The Best '80s Rappers

Over 9.2K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Best '80s Rappers
Latest additions: Run–DMC, Craig G, DJ Chuck Chillout
Most divisive: just-ice

These are the best 80s Rappers as voted on by you, the 80s rap fans. 80s hip hop, or "old school" hip hop obviously plays a huge role in where rap is today. The "scene" wouldn't exist without these artists. These are the best rappers that basically defined hip hop culture and brought rap to the forefront of the music industry.

Make sure to vote up your favorite 80s rappers and see if they can take the top spot and vote down any rappers from the 80s that you think might be getting a little too much credit. If you think any important, game changing, genre defying and defining old school rappers are missing from this list, add them!

Ranked by
  • Run DMC
    Raising Hell, Run-D.M.C., King of Rock
    3,248 votes
    • Genres (Music): Hip hop music, Alternative hip hop, Hardcore hip hop, Industrial hip hop, Rock music

    Revolutionizing hip-hop with their fusion of rock elements and pioneering use of Adidas sneakers, Run DMC broke barriers with hits like "Walk This Way" and "It's Tricky." Their signing to Profile Records led to a string of successful albums, ultimately earning them the distinction as one of the first rap acts with mainstream appeal.

  • Ice Cube
    AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, The Predator, Death Certificate
    1,435 votes
    • Genres (Music): Hip hop music, Alternative hip hop, Political hip hop, Hardcore hip hop, Gangsta rap

    A founding member of N.W.A, Ice Cube was instrumental in bringing gangsta rap to the mainstream with hard-hitting tracks like "Straight Outta Compton." His unapologetically raw lyrics and powerful storytelling ability solidified his status as one of the most influential rappers of the '80s.

  • N.W.A
    Straight Outta Compton, Niggaz4Life, Greatest Hits
    3,794 votes
    • Genres (Music): Hip hop music, Political hip hop, Gangsta rap, G-funk, West Coast hip hop

    Comprised of iconic members such as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E, N.W.A's brutally honest lyrics about life in South Central Los Angeles shook up the music industry. Their debut album Straight Outta Compton went double platinum without radio airplay or major tours, cementing their place in hip-hop history.

  • Eric B. & Rakim
    Paid in Full, Let the Rhythm Hit ’em, Don’t Sweat the Technique
    2,615 votes
    • Genres (Music): Hip hop music, Jazz rap, Old-school hip hop, Hardcore hip hop, East Coast hip hop

    With Eric B.'s innovative production skills and Rakim's smooth-flowing lyricism on tracks like "Paid In Full," this influential duo redefined what it meant to be a skilled rapper in the 1980s. They're often credited for introducing internal rhyme schemes and complex wordplay that would inspire generations of emcees to come.

  • LL Cool J
    Radio, Mama Said Knock You Out, Mr. Smith
    2,758 votes
    • Genres (Music): Hip hop music, Hardcore hip hop, East Coast hip hop

    Def Jam Recordings' breakout star, LL Cool J burst onto the scene with his hit single "I Need A Beat," followed by his platinum-selling debut album Radio. His charismatic stage presence and innovative style influenced not only future rappers but also helped shape modern R&B music.

  • Eazy-E
    Eazy-Duz-It, It’s On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa, Eternal E
    2,041 votes
    • Genres (Music): Hip hop music, Old-school hip hop, Gangsta rap, G-funk, West Coast hip hop

    As a founding member of N.W.A and CEO of Ruthless Records, Eazy-E was instrumental in molding West Coast hip-hop into a dominant force during the 1980s. His distinctive high-pitched voice and unapologetic lyrics on tracks like "Boyz-n-the-Hood" garnered both controversy and critical acclaim.