Throughout the history of Hip-Hop there’s always been that discussion of who is the greatest rapper in history, and there is no clear right or wrong answer, if you’re regarded as the greatest you also have to be one of the most influential as well. With that said, Rakim is the greatest rapper in Hip-Hop history. Rakim came up during the “Golden Age of Hip-Hop” and at that time the heavyweights of the rap game from KRS-One to Kool Moe Dee to Big Daddy Kane as well as a ton of others, Rakim seemed to be the best of the bunch.
Even though there was incredible talent once Rakim made it into the Hip-Hop scene he came into the game with his own style and flow. Before Rakim, there weren’t many artists that sounded as technically and as lyrically gifted, many artists of the time had the same rhyme scheme and flow from Kool Moe Dee to Run DMC, Rakim came in with a laid back flow and superior lyrics. He’s has to be the most influential artist to ever do it, because through the late 1980’s and 1990’s artists took that style.
One of the most amazing things about Rakim is that when he first started out he was only eighteen years old. Even though Hip-Hop is a young man’s game it’s still amazing when someone at eighteen years old comes in far more complex than their peers. Rakim Stayed away from what seemed like the hyper extensive lyrics and Sound of artists like Run-D.M.C and LL Cool J. He focused on the quality of the lyrics and made the tone of a rap more serious and thought provoking. That decision proved to be the most important step in Hip-Hop at the time, because this one shift in style and lyrics influenced a whole era that came after from Jay-Z to Nas to Biggie to new artists like Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole.
Sometimes music just becomes dated and that happens with every generation. This happens in Hip-Hop as well. Artists like Run-D.M.C and Kool Moe Dee might sound dated from today’s standards, but artists like Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, Public Enemy, and NWA will sound relevant forever, because all of them brought something new and created influential styles that would shape the world of Hip Hop into what it would become. If you listen to a Rakim record today his music is still relevant. His records were so groundbreaking and influential at the time. This further establishes why Rakim is probably the greatest rapper in Hip-Hop history.
It’s crazy to think that the impact of one artist had on Hip Hop. Without Rakim your favorite rapper wouldn’t exist. Rakim has influenced everybody from Jay-Z and Nas to artists like J.Cole and Kendrick Lamar. Hip-Hop might have been able to make this push without the influence of Rakim, but it’s hard to think of Hip-Hop and not immediately think of Rakim. Rakim is basically in every rapper’s top five. Every rapper that has become known for their lyrics and wordplay and complexity immediately have to be traced to Rakim.
Now, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to things like this; it's all a matter of opinion. Some say Nas is the greatest to do it, some say Jay-Z, today people say Kendrick or Cole. Rakim gave birth to all their styles.
There is a valid argument that Rakim is the greatest to pick up a microphone. Rakim doesn’t get the praise that he should, because he influenced thirty years of music.