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With the passing of Guru, we’ve decided to take a look at some of the most distinct, original, outstanding, and classic voices in hip-hop. This isn’t about skills, how many hits you had, your influence on the game, this is about genetics. Sorry new rappers, you’re all a little too green to make the list quite yet….

25. Rock of Heltah Skeltah – Rock’s physical genetics are partly responsible for his booming voice, and we first heard him say “Heltah Skeltah Means War”, we believed every word. Sean Price may be the more able lyricist, but when Rock speaks, people have no other choice but to listen.

24. Chali 2na – The Jurassic 5 emcee had no other choice but to rise above his peers, as his incredibly uniquely deep and equally crisp vocals stole the show every time.

23. C.L. Smooth – There’s a reason why people always beg for a Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth reunion album. While yes, Pete is one of the greatest producers of all time, there’s one voice that always brought the best out in his beats, that of C.L. Smooth, who is every bit his namesake. Brief reunion songs like “Back On The Block” showed there’s nobody better on a Pete Rock track, and why we’ve never seen another rapper share equal billing with Pete for more than one album.

22. Ludacris – Chris Bridges has one thing that many of his other peers in the south lack, clarity. When Luda hops on a track, the stand out punch-rhymes and crass lyrics are to be expected, but they are all the more effective when spit so loud and clear. Rappers, take note.

21. Lil Jon – Yeah, this list isn’t resigned to just lyricists, some hype men on here too. Love him or hate him, Lil Jon’s voice demands you listen. While hearing him rhyme 16 bar verses leaves something to be desired, he can propel any track into an anthem, just by jumping on the hook. Sorry, Fatman Scoop.

20. 2Pac - ‘Pac’s voice was rose above the rest since his first appearance on Digital Underground’s “Same Song”, and continued to do so until the day he died. With time we saw it transform to convey a variety of emotions – danger, fun, anger, passion, hate, love, despair, and hope.

19. KRS-One – The voice of the self-proclaimed god of hip-hop sounds exactly how one would expect: thundering and commanding. His lyrics might as well be etched on two stone tablets.

18. Andre 3000 – In the case of Three-Stacks, it’s a combination of his unapologetic ATL accent and his ultra cool, laid back drawl. He sings, too.

17. Mos Def - Part rastafarian accent, part headcold, Mos Def’s unique vocal tones sounds equally dope when either rapping or singing – and he excels at both.

16. Ice Cube – While Cube’s voice has lost some of its luster in his later years, during his prime he spoke the loudest – both literally and figuratively.

15. Flavor Flav - While Chuck D was Public Enemy’s voice of reason, Flava Flav took what he said and affirmed it with unmistakable adlibs such as “Yeeeeeeeeeah Boyeeee” that only sound dope when he says them.

14. Cee-Lo Green – The Goodie Mob / Gnarls Barkley frontman has it all – the ability to rhyme ridiculous styles, as well as belt out a note like the highest paid southern gospel preacher.

13. Guru – Guru’s one of the few emcees that could keep the listener’s attention with such a monotone style, as his voice conveyed coolness and class.

12. Eazy E - Eazy’s voice suggested that he was a bit like Joe Pesci’s character in Casino – small, evil, and deadly. Not an accident that he was the first member of N.W.A to have a solo album.

11. Dr. Dre – Sure, Dre gets other rappers to ghostwrite for him, and the only reason we’re okay with that is because of how dope it sounds coming out of his mouth. There’s a reason why people anticipate Dre albums so much – the production is only half of it.

10. B-Real - Many rappers have tried to alter their voice in some form or fashion in order to sound different, but B-Real is the only one that doesn’t sound forced when he does it. His incredibly distinct nasal style sounds as if he’s holding a pillar of smoke in lungs as he raps, and, guess what, he probably is.

9. Method Man – Sorry Jeezy, sorry Gucci, while we like your voices (and truly for you guys, it is “mostly the voice”), we have to go with the original raspy voiced rapper, M-E-T-H-O-D Man. Meth quickly became the star of the Wu-Tang Clan thanks to his unique vocal style, even if people later realized that other members of the group had a better hold on things.

8. Big Daddy Kane – Awwwww yeah, we’re with this. Like Ice Cube, Kane’s voice isn’t quite as polished as it was the late 80′s and early 90′s, but back then, this man had both the smoothness of Barry White and the competitive spirt of Ali.

7. Busta Rhymes – Like Chali 2na earlier in this list, Busta Rhymes was a voice, spirit, and personality much bigger than Leaders Of The New School. He was show-stealing every time back then, and he continues to embarrass rappers by murdering them on their own shit today. DJ Khaled’s “All We Do Is Win” remix is the latest example.

6. Lauryn Hill – Lauryn’s got kind of an advantage on everyone else here because of the fact that she has probably the most beautiful voices in hip-hop music, which she really shows off when she sings. Where she’s got all of her fellow femcees beat is in the fact that she can also rip many mics on the daily.

5. Notorious B.I.G. – There’s a certain heaviness heard in a lot of overweight rappers throats – you could hear it in Chubb Rock, you could hear it in the Fat Boys. But Biggie took that sound, took out the jolliness, and made it cool – something a generation of literally hungry rappers were trying to do years before him, and skinny rappers were trying to duplicate after (i.e. Shyne).

4. Rakim – Similar to Guru, Ra’s mastered the monotone style, but in truth has done so much greater. Even on the fastest 120 BPM hip-hop track, Ra sounded calm as the storm. Don’t sweat the technique.

3. Snoop Dogg – Despite all of the “izzle” slang and strange Bootsy Collins channelling he’s done over the last few years, Snoop’s voice is one of a kind instrument unto itself, best exemplified on his earliest works. How iconic is the voice of Snoop Dogg? You can get GPS in your car with it. Really.

2. Q-Tip – Hands down, Q-Tip has THE most unique, unmistakable voice in hip-hop music, used to the best of it’s ability in the Tribe era. Others have tried to duplicate this, but nobody can compete with verses from The Abstract.

1. Nas – Combine the QB accent with a quiet, calmness in the voice of Nasir Jones and you have vocals that come out sounding like pure poetry. And as an added bonus, his lyrics are just that.

56 Responses to "It's Mostly The Voice: The 25 Greatest Voices In Hip-Hop (*sticky*)"
  • Big Al says:

    How about Celph Titled? Nine? MC Eiht?

  • SG says:

    This list was pretty much on point.

    I can only echo what others have said. Slick Rick should have been here for sure. I kept scrolling down the listing thinking he would be at the end, but no… Chuck D, Ghostface, RZA, Del, Aesop Rock, Eminem, Bushwick Bill, and Biz Markie are all unmistakable after just 2 bars. I guess this list is the “greatest voices”, and not the “most recognizable”, though.

  • Willo says:

    I’d take Lil Jon and Lauryn Hill out of the list and replace them with Chuck D. and Kool G. Rap, and add Redman and the list is good.

  • myked says:

    Really it is time to say…. CHUCK D …yes….AESOP….not yet…MC REN….better than Dre…Lauryn and Lil Jon over RZA…maybe next time…

  • Anton says:

    Sadat X. Eminem. Scarface. but good list overall

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