50 Greatest Rappers of All Time (First 10 Revealed)

The greatest of all time, also known as THE GOAT. It’s a distinguished—and contested—honor when it comes to ranking who or what is the ultimate best, whether you’re talking about movies, TV shows, restaurants, or any other topic.

In early 2023, Billboard/Vibe ranks the 50 greatest rappers of all time as part of our salute to this year’s golden anniversary of hip-hop. (The genre dates back to 1973, when DJ Kool Herc first set up his two turntables to rock a Bronx party.) The rollout begins with today’s (Jan. 11) reveal of the rappers ranked 50-41. Each subsequent week, 10 more rappers will be revealed as we move further up the list. Then the final top 10 will be published during the week of February. 6.

In determining these locations Billboard and Vibe Editorial teams chose to limit the rap arena to North America at first. So, for example, as illustrious as his career is, British rapper Slick Rick is not on this list. We also chose not to include the significant contributions of reggaetón and dancehall MCs on this list, just to keep our pool of nominees a little more focused.

From there, the teams considered the following criteria, in no particular order: body of work/accomplishments (charted singles/albums, gold/platinum certifications), cultural impact/influence (how the artist’s work furthered the genre’s evolution), longevity (years at the microphone), lyrics (narrative skills) and flow (vocal skill).

As is well known, GOAT and similar best-of lists always receive their share of criticism and praise from industry experts and the public alike. So it took a lot of thought and deep discussion to reason out what we believe to be a thoughtful, authentic list that reflects hip-hop’s founding pioneers, evolutionary trailblazers, and contemporary mainstays. In addition, that mix also includes 50 years of cultural milestones for a genre that was initially dismissed as a passing fad – and now recognized as the industry’s market share leader.

Let’s reveal No. 50-41 of Billboard/Vibe‘s Top 50 Best Rappers of All Time … and let the debate begin.

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