The debate of the best in hip hop is a never-ending battle. Hip hop heads will argue to their graves which rapper has the best rhymes, the smoothest flow, and who can produce classic hits.
However, for National Hip Hop Day, August 11th, Black Girl Nerds recognizes the top ten hip hop artists in the game based on chart-topping hits, amount of downloads or streams, record sales, awards, and collaborations.
Top 10 hip hop artists of today
In no particular order, here are the artists who have gone above and beyond.
Canadian actor turned rapper Drake has capitulated himself into a successful music career. Here are some reasons why Drake is considered one of the best in the game.
In 2015 Drake dominated the Billboard 200 chart by having two mixtapes, What a Time to Be Alive and If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, reach No. 1. In 2004, because of this success, he was the first hip hop artist to have two number 1 projects in the same year.
His singles “God’s Plan” and “Nice For What” debuted at No.1 on the Hot 100 chart. Additionally, he became the first artist on Spotify to surpass 50 million streams.
Moving on to awards, Drake has received five Grammys and won over 193 awards.
Kendrick Lamar’s most prestigious award was winning the Pulitzer Prize for his album Damn in 2018, making him the only hip-hop artist to win a Pulitzer.
The Compton artist’s album Damn has also received attention and awards from others, such as winning Best Rap Album at the 2018 Grammy Awards. In addition, the award-winning album spent five consecutive years on the Billboard 200 charts.
Lamar’s talent isn’t limited to one album. He has also won 13 Grammys. In 2015 he won Best Rap Song for “Alright” and Best Rap Album for To Pimp a Butterfly in 2016.
Not to mention he also received a personal shout from the President of the United States, Barack Obama, who said that “How Much a Dollar Cost” was his favorite song.
With all his awards and recognition, it makes sense that he has sold over 9.5 million albums worldwide.
Megan Thee Stallion
Putting aside the controversy that has been in the news recently over the rapper Megan Thee Stallion and focusing on her music, it’s plain to see that she has made a significant impact in the music industry.
She first made a name for herself when her mixtape Fever won Best Mixtape at the 2019 BET Hip Hop Awards. Since then, she has been racking up nominations for the BET Awards, the Soul Train Music Awards, and Grammy Awards.
In 2021 her song “Savage (Remix)” won a Grammy for Best Rap Song. She also won Grammys for Best Rap Performance and Best New Artist.
The Houston-born artist has sold over 2 million albums and has collaborated with big names such as Beyonce and Cardi B.
Nick Minaj’s voice, style, and flow set her apart from other artists. Her use of wordplay, character voices, and slick lines of comedy is just some of the reasons fans are drawn to her music.
At the 2012 Grammys, she became the first solo female rapper to perform at the award show with the song “Roman Holiday.”
Time magazine, in 2016, recognized her by adding her to the Time 100 list of the World’s Most Influential People.
Minaj has won 11 Billboard awards and six total MTV awards in the US and Europe. Her album Pink Friday sold 375,000 copies in the first week.
In addition to record sales and awards, Minaj’s talent has led her to collaborate with artists in and out of her genre, including Kanye West, Natasha Bedingfield, Rihanna, Drake, Eminem, and will.i.am.
Travis Scott hustled his way to fame. After collaborations with Young Thug, Kendrick Lamar, and Quavo, Scott managed to have a No. 1 Album certified platinum in less than a year.
Scott continued to climb the ladder of success with his album Astroworld, which achieved the No. 1 spot and the second-largest sales week in 2018.
Continuing his success that year, his song Sicko Mode was No. 4 on the Billboard Top 100, and after seventeen weeks, it rose to No. 1.
Astroworld was the album fans loved, as was evident during his Astroworld tour. During this time, he toured across the United States and overseas. Yet, his most successful performance was at the Forum in Los Angeles, where he not only sold out two shows but grossed $1.7 million.
Cardi B is the true underdog of hip hop music, from starting on the show Love & Hip Hop: NY to releasing Bodak Yellow, which topped the charts for three consecutive weeks. Cardi B’s success can not be denied.
Her rise in fame has led her to win a Grammy for her triple platinum album Invasion of Privacy and Best Rap Album, making her the first female rapper to win this honor.
She was also named the 2020 Woman of the Year by Billboard.
Cardi B is also a record breaker, beating out Taylor Swift in 2018 for scoring over 100 million plays in the first week on Apple Music.
J.Cole is not only a hip hop artist but an activist as well. He released his song “Be Free” in response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mississippi.
Looking closely at his music career, the song “No Role Modelz” reached 1.2.billion streams on Spotify. He has received over 16 Grammy nominations, taking home a Grammy award for Best Rap Song for his song “A Lot.”
He has also won a Billboard Music Award for Top Rap Album and several BET Awards.
Lil Wayne has a long list of nominations as well as a long list of awards. Signed to Cash Money Records at 9 years old, this superstar has been on a continuous winning streak.
Starting with the American Music Awards, he won Favorite Rap/Hip Hop Song for “I’m the One.”
Continuing, he’s also won 11 BET Awards, 15 BET Hip Hop Awards, four Billboard Music Awards, and five Grammys.
Most recently, he has been inducted into Billboard’s Hip Hop Hall of Fame.
Lil Baby has made a name for himself and has been recognized through three Grammy nominations. He also has seven Billboard Music nominations and has won 3 BET Hip Hop Awards.
There’s no denying that fans enjoy his music, with over 2.8 billion music streams on Spotify.
Starting his career in the late 90s, this Detroit rapper has received 150 awards and 384 nominations.
Some of these awards include 15 Grammys and an Academy Award for Best Original Song from the movie he starred in, 8 Mile, making him the first rapper to ever win an Oscar for Best Original Song with “Lose Yourself.”
In the 2000s, Enimen sold over 32.3 million records.
You may agree or disagree with this list, and that’s okay. It is only a small representation of hip hop artists. Many more artists not on this list continue to move the art form forward.
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Kiersten is a freelance writer and coach. As a writer, she has written for Travel Noire, Passion Passport, BAUCE mag, and various travel and lifestyle blogs. As a writer, her goal is to write content that inspires others to take action. As a coach, her goal is to empower women to be their most authentic selves. In her free time, you can find her dancing to any song any where.