Hip-hop is a genre that has been thriving since the early 1970s and was born in the heart of the Bronx. Many artists have come and gone throughout the decades, however, certain ones have left an impact that can’t be overlooked. Every young hip-hop artist who is making waves in the current space has been influenced by several artists that have come before them. Who are the most influential artists though and what type of impact did they have? We’re not talking about the best hip-hop artists in this article. Instead, we’ve done diligent research to bring you a list highlighting the six most influential hip-hop artists of all time below.
Kanye West is a controversial name, but one that influenced multiple artists in a variety of ways. The Grammy-award-winning artist became one of the first prominent artists who rapped and produced a diverse soundscape of beats for himself as well as others. Many people consider late Registration, College Dropout, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to be certified classics. His vulnerable music style, huge persona, and fashion sense paved the way for artists such as Drake, Travis Scott, Childish Gambino, Chance the Rapper, etc. West may be polarizing, but his influence and authenticity are unparalleled.
The Detroit Native is considered to be one of the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) when it comes to rapping. The goat meaning for Eminem isn’t an understatement with sharp lyricism, provocative subject matter, and a slew of accolades to his name. Eminem has inspired multiple artists including Machine Gun Kelly, Tyler the Creator, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent, and many others. Eminem is also one of the first white rappers to have blown up in a largely African American space. Eminem has his own successful record label S.H.A.D.Y. records, which has signed prominent artists such as Griselda and Westside Boogie.
Many people believe Lil Wayne is the forefather of the current generation of rappers. His rockstar persona, clever wordplay, and tireless work ethic have kept this rapper on top of the game for decades. Lil Wayne has helped usher in some young stars through his record label Young Money such as Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Tyga. Outside of his label, Lil Wayne has influenced several popular rappers including Young Thug, Lil Baby, Trippie Redd, Kendrick Lamar, and more. This is one G.O.A.T. that’s sure to go down in history.
Lil Kim is one of the first huge female rappers who made her presence known in the fashion world and the rap game, which was dominated largely by men. The Queen Bee constructed the iconic blueprint for many of today’s female hip-hop artists such as Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Saweetie, Megan Thee Stallion, and even Rihanna. The Brooklyn MC’s first album Hardcore went double platinum while her other four albums were very successful as well. Not to mention rapping alongside greats such as Biggie, and winning multiple awards, it’s no wonder that the First Lady of Rap’s influence will be felt for years to come.
Nas is another certified G.O.A.T. on this list who broke onto the scene with his classic first album Illmatic in 1994. He only rose in stature throughout the years with his vivid storytelling, memorable lyrics, and consistency. Nas has carried the hip-hop torch with 15 albums to his name and has influenced a ton of rappers such as J. Cole, Lupe Fiasco, Joey Badass, Kendrick Lamar, and others. Nas beefed with other greats such as Jay-Z, Tupac, and Cam’ron, holding his own in these battles. The elder statesman of rap is still releasing high-quality albums in his twilight years in what many consider to be a young man’s game.
It’s hard to believe that Chief Keef has been making his influence known since he was 16 in Chicago with the release of his hit single “I Don’t Like.” He made an explosive impact with his first album Finally Rich and brought attention to the Chicago drill music scene. Some people even consider him the father of the subgenre. Keef’s influence is far-reaching and could be heard in rappers such as Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, 21 Savage, Juice WRLD, and more. Chief Keef can drop a music video tomorrow and it will attract hundreds of thousands of views. Drill music has become more expansive throughout the years and has spread to New York City, Detroit, and even the U.K.
Hip-hop is a relatively young genre, but has experienced change after change throughout the generations. Multiple artists come and go, but there are some who have gone on to cultivate long-lasting legacies. Certain hip-hop artists have influenced a ton of young rappers in the realm of fashion, artistry, lyricism, music production, and more. Look no further than Kanye West, Eminem, and Lil Wayne who many artists credit as big inspirations. Other noteworthy artists include Lil Kim, Nas, and Chief Keef who touched many artists as well. The argument could be made for many other artists, but these six are some of the most influential hip-hop artists of all time.