Who can dispute the talents of hip hop giants like Eminem, Beastie Boys, and Macklemore? While white rappers sometimes fly under the radar, those that make it in the genre make it big. With some of the biggest selling artists of the last 30 years coming from the world of rap, hip hop is clearly not the fleeting fad people once thought. Here, we look at a rundown of the top 20 greatest white rappers of all time.
Just creeping onto our list at number 20 is the rapper, singer and songwriter, Erik Francis Schrody (better known by his stage name, Everlast). As the frontman for the House of Pain (more on whom coming up), Schrody has seen huge success; as a solo artist, he’s enjoyed just as much.
In addition to winning a Grammy Award in 2000 for his duet with Carlos Santana on “Put Your Lights On”, his solo offerings, including Whitey Ford Sings the Blues (1998) (which spawned the Grammy-nominated “What it’s Like”) and his most recent release, Whitey Ford's House of Pain (2018) have enjoyed equal measure critical and popular acclaim.
19. Brother Ali
In at number 19 is Brother Ali. Ali, who was born with albinism, has been rapping since he was just 8 years old, telling Huck "Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always been into hip hop. I started beatboxing when I was about seven years old. Eventually, that led to me falling in love with the words."
Characterized by lyrics laden with themes of social justice, Ali has so far released 4 studio albums (Rites of Passage (2000), Shadows on the Sun (2003), The undisputed Truth (2007), Us (2009), Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color (2012), and All The Beauty in the Whole Life (2017), along with numerous Eps and singles, all of which have performed well with both the public and critics.
Jonathan McCollum (known by his stage name Rittz) broke onto the scene in 2010 with the Yelawolf collaboration Box Chevy. Since then, he’s collaborated with Yelawolf on numerous occasions, as well as enjoying success with his 2013 debut album The Life and Times of Johnny Valiant, and his later solo release’s Next to Nothing (2014), Top of the Line (2016), and Last Call (2017).
Since 28-year-old Michigan rapper NF signed to Capitol Christian Music Group in 2014, he’s enjoyed massive success across the globe. His first release with the label, the eponymously titled EP, NF, charted at number 15 on the Top Rap Albums, while subsequent releases have gone on to even bigger and better things.
His 2017 album Perception went in straight at number 1 on the Billboard chart, while the third single from the album “Let you Down” achieved international success and went on to be certified triple platinum in the United States.
16. Kid Rock
Contentious though the next entry on our list may be, there’s no doubting the fact Kid Rock sells a lot of records. And when we say a lot, we mean a lot. His first album under Atlantic Records sold more than 14 million copies in the US and won him a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Album.
Since then, he’s gone on to claim 5 more Grammy award nominations and 25 million album sales in the US. While he may have shifted away from the genre in recent years, anyone who’s toured with Ice-cube, gone into rap battles with Eminem, and been compared (albeit not in a nice way) to Vanilla- Ice, deserves their place on our list.
15. Action Bronson
New York hip hop artist Action Bronson may be widely known as a talk show host (check out his variety show The Untitled Action Bronson Show if you haven’t already), but he’s enjoyed enough success as a recording artist to make it to number 15 on our list.
His independently released debut album Dr. Lecter under Fine Fabric Delegates did well enough to attract big label attention, and in 2012, he signed up to Warner Bros via Media company VICE. Since then, he’s released three studio album (Mr. Wonderful (2015), Blue Chips 7000 (2017) and White Bronco (2018)) that, despite being accused of containing misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic content, have all been met with stellar sales and a warm reception from fans.
In at number 14 is 4-time Grammy award-winning rapper Benjamin Hammond Haggerty, best known by his stage name Macklemore. While a successful solo artist in his own right, it’s his frequent collaborations with producer Ryan Lewis that have really cemented his status: the 2013 single Thrift Shop was the first single released by an independent label to hit the number one spot on the Hot 100 chart for 19 years, while the success of their follow up single, Can’t Hold U,s made the pair the first duo to reach the number one spot with their first 2 singles.
13. R.A The Rugged Man
Given that Richard Andrew Thorburn (aka R.A The Rugged Man) has been performing since the age of 12, it’ll probably come as no surprise to learn he’s worked with some of the biggest names in rap (Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang Clan, Kool G Rap, and Notorious B.I.G to name just a few) from the past 30 years.
That’s to say he’s not capable of pulling in the record sales all on his own: his 2nd studio album, Legends Never Die, debuted at number 1 on the US Billboard Heatseekers Albums Chart and has since gone on to sell over 40,000 copies worldwide.
12. Lil Dicky
Alternatively known as LiL Dicky or LD (or even occasionally by his birth name, David Andrew Burd), Lil Dicky makes it to number 12 on our list. Having initially got into music "simply to get attention comedically, so I could write movies, write TV shows and act", the artist quickly fell in love with the genre, and has no plans of " leaving that game until [he's] proved [his] point".
Ever since G-Eazy hit the number 3 spot on the Billboard 200 with his first major-label release, These Things Happen, he’s not looked back. His second studio album, 2015’s When It’s Dark Out, spawned the top ten hit Me, Myself & I, while his 2017 album, The Beautiful and the Damned, did a good enough job of promoting the rapper’s talents to earn him a People’s Choice Award under the category of Favorite Hip-Hop Artist.
10. House of Pain
Prior to parting ways with lead singer Everlast (see number 20 on our list), House of Pain were on their way to becoming one of the biggest bands of the 1990s. Their 1992 single Jump Around peaked at number 3 in the US, number 6 in Ireland and number 8 in the UK, while their debut album Fine Malt Lyrics was certified multi-platinum.
After the release of their follow up, Same As It Ever Was, in 1996, Everlast decided to go his own way, leaving the rest of the band to do the same. Fortunately for fans, the band has since reunited on several occasions, most recently for their 2017 25th Anniversary Tour.
9. Aesop Rock
One of the most prominent names from the underground hip hop scene of the late 1990/early 2000s, Aesop Rock began rapping in the early 1990s, recording 2 self-financed albums while still at university. His success attracted the attention of Mush, and in 2000, he released his first album with the label, Float.
Since then, he’s released 5 follow-ups (Labor Days (2001), Bazooka Tooth (2003), None Shall Pass (2007), Skelethon (2012) and The Impossible Kid (2016)) and earned a reputation as one of hip hops biggest wordsmiths, coming in at number one on a study into the artists with the largest vocabulary.
EI-P came to prominence back in the early 1990s as part of the hip hop trio, Company Flow. Since then, he’s become known for producing some of the greatest rappers over the last 20 years, including Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif, and Cage, As well as securing the successes of other, he’s achieved worldwide success for his own solo efforts, which include the 2013 album Run the Jewels, and its follow-ups, Run the Jewels 2 (2014), and Run the Jewels 3 (2016)
7. Mike Shinoda
Mike Shinoda may have enjoyed huge success as a solo artist further to the release of his 2018 EP Post Traumatic, but it’s his work with Linkin Park that’s really cemented his place among the world’s greatest rappers. Shinoda founded the group back in 1996 with bandmates Rob Bourdon and Brad Delson.
Their first studio album Hybrid Theory was released in 2000, swiftly followed up by Meteora (2003), Minutes to Midnight (2007), A Thousand Suns (2010), Living Things (2012), The Hunting Party (2014) and One More Light (2017).
Michael Wayne Atha, aka Yelawolf, started pumping out mixtapes, albums, and singles back in 2005, but it wasn’t until his 2010 EP, Trunk Muzik, that he started picking up mainstream attention. After signing up to Eminem’s record label, Yelawolf began to see chart success with Trunk Muzik Returns (2013), Love Story (2015), Trial By Fire (2017), and Trunk Muzik III (2019). He’s also enjoyed extensive critical success, with The Guardian commenting: “In contrast to the gilded cage of privilege inhabited by Jay-Z and Kanye West, Yelawolf depicts everyday rural poverty with the evocative precision of a master storyteller".
Logic broke onto the scene with his 2014 debut studio album, Under Pressure; after receiving mass critical acclaim, it climbed to number 4 on the Billboard 200, eventually certifying Gold. His third studio album, Everybody, cemented his status as one of rap’s biggest players, peaking at number 1 in the billboard 100 and certifying Gold. His follow-ups, Bobby Tarantino II and YSIV, both debuted in the top two of the Billboard 200, while his 2019 release, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, peaked at number 1.
4. Mac Miller
Mac Miller began rapping at the age of 15; by the age of 18, he’d been signed by the independent record label, Rostrum Records, with his breakthrough mixtapes K.I.D.S and Best Day Ever coming the following year. His 2011 debut studio album, Blue Slide Park, became the first album released by an independent label to hit the number one spot on the Billboard 200 since 1995. Success followed success, but his promising career was cut tragically short with his premature death in September 2018
3. Machine Gun Kelly
Not to be confused with the prohibition era gangster of the same name, Machine Gun Kelly has met with a positive reception and huge record sales since his 2010 breakthrough single, Alice in Wonderland. His major label debut LP, Lace Up, sold more than 178,000 copies on its initial release, peaking at number 4 on the US Billboard 200 chart. His follow up album, 2015’s General Admission, hit the number 4 spot in the US charts, as did his single “Bad Things” with Camilla Cabello.
2. The Beastie Boys
Fighting for their right to claim a silver position on our list are the Beastie Boys, one of the few bands of the 1990s who remain as popular today as they were then (despite not performing as a unit since the death of vocalist Adam Yauch in 2014). Originally conceived as a hardcore punk band, the Beastie Boys had already evolved into a hip hop/ rap group by the time their first album Licensed to Ill dropped in 1986.
Over the following 25 years, they continued to break new ground with their ventures in the genre: their debut sold more records than any other during the 1980s (and is still a huge seller today), making them the first rap group to reach the no 1 spot on the Billboard 200.
Predictable though it may be, who else could take the number one spot than Marshall Mathers III? Eminem burst onto the scene in 1997 with his debut EP, the Slim Shady. With the EP’s explicit references to drugs, violence and sex undercut with themes of poverty and social issues, there was no doubting his talent. 2 years later, The Slim Shady LP dropped; despite controversy over some of the lyrical content, the album proved one of the year’s most popular releases.
Subsequent albums have proved no less successful: despite being dogged by accusations of misogyny and homophobia throughout his career, the “King of Hip Hop” has managed to shift enough records to qualify as one of the best-selling artists of all time, making him well deserving of the crown of greatest white rapper of all time.
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Written by Liz Flynn
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