Rapper, performer and pioneer Kendrick Lamar is often considered the saviour of the new school. Among a generation of mumble rappers, Lamar has been consistent in releasing seriously good quality hip hop. Since his emergence on the Compton underground scene in the late 2000s, Lamar has gone on to work with all the greats in the business and is known as a skilled lyricist.
Coming up in Compton under the independent record label Top Dawg Entertainment, Lamar first garnered attention with his 2010 debut mixtape release Overly Dedicated. In 2011, Lamar released his first full-length studio album, Section.80, which caught the attention of Compton native Dr Dre, and already with a cult following, the rapper landed a record deal with Dr Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment.
Upon signing to Aftermath, Lamar began work on his first major-label album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City; its release in 2012 saw Lamar receive critical acclaim and positive reviews. Now, with a lot of pressure on him to produce a good third album, Lamar took three years out of the game to work on his craft and music, which culminated in his 2015 release, To Pimp A Butterfly. The album was Lamar’s first to reach number one on the Billboard Top 200.
Lamar continued to follow suit with his albums on somewhat of a streak. The Compton rapper’s 2017 album DAMN earned him his first number-one single on the US Billboard Hot 100 in the form of ‘Humble’ and even saw Lamar win the Pulitzer Prize for Music
Kendrick Lamar himself is on many rappers’ greatest rappers of all time list. However, in a recent interview with legendary neo-soul singer Erykah Badu, the vocalist posited a question about Lamar’s five favourite rappers ever. Although initially asked to name five, Kendrick revealed he could do a top 10 with some thought. Naming them in no particular order, below are the names that the Compton rapper came up with.
Kendrick Lamar’s 10 best rappers of all time:
10. Method Man
Method Man is a highly versatile MC who has been a constant presence since the late 1980s. Rising to prominence as part of the legendary Staten Island crew The Wu-Tang Clan in the mid-1990s, the rapper (real name Clifford Smith Jr.) is loved for his intricate lyricism, partnership with Redman and his famous stoner comedy How High, a must-watch that will have viewers laughing out loud. Known as one of hip hop’s greats, Method Man is undoubtedly a talent.
As a member of Staten Island’s legendary Wu-Tang Clan along with Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB) and Raekwon, Method Man was considered one of the most interesting a lyrical individuals in the clan. Even though Method Man transitioned into acting following the success of How High, he is still revered as one of New York’s top tier MCs.
An LA legend, Kurupt was a member of the legendary West Coast duo Tha Dogg Pound. Alongside Daz Dillinger and with the help of Death Row Records, the duo helped the rise of G-funk. They were heavily featured on Snoop Dogg’s debut album Doggystyle.
The duo’s debut album Dogg Food debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and acquired double-platinum certification by the RIAA. Tha Dogg Pound also featured on Pac’s debut album, All Eyez on Me, with Kurupt featured on ‘Got My Mind Made Up’ and ‘Check Out Time’.
One half of the duo Eric B. & Rakim, the rapper (real name William Griffin) is one of hip-hop’s most respected figures. As a rapper who emerged in the late 1980s, many cite Rakim as the first MC to break out of the rigid mould that hip-hop had concerning rhyme schemes.
Rakim is, to this day, regarded a lyrical pioneer, and when the duo’s debut album, Paid In Full, was released, it changed the course of lyricism in hip-hop. Rakim was the first MC to break the mould of the basic cadence of hip-hop, in which everyone had to rhyme the last word of every sentence. With Rakim, it was more complex. His schemes intertwined different rhymes, and the rhyming sat in the pockets of the offbeat. Not one rapper could omit Rakim from their top 10 list.
Eminem had what can only be described as a breathtaking journey in his career. From being homeless, working fast food jobs and battle-rapping in the grimiest parts of Detroit, the young man was quickly flung into fame and was soon a Diamond-certified artist.
Eminem’s rapid-fire raps, intricate rhyme schemes and humorous lyrics have made him one of the greatest rappers of all time, and many would put him above artists such as Jay-Z and Kanye West based on the fact that he bends words and uses language that no one else can manage. His dark humour has also made him one of the greats, as some artists take themselves too seriously, whereas Eminem has proved you can add levity to the genre we call hip-hop music.
6. André 3000
André 3000 is one of the most innovative men in hip hop, and since the 1990s, André has been bringing us groundbreaking, out-of-the-box music. From Stankonia to SpeakerBoxxx/The Love Below, the Atlanta rapper has been around since the days of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. As one of the first experimental rap artists from Atlanta to break into the mainstream, André 3000 (real name André Benjamin) is considered one of the most forward-thinking rappers of all time.
During the late-1990s and 2000s, André 3000, as part of Outkast, was unstoppable. With six Grammy awards and six BET awards, the Atlanta artist has most definitely had a whirlwind career, so in this article, we’re going to break down the facts and figures to present you with the career of André 3000 in numbers.
5. The Notorious B.I.G
Biggie Smalls (often referred to as The Notorious B.I.G.) is still one of the most revered artists in hip-hop culture, and, despite his early demise, for many, the impact he had during his short-lived time as a career artist is enough to make him one of hip-hop’s legends.
Although Biggie Smalls, unfortunately, got caught up in the East Coast vs West Coast beef, for the most part, he didn’t engage with Tupac and continued to make quality music for his fans. His 1994 album Ready To Die, is one of his most legendary pieces of work and remains a classic. In 2019 the BBC compiled a list of the greatest rap songs of all time, and ‘Juicy’, which features on the Ready To Die album, was named the best hip-hop track of all time.
4. Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg is one of hip hop’s most beloved MCs. Rising to fame by the side of Tupac and Dr Dre on Death Row Records, the rapper (real name Calvin Broadus) is loved for his unique tone, funky West Coast raps and laidback delivery that leaves his listeners feeling relaxed. Known as hip hop’s marijuana maestro, Snoop is considered one of the best rappers of all time.
One of the several things to admire about Broadus is his ability to be not only a rapper but a personality. People look to him for entertainment as well as music. With ventures such as the GGN News Network, and Snoop Dogg Master Kush, most recently, Snoop Dogg has been taking up opportunities in the Metaverse and working on how to help the founding figures of West Coast hip-hop that never got the success that he did. A true legend.
3. Tupac Shakur
Tupac Shakur was one of the most well-known rappers in the world and, during the 1990s, was the go-to artist if you wanted hardcore and passionate gangsta rap. As the primary artist of Dr Dre and Suge Knight’s Death Row Records, Pac undeniably made massive hits and, before his murder in 1996, was one of the most famous rappers in the world.
Akin to Snoop Dogg, Pac came up under Dr Dre on Death Row Records during the G-funk era as a representative of Los Angeles. On Death Row, he made some of his best music, including songs such as ‘2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted’ and ‘California Love’. However, while in LA alongside notorious thugs such as Suge Knight, Shakur landed himself in a deadly war with Biggie Smalls, which resulted in him getting murdered in Las Vegas. Irrespective of his early death, during the short time he was a career artist, he made amazing music.
Known as the genius that made Illmatic, Nas is undeniably one of the greatest lyricists in hip-hop. During the 1990s, the emcee (real name Nasir Jones) was a rapper, songwriter and, most importantly, a storyteller whom other artists envied over. The rapper’s ability to immerse listeners in a story was second to none, and his way with words was awe-inspiring.
His music remains some of the most memorable hip-hop creations, and his contribution to the culture can never be negated. What has always been fascinating about Nas is his ability to romanticise what can often be very sombre themes and find the beauty in what most would consider squalor. Listening to a Nas album is an unparalleled experience. A very skilled emcee.
No surprise here. Most rappers would have to include Jay-Z in their top 10 because the Brooklyn emcee (real name Shawn Carter) has remained highly consistent over the years. Carter, unlike most MCs, has never stepped out of line vocally and (except for a few occasions) has mostly steered away from any sort of controversy. Moreover, the rapper has been one of the most strategic with his investments over the years, meaning that he has displayed an unfathomable amount of business skills. He has also provided fans with quality music.
Speaking on the rapper, Lamar declared, “Jay for sure just off the simple fact of his longevity. That, to me, is probably one-in-a-million for rappers. A good career for a rapper is five or six years, so I think Jay still being relevant and having the skills he has, it’s really unmatched! I hope I get to that level and keep my work ethic up and strategically think of certain things. But there will probably only ever be one Jay. He’ll probably go down as the greatest to ever do it!”