Best Rappers of the 1990s

It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you.

About a year ago, I ranked the best R&B had to offer for the nine-90s and the 2000s, word to Juve. Take a look at those lists here:

The Best Female R&B Singers of the 90s

The Best Male R&B Singers of the 90s

The Best Female R&B Groups of the 90s

The Best Male R&B Groups of the 90s

The Best Male R&B Singers of the 2000s

The Best Female R&B Singers of the 2000s

Since then, everyone’s been asking when I’d show love to hip-hop’s pioneers.

The wait is over.

Let’s look at 10 of hip hop’s biggest names during the peak of my rap fandom, the 1990s. For those of you new to the game, let me save you some angry emails in advance: This won’t be a list of rap’s best lyricists, nor the best selling artists — it’s not even a ranking of my personal favorites.

I used the following equation to determine the rankings:

  • Activity between the years 1990-1999
  • Sales figures
  • Overall influence on the genre
  • Lyrical skill and creativity

Also, bear in mind that this list only includes solo artists. Rappers known primarily for their group work (i.e., Andre 3000, Black Thought, etc.) won’t make this list. Stay tuned for that list another time.

In the meantime, take a look at the 10 names that made rap a cultural phenomenon.

Honorable mentions: MC Hammer, Redman, Method Man

ice cream man10. Master P

Albums: Get Away Clean (1991); Mama’s Bad Boy (1992); The Ghetto’s Tryin to Kill Me! (1994); 99 Ways to Die (1995); Ice Cream Man (1996, platinum); Ghetto D (1997, 3x platinum); MP da Last Don (1998, 4x platinum); Only God Can Judge Me (1999, gold)

No. 1 Singles: “I Miss My Homies” (1997, rap); “I Got The Hook Up!” (1998, rap); “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!” (1998, rap)

Edd said: Master P went from Southern staple in the early 90s to mainstream superstar in the second half of the decade. What he lacked in lyrics (and lord knows he definitely lacked) he made up for in star power and a stable of memorable artists.


the-diary9. Scarface

Albums: Mr. Scarface Is Back (1991, gold); The World Is Yours (1993, gold); The Diary (1994, platinum); The Untouchable (1997, platinum); My  Homies (1998, platinum)

Edd said: Uncle Face is known as hip-hop’s elder statesman these days, but in the 90s, Scarface grew into the South’s preeminent lyricist.


doggystyle8. Snoop Dogg

Albums: Doggystyle (1993, 4x platinum); The Doggfather (1996, 3x platinum); Da Game Is to be Sold, Not to be Told (1998, 2x platinum); No Limit Top Dogg (1999, platinum)

Edd said: If you weren’t around in ’93, I can’t express how anticipated Snoop’s debut album was. It surpassed the hopes of every fan, setting him on the road to superstardom he still travels today.


it-sdark7. DMX

Albums: It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot (1998, 4x platinum); Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood (1998, 3x platinum); …And Then There Was X (1999, 5x platinum)

Edd said: In 1998, hardcore heads were getting bored with rap’s obsession with flash and bling. Enter the dog. DMX brought a level of aggression and grittiness that the game sorely needed. Say what you want about X now, but he ruled end of the decade.


the predator6. Ice Cube

Albums: AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (1990, 2x platinum); Death Certificate (1991, platinum); The Predator (1992, 5x platinum); Lethal Injection (1993, 2x platinum); War & Peace Vol 1 (The War Disc) (1998, platinum)

No. 1 Singles: “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” (1990, rap); “Wicked” (1992, rap); “It Was a Good Day” (1993, rap); “Check Yo Self” (1993, rap); “Pushin’ Weight” (1998, rap)

Edd said: Before he was a goofy character in your daughter’s favorite movie, Cube was the most feared rapper in AmeriKKKa. He dominated the early 90s, took a break, the picked up right where he left off later in the decade. His fierce, politically charged raps were the stuff of legend.


mama said knock5. LL Cool J

Albums: Mama Said Knock You Out (1990, 2x platinum); 14 Shots to the Dome (1993, gold); Mr. Smith (1995, 2x platinum); Phenomenon (1997, platinum)

No. 1 Singles: “The Boomin’ System” (1990, rap); “Around the Way Girl” (1990, rap); “Mama Said Knock You Out” (1991, rap); “How I’m Comin’” (1993, rap); “Hey Lover” (1995, rap); “Loungin” (1996, rap); “Father” (1998, rap)

Edd said: Throughout the 90s, LL was hip-hop’s most consistent player, alternating from radio-friendly flows to pavement-cracking bars. He authored some of the decade’s most memorable songs.


reasonabledoubt4. Jay Z

Albums: Reasonable Doubt (1996, platinum); In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997, platinum); Vol 2 … Hard Knock Life (1998, diamond); Vol 3 … Life and times of S. Carter (1999, 3x platinum)

No. 1 singles: “Jigga My N****” (1999, rap)

Edd said: When Jay quietly dropped his classic album in 1996, few noticed. But by the end of the decade, Jigga was rap’s biggest player. His charisma, wit, and skillful wordplay quickly pushed him to the top. And he was just getting started….


illmatic3. Nas

Albums: Illmatic (1994, platinum); It Was Written (1996, 2x platinum); I Am… (1999, 2x platinum); Nastradamus (1999, platinum)

No. 1 Singles: “Street Dreams” (1996, rap)

Edd said: Illmatic. The album that launched 1,000 careers. Illmatic is arguably the most influential record in rap history, but it was just the beginning of Nas’ legacy. Few were able to match his lyricism in the decade — or ever.


makaveli2. 2pac

Albums: 2Pacalypse Now (1991, gold); Strictly 4 My N***** (1993, platinum); Me Against the World (1995, 3x platinum); All Eyez on Me (1996, diamond); The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (1996, 4x platinum); R U Still Down? (Remember Me) (1997, 4x platinum); Still I Rise (1999, platinum)

No. 1 Singles: “Dear Mama” (1995, rap); “California Love” (1995, pop, rap, R&B); “How Do U Want It” (1995, pop, rap, R&B); “Changes” (1998, rap)

Edd said: If Illmatic was the ’90s’ most influential album, Pac is easily its most influential figure. No artist simultaneously embodied social consciousness and social chaos quite like Pac. Not only did he drop classic albums, he became a poster child for the best and worst aspects of the art form — he was the total package. Still, he had a few weak spots in his vast category, opening the door for him to be eclipsed by just one MC….


ready to die1. The Notorious B.I.G.

Albums: Ready to Die (1994, 4x platinum); Life After Death (1997, diamond); Born Again (1999, 2x platinum)

No. 1 Singles: “Big Poppa” (1995, rap); “One More Chance/Stay With Me (Remix)” (1995, R&B and rap); “Hypnotize” (1997, pop, R&B and rap); “Mo Money Mo Problems” (1997, pop and rap); “Sky’s The Limit” (1997, rap)

Edd said: Presence. Technique. Lyricism. Biggie was the Alfred Hitchcock of hip-hop, a storyteller the likes we had never seen, or seen since. He left us while at the peak of his game so his catalog never had a chance to decline like many of his contemporaries. In fact, that has only added to BIG’s legacy. He’s not just the best rapper of the 90s, he’s the greatest of all time.

OK, here’s the part where you tell me what I got wrong. Share your thoughts in the comments.




  1. Out of your list, the only rap artist that I know who is still active, alive and kicking and expanding his music and business empire is Jay Z! Whatever happened to Jah Rule and Naz? I saw many of both Jah Rule and Naz movies and they were exciting and very good. Then suddenly both disappeared. Does anyone know where they are? 50 cents is also great in movies. But he recently declared bankrupt after a court settlement against him. Was he really bankrupt? And now we hear about Kanye begging the Zuck for a billion dollars. If anyone knows what is happening to these rap artists and why they are all in need of money despite their phenomenal successes, please let me know! WENDY WAFCO #wendywafco

  2. I have been seriously thinking about these hugely successful rap musicians and why they keep having financial problems; I mean great black stars like 50 cents, Lil Wayne, as well as actors such as Chris Tucker and a long list of others and it seems to me that one of the primary cause is that many of them are too much into their careers that they neglect the business aspects. They are not properly managing their incomes and assets and as well as investments. The more money you make, the more expenses and bills that you gonna get if you’re a celeb. The only way to avoid ending up bankrupt is to make sure that your assets are properly managed by professional experts with proven records! Another helpful decision is the type of investment they make. They should have the most proficient investment advisors to help them invest in lucrative companies with growth potential and the best return on investments. Above all, these celebs must learn to avoid over spending and live within their means. WENDY WAFCO OF NEW YORK CITY #wendywafco

  3. You got it right, especially my top three!

  4. Can’t argue with this list based on your methodology. My personal list includes only one of the above, Nas. While Nas did disappear for a while during his mother’s ailment/ death, I would contend that he is currently doing bigger things than Jay Z.

  5. Pac will always be the greatest of all time. Biggie opened for Pac. You call yourself a player but I fu$$&@ your wife.

Leave a Reply to Tiffany Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.