Who are the prominent, successful, well-respected hip-hop artists?

Don’t know why it took this long to strike me, but have you noticed that nearly anything you hear about any famous rapper is either an addition to the rap sheet (Suge Knight), tragedy (Tupac Shakur), monumental career and/or financial bungling (MC Hammer), or endless naked hostility (Vanilla Ice)? And even the success stories are more often than not flashes in the pan.

Rock, pop, jazz, folk, metal, techno, new age, you name it, you can point to any number of icons and legends, some who are still active even after receiving Hall of Fame honors (or the like). Who are the great rappers, the ones who set the bar, really made their mark on pop culture, influenced the industry?

I know Ludacris has been a tremendously successful rapper and promoter, and he’s also does a lot of work for the community. (Not to mention the occasional lighthearted duels with Bill O’Reilly, which I’ve heard are comedy gold.) I’ve heard great things about Eminem, but I haven’t heard enough about him to know if he’s one of the true greats.

If we go a bit back in time there is KRS-One, Rakim, Chuck D (from Public Enemy) - especially Chuck D; I think Public Enemy were very influential and inspired a lot of artiskts back in the day. De La Soul’s first album 3 feet high and rising (produced by Prince Paul) was on the forefront of sampling from older artists when it came out in 1987.
Oh yeah - good stuff…

Big Daddy Kane
Slick Rick
De La Soul
Tribe Called Quest
Ghostface Killah
Public Enemy
50 Cent
Notorious BIG
Kool Keith
Mobb Deep
The Goodie Mobb
While I hate to put 50 Cent on a list with ANY of the above artists, he definitely made a mark that the industry is still feeling, which is what the OP was looking for. Rap music goes through a lot of stylistic changes ever few years or so. Pre-50 Cent, the industry was very focused on “feel-good” R&B/Rap by the likes of Mase and Ja Rule. When 50 Cent first started getting big, his buzz was built on how raw he was, and how well he sold the “gangsta” image. It became uncool very quickly to make a Mase-like album. (Then 50 cent made three more albums, each more Mase-like than the last. Terrible.)

NWA did the same thing in the early nineties/ late eighties. They took the feel-good/battle raps that were big on the east coast at the time, and made simple, vicious rap songs about a life no one was really talking about at the time.

For better or worse, all of the above artists changed rap music during their respective reigns.

Lil’ Wayne is probably the one name to know currently* in regards to hip hop. Tha Carter III was rated one of the top, if not the top, album of the year by the kinds of organizations that do that sort of thing, despite the fact that everybody knows his mix tapes are realllly where it’s at.

*Although, if you had to know two names in current hip hop, the other would certainly be Kanye West. Not my cup of crunk, though.

Two groups who where succesful and had individual members with success:

Wu-Tang Clan

Truer words…

Some others I’d add:

Mos Def
Talib Kweli
The Beastie Boys
Wu Tang Clan
Snoop Dogg

Missy Eliot always seemed classy as well as Queen Latifah.

This is the Missy Eliot whose video for “Get Your Freak On” showed her (via (I hope) special effects) hawking a lugie into someone else’s mouth? That kind of classy?



Gang Starr

And one group I forgot, who should get a lot more airplay:

Jurassic 5, who are bloody great live!

I think LL Cool J is probably the best example of what the OP is looking for.

I know Outkast was already mentioned but I would like to single out Andre 3000. Very infleuntial to the young up and coming artists in the Atlanta area, is a song writer, plays multiple instruments and has a parlayed a pretty successful acting career. He even had a cartoon on Cartoon Network, Class of 3000, that wasn’t a 30 minute shill for his products. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything controversial about him.

A music video is the ultimate measure of a human being.

Charity work never comes in to play.


Rap = death of civilization. Thought you knew. Check your email ferchirstsake.


Oh, geez…I never said that. I never even implied it. I was not aware of her charity work. It more than balances that one moment, okay? I personally don’t like rap that much, but more power to you if you do. Geez…

Wah? :confused:

Not you Sitnam. And I suppose not jayjay either.

Sorry bout that. Seem to be feeling a bit punchy…

Nice list, but I would not include 50 Cent among these names.
How about adding
The Roots (up to and including Illadelph Halflife) - a fabulous live act,
DJ Premier (one of the finest East Cost producers ever),
The Beatnuts
Black Moon

I think the best way to answer this is by asking yourself which rappers anyone is going to remember in 50 years. If you do that, you’re left with a much shorter list, which would definitely include Snoop Dogg (which I haven’t seen anyone mention yet) and would not include The Beatnuts or The Roots or 50 cent or Lil Wayne. You’ll see names like Beastie Boys and Eminem and Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, because they’re so publicly visible and permanent and accessible. Remember, the OP isn’t asking you who your favorite rap artists are, or who the “best” artists are.