A New List Declares Who’s Been The Best MC Every Year From 1979 to 2016

2017 is still too young to have its best MC crowned, but a new list has named the best MC in each year, since 1979. From Grandmaster Caz to Chance the Rapper, MCs of all generations have found themselves mentioned in the comprehensive list generated by a team of writers at Complex, and some of the choices might surprise you. As written in the feature, the list was in part inspired by one of the reigning debates in Hip-Hop: Who is the greatest rapper of all time? What this doesn’t take into consideration, however, are artists who may have had an indelible influence on the culture at large but who are perhaps not considered “catalog artists.” With that in mind, for each year beginning in 1979, this list considers “both the short-term and long-term implications of an artist’s impact.”

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Grandmaster Melle Mel (1982)


The list features illustrations by Dale Edwin Murray and in a few cases, assigns multiple years to the same MC. Those MCs whose names often appear in GOAT debates are present; Rakim (1987), Big Daddy Kane (1989), Nas (1994), The Notorious B.I.G. (1995 and 1997), Tupac Shakur (1996), Jay Z (1999, 2001, and 2009), and Eminem (2000 and 2002) all have a home on the list. Also rightfully present are 1980s pioneers including Caz, Kurtis Blow, Melle Mel, LL Cool J, and others whose contributions are generally praised by Hip-Hop Heads en masse.

LL Cool J (1985)

LL Cool J 1985

There are a few whose place on the list might come as a surprise (though not an undeserved recognition). Run of Run-D.M.C. appears in two consecutive years, being selected as having literally run things in 1983 and 1984. In the 1990s, Ice Cube (’90), Q-Tip (’91), and DMX (’98) are three MCs whose names aren’t as commonly included in GOAT list as others. However, plainly missing from the decade are artists like E-40, Too $hort, Outkast, Scarface, and others who undoubtedly put their respective regions on the map (it is worth nothing there are honorable mentions sprinkled throughout).

Ice Cube (1990)

Ice Cube 1990

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Rounding out the aughts are 50 Cent (2003), T.I. (2004), Jeezy (2005), Lil Wayne (2006 and 2008), and Kanye West (2007), who also opens up the 2010s and is joined by Drake (2011, 2012, and 2015), Kendrick Lamar (2013), Nicki Minaj (2014 and the only woman on the list), and Chance the Rapper (2017).

50 Cent (2003) and Eminem (2000 and 2002)


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Of course, taste is selective and there will be those who say the list overlooks countless other artists who deserve a spot. But, based on this list and the amount of times they appear, it looks as though Jay Z and Drake are the reigning GOATs. Fact, or alternative facts?

Chance The Rapper (2016) and Kendrick Lamar (2013)


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Head to Complex to check out the list in full, including the reasoning behind each selection.