Many of the biggest rap stars that have dominated charts and emerged as cultural forces over hip hop history have been African American. But white rappers have also played key roles in pushing the genre forward at points. Though a minority presence in rap overall, skilled white MCs have found success through authenticity and wit.
White rappers featured here were selected based on technical ability, lyrical content, commercial success, cultural impact, and how their work reflected hip hop’s diverse landscape. Some overcame initial skepticism about their motivations or right to rap. But their talent ultimately won over critics and audiences.
While evaluating based on race may seem questionable, this list aims to highlight white rappers who thrived in a genre where they are the clear minority. Each brought their own style and perspective. By rapping about their own backgrounds and experiences, they made their mark through creative expression. Let’s count down the greatest white rappers of all time.
The Top 10 White Rappers Ever
As one of music’s best-selling and most acclaimed artists ever, Eminem remains in a league of his own as a white rapper. After rising from underground rap battles in Detroit, his major label debut The Slim Shady LP (1999) became a smash hit due to his otherworldly technical skills and darkly comedic lyrics.
Eminem’s provocative persona channels rage stemming from his poor upbringing and family turmoil. Tracks like “My Name Is,” “The Real Slim Shady,” “Without Me,” and “Lose Yourself” displayed a master class in songwriting, verbal dexterity, and pop sensibility. Socially conscious hits like “Stan” also showed Eminem’s versatility.
With diamond-certified classics The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show, Grammy Awards, and an Oscar for “Lose Yourself,” Eminem brought new heights of critical and commercial success to hip hop. Beyond just white rappers, he should be considered among the greatest MCs of all time for sheer technical superiority.
2. Mac Miller
The late Mac Miller disproved assumptions that white rappers were merely culture vultures. Launching his career at a young age in the late 2000s, the Pittsburgh native showed sincere dedication to all facets of hip hop: rapping, producing, songwriting, culture. His indie mixtapes offered glimpses of promise.
But Mac Miller fulfilled that potential on excellent albums like Watching Movies with the Sound Off, GO:OD AM, and Swimming before his accidental 2018 drug overdose at 26. Lyrically addressing relationships, depression, addiction, and pressures with thoughtful bars, Miller gained respect as an honest craftsman. His soulful production and musicality brought new flavors to hip hop.
As a young white rapper emerging in the blog era, Mac Miller could have aimed for fast fame as a pop-rapper. Instead, he chased artistic growth, collaborating with rap legends and honing versatile skills. Miller became a beloved figure within hip hop for that authentic passion.
3. Beastie Boys
As hip hop’s first major white rap group, the Beastie Boys helped introduce the rebellious new genre to mainstream pop culture throughout the 1980s. Led by MCs Ad-Rock, Mike D, and MCA, their brash punk rock energy on multi-platinum 1986 debut Licensed to Ill helped crack rock radio and MTV.
The Beasties continued displaying innovative style and talent over classic follow ups like Paul’s Boutique and Check Your Head. Their rhymes encompassed both sarcastic frat boy wit and consciousness. Licensed to Ill’s landmark melding of rock and hip hop helped forge a path for many alternative styles to thrive within rap. As white trailblazers, the Beastie Boys earned hip hop legitimacy.
4. Action Bronson
This charismatic Queens MC brings a brash but thoughtful throwback New York rap style. After coming up releasing mixtapes and EPs in the early 2010s, Action Bronson broke through with major label debut Mr. Wonderful in 2015. His intricate rhyme patterns, wry sense of humor, and retro references evoke NYC rap’s 90s golden era.
Bronson stands out through vivid storytelling and wordplay. His raps and persona are enhanced by his passions for food and cooking, name-dropping fine cuisine between witty bars. Tracks like “Baby Blue” and “Easy Rider” display a playful magnetism. Despite creating a character, Bronson reps Queens with heart on songs like “Actin Crazy.” His traditional approach shows purity within modern rap.
The mastermind of indie rap outfit Company Flow in the 90s, EL-P transitioned into an alternative hip hop luminary via his experimental solo work and leadership of forward-thinking label Definitive Jux. His production and rapping fuse dense, technically sharpened verses with glitchy, futuristic beats.
On acclaimed solo LPs like I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead and Cancer 4 Cure, EL-P crafts dystopian rap manifestos filled with paranoid imagery and technological reference points. As one half of duo Run the Jewels since 2013, his bombastic style forged an unlikely hip hop superteam with Killer Mike. Now a hero of underground rap, EL-P’s vision helped progress the genre.
6. Lil Dicky
This unconventional Philadelphia comedian found viral fame initially through parody before turning himself into a chart-topping rapper. Lil Dicky used comedy as a Trojan Horse to infiltrate hip hop on records financed independently like 2013’s So Hard. His novelty approach worked, earning fans like Snoop Dogg.
On major label debut Professional Rapper and smash hit “Freaky Friday” with Chris Brown, Dicky expanded his style beyond parody rap. Songs like “Lemme Freak” and “Save Dat Money” feature clever, humorous storytelling with substance below surface-level laughs. Though somewhat gimmicky, Lil Dicky’s skills justify his rise.
Hailing from rural Alabama, Yelawolf’s blend of southern rap and rock influences makes him one of modern hip hop’s more unique talents. After early hype from Eminem’s Shady Records, Yelawolf steadily built a distinctive lane throughout the 2010s with Trunk Muzik mixtapes and LPs like 2011’s Radioactive and 2015’s Love Story.
With tattooed, skateboarding style and artistic outlook, Yelawolf’s work explores identities beyond typical southern rap tropes. Songs like “American You” and “Empty Bottles” wrestle with reconciling pride in Southern heritage with its problematic history. Yelawolf also proved adept at both rapid-fire rapping and melodic singing. He manages to feel boundary-pushing within rap traditions.
8. R.A. The Rugged Man
This underground New York rap cult hero paid dues for decades before earning recognition befitting his technical prowess. R.A. The Rugged Man combines a throwback barroom brawler aesthetic with savage lyrical skills showcased on tracks like “Uncommon Valor” and “Definition of a Rap Flow.”
The Rugged Man’s complex rhyme patterns and battle rap roots allow him to competitively keep pace with legends. His 2013 official debut Legends Never Die brought wider exposure through raucous storytelling and raw wordplay. For representing golden-era NYC rap values in both style and substance, R.A. deserves respect among hip hop purists.
MGK (also known as Machine Gun Kelly) arrived in the early 2010s embracing the rebellious spirit of rap’s outsider white pioneers. The lanky, tattooed Ohioan showed dexterous skills on indie mixtapes before signing to Bad Boy Records and achieving mainstream fame. His major label debut Lace Up in 2012 brought rock-edged hits like “Wild Boy.”
On subsequent albums like 2015’s General Admission and hits with Camila Cabello and more, MGK keeps expanding his pop-punk fusion approach within hip hop. Lyrics detail relationships, addiction, institutional failures, and depression with introspection. As an advocate for creative freedom, Machine Gun Kelly follows a punk rock ethos while remaining rooted in technically sound rap.
This Bay Area rapper merged slick flows with pop crossover appeal starting with indie albums in the early 2010s before ascending to national fame. G-Eazy songs like “Me, Myself, and I,” “No Limit,” and “Him & I” with Halsey dominated radio with catchy styles melding rap and R&B.
While criticized as inauthentic by some, G-Eazy’s undeniable commercial results speak for themselves. From touring with superstars like Drake to earning multi-platinum certifications, he maintains a strong fanbase. For better or worse, G-Eazy’s sound represents how modern rap intersects with pop and electronic music. His likable persona and hook-writing skill earned him mainstream success.
The Rest of the Top 25
- Brother Ali
- House of Pain
- Vanilla Ice
- Twenty One Pilots
- Lil Pump
- The Lonely Island
- Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park)
- Paul Wall
- Vinnie Paz (Jedi Mind Tricks)
- Dicky Barrett (The Mighty Mighty Bosstones)
- MC Serch (3rd Bass)
- MC Chris
- Post Malone
History of White Rappers in Hip Hop
Let’s provide some historical context around white rappers’ contributions to hip hop:
In rap’s early days, most prominent acts were African American, including pioneers like Grandmaster Flash, Run-D.M.C. and N.W.A. But the Beastie Boys became one of the first successful white rap groups. They brought rock fans to hip hop on 1986’s Licensed to Ill.
In the late 80s/early 90s, rappers like Everlast (House of Pain), Vanilla Ice, MC Serch (3rd Bass) and others emerged as popular white acts, achieving varying levels of critical and commercial success. In the 90s/2000s, Eminem and acts like Non-Phixion found respect in hardcore hip hop.
The 2000s saw R&B/rap crossover artists like Mike Posner and Mac Miller rise. More recently, “mumble rap”-influenced stars Post Malone, G-Eazy, Lil Peep (and Lil Pump to a degree) scored major hits blending genres. White female rappers like Iggy Azalea and Kreayshawn also garnered fame.
While never dominant, white rappers left impact by bringing their perspectives to hip hop. They continue pushing boundaries of commercial success and critical respect like any other innovative artists. The diverse top acts featured here made indelible marks within rap’s rich history.
Critical Reception of White Rappers
White rappers have faced skepticism at times as hip hop outsiders. But skilled technical rapping ultimately wins over purists. Success beyond core hip hop fans brings accusations of capitalizing on rap merely for pop appeal. However, hip hop’s diversity allows room for many voices.
The Beastie Boys, House of Pain and 3rd Bass earned respect for their authentic love of hip hop culture. Eminem’s abilities silenced early critics. Vanilla Ice’s perceived fabrication brought backlash. Recent pop hybrid stars like G-Eazy prompt claims of cultural appropriation.
But white rappers like Mac Miller found acclaim through sincerity and artistry. Others like Action Bronson rep their hometowns with credibility. White female rappers also push against sexism. While ongoing debates around race and hip hop remain, white rappers found paths to success.
Looking Forward in Hip Hop
As hip hop progresses, white rappers will continue playing roles in its growth. Based on current rising talents, potential trends seem to include:
- More genre-blending with punk, rock, emo (MGK, Lil Peep)
- Pop/electronic fusion scoring radio hits (Post Malone, G-Eazy)
- Vulnerable lyricism exploring mental health (Mac Miller, NF)
- Humorous approaches, from parody to punchlines (Lil Dicky, Wheeler Walker Jr.)
- Socially conscious themes (Brother Ali, Atmosphere)
- Female white rappers (Kreayshawn, Snow tha Product, Iggy Azalea, Tierra Whack)
Rap will likely remain dominated by Black artists overall. But diversity of sounds, styles, and voices will expand hip hop’s artistic breadth. The freedom for anyone to create ultimately progresses the culture.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who are considered the greatest white rappers?
Eminem, Beastie Boys, Mac Miller, Action Bronson, Lil Dicky, EL-P, Yelawolf, R.A. The Rugged Man, MGK, and G-Eazy are generally considered among the most skilled and successful white rappers based on their commercial stats, critical respect, and cultural impact.
Why do people criticize white rappers?
Criticism often arises around perceived cultural appropriation of rap and claims that white artists just aim to benefit commercially from hip hop trends rather than respecting the culture. But many skilled white rappers prove themselves through authenticity.
How did Eminem gain respect in hip hop?
With immense technical lyrical skills showcased on albums like The Slim Shady LP and Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem overcame critics as an interloper. His songs also contained raw emotion about his life struggles that resonated across racial lines.
What white female rappers have found success?
In the late 80s/early 90s, Tairrie B gained attention as an early white female rapper. Since 2010, Kreayshawn, Iggy Azalea, Lil Debbie, Snow Tha Product and others have seen varying levels of success. Most recently, Tierra Whack’s creativity earned acclaim.
Who are considered the worst white rappers?
Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer are often cited as weaker rappers that found commercial success briefly by writing cheesy, pop-friendly rap songs without much substance. Recent examples include Bhad Bhabie and Jake Paul attempting rap amid influencer fame.
How did the Beastie Boys impact hip hop history?
As the first hugely popular white rap group, the Beastie Boys helped introduce hip hop to wider mainstream rock audiences on their 1986 debut Licensed to Ill. Their inventive samples and rhyming styles helped expand rap creatively throughout their entire career.