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From Tupac to Drake: Jay-Z once named the 89 greatest rappers of all time

“Belief in oneself and knowing who you are, I mean, that’s the foundation for everything great.” – Jay-Z

There are very few creatives able to match the prolific artistry of Jay-Z. Hova, who has rightly established himself as one of the legends of hip-hop, has pushed the music industry to brave new areas. Areas of diversity, of truth and of poetry beyond anything the world had music had seen before. Representing a huge area of society that had long been dismissed, Jay Z has revolutionised popular culture as we know it.

Unlike any other hip-hop artists before him, the rapper made sure that his records arrived as full bodies of work, pieces of art set to be discussed for decades. Smashing barriers with every release, Jay Z has been setting records in all areas of the culture recognised as hip-hop. While critical and commercial success has followed him around, it is the landmark moment of Hova being inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame that we focus on today, a time that marked the addition of an MC for the very first time.

Given the gravitas of the occasion, the Songwriters Hall Of Fame needed to draft in the biggest of names to match it. “I’d like to think Mr. Carter and I understand each other,” President Barack Obama said while inducting Jay Z during the official ceremony. “Nobody who met us as younger men could have expected us to be where we are today. We know what it’s like not to have a father around. We know what it’s like not to come from much, and we know people who didn’t get the same breaks we did. And so we try to prop open those doors of opportunity so that it’s a little easier for those who come up behind us to succeed as well.”

Obama continued: “Jay and I are also fools for our daughters, although he’s gonna have me beat once those two twins show up. And let’s face it, we both have wives who are significantly more popular than we are. Like all of you, I’m a fan, and I’ve been listening to Jay since I was a young and hungry state senator. I sampled his lyrics to close my speech at Selma. I tweeted a reference to ‘My First Song’ as I was putting my finishing touches on the final state of the union address,” Obama continued in what is the greatest sign of Jay Z’s incredible impact. “I had to brush some dirt off my shoulders during a campaign. So I’m pretty sure I’m still the only President to listen to Jay Z’s music in the oval office. That may change at some point, but I’m pretty sure that’s true now.

“In fact, Jay, you’ve been inspiring in making me want to be active in my retirement like you have been in yours. So I’m going to close with something that Jay once said that struck me: he said ‘I’ve never looked at myself and said that I need to be a certain way to be around a certain sort of people. I’ve always wanted to stay true to myself, and I’ve managed to do that. People have to accept that.’ So with that, I’m proud to help present this award to a true American original, the first Hip-Hop artist to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame, Mr. Shawn Carter.”

Reacting to his award, Jay Z, ever quick to point out the importance of this growing genre, said: “The hip-hop community has a very long history of being told ‘You’re not songwriters,'” Jay Z commented, in a statement read by Warner Chappell Music CEO “Big” Jon Platt. “‘You’re not quite there yet,’ ‘It’s not your time yet.’ Well, to all the songwriters and artists from our community and our generation, Jay would want you to know that this induction is a signal that your time has come and your time is now. He would tell up-and-coming hip-hop artists today that there can be no mistake or question that you are indeed songwriters, and your gift cannot ever be overlooked. And Jay would want you to know that as proud as he is to be the first, he’s even more proud that he won’t be the last.”

It was in that moment that Jay Z, overcome with gratitude, couldn’t hold back his love for hip-hop, rap and all those that helped shape the world as we know it. “By the way, this is a win for US,” Jay Z said in a post on social media after his induction.

“I remember when rap was said to be a fad. We are now alongside some of the greatest writers in history.” Shortly after, Jay Z decided to pay homage to those who did not get the same recognition, listing the 89 rappers that he holds in the highest regard, a collection of artists that helped shape him as a musician.

See the full list, below.

89 rappers who have inspired Jay Z:

  1. Rakim
  2. Big Daddy Kane
  3. KRS-One
  4. Chuck D
  5. Ice Cube
  6. Jaz-O
  7. Eminem
  8. Andre 3000
  9. The Notorious B.I.G.
  10. Tupac
  11. J. Cole
  12. Kendrick Lamar
  13. Chance The Rapper
  14. Jay Electronica
  15. Lauryn Hill
  16. Nicki Minaj
  17. MC Lyte
  18. Queen Latifah
  19. Common
  20. Kanye West
  21. Drake
  22. Rev Run
  23. Grandmaster Caz
  24. LL Cool J
  25. 2 Chainz
  26. Cam’ron
  27. Q-Tip
  28. T.I.
  29. Black Thought
  30. Pharoahe Monch
  31. Scarface
  32. De La Soul
  33. Ice-T
  34. Kool G Rap
  35. Grandmaster Melle Mel
  36. Kurupt
  37. The L.O.X.
  38. DMX
  39. ScHoolboy Q
  40. Ab-Soul
  41. Lupe Fiasco
  42. Yasiin Bey
  43. Foxy Brown
  44. Bo$$
  45. Rick Ross
  46. Quavo
  47. Future
  48. Travi$ Scott
  49. Tee Grizzley
  50. Redman
  51. Wu-Tang Clan (Raekwon, GZA, and Ghostface Killah also by name)
  52. Busta Rhymes
  53. Treach
  54. Lil Wayne
  55. Juvenile
  56. B.G.
  57. Nipsey Hussle
  58. Lil’ Kim
  59. Slaughterhouse (Joe Budden by name)
  60. Wale
  61. MC Eiht
  62. Too Short
  63. E-40
  64. Mac Dre
  65. 50 Cent
  66. Big L
  67. Show & A.G.
  68. Nice & Smooth
  69. Fat Joe
  70. Big Pun
  71. Digable Planets (Butterfly aka “Ish” by name)
  72. State Property (Beanie Sigel, Young Chris and Freeway by name)
  73. Jeezy
  74. Pusha T
  75. Playboi Carti
  76. A$AP Rocky
  77. Sean Price
  78. Mobb Deep
  79. Kid Cudi
  80. Tyler, The Creator
  81. Earl Sweatshirt
  82. Snoop Dogg
  83. Slick Rick
  84. Pimp C
  85. Bun B
  86. Big Sean
  87. Sauce Money
  88. Fabolous
  89. Mac Miller

If you’re looking for the vast inspiration of the rappers mentioned to wash over you as they’ve done to Hova, then we’ve got you covered. Below, we’ve pulled together an extensive (and we mean extensive) playlist of Jay-Z’s favourite rappers of all time. It makes for the perfect introduction to the game.