The 15 Most Popular Hip-Hop Rappers in the World (2023)
Hip-hop was once a music genre at the fringes of society. Today, it’s bigger than pop and rock and beloved by fans all over the world, from the streets of the Bronx (where it first started) to the faraway Asian island of Singapore.
There are many reasons behind hip-hop’s impressive escalation in popularity, but few are as significant as the 15 names below. They’re the world’s best rappers, and they’re the main men responsible for turning hip-hop into a global phenomenon.
In “Higher,” Eminem asks the question: “where am I supposed to go from here?” To be fair, Marshall Bruce Mathers III has done it all already, from landing 15 Grammy Awards and selling 220 million records to being recognized by his peers as one of the best in the game. While many would disagree, it isn’t at all absurd to say he is the hip-hop GOAT.
Over the last thirty-plus years, Eminem and his alter-ego Slim Shady have been dropping some of the hottest, most technically-challenging bars in rap and releasing best-selling single after best-selling single. Not to mention that Eminem also starred in “8 Mile,” arguably one of the most beloved hip-hop movies of all time.
2. Kendrick Lamar
Forget about rap. Kendrick Lamar’s goal is to be the William Shakespeare of our generation. Just like Bob Dylan in the ’60s, Lamar comes up with lyrics so good it’s impossible not to call them fine literature. His vocabulary and rhyming game if off the charts, but the message his songs convey is still approachable and straightforward.
In face of Lamar’s genius, all one can do is “be humble” and “sit down.” Each of his critically-acclaimed records is a hip-hop masterpiece, but he truly pushed the envelope with his seminal 2015 album “To Pimp a Butterfly.”
3. Kanye West
Just like one of his “DONDA” singles, the American rapper Kanye West is heaven and hell. He started his hip-hop career as a producer, and that shows in his music. While West can drop some seriously cool lines, rapping isn’t his best feature. What West does better than arguably anyone is to release songs that sound simultaneously fresh and contagious.
The self-described “most impactful artist of this generation,” West can sometimes be overly confident and a bit weird. But isn’t precisely that what’s so great about his music? Equally beloved by the masses and by the critics, West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” was named the second-best album of the 2010s by Pitchfork magazine.
4. Travis Scott
Modern, autotune rappers are often criticized for having style over substance. The Houston, Texas hitmaker Travis Scott, however, has plenty of the two. He’s been around since 2008, but it took him a decade to release the album that would put him on hip-hop’s pedestal: the unsurpassable “Astroworld.”
Scott embodies everything that makes modern hip-hop cool, but he does so while also staying true to the fundamentals. His lyrics are spot on and his beats are very creative, but what truly sets him apart is his flow. Scott can deliver bars with so much groove it’s impossible not to feel his energy.
5. J. Cole
“With every record, I be asking the masses to tune your hearts to me:” the opening line of J. Cole’s “Heaven’s EP” sums up perfectly why he’s so universally revered. J. Cole’s songs are brutally honest and tell a story (or many stories) that everybody can relate to. He puts his soul out there, with no need for detours and metaphors, and that’s why he has five certified platinum albums.
That’s not to say J. Cole’s music is unevolved or technically unchallenging: his rap game is always on, even when he’s performing live. J. Cole headlined countless shows over the years, including Rolling Loud, one of the 50 best music festivals in the world.
Born in Canada and first popularized for being a teen actor, Drake is the unlikeliest hip-hop phenomenon of this generation. With over 170 million records sold and four Grammy Awards in the bag, he’s one of those rare artists who appeals equally to mainstream audiences and die-hard rap fans.
His 2013 album – appropriately titled “Nothing Was the Same” – was met with great enthusiasm by the critics and proved Drake was capable of coming up with some of the best hooks in hip-hop. He later produced some of the most addictive songs in recent memory, including most notably “Hotline Bling” and “Toosie Slide.”
7. Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg is such a popular rapper it would be unfair to call him anything other than an American legend. He’s arguably the world’s most famous marijuana enthusiast, a popular Internet figure, a Super Bowl Halftime Show performer, and (believe it or not) a WWE Hall of Famer. Yes, the D-O-double-G has long become more than just a hip-hop star. But make no mistake: dropping lines is still his number-one occupation.
Before the reality shows and the ‘Just Eat’ commercials, Snoop made a name for himself by pioneering Gangsta Funk with records as classic as the unforgettable “Doggystyle.” Over the years, he’s worked with artists as revered as Dr. Dre, Pharrell, Stevie Wonder, and Willie Nelson.
If there’s a Michael Jordan in the hip-hop world, that man is most likely Jay-Z. More than just one of the most prolific and consistent rappers of the last thirty-plus years, Jay-Z is the artist who’s been showing struggling Americans (and African-Americans in particular) that it’s possible to dream the American Dream and go on to live it.
Worth $1.3 billion, Jay-Z is also an exemplary businessman and record-label owner. Whether you believe he’s hip-hop’s GOAT or not, you have to admit he’s still the rapper every rapper wants to be. Like Jay-Z says in his landmark song “The Story of O.J.”, he’s “tryin’ to give you a million dollars worth of game for $9.99.”
9. Post Malone
Austin Richard Post is the son of a DJ who spent most of his childhood in Texas and once played in a metalcore band called “Crown the Empire.” One day, he put his birth name into a rap name generator and became Post Malone. Blending hip-hop with pop and trap, he managed to hit the charts with his breakthrough single “White Iverson” and remained at the top ever since.
Post Malone has a fair share of haters, but what meaningful artist doesn’t? One of the indisputable masters of the modern hip-hop sound, he managed to sell 80 million records in less than 10 years, landing six Grammy Award nominations in the meantime.
10. Dr. Dre
It’s appropriate that one of Dr. Dre’s newest songs is called “Gospel.” The main man responsible for the ’90s golden age of hip-hop, Dre’s got it right with lines such as “doc Dre, b*, I’m a prophet” and “you’re f* with the original.” Hip-hop’s Dalai Lama, Dre is still best known for his work as a producer, but his rap game’s been on for decades too.
With “N.W.A.,” Dre proved that there should be more to hip-hop beats than just a kick and a snare. With his seminal 1992 album “The Chronic,” he showed gangsta rap can be as profound and well-crafted as a Beethoven symphony. While it’d be strange to call him the best rapper in the world, it’s fair to say Dre is probably the most influential personality in hip-hop’s history.
11. Wiz Khalifa
The North Dakota native Wiz Khalifa made a career out of releasing records that are addictive, laidback, and just fun to listen to. He’s not pushing the envelope or trying to reinvent the wheel, but why should he? The reason Khalifa topped the charts is that his brand of hip-hop is the perfect soundtrack to any moment.
Hip-hop isn’t just about making intricate rhymes with politically-charged messages over revolutionary beats. Sometimes, it’s a vibe. Khalifa’s success goes to show some rappers are so cool they don’t even need to try hard to stand up against the very best.
12. Lil Wayne
Signed to a hip-hop record label at the incredibly precocious age of 12, Lil Wayne has never been anything other than a rapper. And that shows in his music, which is as effortless as influential. The favorite rapper of countless rappers, he hit the spotlight with his 2008 magnum opus “Tha Carter III,” which remains one of hip-hop’s most impactful albums.
Lil Wayne sold so many records he became the first male artist to surpass a certain Elvis Presley in the Billboard Hot 100, as reported by Reuters. And while there’s no doubt he needs to improve his guitar playing, his place in any best-rappers list is pretty much a given by now.
Jonathan Lyndale Kirk grew up listening to the records of Eminem, Lil Wayne, and 50 Cent before starting his rap career in 2014. Previously known as Baby Jesus, he (fortunately) changed his name to DaBaby in the meantime. And if you’re into hip-hop, I’m pretty sure you already know who I’m talking about.
The youngest rapper, career-wise, to make it to the list, DaBaby has already released a few banger singles but is still working on that one masterpiece that will one day turn him into a GOAT contender. For now, he shows all the promise.
Few things are as controversial in the hip-hop community as mumble rap. While some believe it’s an inventive new way of rapping, others think it’s an atrocity. Either way, one thing’s for sure: good art is all about making an impact, and that’s precisely what Future’s music did.
The undisputed mumble-rap king, Future is the main man responsible for putting Atlanta, Georgia on the hip-hop map and has already worked with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, and James Blake. And whether you’re into mumbled vocals or not, you got to admit he knows how to make a hit single.
15. Tyler, the Creator
When the music video for Tyler, the Creator’s Yonkers came out, I couldn’t believe it: this was a hip-hop song unlike any other I’ve ever heard. The music community agreed, and Tyler has since then been branded one of the most inventive, original, and creative rappers in the world. Looking at his incredibly diverse output, it’s hard to disagree.
Tyler’s tunes are a non-stop deliverance of fresh ideas, antagonizing beats clashing against one another, and unique lyrics that can go from cryptic to brutally sensitive. He’s fun, interesting, and utterly proud to be hip-hop music’s ultimate outsider.
Hip-hop is more than just music, it’s a culture. And few people have influenced that culture more than the rappers on this list. From pioneers like Dre to newcomers like Tyler, the Creator, these rappers have shown us what hip-hop is capable of. They’ve pushed the boundaries, challenged the status quo, and created some of the most iconic tracks of our generation.