Hip hop has dominated the music scene for decades, and there’s no doubt that many of the best rappers of the 2010s are a big reason why. While rap music is always evolving, the following rappers have found a way to carve out their own niche within the large world of hip hop. Here are my picks for the best of the best!
Best Rappers of the 2010s
Everyone’s favorite savage, Future “Pluto” Hendrix, has taken the rap game by storm and also wears the crown as the king of Atlanta rap. Fueled by lean and misogyny, Future spews venom over beats that have inspired a new generation of rappers, dealers, and bad boyfriends. Future seems to be able to effortlessly flow on any style of music. He has legendary mixtapes, and albums of his own while also being one of the best artists to collaborate with. If Future hops on a track, you know it is going to be fire.
My Favorite Future song: “Chosen One” – F.B.G: The Movie (2013). Quintessential mixtape Future. This was at the peak of his Freeband Gang days when it was clear he had one foot in the game. You don’t call yourself Future if you don’t think you are the “Chosen One”.
2) Wiz Khalifa
It’s hard to believe that an artist as huge as Wiz Khalifa doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his impact on rap music. It’s hard to call Wiz just a rapper—the Pittsburgh artist is a modern rockstar. To many, Wiz is still known as a “weed rapper” but to those who really know, he has become a staple influence in the game and one of the better businessmen.
Following in the footsteps of his friends/ mentors, Snoop and Juicy J, Wiz has dabbled in everything from legal weed to fashion, liquor, and movies. Movies have been an important part of his career with lead singles in movies like Suicide Squad, Ninja Turtles, and Fast & Furious 7. At one point, his single, “See You Again”, was the most-viewed Youtube video of all time with over 5.5 Billion views. Don’t sleep on Wiz.
My Favorite Wiz Khalifa Song: “Bluffin” feat. Berner” – O.N.I.F.C., 2012. Underrated track on a very underrated album. Wiz & Berner proved the lazy stoner stereotype wrong.
If you would have told Degrassi fans that Jimmy Brooks would go on to be one of the biggest artists in the world, they wouldn’t have believed you. Drake has transcended rap music and became arguably the biggest pop star in the world. His ability to seamlessly tap into almost any culture or trend allows him to stay ahead of the pack.
We must give Lil Wayne his flowers for discovering the Canadian rapper and giving him the platform to explode through Young Money. Drake leans heavily on themes from R&B but cuts out the middleman by being the main vocalist on most of his songs. This is a trend that has continues to blend the genres of rap and r&b. People might hate Drake, but it’s damn hard to hate on his music and influence, as he’s considered to be one of the best rappers of the 21st Century.
My favorite Drake song: “One Dance” – Views, 2016. Summer ‘16 was a special time.
4) Kendrick Lamar
In a lot of ways, Kendrick has carried the West Coast on his shoulders since 2010. Yes there are other notable rappers from the West and Snoop is literally everywhere, but few artists, are well, true artists. Kendrick Lamar is a real MC. A poet that has stayed solid through the era of mumble rap and other splinters of the genre.
His 2012 album, good kid, M.A.A.d city, brought him mainstream recognition, and every album since has been a cultural pillar. He even became the first rapper to win a Pulitzer prize for his 2017 album DAMN.
My favorite Kendrick Lamar song: “Money Trees” – good kid, M.A.A.d city. 2012. Kendrick and his T.D.E. brother Jay Rock body this song long before winning a Grammy together for “King’s Dead”.
5) Freddie Gibbs
Think gangsta rap is dead? I dare you to tell Freddie Gibbs. While he may have only recently found mainstream ears, Gangsta Gibbs has been holding it down for the midwest since his 2009 Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik. With the spirit of prime DMX, the “Baby Face Killa” is known for his gritty voice and raw lyrics. It’s not all just grit and grime with Gibbs.
He has the creativity and flexibility that you wouldn’t expect from the Gary, Indiana artist. At the end of the day, In a time where there are fewer and fewer pure rappers, Freddie Gibbs is holding it down for those dedicated to bars and real rap.
My favorite Freddie Gibbs: “Willie Lloyd” – FETTI, 2017. Freddie is one of the best pure rappers out these days. Willie Lloyd is proof. Extra points for a Thanos reference.
The South has always been home to the underground rap scene with legendary groups like UGK leading the way in trapping tapes out of the trunk. Taking the baton from Pimp and Bun, Curren$y has carved his own lane in the industry by staying loyal to his underground roots and the fans that adore him. Curren$y is your favorite stoner’s favorite rapper. This New Orleans rapper, came up in the game watching No Limit rise to prominence and eventually being signed to Ca$h Money.
After a few placements on early Lil Wayne tracks, Spitta decided to go it his own as an independent artist. This decision proved the right one as Curren$y is now an undeniable OG in the game and has fathered his own style of lowkey, story-telling. A cannabis connoisseur and low-rider aficionado, Curren$y is one of the realest dudes in the game.
My favorite Curren$y song: “Dollar $ign Eyes” feat. Joey Bada$$ – The Spring Collection, 2018. Curren$y has collaborated with a crazy number and variety of rappers. This track with Joey Bada$$ is one of his best collaborations. Joey is an Honorable Mention on this list.
7) Juicy J
When we talk about influence, few rappers have had a larger influence on modern rap music than the man himself, Juicy J. His legacy runs deep as a member of the legendary group, Three 6 Mafia. The group debuted in the early ’90s with their horror-themed rap on top of eerie, Willie Hutch sampled beats. Those beats were notably produced by the then-teenage Juicy J.
Over the decades Juicy J has evolved into one of the most notable influences in the game. The Oscar-winning, rapper’s career took off to new heights in the 2010s many thanks to his legendary mixtape, Blue Dream & Lean. Already 20 years in the game, Juicy J seemed to have made a deal and found new life. His energy is unmatched and bars will have you ready to tear the club up. Whether producing for artists or rapping, Juicy J has made a major impact.
My favorite Juicy J song: “Countin’ Faces: – Blue Dream & Lean, 2011. Don’t play this song around your girlfriend, mother, or sister.
8) Gucci Mane
Atlanta has produced countless rappers but few compare to the impact of Gucci Mane. Emerging as a trap rapper in the 2000s alongside Jeezy and T.I. it wasn’t until the 2010s that Gucci’s rude and raucous rap style took off. On the tail of beefing with almost everyone in Atlanta, Gucci went on a tear of mixtapes (70+ mixtapes in total) where he reinvented trap rapping.
Gucci established 1017 Records and became a springboard for countless Atlanta artists. Gucci Mane is much to thank for the introduction and rise of artists like Future, Young Thug, and Migos. What might be most impressive is his resurgence after seemingly ending his own career with a lean-charged social media rant and jail time. Since his release, Gucci has found new life, light, and a wife while continuing to be a major staple in Atlanta rap music.
My favorite Gucci Mane song is: “Follow Me”, The Cold War: Guccimerica, 2015. Gucci tells President Obama to follow him on this dope track off one of his classic mixtapes.
9) Big Krit
When people think of southern rap, they don’t immediately think of Mississippi. Big Krit has been holding it down for his state and quietly has been one of the best and most consistent rappers of the decade. K.R.I.T. (King Remembered In Time) has dropped a full-length project in eight of ten years of the 2010s decade.
His music is deeply rooted in soul, blues, and southern rap and often has a larger message tied to social, cultural, or political events going on in the world. At this point in his career, K.R.I.T. isn’t worried about acclaim or radio play, he is going to consistently record albums for his faithful fans and the lucky listeners who stumble upon his music.
My favorite Big Krit song: “Temptation” – 4Eva N A Day, 2012/2021. Big K.R.I.T. rereleased an expanded version of his 2012 EP, 4Eva N A Day, last year. This is a great place to start for any curious readers.
10) Tyler The Creator
The ugly duckling of rap music. Tyler the Creator is a new school rapper and one of the most unique artists out there. He debuted to mixed reviews and a niche audience due to his eclectic style, and sometimes downright random lyrics. The Odd Future leader is at the forefront of music and fashion and has even made his name in film and tv. Tyler has always stayed true to himself and his vision to become a multi-Grammy-winning artist and the leader of the new generation of rap artists.
My favorite Tyler The Creator song: “Potato Salad” – 2018. This is song is an expression of rap’s best Bromance (Sorry Drake and *insert whoever he’s on tour with*).
11) Young Thug
Stepping out of 1017 with a major cosign by Gucci Mane, Slime was destined to be a mainstay in rap music. His eccentric style, one-of-a-kind flows, and distinct music made him someone that young rappers have tried to imitate since he hopped on the scene. Even tho he is probably the one who made “mumble rap” a trend, it’s hard to deny Thuggas impact.
My favorite Young Thug song: “Pick Up The Phone” – Jeffery, 2016. Travis Scott and Offset join Thugger on this awesome song.
12) Chief Keef
When we talk about influence, Chief Keef is the spark for the wave of drill music we are seeing across the globe. For years, Chicago rap was synonymous with names like Kanye, Common, and Lupe Fiasco. “Sosa” was a representation of the restless youth of the Windy City and exploded the moment he hit the scene.
My favorite Chief Keef song: “Kobe” – Finally Rich, 2012. Kobe was so great a Chicago rapper named a song after him.
13) Rick Ross
With three powerful albums in the previous decade, Rick Ross had already made himself known as the leader of the Miami rap scene. In 2010 he dropped what many consider to be his best album, and took steps towards the status of mogul he holds today Teflon Don began a run of albums where Rick Ross’s larger-than-life persona took on new heights.
As head of MMG, Ross began “buying Black the Block” making himself equally as known for business endeavors with Wing-Stop and Bellaire. The 305 rapper is one of the best when it comes to spinning tales of over-the-top luxury as a result of the drug and rap games.
My favorite Rick Ross song: is “Maybach Music III” – Teflon Don, 2010. Rumor has it if you play all seven Maybach Music songs in a row (yes there are seven), Rick Ross will appear in your living room.
14) J. Cole
The Dreamville head honcho might be focusing some of his energy on basketball these days but that doesn’t take from his ability as one of the best rappers out. He creates relatable music that has built him into one of the most faithful fanbases in the industry. To his fans, one of his biggest claims to rap fame is his triple-Platinum status with no features. This is an interesting thing to boast about given another artist on this list (Future) has also achieved that feat, amongst others outside of rap.
My favorite J. Cole song: “False Prophets” – 2016. J. Cole goes in on this track about idols that have fallen from grace while reflecting on his own journey so far.
15) Nicki Minaj
Think what you want about her, Nicki Minaj is easily one of, if THE most influential female rappers of all time. Introduced to the world with Drake through Lil Wayne’s Young Money camp, Nick Minaj made herself a household name after she bodied her verse on Kanye’s “Monster.”
That solidified her ability as an MC and launched her into stardom. Minaj’s personality and fashion style are just as loud as her music which achieved pop-chart appeal. She expanded on the comment themes of female rap and took it to a new level. Nicki Minaj can be credited with opening the doors for the current generation of female rappers to take over the game.
My favorite Nicki Minaj Song: “Feeling Myself” with Beyonce – The Pinkprint, 2014. If Nicki is the #1 female rapper of the decade, Beyonce should be second. Regardless each is the leading lady in their respective genre. Legendary link-up. ‘
Wrapping It Up
Every one of the artists listed above has been able to carve out their own loyal following through the internet and has used their platforms to vault themselves to the top of the music and business worlds. From Gary Indiana to Compton, the best rappers of the 2010s represent the rapid expansion of the genre across the nation. As we head forward, it is interesting to note that almost all of these artists are still at the very top of the game. Not to mention legends like Jay-Z who will casually pull up and drop the verse of the year. Rest assured, the game is in great hands.
This article was written by Justinian and edited by Michael.
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