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Uncredited guests included J. Cole, Erykah Badu and Busta Rhymes.

Chance then gave away his next project too, a six-track mixtape recorded with Lil B. It was another sign of his growing activism, which saw him named Outstanding Youth of the Year by the Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel , in In July , it was announced that Chance had purchased the Chicagoist news website, which had lain dormant since the previous November.

Coloring Book , the third free mixtape from Chance, dropped in May The single "No Problem" was an instant hit.

The album became the first ever to chart on the Billboard just from streaming, receiving Blending soul, gospel, hip hop and the music of Social Experiment, it was a favorite in best-of-year polls and with other artists. I like music that makes me feel things might just be alright.


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The industry agreed, with Chance winning three Grammy awards in But Chance was already in a celebratory mood; months earlier he had embraced the spirit of the festive season with "Merry Christmas Lil Mama," a Yuletide alliance with singer Jeremih. Amid rumors he was planning to release a new album, Chance instead dropped four new tracks in mid-July After months of teasing that more music was on the way, Chance finally released his first full-length album in July , The Big Day.

Drawing generally favorable — if somewhat mixed — reviews, and featuring a diverse array of collaborators that included John Legend , Shawn Mendes and Death Cab for Cutie, the album debuted at No. We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us! Subscribe to the Biography newsletters to receive stories about the people who shaped our world and the stories that shaped their lives.

Rapper-producer Dr. Dre first made it big with hip-hop group N. Tip's buzz began to build on a national level in earnest. Unlike much of the competition in Atlanta and the rest of the South at the time, Tip balanced his unapologetically Southern drawl with a lyrical focus. As difficult as it was to hear much of a New York influence in his drawling syllables, the rapper had an elastic double-time flow and unquestionably deft rhythmic control that ran circles around the competition; witness his guest spot on 's "Look at the Grillz," which gives co-guest-star Twista a run for his money.

His rising profile was briefly tempered by legal problems in March , when the rapper was sentenced to three years for a probation violation. Luckily for him, he was work-released after only a month.

While Tip was behind bars, rumors spread that rapper Lil Flip had disrespected the MC at a performance, a response to T. An on-wax beef was sparked between the two rappers, one that would later result in a real-world confrontation in Houston. The record sold , copies its first week, besting his previous release, and lead single "Bring 'Em Out" became his highest-charting single to that point, breaking into the top Meanwhile, he nabbed a guest spot on one of the year's biggest hits, joining an ascendant Lil Wayne on "Soldier," a Destiny's Child single that hit No.

His work with G-Unit, however, was more promising. Lloyd Banks and Young Buck were able to ride his coattails to strong sales, and Game was first introduced with singles "Westside Story" and, in particular, "How We Do," one of the strongest singles in 50's catalog.

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But relative to T. He first broke nationally on Gucci Mane's "Icy" single, which, that same year, would become a source of conflict for both rappers. At the time, Jeezy was especially invested in obtaining the single; his appeal had been grounded in distinctive ad-libs and a searing vocal style, one that seemed more concerned with blunt, overwhelming force, rather than the dexterity or diversity of previous Atlanta stars like T.

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More to the point, he didn't have a certified hit. Jeezy shouldn't have worried. The record featured the group's biggest single, "Dem Boys," with a high-profile endorsement from P. Jeezy would be the group's only breakout star. The album launched four charting singles, including "Soul Survivor," which reached No.

Young Jeezy's totalitarian vision engulfed the country from the grassroots to the top. Songs like "Candy Shop" became massive crossover hits—at the expense of much of the support of his traditional hip-hop audience, who were relegated to enjoying album tracks like "Baltimore Love Thing" and "Ski Mask Way. In '05, 50 was also responsible for some of the best tracks in his career, albeit under someone else's name. The LP ultimately went double platinum after selling , copies in its opening week.

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Game's success, though, was split with 50 Cent, who was a major part of both singles; ironically, Game ended up with the stronger release, but 50 had scene-stealing verses and hooks on the album's biggest singles. The rapper was signed to Kanye's G. Produced primarily by Kanye West with an assist from the recently deceased J. It also became the rapper's second gold album, selling around , units. The album featured a cut called "Best Rapper Alive," which seemed like another empty boast, but Wayne wasn't being cocky—he just realized his arrival before the rest of us did.

More importantly, his mastery on the mic gave him the confidence to feel his way through any beat and interact with it as he saw fit. Once he started experimenting with more and more styles, the results were fascinating. His rhymes made him famous, but his "Murder the adults and let the kids get adopted" approach to fame made him a superstar. Despite his great output since , T. His later hits like "Live Your Life" were massive but leaned too far into pop territory.

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Still, even if T. Pusha iced every one of his bars with detached debauchery and delivered them like he was about to hawk a loogie. He not only kicked first-rate rhymes but pushed an image of a rapper more akin to Kanye than 50 Cent. A trend that would soon gain more momentum. Kanye West's career had been building toward this moment all along.

Despite releasing two stellar albums in and , he was seen as a great producer and great songmaker but never a great MC. No longer did he flub verses with over exposition. Beyond his flow, 'Ye dropped his best songs ever, " Can't Tell Me Nothing ," and finally found what he always sorely lacked: a true street anthem. With " Stronger ," Yeezy scored arguably his biggest hit ever, another testament to his crossover appeal and made Yeezy an early adapter to EDM.

Still, it felt like this was happening right under our noses.

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When Kanye got into a highly publicized sales battle with 50 Cent, many believed he stood no chance against Curtis. Little did they realize 50's antics were starting to feel like an old Biggie line: "Fuck that beef shit, that shit is played out. The guy that executives once told to stick to producing was now the Best Rapper Alive. Kanye must have realized it, too. That might have something to do with why, as soon as people finally accepted his rapping, he abandoned it to move on to singing.

The easy put down would have been "it was quantity over quality," but that's the thing about Wayne in his prime: Nearly everything he did was quality.

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Jay Z was having a resurgence of sorts as well. Still, you couldn't shake the feeling that every time he dropped a verse it became the most talked about 16 of any given moment. Lil Wayne's commercial, creative and cultural ascent reached its peak in , the year he became a true crossover star and, without question, the greatest rapper alive.

It had been two years since his last album, but Weezy had flooded the industry, releasing a succession of hot street tapes and guest verses. First, his guest verses: Lil Wayne was a scene-stealing rap star, making his mark on T. But it was his work as a solo artist that made the biggest mark. His radio single, the Static Major—assisted "Lollipop," topped the pop charts, went five times platinum, and helped drive Carter III to 2.

Officer" reached No. By this point Weezy's claim to be the greatest living rapper on Tha Carter II no longer seemed nearly so audacious. Despite taking a "break" from official releases, his album went three times platinum, opening at No. It became the rapper's best-selling album to that point. It was the first to reach 1 million in sales since The Massacre.

As impressive as the numbers were, though, what made Lil Wayne the greatest rapper alive in transcended popularity. The boundaries of the genre were pushed to their logical breaking point. He was still rapping, retaining his innate cleverness and style, but had such intoxicated confidence that he didn't need to live by the formal limitations adhered to by lesser MCs. And then, not content to rest on his laurels, he released Dedication 3 , another mixtape with DJ Drama, before the year let out.

It was his second No. But as a rapper, he kept the flame alive with a series of hugely popular guest verses, appearing on Estelle's "American Boy," Young Jeezy's "Put On," and T. In the wake of Lil Wayne's utter domination of , was, to say the least, a rebuilding year.

The Best Rapper Alive, Every Year Since 1979

Lil Wayne began pushing his Young Money crew, and into the void came a rush of rookie artists from across the spectrum. Amidst all the confusion, a veteran stepped up and released the biggest single of his career. When you're the best rapper alive, and you release your most successful single ever, it's hard for the mantle not to fall to you.

Part of that was a result of his business moves. But after all is said and done it all comes down to the music. While his first single, "D. Death of Auto-Tune " had some chart success despite its obvious failings as prophecy , its follow-up singles were two of the biggest of Jay's career. There are few acts able to retain that level of success this deep into a career, but for Jay, even in the twilight era, consistency has been his trademark. Drake, meanwhile, had begun to show signs that he was really about to be that successful. Rounding out the honorable mentions is Gucci Mane, easily the most prolific artist on this list.

Can we get much higher?