks to the hit biopic Straight Outta Compton.

16. Will Smith

Certified units sold: 12 million

Best selling albums:

  • Big Willie Style (1997)

Before he was one of the biggest names in Hollywood, Will Smith was teenage Philly rapper, The Fresh Prince. He and his creative partner Jazzy Jeff created some of the most ubiquitous songs of any genre in the MTV era. Fans from all walks of life connected with his boyish charm and storytelling style on tracks like “Parents Just Don’t Understand”.

15. Ludacris

Certified units sold: 12 million

Best selling albums:

  • Back for the First Time (2000)
  • Word of Mouf (2001)

Ludacris was a dominant force in hip-hop throughout the early 2000s. The Atlanta rapper topped hip-hop charts throughout the decade. He did well in the pop realm as well thanks to high-profile collabs with the likes of Mary J. Blige and Pharrell Williams. Although still active, in recent years he has focused on entrepreneurial endeavors.

14. Snoop Dogg


Certified units sold: 12.5 million

Best selling albums:

  • Doggystyle (1993)
  • Tha Doggfather (1996)
  • Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told (1998)

Snoop Dogg became an instant superstar when he and Dr Dre dropped the classic “Nothing But a G Thang” video on MTV in 1992. They introduced the West Coast sound to the mainstream. The hit single also introduced a tall, lanky Long Beach stoner who would spend the next 30 years establishing himself as a crossover cultural icon. 

13. LL Cool J

Certified units sold: 12.5 million

Best selling albums:

  • Bigger and Deffer (1987)
  • Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)
  • Mr. Smith (1995)

A NYC original, LL Cool J is one of an elite group of artists who have been in the game since the beginning and remain relevant today. The 54 year-old rapper, producer and actor has enjoyed one of the most successful careers in the biz. He exploded on the scene in 1985 with Radio and 40 years of platinum records, blockbuster movies and hit television shows followed.

12. DMX

Certified units sold: 14 million

Best selling albums:

  • It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot (1998)
  • Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood (1998)
  • … And Then There Was X (1999)

In both music and life, DMX went hard. For three decades he made fearlessly honest hip-hop. The Yonkers MC music told the story of his struggles with the law, drugs and his own mind. His gravel-voiced reality struck a nerve with fans. Before his death in 2021 the rapper released five consecutive No. 1 albums, several hit singles, and a string of film roles. 

11. Kanye West

Certified units sold: 14.5 million

Best selling albums:

  • The College Dropout (2004)
  • Late Registration (2005)
  • Graduation (2007)

Kanye West’s list of achievements is almost as long as his storied history of personal and professional scandals. An artistic vanguard, with each new release he introduces some new experimental twist to his sound and image. More so than any other living artist, Kanye makes the avant-garde seem mainstream. In doing so he has helped shape our modern culture, and it’s a fact that hip hop would not be where it is today without his influence. As progressive and innovative as he was an artist, he was also incredibly commercially-minded, making one of the best-selling rappers of all time.

10. 50 Cent

Certified units sold: 15.5 million

Best selling albums:

  • Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2003)
  • The Massacre (2005)

50 Cent skirted the edges of stardom for a few years in the late 90’s. He rubbed shoulders with the East Coast hip-hop elite as he learned his craft. Then he met Eminem and Dr. Dre. Dre signed him, and in 2003 they dropped the now legendary 50 Cent debut album Get Rich or Die Tryin. The rapper has remained a central figure in hip-hop ever since, with his brand of rap-focused TV shows.

9. MC Hammer

Certified units sold: 16 million

Best selling albums:

  • Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em (1990)
  • Too Legit to Quit (1991)

It is easy to view MC Hammer’s career as a novelty. He made safe, family friendly hip-hop. An ordained minister, he came to the genre from the world of Christian music. However, what he lacked in street-cred the rapper more than made up for in marketability. His 1990 smash “Can’t Touch This” has long since graduated from ‘hit single’ status to cultural phenomenon.

8. The Notorious B.I.G.

Certified units sold: 21 million

Best selling albums:

  • Ready to Die (1994)
  • Life After Death (1997)

The Notorious B.I.G is one of the greatest tragic heroes of hip-hop. However, before he and 2Pac became the most famous casualties of the East/West rivalry, Biggie made some of the most important rap records of the 90s. A storytelling master, the oversized rapper’s epic tales of fact and fiction now stand as a testament of life during rap’s Golden Era.

7. OutKast

Certified units sold: 22 million

Best selling albums:

  • Stankonia (2000)
  • Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003)

OutKast’s wild mix of classic Atlanta funk and psychedelic experimentation set the group apart from the start. They didn’t break the hip-hop mold with their sound, they ignored it completely. The odd duo of spacement Andre 3000 and Big Boi the pimp made smart and fearlessly creative hip-hop that sounds as fresh today as the day they debuted. As imaginative as their music was, the Atlanta duo knew how to appeal to the fans, which helped them become one of the best-selling rap acts in history.

6. Nelly

Certified units sold: 22 million

Best selling albums:

  • Country Grammar (2000)
  • Nellyville (2002)

Nelly was everywhere at the dawn of the century. His debut album Country Grammar featured numerous top 10 hits and immediately established the artist as a major talent, who could sing and rap incredibly. Two years later his single “Hot in Herre” from his 2002 album Nellyville became one of the biggest crossover hits in hip hop history. 

5. Beastie Boys

Certified units sold: 23 million

Best selling albums:

  • Licensed to Ill (1986)
  • Ill Communication (1994)
  • Hello Nasty (1998)

One of the most unique and influential acts in all of modern music. From their early days as a teenage Brooklyn punk band until cancer tragically took founding member MCA (Adam Yauch) in 2012, Beastie Boys’ continually reinvented themselves. They took over MTV with Licensed to Ill, created a hip-hop classic with Paul’s Boutique and invented a whole new alt/funk vibe with Check Your Head.

4. Drake

Certified units sold: 25.5 million

Best selling albums:

  • Take Care (2011)
  • Views (2016)
  • Scorpion (2018)

A child actor turned hip-hop legend, Drake has made a career of being a creative chameleon. One of the most prolific artists in popular music, the rapper has spent the last decade creating a voluminous catalog of rap and R&B. Whether dropping one-off solo mixtapes or big-budget collabs with superstars, Drake inevitably lands at the top of pop and hip hop charts. There isn’t a rapper from his generation that comes close to Drake’s commercial prowess, that’s a fact.

3. Jay-Z

Certified units sold: 27.5 million

Best selling albums:

  • Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life (1998)
  • Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter (1999)
  • The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse (2002)
  • The Black Album (2003)

It’s crazy to think that a commercial juggernaut like Jay-Z started off hustling his debut album independently. While Hov never put up numbers on the same level as Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, or even his little bro Kanye, the reason he is so high up on this list is because of his consistency. Year after year, decade after decade, Jay-Z was there with a new album that appealed to both the mainstream and the hardcore hip hop heads.

2. 2Pac

Certified units sold: 36.5 million

Best selling albums:

  • All Eyez on Me (1996)
  • The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (1996)

He was the son of Black Panthers and named for a revolutionary Incan leader. Originally from New York, 2Pac made his name on the West Coast. After an early start with Oakland’s Digital Underground, Pac hooked up with LA’s Suge Knight and created a legend. Nearly 20 years after his murder, Pac remains an iconic symbol of 90s hip-hop.

1. Eminem

Certified units sold: 46.5 million

Best selling albums:

  • The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
  • The Eminem Show (2002)
  • Recovery (2010)

Eminem burst onto the scene with a pair of albums, The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP. They introduced two sides of a brilliant, complex and often troubled mind. For twenty years since, Em has battled his demons on the world stage. In the process he has earned unmatched critical and commercial success, and the unqualified respect of the entire hip-hop community.

The post The Top 30 Best-Selling Rappers of All Time appeared first on Beats, Rhymes & Lists.

Continue Reading


The Top 10 Best Bay Area Rappers of All Time





The San Francisco Bay Area, made up of cities like San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland, has long been a melting pot of unique hip hop talent and voices.

The region’s rich history of diverse rappers, entrepreneurs, hustlers and activists has yielded some of the culture’s most important artists, from 2Pac and E-40 to Spice 1 and Too Short.

It was also in the Bay Area that hip hop first saw what true independent success could look like, with E-40 and Too Short building a blueprint focused on ownership and self-distribution that would influence the likes of future moguls like Master P and Birdman.

So let’s get into it. From Spice 1, B-Legit and Del the Funky Homosapien, to Mac Dre, Too Short and E-40, here are the top 10 best Bay Area rappers of all time.


10. B-Legit

Discography: Tryin’ to Get a Buck (1993), The Hemp Museum (1996), Hempin’ Ain’t Easy (2000), Hard 2 B-Legit (2002), Block Movement (2005), Coast 2 Coast (2007), Throwblock Muzic (2007), What We Been Doin (2015)

A true originator of the Bay area sound, B-Legit got his start in the early 90’s as a member of the legendary crew The Click. The group was a family affair. B’s cousin E-40 formed the group which also included E singlings D-Shot and Suga-T.

In the decades since B-Legit has produced a voluminous catalog of groundbreaking hip-hop. He has worked both as a solo artist and as one-half of a hip-hop duo with E-40. Though mainstream success has eluded the rapper, he is widely regarded as a visionary early pioneer of West Coast hip-hop, bridging the gap between the old-school and the new, and absolutely one of the best Bay Area rappers of all time.

9. Souls of Mischief

Discography: 93 ’til Infinity (1993), No Man’s Land (1995), Focus (1998), Trilogy: Conflict, Climax, Resolution (2000), Montezuma’s Revenge (2009), There Is Only Now (2014)

As original members of Del The Funky Homosapien’s influential Hieroglyphics hip-hop collective, A-Plus, Phesto, Opio and Tajai helped define the hippie rap vibe that would eventually become known as alt/hip-hop. Better known as Souls of Mischief, the quartet first caught the attention of the hip-hop world with their groundbreaking ensemble stoner-rap freestyle classic, 93 ’til Infinity.

With that record the group paired old-school hip-hop technique with future philosophies and a chill weed-fueled vibe. In doing so they introduced a West Coast take on the psychedelic Earth vibes and organic boom-bap funk which were previously the exclusive purview of NYC crews like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. Not only were Souls of Mischief important West Coast pioneers, they’re cemented as one of the most important Bay Area rap acts of all time.

8. Spice 1

Discography: Spice 1 (1992), 187 He Wrote (1993), AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare (1994), 1990-Sick (1995), The Black, Bossalini (1997), Immortalized (1999), The Last Dance(2000), Spiceberg Slim (2002), The Ridah (2004), Dyin’ 2 Ball (2005), The Truth(2005), Haterz Nightmare (2015), Throne of Game (2017), Platinum O.G. (2019), This Is Thug World, Vol. 1 (2020)

Spice 1 has spent the past thirty years creating a low-key West Coast gangsta rap legacy. The Oakland rapper has defined the East Bay gangsta rap sound. He is known for melodic choruses, a smooth rhythmic flow and lyrical narratives of street-life in Oaktown.

In the mainstream, Spice is probably best known as the last artist to work with Tupac Shakur, the two friends and others spent Pac’s last day on Earth in the studio recording track “Fame” from Shakur’s album Better Dayz, but he had continued to produce an enormous amount of work over the past couple of decades.

7. 2Pac

Discography: 2Pacalypse Now (1991), Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z… (1993), Me Against the World (1995), All Eyez on Me (1996), The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (1996)

2Pac might rank higher overall on a list of greatest rappers of all time, but when it comes to representing the Bay Area, there are a few names ahead of him. Born in New York to Black Panther parents, young Tupac moved around the country a bit before the Shakur family settled in Oakland. From day one, 2Pac was fighting. Named for a revolutionary Incan leader, he seemed preordained to bring change to the world.

Once settled in the West Coast, a teenaged 2Pac got to work. He chose hip-hop as his medium of choice. In the years prior to his tragic murder in 1996, he became one of the biggest stars on the planet with three back-to-back classics dropped within a couple years of each other. His music addressed difficult societal issues head-on. Shakur was a fearless and defiant hero to millions, and ultimately gone too soon. While Pac may have had the most important as part of L.A.’s Death Row Records, it seemed like his happiest period was during the days of Digital Underground representing the Bay Area.

5. The Coup

Discography: Kill My Landlord (1993), Genocide & Juice (1994), Steal This Album(1998), Party Music (2001), Pick a Bigger Weapon (2006), Sorry to Bother You(2012)

With little regard for musical trends or typical hip-hop tropes, Oakland’s The Coup have carved a unique niche for themselves in the music world. Since their 1993 debut Kill My Landlord, the West Coast collective has been dropping smart and socially conscious rap over funk grooves, rock riffs and jazz-infused soul jams.

Led by rapper/producer Boots Riley, the Oakland group has been fighting the power since Chuck D shook the hip-hop world into action. The group has stayed true to their principals through all of the genre’s permutations. In 2022 they remain one of the few truly radical voices in the genre, and absolutely one of the best Bay Area rap acts of all time.

6. Digital Underground

Discography: Sex Packets (1990), Sons of the P (1991), The Body-Hat Syndrome(1993), Future Rhythm (1996), Who Got the Gravy? (1998), ..Cuz a D.U. Party Don’t Stop! (2008)

For two decades, Digital Underground made hip-hop history and spawned the careers of dozens of artists. Gregory “Shock G” Jacobs’ crew is best known for their massive 1990 crossover hit, “The Humpty Dance”. In addition, the group played a pivotal role in shaping the Bay Area hip hop sound

They helped pioneer the West Coast groove with early and frequent use of classic 70’s funk samples, inspiring the likes of Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg and dozens of others. The group was also the first gig for future hip hop icon Tupac Shakur. While Digital Underground may have been too silly and light-hearted for the Pac to stick around for too long, they provided him with an important platform to launch his genre-changing rap career.

4. Mac Dre

Discography: Young Black Brotha (1993), Stupid Doo Doo Dumb (1998), Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game (1998), Rapper Gone Bad (1999), Heart of a Gangsta, Mind of a Hustla, Tongue of a Pimp (2000), Mac Dre’s the Name (2001), It’s Not What You Say… It’s How You Say It (2001), Thizzelle Washington (2002), Al Boo Boo(2003), Ronald Dregan: Dreganomics (2004), The Genie of the Lamp (2004), The Game Is Thick, Vol. 2 (2004)

In his time on Earth, Mac Dre arguably had a bigger impact on the local Bay Area hip hop scene than any other single individual. As the founder and boss of independent record label Thizz Entertainment, Dre helped dozens of young San Francisco and Oakland hip-hop artists get their start.  

Before his still unsolved murder in 2004, Mac Dre spent 20 years producing a now legendary catalog of music. His music paired hard boom-bap beats with smart societal observations. Dre’s rhymes were often critical of Northern California police, a fact that many think contributed to his questionable incarceration in 1992. Gone too soon when he was shot and killed in 2004, Mac Dre’s legacy lives on as he is remembered as one of the greatest Bay Area rappers of all time.

3. Del the Funky Homosapien

Discography: I Wish My Brother George Was Here (1991), No Need for Alarm (1993), Future Development (1997), Both Sides of the Brain (2000), Eleventh Hour (2008), Funk Man (The Stimulus Package) (2009), Automatik Statik (2009), It Ain’t Illegal Yet(2010), Golden Era (2011), Root Stimulation (2012), Iller Than Most (2014)

Del the Funky Homosapien is one of the most creative and enigmatic characters in hip-hop. An underground icon for more than three decades, the rapper/producer has also recorded and performed as his sci-fi alter-ego, Deltron 3030. In both incarnations, the artist has established himself as a pioneer and leader of underground hip-hop.

Although he has never achieved the widespread crossover success of some of his peers, Del’s space moods, organic grooves and old-school soul have earned the respect of hip-hop fans everywhere. His sound mixes multiple genres into a unique alt/hip-hop, and he has been a highly influential rapper in the underground scene over these past couple decades.

2. Too $hort

Discography: Don’t Stop Rappin’ (1985), Players (1987), Raw, Uncut & X-Rated (1987), Born to Mack (1987), Life Is…Too Short (1988), Short Dog’s in the House(1990), Shorty the Pimp (1992), Get in Where You Fit In (1993), Cocktails (1995), Gettin’ It (Album Number Ten) (1996), Can’t Stay Away (1999), You Nasty (2000), Chase the Cat (2001), What’s My Favorite Word? (2002), Married to the Game(2003), Blow the Whistle (2006), Get off the Stage (2007), Still Blowin’ (2010), No Trespassing (2012), The Pimp Tape (2018), The Vault (2019)

In the 1980’s, while New York rappers were establishing the foundation of East Coast hip-hop, Too $hort was doing the same for the West Coast.The Oakland hip-hop originator’s impact on the genre rivals any of his peers from the five boroughs.

Throughout his career, the rapper, producer and record label owner (Up All Nite Records) has helped find and develop new talent. Though he moved to Atlanta later in his career, Too $hort’s historical impact on the Bay area scene is immeasurable. He had a hand in shaping West Coast gangsta rap a decade before the mainstream caught on, and along with E-40, helped to define the independent hustle.

1. E-40

Discography: Federal (1993), In a Major Way (1995), Tha Hall of Game (1996), The Element of Surprise (1998), Charlie Hustle: The Blueprint of a Self-Made Millionaire(1999), Loyalty & Betrayal (2000), Grit & Grind (2002), Breakin’ News (2003), My Ghetto Report Card (2006), The Ball Street Journal (2008), Revenue Retrievin’: Day Shift (2010), Revenue Retrievin’: Night Shift (2010), Revenue Retrievin’: Overtime Shift (2011), Revenue Retrievin’: Graveyard Shift (2011), The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 1 (2012), The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 2 (2012), The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 3 (2012), The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 4 (2013), The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 5 (2013), The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 6 (2013), Sharp On All 4 Corners: Corner 1 (2014), Sharp On All 4 Corners: Corner 2 (2014), The D-Boy Diary: Book 1 (2016), The D-Boy Diary: Book 2 (2016), The Gift of Gab (2018), Practice Makes Paper (2019)

One of the hardest working men in hip hop, since the early ’90s E-40 has created a voluminous hip hop legacy built around hustle and grind. The Bay Area pioneer found early regional success with his family band The Click, a group featuring his sister Suga-T, brother D-Shot and cousin B-Legit, before taking things solo.

As a solo artist, E-40 has amassed one of the deepest catalogs in the music industry. He has collaborated with everyone from 2 Chainz and Fabolous to Kendrick Lamar and Lil Jon. Throughout his career he has developed emerging stars via his label Sick Wid It Records. He has also set an example as a businessman, expanding his brand into industries far outside of music, into energy water, cognac, and takeaway food. One of the pioneers of the independent hip hop movement, E-40 is absolutely the greatest Bay Area rapper of all time.

The post The Top 10 Best Bay Area Rappers of All Time appeared first on Beats, Rhymes & Lists.

Continue Reading


The Top 25 Best White Rappers of All Time





White MCs haven’t had the easiest time in hip hop. For every step forward that white rappers were able to take in hip hop culture, there was usually a culture vulture waiting in the wings ready to exploit the music.

For every Beastie Boys, or Aesop Rock, or Eminem pushing hip hop music forward, there was usually a Vanilla Ice, Iggy Azalea or Riff Raff dragging shit down. But that’s all good, over the long-run, real recognises real, and there have been enough great white rappers throughout history to validate their standing in the culture.

From Eminem, El-P and Paul Wall, to Aesop Rock, Sage Francis and Mac Miller, there are top 25 best white rappers of all time.

25. R.A. the Rugged Man

Discography: Die, Rugged Man, Die (2004), Legends Never Die (2013), All My Heroes Are Dead (2020)

R.A. the Rugged Man never fails to impress, with an otherworldly rhyming ability which makes for some of the most complex and dense verses in hip hop. Although he has a small catalogue, he’s well-respected for his longevity as an MC, maintaining his keen sense of lyricism and drive to create colourful and unique hip hop from the ‘90s to today.

24. NF

Discography: Moments (2010), Mansion (2015), Therapy Session (2016), Perception (2017), The Search (2019)

NF wears his influences on his sleeves – most notably Eminem – but that’s not to say he doesn’t have his own sound. He’s a rapper whose strongest attribute is his lyricism, telling vivid and brutally honest stories about his life with a snappy and aggressive delivery that makes him the focus of any track. With multiple songs topping the charts, he’s a rapper whose honesty has never limited his success.

23. Bubba Sparxxx

Discography: Dark Days, Bright Nights (2001), Deliverance (2003), The Charm (2006), Pain Management (2013), Made on McCosh Mill Road (2014), Rapper From the Country (2018), King of Crap (2020), Life Is Serious (2022)

Bubba Sparxxx embraces the funk and country influences of the South. While many white rappers follow the same route as Eminem, Bubba is in his own lane, with a nonchalant style of rapping which adapts well to all sounds from country-rap fusions to club bangers. His versatility, coupled with his Southern influences, make for a refreshing sound seldom heard in white rappers.

22. Asher Roth

Discography: Asleep in the Bread Aisle (2009), RetroHash (2014), Flowers on the Weekend (2020)

Asher Roth debuted in 2009 with his hit single, “I Love College”. With that introduction, it displays what makes Asher’s music unique. He fully embraces his out-of-place nature in hip hop, using his music to highlight his playful personality and describe his life rather than to latch onto a popular sound for the money. It’s that authenticity and genuineness that makes his music worthwhile, and cements him as one of the greatest white rappers to ever do it.

21. G-Eazy

Discography: The Epidemic LP (2008), Must Be Nice (2012), These Things Happen (2014), When It’s Dark Out (2015), The Beautiful & Damned (2017), These Things Happen Too (2021)

G-Eazy is a rapper who has drifted away from hip hop over time towards a more poppy sound. When it comes to his hip hop origins, however, it’s easy to see why he topped the charts. With a slick delivery and lyrics about sex, drugs, and partying, his music is made for the club, with irresistibly likable hooks and an ear for catchy beats.

20. Machine Gun Kelly

Discography: Lace Up (2012), General Admission (2015), Bloom (2017), Hotel Diablo (2019), Tickets to My Downfall (2020), Mainstream Sellout (2022)

More recently, Machine Gun Kelly has transitioned from hip hop to pop-punk, but he still maintains a core fanbase for his take on emo rap. He’s got a rugged energy to his voice, complementing his abrasive, rock-inspired production. Hopping from gritty emo rap to melodic pop rap, he’s versatile, adapting well to all types of sounds.

19. Russ

Discography: There’s Really a Wolf (2017), Zoo (2018), Shake the Snow Globe (2020), Chomp 2 (2021)

Russ has a laidback and melodic style, making his music instantly catchy. While he may not have the most diverse flows or the hardest beats, he thrives on the melancholic and poppy sound he’s forged for himself. Rapping over stripped back and poignant production, his brand of moody pop-rap allows him to show off his effortless fusion of rapping and singing.

18. Rittz

Discography: The Life and Times of Jonny Valiant (2013), Next to Nothing (2014), Top of the Line (2016), Last Call (2017), Put a Crown on It (2019), Picture Perfect (2020), Rittzmas (2020), S.O.S. (2021)

Since his 2013 debut The Life and Times of Jonny Valiant, Rittz has embraced the glamorous sound of trap music. He’s no stranger to autotune, often using it to give his voice a metallic quality as he raps over chattering hi-hats and looping samples. When he isn’t using autotune, he sounds determined and cold, creating an intriguing contrast between his poppy hits and hard-hitting deep cuts.

17. Necro

Discography: I Need Drugs (2000), Gory Days (2001), The Pre-Fix for Death (2004), The Sexorcist (2005), Death Rap (2007), Die (2010), Murder Murder Kill Kill (2012), The Notorious Goriest (2018)

Necro has one of the most unique sounds in hip hop, having coined the term “Death Rap” to describe his blend of horrorcore rap and death metal. His gruesome lyrics of murder and death may not appeal to everyone, but nobody can deny the effort he puts in, with a lengthy catalogue of horrorcore albums and a ruthless style he’s maintained for upwards of twenty years.

16. Lil Peep

Discography: Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1 (2017), Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2 (2018)

Lil Peep embodied emo rap, putting a dark twist on melodic hip hop. What made his music so captivating was his vulnerability, being unafraid to speak at length about his struggles with depression and addiction. Peep was never afraid to sing either, with a moody tone that encapsulated all the pain and struggle in his life. Highly influential in his own unique way, Peep is cemented as one of the best white rappers of all time.

15. Macklemore

Discography: The Language of My World (2005), The Heist (with Ryan Lewis) (2012), This Unruly Mess I’ve Made (with Ryan Lewis) (2016), Gemini (2017)

Macklemore dominated the last decade with hits like “Thrift Shop”, “Can’t Hold Us”, and “Glorious”, defining the sound of mainstream hip hop in the early 2010s. He’s a smooth rapper with enough confidence to make any track a hit, but his real talent is in his hook-making ability and artist curation, bringing together talents to make some of the most famous and memorable songs in recent history. While some critics may deride him for his over-the-top earnestness, it’s very clear that Seattle rapper has a deep love for hip hop culture, and no-one can ever take that away from him.

14. Yelawolf

Discography: Creek Water (2005), Radioactive (2011), Love Story (2015), Trial by Fire (2017), Trunk Muzik III (2019), Ghetto Cowboy (2019), Mud Mouth (2021)

Born in Alabama and raised in Tennessee, Yelawolf embodies the swagger of the South, incorporating the flashy sound of trap into his projects while maintaining a high standard of technical ability. On top of his high energy, Yelawolf has an effortless flow, switching it up on every track as he raps over bombastic, Bling Era-esque production. He knows how to make a crowd move, and that confidence is never missing in his braggadocious music.

 13. Cage

Discography: Movies for the Blind (2002), Hell’s Winter (2005), Depart from Me (2009), Kill the Architect (2013), Book ov Sam: Infernal Depths (2018), Infernal Depths (2019), Death Miracles (2020)

After a childhood of abuse and trauma, hip hop has become a form of therapy for Cage. He uses his music to speak his mind and reflect on his troubled past, making for some of the most heart-wrenching music in the genre. As part of the Definitive Jux label, he helped push a wave of innovative and introspective hip hop, showcased in his vicious and grimy debut, Movies For The Blind.

12. Sage Francis

Discography: Voice Mail Bomb Threat with Art Official Intelligence (1998), Personal Journals (2002), Hope (with Joe Beats, as Non-Prophets) (2003), A Healthy Distrust (2005), Human the Death Dance (2007), Life (2010), Copper Gone (2014), Season 1 (with B. Dolan, as Epic Beard Men) (2018), This Was Supposed To Be Fun (with B. Dolan, as Epic Beard Men) (2019)

Sage Francis is difficult to compare to any other rapper, with a theatrical flare to his style where he shifts from rapping to singing over a range of lush and serene beats. His biggest strength is his lyricism, with the remarkable ability to articulate his problems with himself and society with such creative wordplay and effortless rhymes.

11. Your Old Droog

Discography: Your Old Droog (2014), Packs (2017), It Wasn’t Even Close (2019), Transportation (2019), Jewelry (2019), Dump YOD: Krutoy Edition (2020), TIME (2021), Space Bar (2021), Tha Wolf on Wall St. (with Tha God Fahim) (2021), Tha YOD Fahim (with Tha God Fahim) (2021), Tha Wolf on Wall St. 2: The American Dream (with Tha God Fahim) (2022)

Your Old Droog has more output each year than some rappers could hope to release in a decade. While his voice is often compared to Nas, the music itself is far different. Droog has a witty pen, balancing comedy with incredible wordplay over gritty and cold production. With the number of projects he has, it’s admirable how consistent Droog remains. Over the past few years, the Brooklyn rapper has significantly amped up his output, determined to get his respect in this rap game.

10. Action Bronson

Discography: Dr. Lecter (2011), Well-Done (2011) (with Statik Selektah), Mr. Wonderful (2015), Blue Chips 7000 (2017), White Bronco (2018), Only for Dolphins (2020), Cocodrillo Turbo (2022)

Hailing from Flushing, Queens, deep in the heart of New York, Action Bronson exudes the confidence and lyrical skillset of a ’90s rap legend. While comparisons have been done to death about the similarities between Action and Ghostface’s voice, it’s actually in their absurdist flow and rewind-worthy delivery that really sets them apart from everyone else. Action’s presence on the mic is second to none, and that’s one of the many reasons that make him amongst the best white rappers ever.

9. Brother Ali

Discography: Rites of Passage (2000), Shadows on the Sun (2003), The Undisputed Truth (2007), Us (2009), Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color (2012), All the Beauty in This Whole Life (2017), Secrets & Escapes (2019)

From Rites of Passage in 2000 to Brother Minutester, Vol. 1 in 2021, Brother Ali’s longevity is remarkable. Ali is a known activist for racial equality and change, and those politics bleed into his lyrics and make for some powerful and hopeful hip hop. With his upbeat tone and delivery, he’s a rapper unafraid to tackle controversial subjects, but he always does so with humour and charisma.

8. Slug

Discography: Overcast! (1997), God Loves Ugly (2002), Seven’s Travels (2003), You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having (2005), When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (2008), The Family Sign (2011), Southsiders (2014), Fishing Blues (2016), Mi Vida Local (2018), Whenever (2019), The Day Before Halloween (2020), WORD? (2021)

Slug is a master of storytelling, rapping through a number of different personas and often using metaphor to describe past relationships and struggles with love. It’s this imaginative sense of writing that makes him stand out from other rappers, using his pen to the fullest in the group Atmosphere who dropped quality records like God Loves Ugly and, as recent as 2021, WORD?.

7. Vinnie Paz

Discography: The Psycho-Social, Chemical, Biological & Electro-Magnetic Manipulation of Human Consciousness (1997), Violent by Design (2000), Visions of Gandhi (2003), Legacy of Blood (2004), Servants in Heaven, Kings in Hell (2006), A History of Violence (2008), Season of the Assassin (2010), Violence Begets Violence (2011), God of the Serengeti (2012), The Thief and the Fallen (2015), The Bridge and the Abyss (2018), The Cornerstone of the Corner Store (2016), The Pain Collector (2018), As Above So Below (2020), The Funeral and the Raven (2021), Burn Everything That Bears Your Name (2021), Tortured In The Name of God’s Unconditional Love (2022)

Vinnie Paz has a raspy voice, always performing with a rage in his tone that dominates every track he’s featured on. His subject matter is diverse, but most notable are his tracks about gruesome violence, where Paz describes vividly the way he will torture his victims. The sheer amount of anger he conveys is amplified by the abrasive hardcore production he uses, making for an unforgettable performance.

6. Paul Wall

Discography: Get Ya Mind Correct (with Chamillionaire) (2002), Chick Magnet (2004), The Peoples Champ (2005), Controversy Sells (with Chamillionaire) (2005), Get Money, Stay True (2007), Fast Life (2009), Heart of a Champion (2010), #Checkseason (2013), The Po-Up Poet (2014), Slab God (2015), Houston Oiler (2016), The Legalizers: Legalize or Die, Vol. 1 (with Baby Bash) (2016), Diamond Boyz (with C Stone) (2017), Bounce Backs over Setbacks (2018), The Legalizers, Vol. 2: Indoor Grow (with Baby Bash) (2018), Give Thanks (with Statik Selektah) (2019), Mind over Matter (2020), Slab Talk (with Lil’ Keke) (2020), Subculture (2020), Hall of Fame Hustler (2021), Start 2 Finish (with Termanology) (2022)

Paul Wall debuted in the chopped and screwed scene, inspired by DJ Screw to push the sound forward for the Swishahouse label. In his solo work, Paul fuses the chopped and screwed sound with the party anthem glamour of Southern hip hop, making for a strange but hard-hitting blend of styles. With his nonchalant tone, he contrasts well against his warped choice of production. While he came up in the mid-2000s as part of the Houston takeover, it’s Paul Wall’s consistency and longevity that really puts him in the upper echelon of white rappers.

5. Mac Miller

Discography: Blue Slide Park (2011), Watching Movies with the Sound Off (2013), GO:OD AM (2015), The Divine, Feminine (2016), Swimming (2018), Circles (2020)

The late, great Mac Miller had a witty sense of writing coupled with a relaxed style of delivery, making for a cryptic yet accessible sound few could resist. The Pittsburgh’s rapper blend of hip hop, soul, and jazz was incredible, with albums like Swimming and Faces containing some of the most soothing and beautiful songs to ever grace hip hop. Gone too soon, Mac’s skills and achievements continue to be celebrated. 

4. Beastie Boys

Discography: Licensed to Ill (1986), Paul’s Boutique (1989), Check Your Head (1992), Ill Communication (1994), Hello Nasty (1998), To the 5 Boroughs (2004), The Mix-Up (2007), Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (2011)

Beastie Boys are among the most important groups in hip hop history. Their brash and carefree rap rock sound is instantly recognisable – even in their deep cuts – because no band quite had the same charisma and explosive sound as them. The chemistry between each member – hyping each other up and chanting about partying – is legendary and has yet to be replicated in any other hip hop act. The youth and passion resonates in every single track, even on their 2011 album.

3. Aesop Rock 

Discography: Music for Earthworms (1997), Float (2000), Labor Days (2001), Bazooka Tooth (2003), None Shall Pass (2007), Skelethon (2012), The Impossible Kid (2016), Spirit World Field Guide (2020), Garbology (with Blockhead) (2021)

One of the greatest underground rappers of all time, Aesop Rock has a one-of-a-kind sense of lyricism, boasting one of the biggest vocabularies in hip hop which make his cryptic verses so impressive. He’s a natural creative, from his masterful storytelling on Labor Days to his otherworldly concept album Spirit World Field Guide. With his wild imagination and incredible pen to articulate it, Aesop is a master at his craft. 

2. El-P

Discography: Funcrusher (1996), Funcrusher Plus (1997), Fantastic Damage (2002), High Water (2004), I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead (2007), Cancer 4 Cure (2012), Run the Jewels (2013), Run the Jewels 2 (2014), Run the Jewels 3 (2016), RTJ4 (2020)

El-P is an underground GOAT contender. From his start in Company Flow to his modern work in Run the Jewels, the quality of his work has never wavered. He’s an MC with a fierce flow and poignant lyricism, never afraid to get personal about his past while maintaining a charm and sense of humour, making his music equally fun and emotional. Brooklyn as fuck in attitude and a lyrical marvel on the mic, El-P is without doubt one of the greatest white rappers ever.

1. Eminem 

Discography: Infinite (1996), The Slim Shady LP (1999), The Marshall Mathers LP (2000), The Eminem Show (2002), Encore (2004), Relapse (2009), Recovery (2010), The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013), Revival (2017), Kamikaze (2018), Music to Be Murdered By (2020)

There should simply be no debate about Eminem being one of the greatest rappers of all time, let alone the best white rapper ever. With a knack for rhyming, limitless flows, and one of the most bombastic and rageful deliveries in rap music, he’s an incredibly well-rounded rapper. From his early classics The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP to his work today, he’s proven himself a legend with the skill to justify his incredible success.

The post The Top 25 Best White Rappers of All Time appeared first on Beats, Rhymes & Lists.

Continue Reading