I'm going to limit this list to mainstream emcees and groups. We can all sit back and argue who is tighter, Brother Ali or Jay Z, Immortal Technique or Ghostface, Cunninlinguists or Outkast? But that is an argument that will never be settled. It is impossible to compare indy rappers to mainstream artists without throwing them all in a cypher to see who's the last emcee standing. Also I'm not going to separate artists from groups that made them successful. Example; Andre counts only as Outkast and Ghost and Meth only count as Wu Tang.And for you new school cats, you will only find one new emcee in my top ten. Sorry but the 90's reign supreme!
The greatest ever. His longevity combined with the fact that he created the greatest hip hop album ever with illmatic is enough to solidify his spot at number one, but then he went and killed Jigga on Ether in the biggest rap battle ever. Plus I saw him live performing all of Illmatic and he murdered it. From the voice to the lyrics to the cadence down to the fact Nas never really sold out....he's number one in my book.
Tupac was so much more than an emcee but he was best behind the mic. He knew how to use his voice and wrote some of the greatest songs hip hop has ever heard. He isn't the most technically sound rapper but he had a way about himself that just drew you in. He had me walking around as a white kid singing along to him "Marvin Gaye used to sing to me, had me feeling like black was the thing to be" People were looking at me like I was crazy, but that was the kind of power he had on us all, and its a damn shame they took him away from us.
Kast had a 4 classic album run like maybe nobody in hip hop has ever had. It started with Southern Playalistic, ATLiens, Aquemini, and ended with Stankonia. They developed a sound so unique its only rivaled by the cunninlynguists
I like Biggie a lot but he is the one that always gets bumped up on my list due to other peoples opinions. There is no denying his talent but i feel he is a little overrated due to his untimely death and a shitload of songs made over puff daddy samples of 70's and 80's songs. I would've liked to here more dead wrong's and less Mo Money More Problems.
5. Wu Tang
RZA knows sounds and he provided so many bangers for the clan over the years. Wu Tang came with so many unique voices like ODB, Meth, Raekwon, and Ghostface, combined with more technical rappers like masta ace and u god. Plus they provided the formula of dropping an insane crew album and then following it up with several dope solo joints. Hip Hop will never be the same due to the Wu.
6. Big L
Here's where some people are going to start tripping. L over Jigga and Em? Hell yeah, I truly believe that if Big L wasn't shot and killed in a robbery, he would've became a giant star in the hip hop world. He is truly the wittiest emcee I've ever heard and he was rolling with the likes of Fat Joe, Ma$e, and Camron. He spit one of the dopest lines ever with "ask Beavis, I get nothing but head" Truly before his time.
7. Jay Z
Reasonable Doubt is a classic gangster story but Jay fell off after that. He put out countless albums that had a great song or two there but relaxed into a world of rapping about how rich he is. Plus Nas absolutely destroyed his ass on either. Those dick sucking lips got him sitting at number seven.
8. Tribe Called Quest
Tip is a genius and Tribe makes my list solely off Bonita Applebum, Can I Kick it?, I left My Wallet in El Segundo, Scenario, Stressed Out, and Find my Way. Bonus points for producing a song on Illmatic.
9. J Cole
The only new school emcee I have any respect for. He absolutely kills it live and the song I let Nas Down is Genius . Plus Wet Dreamz is catchy as hell. Carry on that sound for the old school Cole.
10. Mobb Deep
Prodigy always speaks the truth and has such a smooth flow. Havoc perfected that east coast gangster style beat making and hasn't started from it. From Shook Ones to quiet storm they have always kept it real.
Big Daddy Kane