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 4. Rakim



 3. Notorious B.I.G.



 2. Tupac



 1. Jay-Z



  50 Cent, Nas, Mary J. Give Their 'Greatest MCs'



  MTV Hip-Hop Brain Trust 2006



  Honorable Mentions



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  The Greatest Hip-Hop Albums Of All Time



  The MTV Hip-Hop Brain Trust 2005




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Rank: 2

estimonial
Tupac Shakur was the hardest-working and probably the most impactful MC of all time. Rappers and fans alike all try to emulate some part of Pac: the warrior, the prophet, the leader. He'll never leave our hearts. Even before his tragic passing, Tupac's music became almost like a religion to his followers: His poetics could drive you right into the middle of the beautiful struggle in the ghetto, give insight to his own inner battles, detail revolutionary game plans or vividly capture the essence of black love. He wasn't with us for long, but he left behind a catalog of jewels to last forever.

Co-Signer: Scarface
"That is my favorite MC. That was my dawg. Not only as an MC, but that was my partner. That was my real true homeboy. Pac always told me you gotta get it across to the women and the homies will accept it. That was his secret. If you think about it, that's Pac's formula. I did adapt one of Pac's [other] formulas, that was to go ahead and make songs. Before we did 'Smile,' he came by the studio and played the Makaveli album for me. He was just wrapping up; I was working on the Untouchable album. He was like, 'Man, you sitting in wasting your time, let's go kick it!' I was like, 'Man, I gotta make a single.' He was like, 'Just write songs and it'll come.' "

100 Percent Proof
"Will I succeed?/ Paranoid from the weed/ And hocus pocus, try to focus but I can't see/ And in my mind, I'm a blind man doin' time/ Look to my future 'cause my past is all behind me/ Is it a crime to fight, for what is mine? ... I've been trapped since birth, cautious, 'cause I'm cursed/ And fantasies of my family in a hearse/ And they say it's the white man I should fear/ But it's my own kind doin' all the killin' here."

— from "Only God Can Judge Me" (from All Eyez on Me, 1996)

Selected Catalog
*2Pacalypse Now (1991), Strictly 4 My N---A.Z. (1993), *Me Against the World (1995), *All Eyez on Me (1996), * *The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (as Makaveli, 1996), #R U Still Down? (Remember Me) (1997), #Still I Rise (1999), #Until the End of Time (2001), #Better Dayz (2002), #Loyal to the Game (2004), #Live at the House of Blues (2005).

* = undeniable classic # = posthumous release

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Have a problem with our choices? Got a better list? Let us know, and check back later for our readers' hip-hop top 10 lists.





NEXT: Kool G Rap says, 'Dude is in a class by himself' — and the MTV News Hip-Hop Brain Trust (mostly) agrees. The winner is ...
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