The Top 20 East Coast Rappers of All-Time

The Top 20 East Coast Rappers of All-Time

Although there are many famous rappers from across the globe, this genre of music is most typically associated with the East Coast rappers of the United States. Hip-hop is a highly popular genre of music, and a sub-genre of this type of music is rap. East Coast rappers are the ones who are usually credited with bringing Hip-Hop into mainstream music culture when the genre was at the height of its popularity during the 1980s.

To this day, the East Coast remains an area that produces some of the world’s top talent in terms of rappers. Most importantly, some rappers from this region have gone on to become some of the most successful artists in the music industry – both in terms of their record sales and earnings. Here are the top 20 East Coast rappers of all time.

20. LL Cool J

LL Cool J

LL Cool J stands for Ladies Love Cool James, and this is the stage name of James Todd Smith. He was born in Bay Shore, New York, on January 14, 1968. He is a rapper, an actor, an author, and an entrepreneur. He has released 13 studio albums and two compilation albums throughout his career. Some of his best-known singles include “Loungin,” “Luv U Better,” “Control Myself,” “Doin’ It,” “Hey Lover,” and ‘I Need Love’. In addition to his career as a rapper, LL Cool J has also had acting roles in many movies. These have included Deep Blue Sea (1999), In Too Deep (1999), S.W.A.T. (2003), Mindhunters (2004), and Edison (2005). LL Cool J’s most famous role on television has been playing Special Agent Sam Hanna in NCIS: Los Angeles.

19. Yasiin Bey (Formerly Mos Def)

Yasiin Bey (Formerly, Mos Def)

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 11, 1973, Yasiin Bey (Birth name: Dante Terrell Smith) began his hip-hop career in 1994 alongside his siblings as a member of the rap group Urban Thermo Dynamics (UTD). Yasiin Bey first went by the name Mos Def, which he later changed to Yasiin Bey. During an interview, the rapper explained why he switched his name and how it stemmed from materialistic pressures. He said, “I began to fear that Mos Def was being treated as a product, not a person, so I’ve been going by Yasiin.” Yasiin Bey’s solo debut was released in 1999, titled “Black on Both Sides”. Alongside his musical career, he also has a career in acting, appearing in famous movies like Brown Sugar (2002), The Italian Job (2003), Something the Lord Made (2004), and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005).

18. Big Pun

Big Pun

Big Pun, widely regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time, was born Christopher Lee Rios on November 10, 1971, in The Bronx, New York. He began his career in the underground east coast Hip-Hop scene before gaining the limelight in the early 90s. At the beginning of his career, Big Pun predominantly supported other acts like Flesh-N-Bone, T.H.U.G.S and Fat Joe by featuring on their albums. He then signed on to Loud Records as a solo artist, eventually becoming the first Latino solo rapper to have album-certified platinum. His musical style stands out compared to his contemporaries as it uses alliteration, technical efficiency, and not taking many breaths while rapping. Big Pun died at 28 on February 7, 2000, from a heart attack and respiratory problems due to his weight.

17. Public Enemy

Public Enemy

A public enemy was originally a term used in America during the 1930s to describe individuals considered extremely dangerous. The Hip-Hop group Public Enemy adopted it as their stage name when they were formed by Chuck D in 1985 in Long Island, New York. The group consisted of Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, Chuck D, DJ Lord, and Khari Wynn. The band released their first four albums between the late 80s and early 90s, which were all certified either gold or platinum. Others have described them in the music industry as the most influential band of their time. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, making them one of the few Hip-Hop bands ever to receive this accolade.

16. Raekwon


Raekwon, also known as Raekwon de Chef, was born Corey Woods on January 12, 1970, in Brooklyn, New York. He is known as a solo artist and a member of the Hip-Hop group Wu-Tang Clan. After releasing his first solo album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… in 1995, Raekwon received critical acclaim for his work. Many critics regard the album as one of the greatest Hip-Hop albums of all time. Furthermore, he has made many guest appearances on other artists’ albums. He is typically associated with a subgenre of rap called Mafioso rap, and he is considered a pioneer in this style of music.

15. Ol’ Dirty Bastard

Ol’ Dirty Bastard

Russell Tyrone Jones, known by the stage name, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, was born on November 15, 1968, in Brooklyn, New York. He first entered the music industry in 1989 as a rapper. Although he was predominantly a solo artist, he was one of the founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan, formed on Staten Island, New York. ODB rose to prominence as a solo artist when he released his debut album, Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, in 1995. Despite becoming a respected musical artist, his level of success was affected significantly by his criminal activities. Sadly, he died from a drug overdose on November 13, 2004, just two days before his 36th birthday.

14. Ghostface Killah

Ghostface Killah

Ghostface Killah is the stage name of Dennis David Coles, born in Staten Island, New York, on May 9, 1970. Besides being a solo rapper, he was also a member of the Hip-Hop group Wu-Tang Clan. Following the success of the Wu-Tang clan, he established himself as a solo artist, debuting with the album Ironman in 1996. Ghostface Killah is critically acclaimed for his style of rapping in loud, fast-paced flows and for delivering his music with loud vocals. This artist has also been described as rap’s finest storyteller, as his lyrics are often cryptic and emotional. A clear indication of his talent is that many websites and magazines have listed him at the top of the list of best MCs of all time.

13. J. Cole

J. Cole

Jermaine Lamarr Cole, best known by the stage name J. Cole, is a hip-hop artist and record producer born on January 28, 1985. Although he was born in West Germany, his family relocated to North Carolina when he was young. When he decided to embark on a musical career, Jermaine moved to New York City to pursue his dream. His career began in 2007, but he released his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story, in 2011. This album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. As a producer, he has recorded singles for artists like Janet Jackson and Kendrick Lamar. Other ventures he has founded include Dreamville Records and the non-profit organization Dreamville Foundation.

12. KRS-One


Lawrence Kris Parker, known by two stage names, KRS-One and Teacha, is a rapper and producer born in South Bronx, New York City, on August 20, 1965. He initially became famous as part of the Hip-Hop group Boogie Down Productions. He formed this group back in the mid-80s with DJ Scott La Rock, and they released their debut album Criminal Minded just before La Rock was shot dead. KRS-One (an abbreviation for Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone) began to focus on solo projects afterwards, and he released his first record under his name in 1993. He is widely considered an influence on many Hip-Hop artists. Following the death of La Rock, KRS-One became politically active and formed the Stop the Violence Movement. His friend’s death is not the only tragedy KRS-One has faced, as his stepson took his own life in 2007.

11. Run-D.M.C.


Formed in 1983, Run-DMC was an American hip-hop group from Hollis, Queens, New York. The group consisted of Darryl MacDaniels, Joseph Simmons, and Jason Mizell. Not only are they one of the most famous Hip-Hop acts from the 80s, they are also credited as being one of the most influential acts in the history of Hip-Hop culture. As one of the pioneers of new school Hip-Hop music, the group released their self-titled album in 1984, and it became the first Hip-Hop album to achieve gold certification and get a Grammy Award nomination. They released the first hip-hop platinum record, King of Rock, in 1985 and followed this up with a multi-platinum certification on their 1996 album Raising Hell. Run-DMC was also known for their frequent collaborations with other artists, with one of their most famous being “Walk This Way” with the rock band Aerosmith.

10. Big L

Big L

Lamont Coleman was generally known by his stage name Big L. He was born in Harlem, Manhattan, on May 30, 1974. He initially began his musical career with the Hip-Hop trio Three the Hard Way, and in 1995, he released his debut solo album, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous. Sometime in 1998, he founded his indie label Flamboyant Entertainment with plans to distribute only Hip-Hop music that featured no RnB hooks as was common with rappers of that era. During his career, Big L significantly contributed to the underground Hip-Hop scene, especially for his freestyling ability. Big L was killed in a drive-by shooting on February 15, 1999. Big L’s manager, Rich King, put together his second album posthumously released in 2000.

9. 50 Cent

50 Cent

Known professionally as 50 Cent, Curtis James Jackson III was born in South Jamaica, Queens, New York, on July 6, 1975. He is a rapper, an actor, an investor, and a businessman. He endured a difficult period during his early teens and resorted to selling drugs on the street. He later pursued a music career and produced an album, Power of the Dollar, in 2000. The album was never released as the rapper was shot nine times before its release date. In 2002, 50 Cent released the mixtape Guess Who’s Back, a record which got him noticed by Eminem and earned him a record deal with Shady Records. His debut major label album Get Rich or Die Tryin, co-produced by Dr. Dre and Eminem, paved the way for 50 Cent to become one of the best-selling rappers of all time. 50 Cent has sold over 30 million albums worldwide and won many awards.

8. Rakim


Born in Wyandanch, New York, on January 28, 1968, William Michael Griffin Jr. is an American rapper better known by the stage name Rakim. Many consider this East Coast rapper one of the most skilled and influential musical acts of all time. Although initially part of the golden age Hip-Hop duo Eric B. & Rakim, he has also enjoyed a successful solo career. The album Paid in Full, which he released with Eric B, was named by MTV as the greatest Hip-Hop album of all time in 2006. As a solo artist, Rakim faced many struggles due to legal issues. In 2016, Rakim announced via Twitter that he and Eric B. had reunited after 23 years. Since this announcement, fans have speculated if the two will drop a new studio album soon. Since his last album in 2009, Rakim has featured in several featured appearances, especially with movie soundtracks. He was featured in “Black Messiah” from the album Judas and the Black Messiah: The Inspired Album (2021) and “Wonders” from the 2022 album B.O.A.T.S (Extended Version).

7. Method Man

Method Man

Method Man is a rapper, record producer, and actor. He was born Clifford Smith on March 2, 1971, in Long Island, New York. He chose his stage name because of his love for the 1979 film Method Man. In addition to being a solo artist, he was also a member of the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan and one-half of the duo Method Man & Redman. He has collaborated with Mary J. Blige for “I’ll Be There for You/ You’re All I Need to Get By,” for which they won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. Method Man has also had a notable career in the movie industry with starring roles in movies like How High (2001), Venom (2005), The Wackness (2008), Red Tails (2012), The Cobbler (2014), Keanu (2016). He is regarded as one of the top lyricists of all time due to his unique delivery style.

6. Busta Rhymes

Busta Rhymes

Busta Rhymes has become one of the best-known rap artists in the Hip-Hop industry. This rapper, actor, producer, and record executive was born Trevor George Smith Jr., in Brooklyn, New York, on May 20, 1972. His stage name was given to him by Public Enemy’s Chuck D, named after George “Buster” Rhymes, the NFL and CFL wide receiver. Busta Rhymes was one of the most prolific rappers of the 90s. He was an original member of the group Leaders of the New School before founding the record label Conglomerate. As a solo artist, Busta Rhymes released his first album, The Coming, in 1996, which was certified platinum. He has gone on to release at least ten studio albums. Some of his singles include “Dangerous,” “Turn It Up,” and “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See.”

5. DMX


Earl Simmons, known by his stage name DMX, was an American rapper and actor. He was born in Mount Vernon, New York, on December 18, 1970, and began his career in the music industry in the early 90s. His success and popularity as a rapper increased with the release of his best-selling album …And Then There Was X in 1999. His musical career impacted Hip-Hop, and he is considered one of the most prolific rappers of all time. DMX has also enjoyed a successful career in the film industry, having had roles in films such as Romeo Must Die (2000), Exit Wounds (2001), and Cradle to the Grave (2003). In his personal life, DMX fathered a record number of 17 children at the time of his death on April 9, 2021, at the age of 50. It was revealed on July 8, 2021, by the Westchester County Medical Examiner’s Office that DMX cause of death was a cocaine-induced heart attack.

4. Wu-Tang Clan

Wu-Tang Clan

The Wu-Tang Clan are regarded as one of the greatest and most successful Hip-Hop groups in history. Members of this group have also had hugely successful solo careers. The group consists of Method Man, Ol’ Dirty Bastard (until he died in 2004), RZA, GZA, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, and U-God. Later, Cappadonna also became an official member of the group. The group was formed in 1992, and by 1993, they released their debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). This album is considered one of the greatest Hip-Hop albums of all time.

3. Nas


Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones, known professionally by the stage name Nas, was born in Brooklyn, New York, on September 14, 1973. He is a rapper, a Hip-Hop recording artist, a record producer, an entrepreneur, and an actor. Nas is also known by the names Nas Escobar and Nasty Nas. He began his career in 1991 at the height of Hip-Hop’s popularity and has released over fourteen studio albums that have each enjoyed varying levels of success. He has sold over 25 million records worldwide and is regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time. He was married to RnB singer Kelis from 2005 until 2010. The couple have one son together.

2. Jay-Z


Shawn Corey Carter, known professionally as Jay-Z, was born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 4, 1969. He first entered the music industry in 1986 and has become one of the best-selling musicians of all time. During his career, Jay-Z has sold over 27 million albums and over 120 million records and won multiple awards for his music, with at least 24 Grammy Awards to his credit. Jay-Z is regarded as one of the wealthiest rappers of all time. Some of his top-selling albums include Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint, and The Black Album. Jay-Z is married to RnB pop icon Beyonce Knowles.

1. The Notorious B.I.G

The Notorious B.I.G

The Notorious B.I.G (or Biggie Smalls, or simply Biggie) is the stage name of Christopher George Latore Wallace. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 21, 1972. Despite having a short career in the music industry, he is often regarded as the greatest rapper of all time. He first became a professional rapper in 1992, then signed on to Bad Boy Records in 1993, and released his debut studio album Ready to Die in 1994. During the 90s, Biggie was a central figure in the East Coast Hip-Hop scene. In 1995, he helped his childhood friends succeed when he formed a hip-hop group called Junior M.A.F.I.A. Sadly, Biggie’s career was cut tragically short when he was killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997. Despite his death, Biggie is still regarded as one of the best East Coast rappers of all time.

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