Rap music has dominated the world since its emergence in the 1970s. Originally from the Bronx neighborhood of New York City, Hip Hop has since spread to almost every corner of the globe. Despite Hip Hop being around since the 1970s, it was in the 1990s that it really hit its stride.
Today, rappers are among the most successful artists in the world. However, a few rappers have become particularly successful commercially, selling hundreds of millions of records worldwide. Here are the top 10 best-selling rappers of all time worldwide. The ranking is based on sales of certified singles and albums in markets that release official certification numbers.
The 10 Best-selling Rappers / Hip Hop Artists of all Time
Units sold: 227 million
Real name: Marshall Mathers
Born: October 17, 1972, in St. Joseph, Missouri, USA
Active years: 1988 – present
Best-selling album: The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
Best-selling single: Love the Way You Lie (2010)
Eminem is an American rapper, record producer, songwriter and actor. He is considered one of the greatest and most influential artists of all time. Rolling Stone magazine called him the “King of Hip Hop” and included him in its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.” He became passionate about rapping at the age of fourteen and began participating in local open-mic contests with friends.
As he grew up, he formed a group of rappers called “D12”, which became very popular among local music lovers. Soon he came to the attention of the famous record producer Dr. Dre, and with his support he released successful albums like “The Slim Shady LP” and “The Marshall Mathers LP”.
His albums were all big hits and made him one of the biggest sensations in the rap industry. Most of his songs are about his personal struggles with his family members and his career. This is considered by many to be the unique selling point of his albums, making them dear to his fans. He has often been in conflict with the law.
He is known for his explicit choice of words, often sending aggressive signals. Nevertheless, this famous rap artist has managed to win the hearts of critics and followers alike, winning more than a dozen “Grammy Awards”.
Units sold: 152 million
Real name: Aubrey Graham
Born: October 24, 1986 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Active years: 2006 – present
Best-selling album: Views (2016)
Best-selling single: God’s Plan (2018)
Drake is a Canadian rapper, singer and songwriter who has proven to be one of the best rappers in recent times. He started his career as an actor in the Canadian series TV “Degrassi: The Next Generation”, but soon switched to music, which has been his passion since childhood. He began his musical journey with a series of self-released mixtapes. As he gained popularity, he released a EP titled “So Far Gone.”
He later released four studio albums, “Thank Me Later,” “Take Care,” “Nothing Was the Same” and “Views.” His songs are characterized by selfish lyrics, often about his personal experiences and relationships with women.
3. Kanye West
Units sold: 140 million
Real name: Kanye West
Born: June 8, 1977 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Active years: 2002 – present
Best-selling album: Late Registration (2005)
Best-selling single: Stronger (2007)
Kanye Omari West is an American rapper, fashion designer and record producer. He grew up in the middle-class conditions of the city of Chicago with his highly educated mother Donda West. From a young age he had a penchant for creativity and poetry.
He began rapping at the age of seven and soon confessed to his mother that he wanted to approach recording music more formally. When he was 20, he decided to drop out of college and pursue music professionally. His mother supported him in his endeavors. He started as a small producer until he met Jay-Z and produced The Blueprint for him.
From that point on, Kanye West received recognition and collaborated with talents like Ludacris, Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, etc. But West’s main goal was to become a rapper, and it was not until 2002 that he got the opportunity to record his first solo album. From then on, there was no turning back for West and he gave the entertainment industry good hip-hop music in the form of The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, etc.
His music was always appreciated by music critics for its innovation and the risk he takes with his creativity. Kanye West has always been in the news, whether for the numerous awards he has won or for the controversies he has caused over the years.
Units sold: 125 million
Real name: Shawn Carter
Born: December 4, 1969 in New York City, New York, USA
Active years: 1988 – present
Best-selling album: Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life (1998)
Best-selling single: Empire State of Mind (2009)
American rapper and entrepreneur Shawn Corey Carter, better known by his stage name Jay-Z, is one of the biggest names in “rap” and the genre of hip-hop. He is not only one of the most successful rappers, but also a successful entrepreneur who owns an entertainment company called “Roc Nation”.
His albums have sold over 50 million copies worldwide, and he has received a number of awards. Many of his albums have consistently made it to the charts, including the famous “Billboard 200”. His large catalog of music speaks volumes about his hard work and ruthless, aspirational quality.
As an entrepreneur, he owns the 40/40 Club, Def Jam Records, Roc Nation Sports, Roc-A-Fella and is also a qualified NBA sports agent. Recently, Jay-Z was ranked as one of the most successful artists of the millennium, joining legendary rappers like 50 Cent, Nelly and Eminem. Most of his works reflect parts of his difficult childhood, marked by drugs.
Although he comes from very humble beginnings, Jay-Z is now a millionaire artist who captivates his fans with his enchanting records.
5. Lil Wayne
Units sold: 110 million
Real name: Dwayne Carter
Born: September 27, 1982, in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Active years: 1995 – present
Best-selling album: Tha Carter III (2008)
Best-selling single: Lollipop (2008)
Dwayne Michael Carter Jr, better known by his stage name Lil Wayne, is a famous American hip-hop artist who has achieved several successes in this field, including winning the prestigious Grammy Award. Wayne began his career at the age of nine with “Cash Money Records” and became part of the American hip-hop duo “The B.G.’z” along with rapper Lil’ Doogie.
After a few years, he joined the American hip-hop group “Hot Boys”, along with Young Turk, Juvenile and Lil’ Doogie, who is now known as B.G.. The group’s fame eventually rose with the single “Bling Bling” and the platinum album “Guerrilla Warfare.” At this time, he released his debut solo album titled “Tha Block Is Hot,” which was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America” (RIAA).
A series of other successful and popular albums by the hip-hop sensation followed, which not only brought him international fame, but also solidified his position among the notable international hip-hop artists.
With over 100 million records sold worldwide, he became one of the best-selling music artists of all time. His most notable and successful album “Tha Carter III” sold more than a million copies in the U.S. in its first week and earned him the “Grammy Award” for “Best Rap Album”. Lil Wayne founded his own record label “Young Money Entertainment”.
6. Nicki Minaj
Units sold: 106 million
Real name: Onika Maraj-Petty
Born: December 8, 1982, in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago
Nationality: Trinidadian & American
Active years: 2004 – present
Best-selling album: Pink Friday (2010)
Best-selling single: Super Bass (2011)
Nicki Minaj is an American rapper and singer-songwriter. The talented singer has also established herself as a television host and an icon of female empowerment. Her unique voice (which often features different accents) and powerful, fast-paced rap style have made her popular both as a solo artist and as a cameo voice on other albums.
In addition to her music, Minaj is also known for her bold, loud fashion statements, including brightly colored makeup, outlandish hairstyles, and unconventional costumes.
7. Flo Rida
Units sold: 102 million
Real name: Tramar Dillard
Born: September 17, 1979, in Miami Gardens, Florida, USA
Active years: 2000 – present
Best-selling album: Wild Ones (2012)
Best-selling single: Right Round (2009)
Tramar Lacel Dillard, known by his stage name Flo Rida, is an American rapper, songwriter and singer. Starting with his debut single “Low,” he has released several hit and chart-topping singles and albums over the years, making him one of the best-selling music artists.
He developed a strong interest in music at a young age and joined an amateur rap group called “GroundHoggz”. Working with his brother-in-law, the hype man of the local rap group “2 Live Crew”, he became even more intensely involved with music.
In his quest to break into the music industry, he signed with “Poe Boy Entertainment.” His debut single “Low”, released by “Atlantic Records”, proved to be his real breakthrough, reaching several national and international charts, including the US Billboard Hot 100, breaking the digital download sales record and receiving several platinum awards.
The song appeared on his first studio album, “Mail on Sunday,” as well as on the soundtrack to the movie “Step Up 2: The Streets.” Several hit singles followed, such as “Wild Ones,” “Right Round,” and “Whistle,” as well as albums like “Wild Ones” and “R.O.O.T.S.”
Units sold: 75 million
Real name: Tupac Shakur
Born: June 16, 1971 in New York City, New York, USA
Active years: 1989 – 1996
Best-selling album: All Eyez on Me (1996)
Best-selling single: California Love (1995)
Tupac Shakur, better known by his stage name 2Pac, was a very successful rapper and actor known for his violent and shocking lyrics that earned him many fans as well as critics. His music was full of references to ghettos, street violence, sex, gangs, and other social problems he faced in his youth.
Early in his career, he worked for the alternative hip-hop group Digital Underground as a roadie and backup dancer. Eventually, the talented young man released his solo debut “2Pacalypse Now”, which caused considerable controversy due to the violent lyrics and became very popular mainly because of that.
9. Snoop Dogg
Units sold: 40 million
Real name: Calvin Broadus
Born: October 20, 1971 in Long Beach, California, USA
Active years: 1992 – present
Best-selling album: Doggystyle (1993)
Best-selling single: Drop It Like It’s Hot (2004)
Calvin Broadus, known by his stage name “Snoop Dogg,” is an American rapper and media personality who became one of the best-known figures in gangsta rap in the 1990s. Although he has become known mainly as a singer, Snoop has also participated in numerous films and television series throughout his career.
His talent was discovered by the famous producer and rapper Dr. Dre, and Snoop’s debut album “Doggystyle” was soon released, introducing him to the world of music. With singles like “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” and “Gin and Juice,” he became famous for his laid-back rap style and his name became synonymous with 1990s gangster rap.
Over the years, he continued his success with numerous hit albums such as “The Doggyfather,” “No Limit Top Dogg,” “R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece” and “Doggumentary.” In his illustrious career, Snoop has also appeared in numerous films and has been a frequent guest on television shows.
Units sold: 34 million
Real name: Earl Simmons
Born: December 18, 1970 in Mount Vernon, New York, USA
Active years: 1988 – present
Best-selling album: … And Then There Was X (1999)
Best-selling single: X Gon’ Give It to Ya (2003)
Earl Simmons, known by his stage name DMX, was an American rapper and actor. In the early 1990s, he began rapping and released his debut album It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot in 1998, which was both critically acclaimed and commercially successful, selling 251,000 copies in its first week.