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These are The Top 15 80s Rappers of All Time

80’s rap music is one of the best decades for rap of all time and is often referred to as “the Golden age of hip hop”. Songs included in the genre of 80’s rap are still listened to and jammed out today. Among the most iconic 80’s rappers that are still listened to today include MC Hammer, Ice Cube, and NWA. There are even some 80’s rappers that are still successful working as record producers and entrepreneurs, such as E-40 and Dr. Dre.

Top 15 80s Rappers of all time  – #1 MC Hammer

MC Hammer with people talking in the background
Photo from Wikipedia Commons

 

Stanley Kirk Burrell (otherwise known as MC Hammer) is best known for his popular song, “U Can’t Touch This”. In addition to rapping, Burrell starred in cartoons, was a television show host, dance judge, and a preacher. He was also the star of his reality TV show, Hammertime, which showed his daily life as a rapper. He started a recording business and had collaborations with many big names such as VMF, Tupac Shakur, and Big Daddy Kane. Originally from Oakland, California, MC Hammer was one of the most recognized 80’s rappers and is still referenced in modern-day hip-hop, rap, and the media. For example, in Mike WiLL Made-It’s song “23” featuring Miley Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa, and Juicy J in the rap verse, “I’m MC Hammer fly, you can’t touch. J’s so fly I should work at Flight Club.

2. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

DJ Jazzy Jeff playing the sound deck beside Will Smith
Photo credit: https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/111284/dj-jazzy-jeff-spins-up-deployed-airmen/

 

This hip hop and rap duo met in West Philadelphia. Disc jockey Jeff Townes (DJ Jazzy Jeff) and Will Smith (the Fresh Prince) created one of the most well-known rap duos ever. Their most popular songs include “Summertime” and “Parents Just Don’t Understand”, which each won a Grammy and skyrocketed on the charts. In the early ’90s, Will Smith starred in a show called Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and wrote the lyrics to the theme song, “Yo Home to Bel-Air” with DJ Jazzy Jeff producing it. The duo has had multiple reunion performances in 2017, with their most recent performance being in 2019. While Will Smith now works frequently in the film industry as an actor and producer, DJ Jazzy Jeff still tours and performs both domestically and internationally.

3. The Sugarhill Gang

Three male members of the Sugarhill Gang
Photo credit: Laura Levine/Corbis https://www.flickr.com/photos/insideplaya/3374333641

 

When the Sugarhill Gang first got popular, it was comprised of Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright, Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien, and Henry “Big Bank Hank” Jackson. Henry “Hen Dogg” Williams was frequently associated with the Sugarhill Gang as well. This trio’s origins were in Englewood, New Jersey, but their group name was referring to the historic district of Sugar Hill in Manhattan. Their famous songs included “Rappers Delight” and “Apache”, giving them international fame. Although the group broke up and then rejoined for several reunion shows, they are considered some of the best 80’s rappers of all time. You may be familiar with the tune and/or dance of the song “Apache”, being a very popular song to get hyped to at a sports event. This dance was partly made popular by none other than Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro’s performance on the TV show, Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

4. Salt ‘N Pepa

Salt ‘N Pepa female members performing onstage
Photo credit: David Burke https://www.flickr.com/photos/cit_thmc/11183321104

 

Salt ‘N Pepa (also known as “The First Ladies of Rap and Hip Hop”) started in Queens, New York. It was among one of the most well-known hip hop and rap groups of all time. It was also notable that they broke several records for being one of the best female rap acts of all time. Members included: Cheryl James (Salt), Sandra Denton (Pepa), and Deidra Roper (DJ Spinderella). Their most well-known songs include “Shoop”, “Push It”, “Whatta Man” and “Let’s Talk About Sex”. They were nominated for several Grammy awards and countless soul, R&B, Hip Hop, Rap, and Dance awards from multiple institutions. The group gained international fame and has stayed under the spotlight ever since the 80’s, and only recently broke up in 2019 when DJ Spinderella announced her termination from the group.

5. Sir Mix-a-Lot

Sir Mix-a-Lot performing on stage
Photo from Wikipedia Commons

 

Anthony L. Ray (otherwise known by his stage name Sir Mix-a-Lot was born in a suburb just outside of Seattle, Washington. Ray always exhibited an interest in music and rap. Growing up and after he graduated from high school, he frequently acted as a DJ at local events and parties. His first several hits in the ’80s included “Square Dance Rap”, “Posse on Broadway”, and “My Hooptie”. However, his most popular song, “Baby Got Back” earned him a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1992.

6. E-40

Lil Jon and E-40 holding a signed memorabilia
Photo from Wikipedia Commons

 

Earl Tywone Stevens (otherwise known by his stage name E-40) is among one of the most famous rappers who has stayed relevant since his first increase in popularity in the ’80s. Originally from Vallejo, California, Stevens emerged as a member of the hip hop/rap group called “The Click” (otherwise known as M.V.P.). He then started performing and producing independently in 1993 and was the founder of Sick Wid It Records. His most recent album was released in 2019.

7. Run DMC

Three male members of Run DMC hip-hop group
Photo from Wikipedia Commons

 

This hip hop rap group started their journey in Queens, New York. The trio included Joseph “Run” Simmons, Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels, and Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell. Their first single released was in 1983 and was entitled, “It’s Like That/Sucker MCs”. Most of their hits came from their 1986 album, Raising Hell, including “Walk This Way”, “It’s Tricky”, “Peter Piper” and “My Adidas”.

8. N.W.A

top 15 80s rappers of all time  - Six male members of the N.W.A wearing caps
Photo from Wikipedia Commons

 

Number 8, top 15 80s rappers of all time N.W.A stands for Niggaz Wit Attitudes and is comprised of members Arabian Prince, DJ Yella, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and MC Ren. The group originally formed in Compton, California and is known as one of the pioneers of “gangsta rap”. Their explicit lyrics caused significant controversy due to their frequent mentioning of sex, drugs, alcohol, crime, racism, and hatred of the police. Their first compilation album called N.W.A. and the Posse came out in 1987, including popular singles such as “Boyz-N-The-Hood” and “Dope Man”, which instantly hit the charts. The debut studio album soon followed and came out in 1988, called Straight Outta Compton, which was the album of the popular singles “Fuck tha Police” and “Gangsta”. After the release of those albums, members slowly started dropping from the group and many started independent careers as solo artists, some of which are included in this list.

9. Heavy D

Heavy D wearing an eyeglasses with his hands clasped
Photo credit: methodshop.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/methodshop/6327532470

 

Heavy D started in Mount Vernon, New York as Dwight Arrington Myers. This Jamaican-born American rapper started as the leader and sole rapper of a group called, “Heavy D & the Boyz”. Along with Heavy D, Eddie acted as the DJ and T-Roy and G-Wiz as dancers. Their first two studio albums Living Large and Big Tyme experienced a high amount of success. Heavy D then started collaborating with big names such as Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson, which caused him to gain significant popularity. After several more albums with Heavy D & the Boyz, he started his solo career with multiple albums and also went into acting and broadway. Heavy D passed away in 2011 due to a pulmonary embolism (PE).

10. Ice Cube

O’Shea Jackson sitting between two people while holding a microphone on one hand
Photo from Wikipedia Commons

 

O’Shea Jackson (Ice Cube) was born in Los Angeles, California. He gained fame and popularity by being a member of the N.W.A. and then left the group to start his independent solo career in 1989. His first few independent albums were AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted and Death Certificate that came out in the early ’90s. He then got into film by starring in Boyz in the Hood and other movies and film series. His lyrics continued to address certain political and social issues such as racial profiling and rioting in Los Angeles. Ice Cube’s most recent album was released in 2018 and Ice Cube continues to explore other avenues of success including music producing, creating a clothing line (Solo by Cube) and raising his four children with his wife.

11. Too $hort

Too $hort performing on stage with another male performer in front of a huge crowd
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/demxx/8400547297 demxx

 

Todd Anthony Shaw (otherwise known as the stage name Too $hort or Short Dog) was born in Los Angeles, California.  This top 15 80s rappers of all time could be categorized as the increasingly popular “gangsta” rap that talked frequently about sex, money, and drugs. His first album Don’t Stop Rappin’ came out in 1985 and was one of the first hip hop records that had the word “bitch” in the lyrics. He also created a label called Dangerous Music with his high school friend Freddie B. Too Short’s most notable collaborations were with Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G., and Scarface. His twentieth album, The Pimp Tape, came out in 2018 and is alleged to be his final album.

12. 2 Live Crew

Five members of Live Crew
Photo credit: editrixie https://www.flickr.com/photos/editrixie/3964426479

 

Originally from Riverside, California, 2 Live Crew gained much of their popularity in Miami, Florida. Original group members included: Fresh Kid Ice, Brother Marquis, Mr. Mixx, Luther Campbell, and Verb. Fresh Kid Ice was one of the first well known Asian American in hip hop. Over the years, the group released many singles and several albums. Although many of the group members have left, others such as rapper Brother Marquis (Mark Ross) joined 2 Live Crew later. They were notorious for controversially sexually explicit lyrics such as in the songs “We Want Some Pussy” and “Me So Horny”. The group’s last single was released in 2016, although it did not include and was not limited to all of the original group members.

13. Geto Boys

Geto Boys performing onstage with a large LED screen at the back
Photo credit: Jeremy Perez Photos https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremyperez/8955234328

 

Geto Boys (also known as Ghetto Boys) was an iconic hip hop rap group native to Houston, Texas. The original group’s members included: Raheem, Sir Rap-a-Lot, and The Sire Jukebox. Later Bushwick Bill, Prince Johnny C, and DJ Ready Red joined. Big Mike was the final member to join in 1993. Their first single was released in 1986 called “Car Freak” and their first album came out in 1988 called Making Trouble. The majority of their music touched on themes of murder, promiscuity, and violence.

14. Dr. Dre

Dr. Dre holding a mic while performing on stage
Photo credit: Jason Persse https://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonpersse/7114516867

 

Dr. Dre was a member of the group World Class Wreckin’ Cru in 1985 and then N.W.A. after meeting Ice Cube in 1986. He worked as a producer for his groups, then himself and also other artists and rappers such as Snoop Dogg, 2Pac, Mary J. Blige, and Eminem. Young was featured in several movies and produced a couple himself. In 2008, he released his brand of headphones called Beats by Dr. Dre and was eventually bought out by Apple for $3 billion. In addition to his countless contributions to the music industry, he has also donated millions of dollars to schools including Compton High School, which is near the area he grew up in. He has been called “the richest man in hip hop”.

Top 15 80s Rappers of all Time  – 15. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five rap members
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/45682148@N05/9044692671 Takeshi

 

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five was a rap group consisting of Grandmaster Flash, Keith Cowboy, Melle Mel, The Kidd Creole, Mr. Ness/Scorpio, and Rahiem. Their roots started in the Bronx, New York. Their turntable manipulation of music, as well as their descriptions of political issues in their lyrics, were a few factors that contributed to their international success. They were one of the first rap groups in the New York City area before rap music had all of its popularity in the music industry. Their first single was released in 1979 called “Superrappin”. There were splits and disputes, ultimately resulting in two separate groups. These separate groups joined together for a legendary reunion performance for charity in 1987.

 

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