Pop culture gravitates towards the word “greatest”, a phrase that lends itself to music artists, sports stars, and Hollywood elite. But in the world of rap music, to enter conversation about the Greatest Rapper of All Time is to find yourself faced with a contentious issue. Throughout music’s history, numerous rappers have been credited with changing the landscape of the genre, for reinventing it, and for taking it in a new direction.
For some, their lyrics continue to stand as a legacy for their craft, years after they’ve passed. And when it comes to Eminem, the Oscar-winning rapper has become an icon. Aside from his ability to spit verses with alarming fluidity and speed, Eminem has also come to be known for translating personal turmoil and hardship into his music, and so it is that we know about Marshall’s background with a father that left him when he was a child and a mother that was far from the ideal parent. We know about his relationship with wife Kimberly Scott and the impact his daughters had on his life. Now, we also know who Eminem considers to be the Greatest Rappers of All Time, according to his own list.
Responding to a tweet from YouTuber NoLifeShaq who asked, “Who is the greatest rapper of all time,” Eminem rattled off a list of his favourites in “no particular order”. NoLifeShaq’s tweet contained a video of the YouTube star posing the question to 30 rappers, including Drake, Ice Cube, Travis Scott, and 6ix9ine. While Eminem’s response came too late to make the video, it certainly made for fascinating reading.
So, for an insight into just whose music shaped Eminem’s own rap career, here are his favourite rappers – in no particular order, of course.
Eminem has previously referred to 2Pac as the greatest songwriter of all time, too. Earlier in May, during his “Music to Be Quarantined By” playlist on his Siriux XM Shade 45 station, he spun the track “If I Die 2Nite”. Eminem introduced it by saying, “OK, this next song is from an artist that I feel like might be the greatest songwriter of all time. Debate what you want about MC skills and all that because he had that too.”
The success of Notorious B.I.G. needs little introduction. The rapper has been credited as being the voice that influenced a generation, and while his rivalry with 2Pac would stir controversy in the rap world, his music continues to live on.
Image: Annie Leibovitz
It’s hard to believe Kendrick Lamar first stepped onto the music scene in 2011. In that amount of time, he’s come to be regarded as a seminal voice in the rap world and has sold more than 17.8 million albums, received 29 Grammy nominations, 12 Grammy wins and made history with his 2017 album, “DAMN” which won the Pulitzer Prize for music.
It’s hardly surprising that Jay-Z should feature on the list, with the rapper being widely regarded as one of the best in the business.
Royce da 5’9”
Royce da 5’9” recently spoke about his relationship with Eminem and how his early running days with the rapper opened his eyes to the good side of white people after experiencing so much injustice due to the colour of his skin. He said in an interview, “Em is like...Marshall was like my guy, that I got in my life...that he didn’t seal the deal, but he played a huge role in me not generalising white people.”
Eminem and Lil Wayne have collaborated on numerous occasions, producing the hugely popular tracks, “Drop the World” and “No Love”. While there’s certainly a rivalry in their rapping, the two have since become good friends.
Cole earned his first platinum-selling album with 2014’s “Forest Hills Drive”. He continues to be regarded as one of the finest songwriters in the rap industry and has proven on numerous occasions that his name belongs amongst hip-hop’s best.
The influence Redman (otherwise known as Reggie Noble) had on Eminem is well known. When Eminem was just starting off in the industry, he and Proof remade “Pick It Up”, a classic Redman song that saw Eminem fine-tune his freestyling skills.
The East Coast rapper has been behind some of the biggest albums in the rap industry and is known for his provocative and thought-provoking lyrics that pushed the boundaries of the genre.
The Atlanta-based rapper is also known for being one half of Outkast. Andre 3000 continues to produce music that endures and while his music has achieved great commercial success, it’s been equally embraced by those within the rap industry.
Having begun his career as the MC of the rap duo Eric B & Rakim, 2011 saw Rakim nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Big Daddy Kane
Many consider Big Daddy Kane’s songs to be up there with the best to have emerged during its era of hip-hop.
His album ADHD has since become a top-selling rap album that found a place on the Billboard Top 200 chart and now, Joyner Lucas is celebrating incredible success in what is a burgeoning rap career. That Eminem finds his music to be an influence is remarkable and speaks to the kind of talent Joyner Lucas has.
LL Cool J
The rapper, actor, author and entrepreneur has had a profound impact on the rap industry. With 13 studio albums and 2 compilations to hi name, he continues to be regarded as a legend of hip-hop.
Kxng Crooked and Eminem have a strong friendship, and the former Slaughterhouse MC is regarded as one of the finest rappers in the industry has ever seen. Earlier this year, Kxng Crooked Tweeted: “Every rapper should want fans like the homie Eminem has...He’s arguably the most successful rapper ever and his fans tweet me like he’s the most underrated artist in the world.”
Treach was the lead rapper of hip hop group Naughty by Nature. Eminem was a huge fan of the group, something he expressed in Ice-T’s 2012 documentary Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap, in which he recalls the story of the first time he heard the opening song of Naughty’s debut album, “Yoke The Joker.”
Kool G Rap
Kool G Rap began his career in the mid-1980s as one half of the group Kool G Rap and DJ Polo and as a member of the Juice Crew. His music continues to be loved by fans around the world, one of which just happens to be Eminem.