Since the birth of hip-hop, male rappers have been bringing their unique viewpoint to the art of rhyme. Today, we’re shining some long overdue light on their important contributions to rap. We’re proud to present our list of the 10 finest male rappers, from the smoking-hot hardbodies to the true lyrical innovators.
10. Ice Cube
Cube parlayed his fame as a male rapper into a series of major roles on the silver screen. Not only did he break barriers in the realm of male rap, he also showed that you don’t have to be a rail-thin model to make it in the movies. Today, thanks in part to Cube’s in-your-face look, it’s not unusual to see male actors of all shapes and sizes in both comedic and dramatic roles.
9. 50 Cent
Another male rapper turned movie starling, 50 Cent’s sizzling bod and husky voice proved that there’s still room in the increasingly conscious male rap ranks for a little glamor and sex appeal. Though he can definitely “rhyme on a dime five times,” as he likes to say, his slinky purrs and coos make it hard to forget that you’re listening to a truly hot dude.
He’s the hottest up-and-coming male rapper on the scene, but he’s not just another pretty face. Those who look beyond this hip-hop chanteur’s sultry style will find complex rhymes that address the trials and contradictions of being a male rapper in the 21st century. Keep your eyes on this one–and not just because he’s easy to look at!
His debut album, Illmatic, is still regarded as one of the best rap albums ever recorded by a man. Extraordinarily, the album was created with a team of almost all male collaborators, including Q-Tip, DJ Premier, Pete Rock and fellow male rapper AZ. (Somehow, despite all the testosterone in the room, it didn’t even wind up sounding like the score to a dick-flick.) Nas was hot enough–both on the mic and in that baby face of his–that even female artists took notice: he married singer Kelis in 2005.
From his boy-next-door looks, you sure wouldn’t peg Eminem as superstar material. But put a beat behind him, and he turns from a feisty-cute Detroit blonde into a raging microphone demon. His autobiographical film 8 Mile is a riveting account of coming up as a male rapper in the inner city.
Pac was the total package: elegant, cinematic looks combined with some of the deepest rhymes ever attempted by a male MC. Tragically, the world was robbed of his unique beauty at a young age, and aficionados of male rap were left forever pining for Pac’s dreamy eyes.
4. LL Cool J
One word: Yowza. Decades before 50 Cent hit the bigtime, LL Cool J showed that male rappers could have all the glitz and glamor of the hottest actors. Back in the day, he had the body of a magazine pin-up and his sexy verses on tracks like “Doin’ It” gave his fans plenty of sweaty dreams. Today, his more mature look is fodder for “DILF” fantasies everywhere.
3. Notorious B.I.G.
Considered one of the best male rappers of all time, Biggie brought a new sense of dignity of the often objectifying world of male rap. True to his name, he was a larger than life–and his big personality won over fans who might not have accepted his nontraditional looks and plus-size physique. Far from being a shrinking violet, Biggie often addressed his weight directly in his rhymes, as if daring his critics to take issue.
2. Dr. Dre
Dr. Dre rewrote the rulebook for the sometimes sexist game of rap. While male rappers gained increasing prominence in the ’90s, Dre proved that their skills weren’t just a novelty act; not only could he flow on the mic, Dre also knew his way around the “lab” as well as anyone. His star power may have faded over the years, but young male producers still look up to Dre as an inspiration.
1. Run DMC
Classic NYC originators Run DMC will forever be a shining beacon to young men looking for male rap role models. Not only were they first all-male rap group to hit the pop charts, they also participated in “Walk This Way,” a classic boy-power anthem with male rockers Aerosmith.
P.S. – While I was writing this up in Google Docs, this seriously happened. I am not kidding.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 5, 2013