To celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop and its birthplace, we've decided to rank the 24 best New York rappers of all time. New York City has been a pivotal hub in the hip-hop world, nurturing talents that have significantly shaped the genre. The New York rappers on this list have not only carved out their own niches but have also left irreversible marks on the culture and sound of rap. Here are the top 24 New York rappers of all time, each with their own unique contributions to the world of hip-hop.
The 24 Best New York Rappers of All Time
24. Fat Joe
Top Song: "Lean Back" (with Terror Squad)
From Album: True Story (2004)
Fat Joe is known for his ability to merge hardcore rap with mainstream appeal, evidenced by hits like "Lean Back." His longevity in the industry and collaborations with other artists have kept him relevant for decades.
23. Pop Smoke
Top Song: "Welcome to the Party"
From Album: Meet the Woo (2019)
Pop Smoke brought a unique voice to the drill movement, infusing it with his distinctive deep voice and aggressive delivery. His sudden rise to fame and untimely death have immortalized him as a significant figure in New York rap.
22. Biz Markie
Top Song: "Just a Friend"
From Album: The Biz Never Sleeps (1989)
Known for his humorous approach to rap and beatboxing skills, Biz Markie stood out for his storytelling ability and charismatic persona, making him a beloved figure in the hip-hop community.
Top Song: "Ruff Ryder's Anthem"
From Album: It's Dark and Hell Is Hot (1998)
DMX's gritty, raw energy and unfiltered emotional delivery resonated deeply with fans, making him one of the most distinctive voices in rap during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Top Song: "Sound of da Police"
From Album: Return of the Boom Bap (1993)
As a pioneer of conscious rap, KRS-One is respected for his social and political commentary in his lyrics, which has influenced many generations of rappers.
19. Cardi B
Top Song: "Bodak Yellow"
From Album: Invasion of Privacy (2018)
Cardi B's unapologetic attitude and charisma have driven her meteoric rise. Her ability to balance humor, vulnerability, and brashness in her music has made her a standout figure in modern rap.
18. Joey Bada$$
Top Song: "Devastated"
From Album: B4.DA.$$ (2015)
Joey Bada$$ gained recognition for his revivalist approach to hip-hop, bringing back the sounds of the 90s with modern sensibilities and lyrical depth.
17. Mos Def
Top Song: "Mathematics"
From Album: Black on Both Sides (1999)
Mos Def is celebrated for his poetic approach to rap and his commitment to social and political issues, making him a prominent figure in conscious hip-hop.
16. Big Pun
Top Song: "Still Not a Player" (feat. Joe)
From Album: Capital Punishment (1998)
Big Pun was known for his complex lyrical techniques and seamless flow. As the first Latino rapper to achieve platinum status, he broke barriers and paved the way for future artists.
Top Song: "Paid in Full" (with Eric B.)
From Album: Paid in Full (1987)
Rakim is often credited with revolutionizing hip-hop lyricism with his complex rhymes and smooth flow, influencing an entire generation of rappers.
14. LL Cool J
Top Song: "Mama Said Knock You Out"
From Album: Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)
LL Cool J's versatility in creating both hard-hitting rap anthems and romantic ballads, combined with his charismatic presence, has made him a defining figure in hip-hop.
13. A$AP Rocky
Top Song: "Praise the Lord (Da Shine)" (feat. Skepta)
From Album: Testing (2018)
A$AP Rocky's unique fashion sense and blend of Harlem swagger with experimental sounds have made him a standout figure in contemporary hip-hop.
12. A Tribe Called Quest
Top Song: "Can I Kick It?"
From Album: People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythym (1990)
Known for their eclectic style and socially conscious lyrics, A Tribe Called Quest played a significant role in shaping alternative hip-hop, influencing countless artists.
11. Busta Rhymes
Top Song: "Break Ya Neck"
From Album: Genesis (2001)
Busta Rhymes is recognized for his rapid-fire delivery and energetic performance style, making him one of the most distinctive and dynamic personalities in rap.
10. MF Doom
Top Song: "Doomsday"
From Album: Operation: Doomsday (1999)
MF Doom's intricate wordplay and enigmatic persona, combined with his unique sampling style, made him a cult figure in the underground hip-hop scene.
Top Song: "Oh Boy" (feat. Juelz Santana)
From Album: Come Home with Me (2002)
Cam'ron's flamboyant style and slick, witty lyricism made him a key figure in the early 2000s hip-hop scene, particularly with the rise of the Diplomats.
Top Song: "Walk This Way" (with Aerosmith)
From Album: Raising Hell (1986)
Run-DMC broke barriers by merging rock and hip-hop, bringing rap into the mainstream and changing the face of music in the process.
7. Big L
Top Song: "Put It On"
From Album: Lifestylez of da Poor & Dangerous (1995)
Big L is revered for his incredible wordplay and punchlines. His influence is significant, especially in the realm of freestyle and battle rap.
6. Mobb Deep
Top Song: "Shook Ones, Pt. II"
From Album: The Infamous (1995)
Mobb Deep's raw portrayal of street life and their dark, atmospheric beats captured the essence of New York's urban landscape, making them icons in hardcore hip-hop.
5. Wu-Tang Clan
Top Song: "C.R.E.A.M."
From Album: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
The Wu-Tang Clan's innovative style, combining kung-fu mythology with gritty urban storytelling, has made them one of the most influential and revered groups in hip-hop history.
4. 50 Cent
Top Song: "In Da Club"
From Album: Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003)
50 Cent's mix of street credibility and chart-topping hits propelled him to stardom, with his debut album becoming one of the biggest successes in rap history.
Top Song: "N.Y. State of Mind"
From Album: Illmatic (1994)
Nas is often hailed as one of the greatest lyricists in hip-hop, known for his vivid storytelling and complex rhymes that capture the essence of life in New York.
2. The Notorious B.I.G.
Top Song: "Juicy"
From Album: Ready to Die (1994)
The Notorious B.I.G. is celebrated for his effortless flow and legendary storytelling abilities, leaving a clear mark on hip-hop despite his brief career.
Top Song: "Empire State of Mind" (feat. Alicia Keys)
From Album: The Blueprint 3 (2009)
At the top of our list of the best New York rappers of all time, we have quite a notable figure in the Big Apple and beyond: Jay-Z. Jay-Z's remarkable ability to evolve over the years, combined with his entrepreneurial success, has made him not only a hip-hop icon but also a symbol of the genre's potential for growth and change.
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