Lin-Manuel Miranda may have gotten his name in lights because of his Broadway smashes In The Heights and Hamilton (for which “smash” is a huge understatement), and will soon be even more well known after Pixar’s Moana and the Mary Poppins sequel starring him and Emily Blunt. But his talent, and the core reason why he’s been awarded such honors as the MacArthur Genius Grant, is his love and ultra-specific knowledge of the history of rap. Much of the book that details the making of Hamilton (AKA the Hamiltome) is filled with Lin’s footnotes commenting on rap references that he incorporated into a song or how one artist or another inspired him to craft a verse a certain way.
So it’s no surprise that when an interviewer at one of the The Rockefeller Foundation’s “Insight Dialogues” asked him who he thinks is the best rapper of all time, it wasn’t a shock that Lin struggled to give a straight answer at first. That’s a super hard question! Not even “a hard question for Lin-Manuel Miranda, rap encyclopedia and certified genius” but a hard question for even casual rap fans to wrap their heads around. From Biggie to Tupac to Jay-Z to Nas, there are at least a dozen rappers that one could legitimately argue as the best rapper to ever live. After much hemming and hawing, Lin finally narrowed down his list to five, admitting that he can’t pick just one.
His list – which is pretty unimpeachable for thinking of it under pressure – is as follows.
2. Big Pun
5. André 3000
You could argue the order there or the lack of a personal favorite, but objectively it’s a solid list. But wait, a twist! At the last second, Miranda decides that there’s no way he can live without Lauryn Hill also being in that top five, so he gives Jay-Z the boot and slots her in at number four. If Jay wasn’t married to one of the greatest living pop stars and a ridiculously rich man, that might hurt. Alas, he is married to Queen Bey and is mega-wealthy even after factoring in the recent struggles of his pet project TIDAL. He probably doesn’t mind that he didn’t get a slot on Lin’s off-the-cuff list of greatest rappers ever, and if he does he can cry his feelings out in a pile of money and diamonds with Blue Ivy at his side.