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 10. LL Cool J



 9. Eminem


 8. Ice Cube



 7. Big Daddy Kane



 6. KRS-One



 5. Nas



 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



  Back to Intro


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.

Kanye, 50, Diddy, Jay-Z, Tupac? Think your list is better than ours? Make your voice heard in our Greatest MCs poll.




  The Greatest Hip-Hop Albums Of All Time



  The MTV Hip-Hop Brain Trust 2005




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Honorable Mentions

The toughest thing about choosing a top-10 list of the greatest MCs of all time is: There are only 10 spots. So many MCs have struck a chord with us over the years. If MC really means to "move the crowd," like Rakim said, then Busta Rhymes defines that by being arguably hip-hop's best live performer. DMX brought rap back to the streets in the late '90s and has had five consecutive #1 debuts on the Billboard albums chart (a feat no other artist in any genre has accomplished). Method Man's flow is ridiculous; for that matter, so is Twista's. MC Lyte was so hard and had a voice unlike no other, Big L was a lyricist's lyricist, Redman's metaphors are as sick as they come, while Mos Def and Q-Tip are both conscious and fly.

Again, we can only fit 10 names into 10 slots. But that doesn't mean we haven't been touched over the years by many others. In alphabetical order, here is a list of our honorable mentions.

Andre 3000
When you think of Dre, the first thing that comes to mind is creativity. Some argue that Dre and Big Boi are the best rap group ever, or at least the most consistent. And although his half of Outkast's most recent LP, The Love Below, mostly found him singing, his career as a rapper is extraordinary, largely because his thinking has always been so out-of-the-box. But no matter how high into the stratosphere Dre navigates, he's never had his head so far in the clouds to miss what's going on in the streets.

Big Pun
Like Biggie and Pac, there's no telling how far Big Pun would have gone if he'd lived. He was a proud Puerto Rican and represented the Latino culture with grace, but Pun definitely transcended all racial barriers. He possessed all of the qualities to make him one the best: a mastery of melody, a unique flow, a recognizable voice, humor, and lyrics so strong that other MCs are still losing sleep.

Black Thought
Thought and the Roots have made heralded records and won Grammys, but the place where this MC really excels is onstage. The Roots perform hundreds of shows a year, and yet it seems like no one is the same. The band's lead MC can go off the top of the dome with the best, flip one of his records so it sounds nothing like the album version, and even rap somebody else's lyrics — like Big Daddy Kane's — in such a fresh fashion that no one could ever accuse him of biting.

Common
Midwest, stand up! When a lot of MCs were using gimmicks to get on in the early '90s, Com carved his niche by being exactly what he's been for the past 14 years: the quintessential b-boy. Some fans may not have always agreed with his fashion choices, but no one can dispute his potency on the mic. He compared his love for hip-hop to the love in a relationship between boyfriend and girlfriend, he brought tears to our eyes as he rapped about abortion, and even had the audacity to battle Ice Cube. The Chicago native may not have had multiplatinum record sales — at least, not yet — but quiet as kept, he's got some classic LPs in the catalog.

Ghostface
Even if he'd never dropped a solo LP, Tony Stark would have cemented his status as a hip-hop legend by virtue of his contributions to one of the greatest groups of all-time, the Wu-Tang Clan. Happily, Ghost has blossomed into one of the more refreshing MCs of the past decade. You never know where he's going to take you in his raps: He can go from rhymes about Scooby-Doo to ones about picking roaches out the cereal box as a kid, from lyrics about robbing a cocaine stash-house to outlandish slang and deliciously nonsensical phrases. Ironman has also picked up where Slick Rick left off, with a brazenly indiscrete sartorial sensibility.

Lauryn Hill
L. Boogie could have very well made the top 10 if she hadn't stopped rapping after her classic 1998 LP, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Lauryn didn't rely on overt sexuality to get her point across: Her weapons of choice were conscious content and abstract metaphors that are just as lethal as anything in the arsenals of her testosterone-bearing counterparts. And we won't even mention how much her singing voice puts most R&B artists to shame.

Kool G Rap
G Rap is a hip-hop godfather: There are plenty of MCs who might never have been heard if G Rap hadn't paved the way. He brought the New York underbelly to the forefront with his cinematic crime-don sagas and hood-warrior narratives.

Scarface
The pain, the paranoia, the pride — and the most powerful voice ever to emanate from the South. In the late '80s and early '90s, 'Face proved that our neighbors Down Bottom are just as adroit with lyricism as any other region. Throughout the years, he's firmly stood the test of time and is rightfully as respected as any MC in rap — he very nearly made the top 10.

Slick Rick
The former MC Ricky D's ostentatious fashion style was just as integral to his persona as his debonair English accent and his masterful storytelling. In his prime, Rick made some of the greatest hip-hop songs ever: More than 20 years after their release, "La-Di-Da-Di," "Children's Story" "Mona Lisa" and "The Show" can still rock any party or concert.

Snoop Dogg
Snoop had attained legendary status even before the release of his first album, 1993's Doggystyle — at the time, it was the most anticipated hip-hop album in history, and it helped revitalize the West Coast. On and off the mic, Snoop has given us as much swagger as we've ever seen come from one individual. His laid-back flow has proven to be timeless, and his charisma transcends all categorization: How else can you explain his transformation from one of the most feared rappers into a beloved household name who can successfully peddle everything from cars to clothes — and still yell out his gang affiliation and proudly proclaim himself to be a pimp?

You Tell Us
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: Wanna see just how heated the debate got? Check out highlights from the 'Greatest MCs' argument ...
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