40. Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah was not the first female rapper. But she was definitely the first to become a hip-hop star. Her third album, Black Reign, became the first by a female MC to be certified gold. Latifah's commercial success kicked down doors for future stars like Da Brat, Lauryn Hill and Nicki Minaj.
Essential: All Hail the Queen
As Tribe's lead MC, Q-Tip helped pioneer jazz rap. Tip promoted Afrocentric ideals and social discourse without ever raising his voice. That takes skill, yo.
Essential: Midnight Marauders
38. Kanye West
Kanye West walks around with a Texas-sized boulder on his shoulder, but he certainly has the skills to back up the drama. West is arguably the best producer on the mic; his technique has evolved over the years; his albums are topically diverse; and his influence is ubiquitous.
Essential: Late Registration
37. Busta Rhymes
One of the founding principles of emceeing is the ability to move the crowd. And who can say they've never been compelled to move to the beat by Busta's favorite grunt: "Whoo-HA!" Extra points for being the most energetic live performer in hip-hop history.
Essential: Extinction Level Event (Final World Front)
36. Lupe Fiasco
When your first hit is about skateboarding and you ka kun ka kun your way to the top of the game while eating Kanye West on his own track, your future certainly looks bright as all seven skies. Sure, Emperor Lu has toyed with career suicide but he still lives to influence a generation of lyricists like J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar.
Essential: Food & Liquor