Hip hop is one of the most innovative and popular music genres in the world. With its invention being accredited to DJ Kool Herc in 1973, hip hop has gone from strength to strength, and now there are so many incredible hip hop artists that you can enjoy. Now, take a look at some of the top hip hop artists to listen to – from titans of the genre to the fresh talent you won’t want to miss.
Emerging into the music world in 1991 with R&B group Sista, known for writing music for Raven-Symone and Aaliyah, Missy Elliott became a hip hop music legend in her own right by 1997, and one of the original female artists in the genre. Her debut album, Supa Dupa Fly, was met with critical acclaim and was at the time the highest-selling debut by any female hip hop artist.
Today, Missy’s work sounds as fresh as ever, with smash hits like “Get Ur Freak On” and “Work It” still being highly recognizable and catchy. If you’re looking for some of the top hip hop artists to add to your playlist, then Missy Elliott is a solid artist to choose.
Formed in 1987, N.W.A. is widely considered to be one of the most influential music groups in the history of hip hop. Featuring some of the top hip hop artists, such as Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, the group endured much controversy as well as fame during their music career. Ranked in Rolling Stone as one of the top one hundred greatest artists of all time, N.W.A. burst onto the hip hop scene in the late 80s, and over a relatively short career as a group they managed to make a huge impact. Known for their aggressive, rebellious lyrics, N.W.A. captured the divisive spirit of the late 80s and early 90s when optimism turned to cynicism and anger at the authorities.
N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton is one of the best hip hop vinyl records to listen to and to add to your music collection if you want a really memorable album to listen to. It was the group’s debut album in 1988 and was certified Platinum with one million copies sold within a year of its release. The album re-entered the Billboard 200 in 2015 with the release of the film Straight Outta Compton, focusing on the rise and fall of N.W.A.
It would be hard to talk about hip hop without mentioning Kanye West, known today as Ye. While his work has spanned across genres, he remains primarily a hip hop artist. Starting out as a producer, Ye was so dedicated to becoming a performer that he recorded his first true song “Through the Wire” while recovering from a car accident that left his jaw wired shut. From this passion, his 2004 debut album The College Dropout only cemented his reputation as one of the most exciting and committed hip hop artists of the early 2000s.
While controversy has dogged Ye’s career due to his personal life and views, there is no debate that his sound is iconic and unique. Just give the beloved album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a listen to understand why Ye is considered to be an innovator of the genre, who has inspired many younger artists, such as Drake and Chance the Rapper.
Somewhat underrated in the music world, Childish Gambino is Donald Glover’s stage name. Known in the first instance as an actor, Childish Gambino proves that there is real hip hop talent in this performer’s arsenal. He has an interesting musical history in the hip hop genre and started out with early recordings and Childish Gambino mixtapes, including Christmas remixes and more. Originally beginning with mixtapes, Childish Gambino’s first album release, Camp, was released in 2011 with “Heartbeat” being one of the most memorable songs.
In 2013, follow-up Because The Internet was a commercial success too, with the song “3005” being considered his best song to date. However, it wasn’t until 2018’s “This Is America,” along with its viral music video, that Childish Gambino truly became a household name, with a combination of catchy music and incisive lyrics that is at the heart of all brilliant hip hop.