Talking about the most popular hip-hop rappers is no easy task, there are a lot of big names and a lot of important records in order to just pick a few, but there are some that are clearly more influential and popular, artists that changed the way the genre was perceived and in turn changed the music industry as a whole.
Another big thing is how important hip hop was for American culture when it first started to show up on the streets, because hip hop is not just about the music genre, like many other music genres it also represented a movement, a way of life and this is one of the reasons hip hop is as big as it is today, with many people finding themselves and their identities as they struggle to find a place they call home.
To have a general idea of which artists dominate the hip-hop scene today and which ones lay the foundations for the evolution of this genre, we made a list that includes hip-hop’s biggest legendary names to young and ambitious artists from today so let’s get started!
While Dr. Dre has mostly been a producer, it’s important that you know who he is, because we will be mentioning him quite a lot in this article, and not just for the fun of it.
Even if a lot of people don’t consider him to be the best rapper or the best producer, what is undeniable is his eye for talent. Being able to see the potential in the early years of Snoop Dogg, and Eminem, and forming Death Row records was one of the things Dr. Dre managed to do in the early years of hip-hop.
Knowing a bit about his story and his vision of the hip-hop scene works as a great introduction to this culture and genre.
It’s very interesting to see his take on the future of hip-hop since he has the vision for knowing what has potential, but he didn’t know what was coming, just that it was going to get better, and that is debatable but it had a bigger impact and it became very popular.
There are very few people that manage to make their name so easy to remember, and to be able to make it as a pioneer of the genre, Snoop Dogg ( Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr.)is nothing short of legendary, being one of the most important musicians in the industry for making West Coast hip-hop culture as popular as it is today and inspiring many generations to come.
When it comes to his inspiration, he found hip-hop to be an outlet for his experiences with the law and jail, which was a common thing for him after his high school years. After seriously thinking about being a rapper he eventually crossed paths with Dr. Dre, which was a major turning point in his career.
In an interview with Cathy Hughes, he says:
My momma was serious. . .She was like the mother and the father. Do you know what I’m sayin’? So, we had discipline in my house. But at the same time, you know, I still ventured out ‘n’ joined a gang, sold drugs; because that’s what, you know, misled youth do….You know, my mother tried her best, but at the same time, I was influenced by what I was seein’ when she wasn’t there
Still, it was through these experiences that he was able to come up with the ideas for his songs, which according to him, are for everyone:
It’s not just the under 30. It’s 45, 50. I go to concerts sometimes where it’s 60-year-old ladies in the crowd, and they rockin’ all night, and they come backstage, and they tell me how much my music means to them.”
Today, he has been known for trying out a few different genres like reggae and being associated with marihuana and the Rastafari even using a different name, Snoop Lion, but we all know at his core, he is still a hip-hop legend.
When you think about hip-hop groups, Wu-Tang Clan is always one of the first names that pop up, because they were not only big in the 90s as a rap group, they made some of the most revolutionary and groundbreaking hip-hop in history.
While there were 10 members in the Wu-Tang Clan, the group was led by three people RZA, GZA, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and while the first one wasn’t a founding member, he did end up being the mastermind behind the group.
The idea was not to become a band or a group that would establish themselves and releases several albums, the idea was to release one debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and then let every individual rapper get their deals and diversify.
The doors were not closed too long, however, since they reunited for Wu-Tang Forever, which was another big success and led to more solo albums for the members of the group.
This was how they operated, building their individual careers but every now and then getting together to make an all-star album with different perspectives and experiences
O’l Dirty Bastard, unfortunately, passed away but helped create some of the best music in the world, music that would eventually become a cultural movement and a staple of New York’s streets and soul.
People always said the Wu-Tang Clan “W” was a bat or bird. They don’t remember, early on, that I said, “No, it’s a phoenix.” It’s actually continuing its trajectory to be an art, from a group of people, that inspires. The Wu is actually [also] for the 13-year-olds to now have a different balance for their own trajectory and direction artistically and even socially and economically.
Eminen is one of the most controversial hip-hop artists, but he is also one of the best and most popular and marked the beginning of a new age in hip-hop with his hit album Marshall Mathers in the year 2000.
A lot of his music has a great sense of humor, which can be seen in his music videos such as The Real Slim Shady, and he also says:
A lot of my rhymes are just to get chuckles out of people. Anybody with half a brain is going to be able to tell when I’m joking and when I’m serious”
Because yes he also gets very serious, and he is also known for being very serious with his attitude, although that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been victorious with some of his past demons.
Eminem or Marshall Bruce Mathers III had a rough childhood and never knew his father, he spent a lot of his time trying to get used to new schools since his mother had a hard time getting a stable job but he recalls that the thing he never had a problem with was English, so after dropping out of high school he found that the best way to find peace was with hip hop, which eventually led him to meet Dr. Dre.
After that, he released The Slim Shady which was a big success, followed by The Marshall Mathers which won a Grammy for Best Rap album and it’s still to this day one of the greatest hip hop albums in history.
He continued with his career with its up and downs like anyone else, but after controversies and times of reflection, he now finds there is a lot to be grateful for and there is joy in finding his true self thanks to hip hop.
If you want to get a closer look at Eminem’s life, he starred in his movie “8 Mile” which is worth checking out.
It might be a bit exaggerated for some to be called lyrical genius but Kendrick Lamar has some of the best lyrics in rap, with incredible rhymes, rhythm, and vocabulary that makes you feel like you’re living the new golden age of rap.
For a lot of people, Kendrick Lamar is one of the best rappers ever for a few things including the topics he touches upon, anywhere from prostitution, drug abuse, and racism to spirituality, depression, and religion. He also puts a lot of effort into his music and makes concept albums which is uncommon for a mainstream artist these days. When it comes to his voice, he is no opera singer that’s for sure, but he does know what he has to work with and makes the most of it in creative ways depending on the feeling and natural flow of the song.
In the end, there can be a lot of praise for an artist, but if you want real proof, just listen to songs like “Alright”, “DNA”, or “Cartoons & Cereal”.
Tyler the Creator
Tyler the Creator was a musician since he was very young, he learned how to play piano by himself and spent time creating covers for music he liked.
He has been on the hip hop radar since around 2007, and he would just do what a lot of aspiring musicians do today, post their early songs and chat with other artists, but it wasn’t until 2011 that he released his first album, and it was a huge success on YouTube which was starting to become the main platform for new releases.
When it comes to his hip-hop style, it’s crazy, to say the least, he has anything from controversial aggressive topics to very warm heartfelt songs. He is very versatile and has evolved quite a bit thanks to experimentation from dark heavy music with a low deep voice to upbeat synth songs.
If you want something truly different, Tyler the Creator will probably have something interesting for you.
Kanye West may not be the most likable person on the earth or in the music industry, but it’s very hard to deny that his success does come from talent and great music.
One of the things that are very clear with every new track he releases is that he knows what he’s doing, and that probably comes from his early career which was not as a rapper, but as a producer, and that is his biggest strength.
Kanye is not as good at rapping as Eminem or Kendrick Lamar, but what he lacks in rhymes he has in overall sound and music. There is just something about his songs that always manage to get everyone’s attention, it’s catchy but also fresh and new, and it’s very hard to explore new grounds while still staying in the mainstream, so it would be difficult not to include him on this list.
If you want to know some of the most popular names in hip-hop then here you go, there are a lot so make sure you take your time if you are just getting into hip-hop, you are in for a treat
- Ice T
- Nicki Minaj
- Jay Z
- Wiz Khalifa
- Cardi B
- Lil Wayne
- Travis Scott
- Post Malone
- 50 Cent
- Charli Baltimore
Hip-hop doesn’t have a very long story but there is a lot to say about it, from its origins in the underground of the late 80s and the 90s to the big rockstar age of rappers that is today.
The thing about hip-hop is that it’s unpredictable, and it’s very easy for this genre to mix well into other genres, so at any moment another brilliant rapper could appear, with the next big thing with new inspirations and elements.
In this way hip-hop works a lot like rock, it’s a versatile genre, and there are a lot of subgenres that are probably taking off right now, and maybe someday a Dr. Dre will show up to make their dreams a reality.
There are a lot of big popular rappers out there, but if you wanted to be sure about some of the biggest ones, you can get started from here, as any of these rappers represent the best of the genre.