The Best Rapper Alive, Every Year Since 1979


One of the biggest magazines, Complex has listed The Best Rapper Alive, Every Year Since 1979. Southpaw only gives the list where the names: Eminem, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole appear. Check the list below:


Year 2000: Eminem

CREDENTIALS: The Marshall Mathers LP, guest spots on “Forgot About Dre” and “Don’t Approach Me,” three classic singles with “Real Slim Shady,” “The Way I Am,” and “Stan,” becomes most controversial rapper on the planet.


After the immense success of The Slim Shady LP and Dr. Dre’s 2001, Eminem was riding high even as he became overwhelmed by the reach of his new found fame. Rather than crack under the pressure, Marshall took some time (and drugs) in Amsterdam, came back Stateside, and released his magnum opus, The Marshall Mathers LP. Even if it hadn’t become one of the best-selling rap records ever, the record was still a conceptual masterpiece—with Eminem mixing autobiographical detail and absurdist fantasy to chilling results.


As Em stepped into his prime, he began demolishing verses with an unparalleled tenacity for wordplay: “Sick sick dreams of picnic scenes/Two kids, 16 with M-16’s and 10 clips each/And them shits reach through six kids each/And Slim gets blamed in Bill Clint’s speech to fix these streets?” The detail was vivid and visceral. “And if it’s not a rapper that I make it as/I’ma be a fucking rapist in a Jason mask!” His music hit a nerve on critical, commercial, and cultural levels, aided by his blonde hair and blue eyes (as he’d soon point out), but an undeniable achievement nonetheless.


Singles like “Way I Am” showed Eminem for what he was. An angry white male? Sure. But also the only rapper who could score a massive pop hit by following the words of The 18th Letter. By 2000, white boy or no white boy, you had to give him the mic and let him recite.



Year 2002: Eminem

CREDENTIALS: The Eminem Show, 8 Mile Soundtrack, three top five hits, had the best-selling album of the year across all genres.


Everything you need to know about where Eminem was in 2002 you can hear in the second verse of “Till I Collapse.” He hit the scene in 1999 and became the illest rapper to hold the cordless, so by 2002 his tremendous talent was unquestionable (“You’re real and you spit and people are feeling your shit”). So much so he realized he was living through his prime (“This is your moment, and every single minute you spend trying to hold onto it ’cause you may never get it again”) and began thinking about his place in hip-hop’s pantheon, worried he’d never get the props he felt he deserved. People tend to get caught up in the fact that Em named Redman (Reggie) ahead of Jay and Biggie in his infamous list, but really the most crucial detail is that Em lists himself last. He was as high as he’d ever get but still looking for another hit, on top but still unsatisfied.


Regardless of what ideas were floating around Em’s head, he dropped another monster album that year with The Eminem Show. The record didn’t top his previous effort creatively but still managed to be one of his more accessible albums (at least for hip-hop heads), which for once pitted his lyrics against a backdrop closer to hip-hop’s sonic center—laying bare just how many light years ahead of the average rapper he was.


Yet, that album might not have even been his greatest achievement that year. With the release of the loose biopic, 8 Mile, Slim Shady became an unlikely people’s champ, the rap Rocky. The first single to the film’s soundtrack, “Lose Yourself,” became Eminem’s biggest hit ever and one of his best songs. “Lose Yourself” encapsulated what made Em so special. It was a rap song about the physical act of rapping, proving that Eminem was and would always be a rapper’s rapper, a true student of Rakim. Yet, thanks to his songwriting skills it was also a massive pop hit and had middle Americans who would otherwise never interact with rap chanting along. There may be unwelcome side effects to that (as seen by the burgeoning number of white rappers), but Em still spread the gospel of hip-hop and did it in the most authentic way possible.


It was only a short while after this that Chris Rock would point out that the best golfer was black, the tallest basketball player was Chinese, and the best rapper was indeed white.


Year 1999: Jay Z

Honorable Mentions: DMX, Eminem, Nas.


Year 2001: Jay Z

Honorable Mentions: Eminem, Ludacris, Jadakiss.


Year 2003: 50 Cent

Honorable Mentions: Jay Z, Eminem, T.I.


Year 2010: Kanye West

Honorable Mentions: Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Eminem



See the full list on Complex