Brooklyn is, in addition to the place I call home, the birthplace of some of the best rap music in history. Some of the most influential rappers were born, raised, and came up in the music world right here in BK, so much so that it can be hard to define and pick out some of the best in history.
Brooklyn has brought us rappers like Jay Z, Pop Smoke, Busta Rhymes, Talib Kweli, Raekwon and so many more. And although plenty of east-coast born rappers head out to the west and find a stronger sense of identity there (I’m looking at you, Tupac), there are just as many, if not more, who are committed to their Brooklyn roots.
It’s hard to pick some of the best rappers out among the sea of talent, especially in my own hometown, where I see the scene moving and changing with a lively and intriguing enthusiasm, but there are a few undeniable greats that deserve more than a little recognition. So, here they are.
The 5 best rappers from Brooklyn:
5. Big Daddy Kane
Starting his career in 1986 as a member of the Juice Crew, Big Daddy Kane has made a name for himself as one of the most skilled and most influential MCs in hip hop, rising out of the Brooklyn hip hop scene with songs like ‘Smooth Operator and ‘Nuff Respect’.
Especially throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Big Daddy Kane was extremely popular and influential, earning him a spot here.
Even if the name GZA doesn’t exactly ring a bell right away, there is another name that just might: Wu-Tang Clan, anyone? GZA, also known as Gary Earl Grice, was a founding member of the group and is considered to have been the spiritual head of their crew.
GZA and Wu-Tang are arguably some of the most influential rappers (and rap group) from the whole of the east coast, so GZA definitely deserves his place on this list.
3. Mos Def
Mos Def’s 1999 album Black On Both Sides is considered to be one of the best rap albums of all time, featuring the songs ‘Mathematics’, ‘Love’, and of course, ‘Brooklyn’, which is where the rapper was born.
Although he hasn’t put out another solo album, in more than ten years at this point, he still holds his place as one of the best rappers to come out of Brooklyn, seeing as his music has held its relevance for years.
Nas is one of the most influential rappers to come out of Brooklyn. Born in Crown Heights, he came onto the scene in 1994, with an album that’s considered to be one of the best to this day, Illmatic. It even featured the song ‘NY State of Mind’.
His first album, as well as the rest of his discography, are considered to be highly influential to rap music, even to this day, cementing him as one of the greatest rappers to come out of New York, and especially Brooklyn.
1. The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls
Are you even surprised a little bit? You had to have some inkling that The Notorious B.I.G. would top this list, as he’s arguably the best rapper to come out of Brooklyn, or any of the five boroughs. His flow, his rhymes, his music, and his legacy all speak for themselves.
People still play Biggie all the time, both in Brooklyn and beyond. He was the poster child for the east coast rap scene for most of his career, and there’s a good reason for that: his immense talent. Honestly, that’s all there is to it.