100+ Best Rappers of the 80s – Ultimate List

No matter what your musical preference is, it is hard to deny the influence and impact that rap music had on the world in the 1980s. The decade saw the emergence of some of the most iconic names in rap music history, who have gone on to become global stars.

And while there are too many great rappers from the 80s to list them all here, we’ve compiled a roundup of some of the best. 

Whether you’re a fan of old-school hip-hop or just looking to explore the roots of the genre, this list of the 100+ best rappers of the 80s will surely have something for you.

Top Best Rappers of the 80s

The mid-80s being a pivotal time in rap history, it is hard to make a definite list of the best rappers of the 80s. However, some names did manage to stand out during this highly competitive and creative era.

This list is based on the rappers’ commercial success, lyrical content, and musical influence.

  1. LL Cool J
  2. Run-D.M.C.
  3. Slick Rick
  4. Ice Cube
  5. Rakim
  6. Biz Markie
  7. Kool Moe Dee
  8. Eazy-E
  9. KRS-One
  10. MC Lyte

Old School Rappers of the 80s

Characterized by their use of samples and turntables, old-school rap was the first wave of hip-hop to achieve mainstream success. Though it has since been overshadowed by the more modern styles of rap, it has remained an important part of the rap landscape.


One of the most influential groups in rap history, Run-D.M.C. were a key part of the old-school rap scene. With their simple but effective rhymes and tough beats, they helped to define the sound of 80s hip-hop.

Public Enemy

A political and social force as much as a musical one, Public Enemy were one of the most important rap groups of the 80s. With their groundbreaking album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, they took rap to new heights and helped to broaden its appeal.

LL Cool J

A true rap icon, LL Cool J was one of the first rappers to achieve widespread mainstream success. With his smooth delivery and catchy hooks, he helped to bring rap to a wider audience and laid the groundwork for the success of future artists.

Of course, these are not the only great old-school rappers worth checking out, but they are definitely some of the best. Other notable old-schoolers include:

  • Chuck D
  • MC Shan
  • Ice-T
  • Sir Mix-a-Lot
  • Kool G Rap
  • Kool Keith
  • Biz Markie
  • The D.O.C.
  • Kurtis Blow

80s female Rappers

No doubt the rap scene of the 80s was dominated by male artists, but there were also a number of great female rappers who made their mark on the genre.

To name a few, there were the legendary Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, and MC Lyte. These are women who paved the way for today’s superstars like Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, and Megan Thee Stallion. Without them, who knows where the rap game would be today?

  • MC Lyte
  • Salt-N-Pepa
  • Roxanne Shanté
  • L’Trimm
  • Sweet Tee
  • Queen Latifah
  • Sha-Rock
  • J.J. Fad
  • Antoinette
  • Oaktown’s 357

White Rappers of the 80s

These white rappers of the 80s mentioned below changed the game forever. They showed that anyone could rap, regardless of race. Though it took a while for them to be taken seriously, they eventually broke through and made a huge impact on the rap world.

Today some of the best-selling and most well-known rappers are white, and it all started in the 80s with these guys:

  • Beastie Boys
  • 3rd Bass
  • MC Serch
  • Pete Nice
  • Vanilla Ice
  • B.M.O.C.

Early, Mid, and late Rappers of the 80s

The early part of the 80s rap scene was characterized by its underground nature. Hip-hop music was not yet mainstream yet, and most rap artists were unsigned and unknown.

This gave rise to a DIY ethic, where rappers would self-produce their own albums and distribute them independently. Although there was no mainstream recognition, early rap artists were innovators who laid the foundation for the genre.

The mid-80s ( The Golden Age ) was a time when the genre began to achieve mainstream success. Rap music exploded in popularity, and artists like Run-D.M.C. and Public Enemy achieved widespread recognition. This was also a highly creative period, with artists pushing the boundaries of what rap could be.

By the late 80s, rap had become a dominant force in popular music. Artists like LL Cool J and NWA were achieving massive commercial success, and the genre was now firmly established in the mainstream.

Early 80s Rappers

  • Kurtis Blow
  • The Sugarhill Gang
  • Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

Mid 80s Rappers

  • LL Cool J
  • Run-DMC
  • Public Enemy
  • Beastie Boys
  • Salt-N-Pepa

Late 80s Rappers

  • Slick Rick
  • Ultramagnetic MCs
  • Jungle Brothers
  • De La Soul
  • Big Daddy Kane
  • EPMD

New York Rappers of the 80s

New York City was and is the Mecca for rappers. The Bronx is where it all started with pioneers like DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash spinning the latest hits and breaking new ground in the genre. 

And as the genre developed, lyrical giants like KRS-One, Rakim, and Big Daddy Kane emerged. They would go on to not only shape the sound of New York rap but giving a voice to the voiceless by narrating some of the biggest stories from their neighborhoods.

While the West Coast may get more credit for pioneering gangsta rap, it was New York that truly defined the sound and style of hip-hop.

  • Grandmaster Flash
  • Afrika Bambaataa
  • Kool Moe Dee
  • Heavy D
  • LL Cool J
  • Salt-N-Pepa
  • Rammellzee
  • Jungle Brothers
  • Doug E. Fresh
  • Kool Keith

80s West Coast Rappers

The West Coast Rap Scene of the 1980s was a vibrant and important time in hip hop history. As one of the earliest hubs of rap music, the West Coast scene produced a number of influential artists and albums that set the tone for future generations.

Pioneers such as NWA, Ice-T, and Too Short were some of the first to bring attention to Los Angeles-based rap music.

Their unique styles combined with hard-hitting beats and complex lyrical content made them household names on both coasts. Today, they are the legacy of West Coast rap.

  • N.W.A
  • Toddy Tee
  • Ice T
  • Too Short
  • 7A3
  • Eazy E
  • Rodney O & Joe Cooley
  • King Tee
  • The D.O.C.
  • Disco Daddy & Captain Rapp

80s East Coast Rappers

Who says East Coast rap can’t compete with West Coast? The East Coast scene of the 80s had their own set of legendary artists, some of whom are just as iconic as their West Coast counterparts.

From Run DMC to Eric B & Rakim, East Coast rap was a hotbed of creativity and talent in the 80s. With heavy beats, powerful rhymes and a unique style, these artists brought their own flavor to the rap game that still resonates today.

  • EPMD
  • Beastie Boys
  • Public Enemy
  • Eric B. & Rakim
  • Big Daddy Kane
  • Slick Rick
  • Kurtis Blow
  • Jam Master Jay
  • Run-DMC
  • Afrika Bambaataa

Oakland Rappers of the 80s

As one of the most prominent cities for rap in that decade, Oakland drew in some impressive talent from around the country and beyond. After all, what’s not to love about the Bay Area?

With its vibrant music scene and diverse culture, it was a perfect place for talented rappers to gather and exchange ideas.

Rappers like Too Short, Digital Underground, and MC Hammer all called Oakland home in the 80s. They would go on to influence generations of rappers with their unique styles and inspiring lyrics and without these pioneers, modern rap music wouldn’t be what it is today.

  • Digital Underground
  • Mac Dre
  • Khayree
  • E-40
  • Too Short
  • MC Hammer
  • Rappin’ 4-Tay
  • I.M.P
  • Hugh EMC
  • Cassidine

80s Christian Rappers

When it comes to Christian rappers, the 80s was a decade that saw many artists emerge onto the scene.

MC Hammer, whose real name is Stanley Burrell, is one of the most well-known Christian rappers from this era. He first gained fame in the rap world with his hit song “U Can’t Touch This,” but he also had several other hits including “Pray” and “Too Legit to Quit.”

Another popular Christian rapper from the 80s is TobyMac, who was a member of the Christian hip-hop group DC Talk.

These artists not only brought Christian rap to the mainstream but also helped to change the perception of rap music as a whole. Thanks to their positive messages and infectious beats, they showed that rap could be a force for good.

  • Stephen Wiley
  • MC Hammer
  • DC Talk
  • Michael Peace
  • J.C. & The Boyz
  • Peace 586
  • SFC
  • Dynamic Twins
  • P.I.D. (Preachers in Disguise)

Underground Rappers of the 80s

The underground rap scene of the 1980s was a breeding ground for new talent and fresh ideas. It was also a time when the genre was starting to gain mainstream acceptance.

Today, many of the Rappers who emerged from the underground scene in the 80s are considered legends in the hip-hop world.

Without them, the genre would not be where it is today.

  • Audio Two
  • Divine Styler
  • The Skinny Boys
  • UTFO
  • Boogie Down Productions
  • The Sequence
  • Leaders of the New School
  • Original Concept
  • 2 Live Crew
  • Eric B. & Rakim

Forgotten Rappers of the 80s

Like every decade, the 80s had its fair share of forgotten rappers. Though some names are still well-known today, like LL Cool J and Big Daddy Kane, there were others who didn’t make it.

These artists may have not achieved the same level of success as their peers but they still made an impact on rap culture in the 80s and beyond.

  • Fresh 3 MCs
  • Cold Crush Brothers
  • Boogie Boys
  • Z-3 MC’s
  • Pebblee-Poo
  • Toddy Tee
  • Skinny Boys
  • T La Rock
  • Spoonie Gee
  • UTFO

Wrapping up

Despite being a highly competitive and creative era, these are some of the most renowned rappers of the 80s who have left their mark on hip-hop history and influenced generations to come. Their artistry and creativity will live on in the music they created, and they are a reminder of the great impact one artist can have.

Thanks for reading and as always stay tuned for more great content!