The debate of who are the greatest rappers has long been at the heart of hip hop culture. While debates about Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas and others dominated the 1990s, a different generation came into its own during the 2000s: young adults!
In the 2000s, hip hop style and music underwent a seismic shift that forever altered how we listen to rap music. To commemorate this milestone, we’ve compiled our list of the greatest 2000s rappers ever to hit the mic.
1. Dr. Dre
Dre has been shaped by many influences throughout his life. He particularly appreciates guitar-driven bands like Nirvana, but he also appreciates hip-hop.
He began as a DJ at Los Angeles nightclub Eve After Dark and eventually formed N.W.A (Niggaz Wit Attitudes) with rappers Eazy-E, Ice Cube and Yella.
Though they were hugely successful, their music was far more violent than what had come before them. This marked a major shift for gangsta rap and thrust more aggressive artists into the mainstream spotlight.
Dre, as founder of Death Row Records, helped launch the careers of many artists such as Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur. Additionally, he has been an accomplished producer; working on multiple projects with Eminem and 50 Cent while serving as executive producer on their debut albums.
Nas is one of the greatest rappers of all time and his music continues to inspire others. From his debut album Illmatic to Nasir, Queensbridge native has amassed an impressive discography.
Nas is renowned for his self-awareness, internal rhyme schemes, and mastery of street detail. He epitomizes the new age in hip hop which emphasizes substantive reality. Despite his own shortcomings and controversy, Nas has managed to remain a top-tier artist despite any shortcomings or issues that arise.
His impressive lyrical skill and command of beats make him an inspiring role model for younger rappers. Additionally, he is one of few rap artists with a real job; working tirelessly to promote his music.
Nas was raised in Atlanta with his mother and grandmother living in Bankhead Courts, a difficult housing project. While drugs and gang violence were commonplace there, Nas was fortunate enough not to witness any of these events firsthand.
Xzibit is a Detroit-born, Albuquerque-raised rapper who has made an impact on the hip hop world. He started out as part of Likwit Crew – an eclectic West Coast collective featuring Tha Alkaholiks and King Tee – before branching off onto his own as an individual artist.
He achieved widespread fame with Loud Records albums At the Speed of Life and 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz. Additionally, he hosted MTV reality show Pimp My Ride from 2004-2007.
His gruff baritone and hard-hitting lyrics have earned him a following for his songs, but he can also deliver some entertaining acting roles in films like The Wash (2001) and 8 Mile (2002). His most recent starring role was in Hollywood film Full Circle (2006); additionally, he hosts the music-focused reality series Urban Ammo 2.
Xzibit’s third studio album Restless, produced by Dr. Dre, was an enormous hit and marked his peak in popularity. Featuring Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Nate Dogg, DJ Quik and the Alkaholiks, it sold nearly 2 million copies and went platinum. His fourth album Man vs Machine featured three singles but failed to chart at number one.
4. Lil’ Kim
Lil’ Kim is an influential rapper who pioneered hardcore hip hop for females. Her debut album, Hardcore, skyrocketed to number 11 on Billboard charts and set the bar for women to express raunchy sexuality through explicit lyrics.
She was an innovator in combining high end fashion and hip hop music – something rare at the time. Her hypersexual lyrics and daring high fashion became iconic aesthetics that remain popular today.
Her style has had a lasting impact on generations of women in rap, inspiring top fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen and Marc Jacobs.
Cardi B, who referenced her in her debut single “Bartier Cardi,” also had a major influence on her; her legacy lives on to this day and deserves to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
5. The Game
The Game is a West Coast rapper with an illustrious career spanning fifteen years. Born and raised in Compton, California, he had established himself as an accomplished painter before following his musical passion.
The Game was inspired to create his unique sound by listening to classic hip-hop albums and conducting extensive research. In 2002, he cofounded Black Wall Street Records with his older brother Big Fase and released their first mixtape together entitled You Know What It Is Vol. 1.
The Game made a splash with his major label debut album The Documentary in 2005, which earned double platinum certification. This was followed by several hit singles such as “Certified Gangstas” and “Loose Change.” Besides creating music, The Game has always been an avid supporter of the black community and an advocate for social justice issues. He spoke out against police brutality and was the first rapper to publicly call out a rap group for their treatment of women in their songs.
6. Waka Flocka Flame
Waka Flocka Flame, one of the most influential rappers to emerge in the 2000s, is renowned for his raw, aggressive style. His music closely resembles trap rap – an increasingly popular subgenre within hip hop.
He released his debut album ‘Flockaveli’ in 2010, which proved to be a major success and propelled him into mainstream success.
Despite his success, the rapper experienced many hardships in his life. In 2010, he was shot twice during a robbery attempt in his hometown.
Even through his struggles, he had the support of his family and friends. Additionally, he worked tirelessly to become the artist that he is today.
His 2010 debut album ‘Flockaveli’ is considered a classic in trap music and set the bar for many other artists in this genre. Through his influence, many other trap artists followed suit and revolutionized the game.
7. Fat Joe
Fat Joe was born in the South Bronx area of New York City and grew up immersed in Zulu Nation culture. Raised by parents of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent, he lived in public housing as a child.
At 16, he recorded his first song and formed Terror Squad. Two years later, in 1993, he released Represent, which quickly reached number one on the charts and cemented him as a major star in the rap industry.
Two years later, Jealous One released Jealous One’s Envy which featured guest appearances by KRS-One and DJ Premier. This set reached number 7 on the US albums chart.
In 2000, Big Pun passed away tragically, but that did not stop Fat Joe and the Terror Squad from releasing their next album Lean Back which reached number one on Billboard charts and earned them a Grammy nomination. Despite this setback, they continued to create art regardless of what came their way – yet again.
Redman is one of the most influential and iconic rappers of the 2000s, known for his wild, antic-laden style which earned him a reputation for playing party rap anthems. Ever since releasing his first album in 1992, Redman has remained an influential force within the hip-hop community and continues to perfect his craft while performing live.
He credits many musical influences, including the legendary hip-hop group EPMD and Method Man; jazz musicians John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins as significant influences as well. In addition to his own work, he has collaborated with numerous artists throughout the years and toured with them as well.
His music is a blend of both p-funk and soul, highlighted by his trademark braggadocious humor and hard snare-based beats. He’s collaborated with groups such as Def Squad (with Keith Murray and Erick Sermon) and Method Man, appearing on several of their albums.
9. Beanie Sigel
In the early 2000s, Beanie Sigel was one of hip-hop’s biggest stars. His collaborations with Jay-Z and Roc-A-Fella Records earned him multiple Billboard placements as well as endorsements from other influential names in the industry.
On March 6, 1974 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dwight Grant Sigel took his stage name from both his grandmother’s nickname (Beanie) and the name of a south Philadelphia street. In 1998 he signed to Roc-a-Fella Records and released his debut album The Truth two years later in 2000.
His second album, The Reason, was released in 2001 and met with immediate success. However, he soon found himself embroiled in a feud between Damon Dash and Kareem Burke – head of Roc-a-Fella Records – over who would receive royalties from their sales.
After serving a year-long prison sentence, Sigel returned to the studio and released his fourth album The B.Coming on Dame Dash Music Group in 2005. He continued releasing music throughout the remainder of his career as well as appearing in State Property 2. With multiple hit albums under his belt, Beanie Sigel is considered one of the greatest rappers of the ’00s era.