Hip hop has been active and growing for roughly more than 4 decades. Its origins date back to Dj Kool Herc’s basement in 1973. Ever since this genre begun its evolution, we’ve seen rappers and producers come and go, either solidifying their name as genre legends or remaining under-appreciated for their hard work and craft.
Without any further ado, let’s take a look at some of the most influential rappers and producers from all 3 of the major decades in hip hop history and take a look at how the recently-passed 2010s’ influence may impact the next generations.
Kicking off this list with the first major decade where Hip Hop started gaining a little popularity, the 1980s.
This group of 3 from New York City were formed as a result of the disbanding of an Experimental Hardcore Punk band called “The Aborigines“. Mike D, Adam Yauch, and Adam Horovitz were some of the first white artists in this black dominated genre, thus influencing white emcees like Vanilla Ice, MC Serch, Pete Nice, and the household name Eminem
License to Ill
With his 1987 album along with Eric B, Rakim managed to influence a whole new wave of emcees from the early 90s all the way till today. His raw emceeing ability made and still makes many more listeners pick up mics and start writing bars. He has influenced the likes of Jay Z and Nas, to Kendrick and Cole.
LL Cool J
Coming out of Queens, New York, LL is one of the first rappers to achieve mainstream success along with the likes of RUN DMC and Kurtis Blow. His debut studio album titled “Radio” still serves as one of the best debut’s in early hip hop. Having influenced the entirety of the 90s this rapper will forever be a figure to look up to.
Wu Tang Clan
The Wu Tang Clan is a super rap group from the early 90s. Often termed as Rap’s Avengers, this group is known for their punchlines and lyrics on heavy boom bap beats. With their classic works as a group and as solo artists these guys have cemented their names in hip hop and have influenced a lot of rappers. The members of Wu Tang Clan are GZA or The Genius, Ghostface Killah, RZA, Ol Dirty Bastard, U God, Method Man, Inspektah Deck, Raekwon, Masta Killa, A semi – member Cappadona, and Occasional member Scotty Whotty.
More known as a producer, this rapper alone has brought a number of the best rappers we have seen over the years into the spotlight. Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, 50 Cent, The Game, and Snoop Dogg are some of the most notable ones.
This Legendary Name in Hip Hop is one that won’t be remembered for the next decades…but centuries by hip H=hop fans. Stirring up a storm after his classic debut in 1994 with “Illmatic,” this rapper has been influencing rappers ever since. Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, J Cole, Logic, and many more well-known rappers have cited him as an inspiration.
2Pac has been in the discussion ever since he was murdered. With such a short catalogue in his lifespan, still being able to influence most rappers is a feat not many can accomplish. From his rhymes to his charisma and general presence on his works he will continue to influence rappers for a long time.
All Eyes On Me (Not availible on Spotify)
Similar to Pac, Biggie Smalls and his murder have not been forgotten. From his distinct voice and lyrical abilities to the way he used to flow on tracks, Biggie has been top tier in many aspects. Being just as relevant as he was in his prime, Biggie is certainly a legend.
Jay Z is a rapper who has aged perfectly. Having released quality albums in the 90s, 00s and 10s he might just be the most influential rapper ever. He’s been included in the 00s decade because most of his work was made and released in this decade.
Andre 3000 and Big Boi as Outkast
Even though Andre lacks solo work, he and Big Boi have produced some of the best and most revisit-worthy works. Their albums together and Big Boi’s solo works have all done more than enough to prove this 90s-00s duo’s greatness. Their buttery flows, beat choices, stellar lyricism and singing/hook-making ability has made some classic songs like “Ms. Jackson” and “Bombs Over Baghdad.”
From living in a trailer park with his mom in Detroit to being one of the most famous and respected rappers of all time, his story alone is inspiring enough. Having made classic albums and commercial hits with his cadence on features and great lyricism, Eminem was like a cheat code to success in the early 00s.
Ever since Kanye started producing songs he has been making classics. From beats for Jay Z and Common to making his own albums and then again helping a newer generation by working with the likes of Lupe Fiasco and Kid Cudi, Kanye has been consistently relevant in the music and fashion industries. With his 3rd and 4th albums he experimented with new and more different sounds than usual resulting in many of our favourite trappers of today.
Kids See Ghosts
Now the 10s decade just came to an end last year. Although many artists’ impact has begun to show on newer rappers, to get a good outlook and overview we might have to wait till the mid 20s. Artists like Kid Cudi, Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, Lil Wayne, Future, and Young Thug’s impact has already begun to show. Artists like Playboi Carti, Travis Scott, Lil Uzi, and Denzel Curry are currently influencing new styles in rap. SoFaygo, Smiley, Coi Leray, and a few more artists seem like the next generation of young rappers. Only time will tell us if the impact of late 10s will be relevant or if these artists will harbour new sounds and styles that will last for years.