Music Industry

The Top 50+ Greatest New York Rappers of All Time (Past, Present, & Future)

13 March 2024 by Gaetano
best New York rappers

Jay-Z once said he was the best rapper alive, but is that really the case?

And, if that’s true, is he the best New York rapper of all time?

While Jay-Z certainly ranks among the legends, there are so many incredible, mic-dropping New York rappers right up there with him.

To give them all the props they deserve, we’re ranking the best New York rappers of all time and we’ve included some up-and-comers who could quickly turn into legends along with the best of ‘em.

We’re also adding some honorable mentions that have made their New York background known but maybe haven’t made as much of a musical impact.

At the end of this massive list, we want to know your thoughts to see if you agree or disagree with some of our rankings.

Let’s jump into it, shall we?

The Top 16 Legendary New York Rappers of All Time

There’s no disputing it: these all-time NY legends have made an unmistakable mark with their music and careers, and because of that, they deserve the spotlight now and well into the future.

Let’s not forget who the greats were that put New York rappers on the map, including:

1. 50 Cent

You may know him as 50 Cent, but his real name is Curtis James Jackson, now 48, and he was raised by his grandparents in Queens, New York.

Despite having a rough early start, 50 Cent landed on Jam Master Jay’s radar, where he helped produce Power of the Dollar for Columbia Records.

Sadly, it was never released because 50 was shot just days before it was set to air.

50 quickly bounced back in 2002 with his release of Guess Who’s Back which was soon discovered by Eminem, who signed him to Shady Records under Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records.

There, 50 quickly rose to the top creating his first major-hit album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, which launched him into complete stardom.

He went on to release hits like “In Da Club,” “21 Questions,” “P.I.M.P,” “Disco Inferno,” and “Candy Shop,” among many others.

50 also sold 30 million albums worldwide and won several awards, including 13 Billboard Music Awards, six World Music Awards, a Grammy, three American Music Awards, and four BET awards.

He also founded G-Unit records in 2003, where he signed other well-known rappers like Young Buck and Lloyd Banks and eventually went on to act. He also amassed a whopping $270 million net worth thanks to his smooth-flowing rap style.

You can find 50 Cent on Instagram, YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music.

2. Tupac Shakur

Despite only having a five-year recording career, Tupac Shakur — his real name being Lesane Parish Crooks — became a household name and one of the most famous rappers in history, both in NY and beyond.

Before Tupac became a rapper, activist, poet, and rebel, he was born in Harlem, NY, on June 16, 1971. His mom relocated the family to Baltimore, Maryland, after struggling to stay afloat on her own, before eventually settling in Marin City, California, when Tupac was just 17.

There, Tupac eventually met the now-famous Bay Area rap crew Digital Underground, where he worked as a dancer and roadie, helping them throughout gigs. He landed a verse in their 1991 hit “Same Song,” and it was there that people first heard his potential.

He signed with Tom Whalley, who still oversees his estate, to Interscope Records, and the rest was history.

In ‘94, Tupac launched his debut album, My N.I.G.G.A.Z, which included hit songs that became his first platinum releases like, “Keep Ya Head Up” and “I Get Around,” two still well-known songs today. Despite his gangsta rap style, Tupac’s lyrics balanced hard knocks with sensitive and heartfelt elements that many could relate to.

His album Thug Life: Volume 1, with his song “Me Against The World,” exploded and landed him the number one spot on the album charts and two Grammy nominations.

He created other best-selling albums like All Eyez On Me, which had five hit singles. Two of those, “California Love” and “How Do U Want It,” locked onto the number one spot and 11 of his albums reached platinum status, four of which happened while he was still alive.

Sadly, Tupac’s musical career was cut short after he was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas at the young age of 25.

His music and legacy still live on and continue to grow today since his team released seven studio albums posthumously — he recorded songs at an incredible pace before his death — and he can be found on Instagram, Twitter, and Apple Music despite being long gone.

Some of his other famous albums include Strictly 4 My Niggaz, Me Against the World, and Debut for Death Row, and his top singles include “How Do U Want It,” “Dear Mama,” and “Hit Em Up,” which are all still being widely played today.

3. Nas

Nasir Jones, or Nas as you may know him, was born in Queens, NY, on September 14, 1973.

Nas, now 49, was the son of a jazz musician, Olu Dara, and was raised in the largest public housing in America, Queensbridge Houses. During this upbringing, Nas spent his time writing down stories and experiences that he would later use to turn into his now-famous, multi-syllable rap lyrics.

His debut guest verse on “Live at the Barbeque” and single “Halftime” put him on the map and landed him a deal with Columbia Records. He went on to produce the album Illmatic in ‘94, which had an insane flow and beats like no other.

That album landed on the 12th spot on the Billboard Pop Charts and 2nd on the R&B side.

He followed that up with his double-platinum album, It Was Written, which debuted at number one in both the pop and R&B charts. Nas had famous collabs with Dr. Dre, Lauryn Hill,  and Foxy Brown releasing hits like “Street Dreams,” “Head Over Heels,” and “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That).”

His 2002 God’s Son album was another insane hit, along with his 2004 Street Disciple and 2006 Hip Hop is Dead album, the latter his first on Def Jam Records.

You can find Nas and his other top hits, like “NY State of Mind” and “The World Is Yours,” on Apple Music, Instagram, and YouTube.

4. Lloyd Banks

Rapper songwriter Lloyd Banks was born Christopher Charles Lloyd on April 30th, 1982, in the Commonwealth of Maryland. His family moved to Jamaica Queens, NY, and eventually, as he got older, he joined forces with the East Coast hip-hop group G-Unit with 50 Cent and Tony Yayo.

They released their 2003 group album, Beg For Mercy, and he went on to release a solo album, The Hunger for More, in 2004.

That album had the top-ten hit single, “On Fire,” and sent his career soaring. He produced a second studio album, Rotten Apple, in 2006 and a third one, The Hunger for More 2, in 2010.

Lloyd Banks started his lyrical rap career at 22, and his brilliant and unmatched use of metaphors quickly took over the scene. His Hunger for More album sold a whopping four million copies, while Rotten Apples landed the number three spot on the Billboard 200.

He also released his famous song, “Beamer, Benz, or Bentley,” with Juelz Santana, which reached 40 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Some of his other hits with well-known collabs ranging from 50 Cent, Eminem, Tony Yayo, and more include “Don’t Push Me,” “Hate It Or Love It,” “Karma Lloyd,” “I’m So Fly,” and “On Fire.

You can find Lloyd’s work on Instagram, YouTube, and Apple Music.

5. Big Daddy Kane

Antonio Hardy, known as Big Daddy Kane, was born on September 10, 1968, making him 54, in Brooklyn, NY.

He started his music career with a friendship with Biz Markie in 1986 and eventually joined Juice Crew in 1986. From there, he soon became one of the most influential and talented MCs in hip-hop history.

Rolling Stone even named his “Ain’t No Half-Steppin’” song the 25th out of 50 Greatest Hip Hop Songs of All Time.

Some of his famous albums include Long Live the Kane, It’s a Big Daddy Thing, and Veteranz Day. His most famous songs are “Ain’t No Half-Steppin’,” “Smooth Operator,” “Set It Off,” “Raw (Remix),” and “Warm It Up, Kane.”

On top of his musical and MC skills, Big Daddy Kane was known for his lavish wardrobe and lifestyle, where he donned gold jewelry and a sexified persona.

His rhyming technique was so fine-tuned and unique that his work still ranks as one of the best of his time.

Big Daddy Kane is also a Grammy Award-winning rapper and he’s known as one of the founding members for laying down the blueprint for what a great MC actually looks like.

You can find his work on Instagram, YouTube, and Apple Music.

6. Rakim

Another well-known MC of all time is Rakim, born William Griffin on January 28, 1968, in Long Island, NY.

One of Rakim’s standout signature styles is his incredible use of mid-line rhymes, which were perfectly woven into his lyrics and seemed effortless. He also had a smooth jazz flow way about his raps.

Jay-Z even recently credited Rakim for paving the road to rap glory.

Before he made it to that point, Rakim met Queens DJ Eric B. in 1985, and the two hit it off, releasing their debut single “President” in ‘86.

Rakim went on to create hip-hop classics like “I Ain’t No Joke,” “Paid In Full,” “Follow The Leader,” “Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em,” “Don’t Sweat the Technique,” and “The 18th Letter,” the latter of which entered the charts at the number four spot.

Like Big Daddy Kane, Rakim is credited with creating the foundation for others to follow for decades to come.

Rakim’s musical work can be found on Instagram and Apple Music.

7. The Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie)

Christopher Wallace, aka The Notorious B.I.G. and Biggie Smalls, was born May 21st, 1972, in Brooklyn, NY.

Many musical experts believe Biggie reinvented East Coast hip hop and put the spotlight on it.

With his unmistakable, smooth voice and unparalleled flow, Biggie showed the good and bad sides of the hustler life and worked hard to escape the drug dealing lifestyle he was surrounded by growing up.

Biggie started out sharing his demo tapes, and eventually, one found its way to The Source magazine, where they wrote about him in a 1992 column.

Sean Puffy Combs heard about him from there and quickly signed Notorious B.I.G to a record deal after he left to create Bad Boy Records.

Biggie had a guest verse on Mary J Blige’s “Real Love” song, and he eventually released his first single, “Party and Bullshit,” in 1993. He also met Tupac that same year.

His debut album Bad Boy came out in the summer of ‘94, and a month later, his hit single, “Juicy,” certified gold in just two short months and was double platinum by the following year, and it went on to reach quadruple platinum status.

Biggie’s second album, Big Poppa, had four huge hit singles and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance.

His next album release came in 1995 when he joined the group Junior M.A.F.I.A and made well-known collabs with Michael Jackson, R Kelly, and more. He became the biggest-selling solo male artist on the Billboard charts for hip-hop, pop, and R&B.

Sadly, Biggie Smalls was gunned down in his SUV in March 1997 at 24. Like Tupac, he released two more albums after his passing and became one of the greatest rappers of all time.

Some of his other famous collabs included Jay-Z, Lil’ Kim, Mase, DMC, and more. He was also nominated for three Grammy awards for best rap album, best solo rap performance for “Hypnotize,” and best performance by a duo or group for “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems,” featuring Puff Daddy and Mase.

His album also reached diamond status in 2000, with a whopping 10 million copies sold.

You can still find Biggie’s music on Instagram, YouTube, and Apple Music, including his famous hits, “Juicy,” “Hypnotize,” “Big Poppa,” and “One More Chance,” among others.

8. Jay-Z

Jay-Z, born Shawn Corey Carter on December 4th in Brooklyn, NY, used rap music as a way to escape the streets and drug life he grew up around.

In 1989, Jay-Z recorded The Originators with Jaz-O, winning the duo a spot on the show Yo! MTV Raps.

From there, Jay-Z emerged and established himself as the hip-hop powerhouse he is today.

His debut album, Reasonable Doubt, hit 23 on the Billboard 200 charts, and he collabed on “Can’t Knock the Hustle Life” with Mary J Blige and Biggie Smalls.

In ‘98, he released Volume 2 Hard Knock Life and went on to produce several number-one hits after each other, including “Big Pimpin’,” “I Just Wanna Love You,” “Izzo (H.O.V.A),” and the famous 2003 “Bonnie & Clyde” hit with his now-wife Beyonce.

His 2003 Black Album was supposed to be his last, but he came out of retirement in 2006 with Kingdom Come, American Gangster, and Blueprint 3.

Jay-Z also became the president of Def Jam Recordings and signed both Rhianna and Ne-Yo, and helped Kanye West become a best-selling recording artist. Jay-Z also started Rocawear, Roc-A-Fella Films, and a sports management company, and he’s a part owner in the New Jersey Nets.

You can find Jay-Z’s music on Instagram, YouTube, and Apple Music. His most popular hits to date are “Umbrella” with Rhianna, “Crazy in Love” with Beyonce, “Pound Cake,” “Love All” with Drake, and “Ni**as in Paradise” with Kanye West.

9. LL Cool J

LL Cool J, born James Todd Smith on January 14, 1968, in Bay Shore, Long Island, NY, had a rough upbringing.

His mom remarried after his father was shot, and LL Cool J’s step dad abused him, eventually turning LL Cool J into a bully himself.

He used hip hop to escape his awful start to life and, in 1984, met Rick Rubin, who would turn into his golden ticket out of there.

Rubin worked on giving LL Cool J a record deal, and the duo recorded I Need a Beat together. Rubin then co-founded Def Jam Recordings with Russell Simmons, and LL Cool J’s real debut album Radio was launched in ‘85.

LL Cool J also started his acting career that same year.

LL Cool J had the Midas touch — every album he published hit platinum-selling status and turned him into one of the greatest rappers of all time.

He also landed huge acting roles with stars like Whoopi Goldberg, Al Pacino, Jamie Lee Curtis, Samuel L. Jackson, and more.

Some of LL Cool J’s most-famous hits include “All I Have” with Jennifer Lopez, “Doin’ It,” “I Need Love,” “Around the Way Girl,” “Loungin’ (Who Do Ya Luv),” “Headsprung”, and more.

You can find these hits and his other popular songs on  Apple Music and Instagram.

10. Wu-Tang Clan

Wu-Tang Clan is a group of nine MCs that became one of the most recognizable rap groups of the 90s.

GZA and Ol’ Dirty Bastard are considered the founding members of Wu-Tang Clan, but RZA has been credited for also playing a massive role in their early success.

On top of those members, Method Man, Raekwon the Chef, Ghostface Killah, U-God, Inspectah Deck, and Masta Killa make up the official Wu-Tang Clan.

Some characteristics that set this group apart include their one-of-a-kind beats, piano riffs, and minimal tracks. They also have hardcore MC raps with a martial arts flare, making their music unmistakably theirs.

They started out as a group with their first single, “Protect Yo Neck,” on their own independent label, and their debut album was Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).

Their big-time song release was “C.R.E.A.M,” which launched in ’94, putting them on the map and catapulting them to stardom.

Five scored deals after that release, but they all waited until each member received a solo deal before officially going their separate ways.

On top of those two songs, some of their other greatest hits include “Triumph,” “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit,” and “Method Man.”

You can find their music on Instagram, YouTube, and Apple Music today.

11. Sean “Diddy” Combs

Sean John Combs, who also goes by Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, or just Diddy, was born in Harlem, NY, on November 4th, 1969, making him 54 this year.

Puff Daddy grew up in Mt. Vernon, NY, not too far from the Bronx, after his father was murdered.

Fast forward to 1993, P. Diddy started his own music production company, Bad Boy Entertainment, and worked with up-and-coming artists, like Method Man, Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men, Lil’ Kim, Mary J Blige, and more (each would turn legends themselves).

In 1996, Diddy was named songwriter of the year, and he reached 100 million records sold by the following year.

His song, “I’ll Be Missing You,” with Biggie Smalls, topped the Billboard chart for 11 straight weeks and helped his first album, No Way Out, reach platinum status with 3.4 million copies sold.

Puff Daddy published a second album in 1999 and started a clothing line that same year. His album, We Invented The Remix, also celebrated his Bad Boy Entertainment 10th anniversary.

Puff Daddy went on to collaborate with musical geniuses Nelly and Murphy Lee for their song “Shake Ya Tail Feathers,” which scored a Grammy for best rap performance by a duo or group.

Diddy produced another album in 2006, Press Play, featuring Brandy, Mary J Blige, and Timbaland, and another in 2010, Last Train to Paris.

Some of his big-name hits include “Last Night” by Keyshia Cole featuring Diddy, “Gotta Move On,” “Hate Me Now” by Nas featuring Puff Daddy, and “Cold Hearted” with Meek Mill featuring P.Diddy.

You can find his music on Instagram, YouTube, and Apple Music.

12. DMX

DMX, or Earl Simmons, is another hip-hop artist you’ll often hear about when it comes to the most famous New York rappers.

DMX was born in Mt. Vernon and eventually moved to Yonkers, NY, in Westchester County, where he initially started out robbing drug dealers.

Like many other artists on this list, he grew tired of that life and used hip-hop as a way out.

In 1998, DMX released his debut major single, “Get At Me Dog,” on Def Jam Recordings. His single reached certified gold status, and not too long after, he came out with “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot,” a Ruff Ryder’s Anthem. That song debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold over 5 million copies.

His second album, Flesh of My Flesh, also did well and debuted at the number one spot, where it stayed for three weeks straight. It went certified platinum four times, making him the second rapper, after Tupac, to launch two albums in one year that reached that coveted number-one spot.

Some of DMX’s best-known hits include “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem,” “Party Up,” “X Gon’ Give It To Ya,” “Where The Hood At,” and “What These Bitches Want,” which can all be found on Apple Music. You can also find DMX’s work on Instagram and YouTube.

13. Jadakiss

Jadakiss is another New York rapper born in Yonkers, NY, on May 27, 1975, making him 47 as of publishing this.

Like many rappers on this list, Jadakiss started selling drugs to earn a living and soon realized it wasn’t a long-term strategy. So, at 12, he entered a freestyle competition, a decision that changed his entire life’s trajectory.

It was there that he was noticed by Ruff Ryders’ management.

Back then, Jadakiss worked with two of his good friends, Sheek Louch and Styles P., to form the rap group The Warlock. They were signed to Bad Boy Entertainment and eventually changed their name to The LOX.

Fast forward to 1994, and Jadakiss worked on his first major project as a featured guest with D-Block and Main Source’s single “Set It Off.”

He released an album with D-Block, titled “Money, Power & Respect,” and later launched his first solo debut album in 2021.

During this time, he worked on big-name collabs with Snoop Dogg and Swizz Beats and even faced harsh criticism from listeners, but, despite that, he reached certified gold status for his LP.

Jadakiss worked on his second album with greats like Pharrell Williams, Eminem, Kanye West, Anthony Hamilton, and Mariah Carey to prove the haters wrong. His sophomore album was a huge hit.

The album reached number one on both the Billboard Hot 200 and Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums.

Jadakiss signed with Roc-A-Fella Records in 2007 and released his third studio album in 2009. Some of his biggest singles from that album included “By My Side” with Ne-Yo, “Can’t Stop Me” and “Death Wish” with Lil Wayne, and “Who’s Real” with Swizz Beatz and OJ Da Juiceman.

Jada eventually left Roc-A-Fella in 2010 and went on to land guest spots on tracks with DJ Kaled’s “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over,” which also featured Fabolous and Mary J. Blige, and the remixed version of “Welcome to My Hood” with Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, Twista, Mavado, Birdman, Ace Hood, Fat Joe, Game, Waka Flocka Flame, and Bun B.

Jadakiss pumped out his fourth album in 2015 with stars like Nas, Nipsey Hussle, Styles P, Puff Daddy, Jeezy, Lil Wayne, Sheek Louch, and more.

All of his top hits can be found on Apple Music, Instagram, and YouTube.

14. Lil’ Kim

Lil’ Kim, born Kimberley Denise Jones, is another NY-based rapper born in Brooklyn, NY, on July 11th, 1974, making her 48.

Lil’ Kim dropped out of high school when she crossed paths with Notorious B.I.G., who eventually shot her to fame and became romantically involved with her.

Coming from a world of pimps and drug dealers, Lil’ Kim carved out a niche as a gangsta porno rapper — she dressed with sex appeal, her lyrics were more raunchy than most female rappers, and she had a lyrical wordplay that hooked listeners from the get-go — thanks to Biggie Smalls.

With his help, Lil’ Kim rose to fame in the late 90s, and she’s the only female rapper to receive a 5-mics review from The Source magazine for her Naked Truth album, which was released while Lil’ Kim was in jail for perjury.

Lil’ Kim was also part of Junior M.A.F.I.A and she eventually released a slew of singles in ‘95 with her solo debut album, Player’s Anthem, announcing her arrival to the world.

She released another solo album in ‘96, with her raw, explicit flow front and center. That one debuted on the number 11th spot of the Billboard Top 200 and went certified double platinum.

Sadly, Lil’ Kim took a big hit when Biggie was shot and didn’t release her next album, Notorious KIM, until 2000. She worked with well-known artists like Puff Daddy, Mary J Blige, Redman, Grace Jones, Cee-Lo Green, and more. This album debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 and went certified platinum.

One of Lil’ Kim’s most famous songs to date happened in 2001 when she sang “Lady Marmalade” for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack with Christina Aguilera, Pink, and Mya. The song locked onto the number one spot for five weeks on the Billboard 100. It also won a Grammy for Best Pop Collab and established her as one of the best female rappers of the 21st century.

She released her third album in 2003, which debuted at the fifth spot, and had famous collabs with 50 Cent and Missy Elliot.

Lil’ Kim is still one of only three female rappers with three platinum albums — the other two being Missy Elliott and Nicki Minaj.

Her most famous hits are on Apple Music, Instagram, and YouTube.

15. Busta Rhymes

Busta Rhymes, born Trevor Smith Jr., is another Brooklyn-born New York Rapper like Lil’ Kim and others on this list.

While he was born in Brooklyn in 1972, his family relocated to Long Island in 1983, where he eventually went to school with well-known MCs Charlie Brown, Cut Monitor Milo, and Dinco D.

There, he took inspiration from Public Enemy, Eric B., and Rakim and eventually formed the foursome Leaders of the New School. They signed a deal with Elektra Records before Busta Rhymes turned 18.

Together, they released an album, Leaders of the New School, in ‘91 and one in ‘93, T.I.M.E, before breaking up in ‘94.

After the breakup, Busta worked on tracks with A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” and Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear,” which featured LL Cool J and Biggie Smalls, Mary J Blige, TLC, and Boyz II Men.

His first debut album, The Coming, was a huge hit with his single “Woo-Hah!! Got You All in Check,” reaching the top ten spot and catapulting his album to gold status.

He followed that up with his third album in ‘97, When Disaster Strikes, which debuted right into the number three spot. Then came his next three albums Extinction Level Event, Anarchy, and Back on My B.S.

Busta also went on to work with Lil Wayne, Tiesto, Fat Joe, Kanye West, Chris Brown, Twista, Rick Ross, Gucci Mane, Eminem, Fabolous, Chance the Rapper, and more on various tracks.

By 2020, Busta Rhymes published his tenth studio album, Extinction Level Event 2, and is truly a household name for New York rappers.

You can find all of his best hits on Apple Music, Instagram, and YouTube.

16. Prodigy

You may know him as Prodigy, but Albert Johnson, born on November 2, 1974, in Long Island, NY, was the son of a musical family long before he joined Mobb Deep.

His mom joined The Crystals, his dad belonged to a doo-wop group and played the drums, his grandfather was the well-known saxophonist Budd Johnson, and his grand-uncle, Keg Johnson, was a famous jazz musician.

Following his grandfather’s footsteps, Prodigy started playing the saxophone before moving into the hip-hop scene.

Fast forward to high school, Prodigy met Havoc, and the two formed Mobb Deep, where they released the albums The Infamous in ’95 and Hell on Earth in ’96, which talked about the rough sides of NYC living. Both albums went certified gold and sent the two rappers into stardom.

The pair released Murda Muzik and H.N.I.C in 1999 and 2000, respectively, before Prodigy branched out onto his own.

His succinct, crisp rap style was evident in his mixtapes with the Alchemist collab Return on the Mac in 2007 and The Bumpy Johnson album and Hegelian Dialectic in 2012 and 2017, respectively.

He also co-authored four books, including an autobiography and a prison cookbook aimed at staying healthy while locked up.

Unfortunately, Prodigy had several run-ins with the law and went to prison for close to four years and, sadly, suffered from complications due to the blood disorder sickle-cell anemia which ultimately took his life at the age of 42.

You can find Prodigy’s hits on Apple Music and Instagram, so his legend and great music still lives on.

The New Generation of NYC Rappers

Now that we’ve covered the legendary New York rappers, it’s only fitting to go over the next generation that could soon join the ranks of the artists on the first half of this list:

1. Pop Smoke

Pop Smoke, born Bashar Barakah Jackson on July 20, 1999, in Brooklyn, New York, released his first hit, “Mpr (Panic Part 3 Remix),” in 2018.

But it wasn’t until “Welcome to the Party” and “Dior,” which both came out in 2019, that he catapulted his musical career to the top.

He released his first mixtape, Meet the Woo, in 2019 and a second one, Meet the Woo 2, in 2020, which debuted seven on the Billboard 200.

Sadly, Pop Smoke was gunned down at 20 in a home invasion.

Some other hits of Pop Smoke include  “For the Night,” “Mood Swings,” “What You Know Bout Love,” and “The Woo.” You can also find his work on Instagram and YouTube.

2. Cardi B

You can’t say next-generation of NYC rappers without mentioning Cardi B, born Belcalis Almanzar on October 11, 1992, in the Bronx, NY.

She first hit the stage in 2015 with Shaggy’s single, “Boom Boom,” and released her first mixtape, Gangsta B*tch Music, Vol 1, in 2017.

That year, she released a second mixtape and scored a record deal with Atlantic Records.

In 2017, she was nominated as the Best New Artist and Best Female Hip-Hop Artist for the BET Awards, and her “Bodak Yellow” single went viral and made history, landing her the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart. It also earned her triple platinum status.

Cardi B also worked with G-Eazy’s “No Limit,” Migos’ “MotorSport,” and Ozuna’s “La Modelo.”

She launched another album in 2018 and did more collaborations, one which also made history and landed her the Best Rap Album Grammy for her album Invasion of Privacy.

You can find Cardi B’s music on Apple Music, Instagram, and YouTube.

3. Nicki Minaj

While Nicki Minaj, born Onika Tanya Maraj, wasn’t born in NY, she was raised in Queens and quickly became a NY favorite.

Nicki Minaj, determined to get out of the street life, caught the eye of the Dirty Money CEO Fendi who discovered Minaj’s MySpace (remember what that was? If not, you may be too young…).

Minaj was immediately signed from there, where she went on to collab on mixtapes like Playtime is Over with Lil Wayne in 2007. She also worked on Sucka Free and Beam Me Up Scotty in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

She signed to Lil’ Wayne’s Young Money label in 2009 as the first female artist and worked on a compilation album, We Are Young Money, that year.

Nicki Minaj then released her long-awaited singles “Massive Attack” and “Your Love” in 2010 before winning Best Hip Hop Female at that year’s BET Awards. She also released her The Pink Friday album towards the end of that year.

Minaj went on to perform at the 2012 Super Bowl with Madonna and released several well-known singles with Beyonce, Ariana Grande, Drake, and Chris Brown. You can find all of her musical talent and notable works on Apple Music, Instagram, and YouTube.

4. Joey Bada$$

Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott, known as Joey Bada$$, was born on January 20th, 1995, in Brooklyn, NY.

He published three mixtapes with his hip hop group Pro Era with his debut one, 1999, in 2012. His second mixtape, Summer Knights,  went live in 2013, and his debut album launched in 2015 when he was just 20 years old.

Joey Bada$$’s second album, ALL-AMERIKKAN BADA$$ released in 2017 with three singles, “Devastated,” “Land of the Free,” and “Temptation,”  leading the way and debuting at the number five spot on the US Billboard 200.

You can find his work on Apple Music, Instagram, and YouTube.

5. A$AP Rocky

Rakim Mayers, better known as A$AP Rocky, was born in Harlem, New York, on October 3, 1988.

In 2011, he scored a whopping $3 million dollar deal with Sony/RCA and became an East Coast rapping legend shortly after.

As an artist, eccentric, and fashion designer, A$AP Rocky sets himself apart from other rappers on this list.

Some of his most well-known works include his debut album, Long.Live.A$AP, which had guests like Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz, Joey Bada$$, and more on it, and his singles “Goldie,” “Wild for the Night,” “Fashion Killa,” and “F****n Problems.” His album reached the top of the Billboard 200 and sold 3 million copies in just the U.S. alone.

He also released his sophomore album, At.Long.Last.A$AP in 2015 which had psychedelic influence, according to his biography, and a third one, ASAP Rocky, in 2018.

You can find his music on Apple Music, including his hits, “No Limit,” “Praise the Lord,” “L$D,” “Lord Pretty Flaco, and “Everyday,” Instagram, and YouTube.

6. Azealia Banks

Unlike many other New York hip-hop artists on this list, Azealia Banks — born in Harlem, NY, on May 31, 1991, making her 31 as of publishing this — started out as an off-Broadway singer at the young age of 10.

She continued down that path, landing multiple roles, before shifting into TV commercial roles. Azealia quickly got over that business and decided to dabble in rap instead.

At 16, she released her single “Seventeen,” which caught the eye of XL Records in 2008. She went on to record more songs, but it wasn’t until the release of Interpol’s “Slow Hands” that she was put on the rap map.

In 2012, she published her 1991 EP with her house-music-based single “212” which featured Jay-Z, along with other now-famous hits like “Luxury,” “Anna Wintour,” “Liquorice,” and “The Big Beat.”

You can find Azealia on Apple Music, Instagram, and YouTube.

7. Lil Tjay

Lil Tjay, or Tione Dalyan Merritt, was born on April 30, 2001, in the South Bronx in New York.

He spent his early years fighting and committing petty robberies, which landed him a year-long stay in a youth detention center where he spent his time writing his music and honing his craft.

Once released, he went straight to recording music and completely turned his life around.

He released his hit singles, “Resume,” which was his first song to go viral, “Leaked,” “None of Your Love,” and “Brothers” on SoundCloud, where they picked up attention and amassed millions of plays.

His song “Resume” reached 13.7 million streams alone on SoundCloud and 8.5 million views on YouTube within the first year, which put the up-and-coming lyricist and rapper on the map.

Lil Tjay then landed a guest role on Polo G’s “Pop Out” single which launched him to the top 10 of Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart.

From there, he worked with Pop Smoke on “War” and French Montana’s “Slide” and eventually released his own album, True 2 Myself.

Influenced by Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, Justin Beiber, and Usher, Lil Tjay has a melodic style of rapping that’s more pop than rap. His music can be found on Apple Music, Instagram, and YouTube.

8. A Boogie wit da Hoodie

Artist Dubose, now known as A Boogie wit da Hoodie, was born in Highbridge, NY, an area in the Bronx that connects it with Manhattan, on December 6th, 1995.

After studying and idolizing the work of 50 Cent and Kanye West, A Boogie wit da Hoodie moved to Florida, where he started recording music. In 2015, he returned to the Big Apple to start his record label, Highbridge the Label, which also featured Quincy “QP” Acheampong.

While there, he launched his debut mixtape, Artist, and popped out singles like “Jungle” and “My S**t,” which both reached platinum status and followed those hits with “Bag on Me,” featuring Don Q.

He then worked with all-star celebs like Meek Mill, DJ Khaled, Trey Songz, Kodak Black, Chris Brown, and Robin Thicke, and eventually popped out a full-length album titled, The Bigger Artist, which reached number four on the Billboard 200.

A Boogie wit da Hoodie also worked with 6ix9ine’s “Keke” song with Fetty Wap and eventually launched his second album, International Artist. His third studio album, Artist 2.0, hit second on the Billboard charts in 2020.

Some of his other well-known hits on Apple Music include “Drowning” with Kodak Black, “Swervin’” featuring 6ix9ine, “Look Back at It,” and “Jungle.” You can also find him on Instagram and YouTube.

9. Sheff G

Sheff G, born Michael Williams in Brooklyn’s Flatbush district, is known for being one of the founding members of NY’s drill crowd.

He went from being active in a gang to releasing his first single “No Suburban,” which amassed millions of plays and made him an overnight celebrity.

His second single, “Panic, Pt.2,” became a huge hit in the U.K. drill scene, which only catapulted his stardom in the U.S. and abroad.

He went on to debut a third and fourth part to his “Panic” single and launched his mixtape The Unluccy Luccy Kid, which contained drill fusion style singles, “Menace” and “Automatic.”

Some of his other well-known albums include Produce of Me Now and One and Only, and his now-famous singles include “Light On,” “No Negotiations,” “On Go” with Polo G, and “Run It Up” with A Boogie wit da Hoodie and Sleepy Hollow.

You can find his music on Apple Music, Instagram, and YouTube.

10. Young M.A

Young M.A, which stands for Young Me. Always, was born Katorah Kasanova Marrerro on April 3, 1992, in Brooklyn, NY.

As her name suggests, she started out young, spitting flows at 9 at her local corner store.

Her top hits “Ooouuu” and “Hot Sauce,” which fall under the Underground Rap and Hardcore Rap genres, made her a household name, and now she’s known as one of the best American lyricists and rappers to come out of NY as of late.

Young M.A was named Forbes’ Hip Hop Cash Princes of 2017 for her iconic lyrics and unique rapping style.

You can find those hits plus “Aye Day Pay Day,” “BIG,” “PettyWap,” “NNAN,” and “Car Confession” on Apple Music. She’s also worked with well-known artists like Eminem and Hitmaka; you can find her on Instagram and YouTube.

11. Fivio Foreign

Maxie Lee Ryles II, better known as Fivio Foreign, was born on March 29, 1990, in Brooklyn, NY.

He’s another drill-style rapper who entered into music on other rappers’ songs before debuting his solo viral hit single, “Big Drip,” in 2019.

With that came a four-song EP, Pain and Love, and a mixtape titled 800 B.C., in 2020. He released his full-length album B.I.B.L.E the following year.

On the heels of “Big Drip’s” huge success, he launched “Jumpin” and “Deli,” which only furthered his success and the attention he received.

From there, he released “Critical,” “Move Like a Boss,” which featured Young M.A, “Unruly,” “We Go Up” with Nicki Minaj, and “Top Notch” with City Girls.

You can find Foreign’s music on Apple Music, Instagram, and YouTube.

12. 22Gz

Like Fivio Foreign, 22Gz, born Jeffrey Alexander, is another drill scene rapper out of Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY.

22Gz credits his early upbringing listening to 50 Cent and Jadakiss for getting him hooked into the hip-hop scene, and he’s since built a local and now global following around his in-your-face flows and unmatched lyrics.

He launched his first drill anthem, “Blicky,” in 2016 and debuted his mixtape, The Blixky Tape, in 2019, which hit the Top 20 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart.

He pumped out hits like “Why” and “Got Those,” which landed on Kodak Black’s radar. Kodak then signed 22Gz to his label in 2018, and 22Gz went on to publish “Sniper Gang Freestyle,” “Spin the Block,” and, “Suburban, Pt.2,” which the latter was his most significant success yet, and all three only blew up his name even more.

22Gz then made his Growth & Development and The Blixky Tape 2 mixtapes, each making their way into the Top 20 Billboard’s Heatseekers charts once again.

You can find his music on Apple Music, Instagram, and YouTube.

13. Ron Suno

Ron Suno, the 22-year-old rapper from the Bronx, NY, is part rapper, comedian, songwriter, and YouTuber, according to his bio.

Some have even credited Suno as being the real founder of Bronx drill music.

Before he blew up with that title, Ron was rapping at the early age of 13 though he didn’t gain any momentum back then.

It wasn’t until his comedy YouTube videos started to blow up that people realized who he was and his true talents.

In 2017, he created the Weave Challenge on social media, which garnered him 500,000 new followers and the perfect stage to show off his rap skills.

He pumped out his songs “With My Crew” and “Party on Jump,” which still didn’t get him much attention, and it wasn’t until his remix song “Blueface” that people started to take notice.

He also released his single “Spider-Man” in 2020 and his album, Swag Like Mike, where people started to realize his true talents.

You can find all of his work on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Apple Music.

14. Kay Flock

Kay Flock is another born and raised Bronx drill scene rapper quickly making waves.

His debut track, “FTO,” picked up insane steam, impressive streaming numbers, and a loyal and large following. It also led to his debut mixtape, The D.O.A. Tape, in 2021.

Kay Flock also worked with Cardi B on “Shake It,” which landed on the 51 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and made him even more of a household name.

His next series of hit tracks led to him signing with Universal and working with other artists like Dougie B, Bory300, B-Lovee, and Lil Skrap.

You can find his music on Apple Music, Instagram, and YouTube.

15. Sleepy Hallow

Sleepy Hallow, one of Brooklyn’s first drill scene rappers, broke through the scene with his set of singles called “Panic” and his 2020 viral hit single, “Deep End Freestyle,” which the latter reached international success.

He followed those up with his debut album, Still Sleep?, in 2021 and his 2022 “Die Young” single.

While his early hits followed a U.K. flow style with a pop of local New York flair, he moved out of that style and into more trap music as he progressed his career.

Those viral hits landed him a spot with RCA, where he created a true studio album and his next hit, “2055,” in 2021.

His full-length debut, Still Sleep?, reached the number 16 spot on the Billboard 200 list and achieved gold status. He continued to produce other singles from there, including his 2022 hit “Die Young,” which made it to Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart.

You can find Sleep Hallow’s music on Apple Music, Instagram, and YouTube.

The OG Rappers We Need To Mention

These are the OGs we can’t forget about:

1. Mobb Deep

Mobb Deep’s Instagram and YouTube.

2. A Tribe Called Quest

A Tribe Called Quest’s Instagram and YouTube.

3. De La Soul

De La Soul’s Instagram and YouTube.

4. Slick Rick

Slick Rick’s Instagram and YouTube.

5. Fabolous

Fabolous’ Instagram and YouTube.

6. Foxy Brown

Foxy Brown’s Instagram and YouTube.

7. Talib Kweli

Talib Kweli’s Instagram and YouTube.

8. Big L

Big L’s Instagram and YouTube.

9. Ja Rule

Ja Rule’s Instagram and YouTube.

10. Ol’ Dirty Bastard

Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Instagram.

11. GZA

GZA’s Instagram and YouTube.

12. Remy Ma

Remy Ma’s Instagram and YouTube.

13. Public Enemy

Public Enemy’s Instagram.

14. KRS-One

KRS-One’s Instagram and YouTube.

15. Q-Tip

Q-Tip’s Instagram and YouTube.

16. RZA

RZA’s Instagram and YouTube.

17. Cam’ron

Cam’ron’s Instagram and YouTube.

18. Kool G Rap

Kool G Rap’s Instagram.

19. The LOX

The LOX’s Instagram and YouTube.

20. Big Pun

Big Pun’s Instagram and YouTube.

21. Run-D.M.C.

Run-D.M.C.’s Instagram and YouTube.

22. J.I. the Prince of N.Y

J.I. the Prince of N.Y’s Instagram and YouTube.

23. Waka Flocka Flame

Waka Flocka Flame’s Instagram and YouTube.

24. Jay Critch

Jay Critch’s Instagram and YouTube.

25. Don Q

Don Q’s Instagram and YouTube.

26. Benny The Butcher

Benny The Butcher’s Instagram and YouTube.

27. Action Bronson

Action Bronson’s Instagram and YouTube.

28. Lil Tecca

Lil Tecca’s Instagram and YouTube.

29. Dave East

Dave East’s Instagram and YouTube.

30. French Montana

French Montana’s Instagram and YouTube.

31. Sheck Wes

Sheck Wes’ Instagram and YouTube.

32. Raekwon

Raekwon’s Instagram and YouTube.

33. Mos Def

Most Def’s Instagram and YouTube.

34. Ghostface Killah

Ghostface Killah’s Instagram and YouTube.

35. Method Man

Method Man’s Instagram and YouTube.

36. Fat Joe

Fat Joe’s Instagram and YouTube.

The Wrap Up

Over to you…what’d you think of this list? Were there any New York rappers you felt should have been higher or lower on this list?

What about up-and-comers? Are there any New York rappers we didn’t include but should have?

Let us know in the comment below.

P.S. If you’re a New York-based rapper, singer, or songwriter, check out our list of the Best NYC Recording studios next — it’ll help you find the perfect place to capture your sound and make legendary music like the greats on our list.


Gaetano is a Miami, FL 🌴 based songwriter, music producer and growth marketer. As he grinds through the music industry, Gaetano is documenting his experiences and sharing his story through his brutally honest articles.


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