It’s a debate that’s been played out amongst hip-hop fans for decades, as well as in the rhymes and lyrics of the artists that spit them from day one – who is the greatest rapper of them all?

Whether it comes down to their influential reach, their musical legacy, or simply their flow and delivery, a list of the Top 30 Rappers of All-Time has been released, at least according to NME.

Forthcoming Big Day Out 2014 lineup highlight Snoop Dogg (aka Snoop Lion), young buck Kendrick Lamar (who very nearly appeared on the BDO bill), Mr. Jay ‘No More Hyphen’ Z, and the croissant-demanding Kanye West have all been named among the list, which was collated by NME from a readers poll asking the big question and resulting in a Top 30 list.

Interestingly, the Top 30 results are not ranked, with just one rapper coming out on top while the other 29 are put into a democratic pool of just being the ‘best of the rest’.

Among the list of names are some classics, such as appearances from both Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, as well as old school heroes Kool Keith, Big Daddy Kane, Chuck D of Public Enemy, and Rakim (of Eric B & Rakim). Wu-Tang clansmen RZA, Ghostface Killh, and Raekwon also make the cut while three female artists are name-checked; Missy Elliott, troubled Fugees singer Lauryn Hill, and formative femcee MC Lyte. “A couple of the rappers on the Top 30 list are making the trek to Australia soon enough.”

The 26-year-old Californian-bred Kendrick Lamar, current toast of the hip hop community for his guest verse on ‘Control’ by Big Sean that disses a list of new school rappers as Vibe points out, stands out on the NME list as being the youngest rapper to make an appearance on the list, while the ‘best MCs’ that Lamar toasts in his controversial ‘Control’ verse – such as Jay-Z, Eminem, and Outkast’s Andre 3000 – all make the Top 30 list also.

The crowning champion of the NME poll however, is Nas. The Queens, New York MC  born Nasir Jones sits lofty on the throne thanks to his combination of skill, the respect he’s earnt through an impressionable reach, all while maintaining a vast commercial appeal that’s resulted in 25 million album sales worldwide, from iconic 1994 debut Illmatic through to last year’s Life Is Good album.

Love Eminem?

Get the latest Eminem news, features, updates and giveaways straight to your inbox Learn more

Coincidentally, Nas was originally meant to head Down Under for a long-awaited Australian Tour as part of his duties curating the Live Nation-backed Movement hip hop festival, that was before the entire event collapsed following losing a number of its headliners and faltering ticket sales weeks out from its April 2013 kick-off.

A couple of the rappers on the Top 30 list are making the trek to Australia soon enough though, most notably Snoop Dogg, as part of the Big Day Out 2014 lineup on a bill with co-headliners Blur, Pearl Jam, and Arcade Fire, while Talib Kweli is due in the country this October to headline Rap City 2013, the mini-festival’s third edition featuring the influential MC alongside Stones Throw MC Homeboy Sandman and New Orleans rapper Trademark Da Skywriter.

Top 30 Rappers Of All Time

According to NME

  1. Nas
  2. Notorious B.I.G.
  3. Andre 3000 (Outkast)
  4. Roots Manuva
  5. Big Pun
  6. Snoop Dogg
  7. Raekwon
  8. Eminem
  9. Yasiin (aka Mos Def)
  10. DOOM
  11. Tariq Trotter (aka Black Thought of The Roots)
  12. Kendrick Lamar
  13. Ghostface Killah
  14. Tupac Shakur
  15. Kanye West
  16. Q-Tip
  17. Kool Keith
  18. Big Daddy Kane
  19. Lauryn Hill
  20. KRS-One
  21. Jay Z
  22. RZA
  23. Missy Elliott
  24. Ice Cube
  25. MC Lyte
  26. Chuck D
  27. Rakim
  28. El-P
  29. Talib Kweli
  30. Lord Finesse

Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
to Rolling Stone magazine
to Rolling Stone magazine