In hip-hop, it’s essential to have a stage name that, by its very utterance, will command people to put some respect on it (as Birdman would put it). What better way to achieve this than by naming yourself after a gun, or a boat, or a single letter in the alphabet? By far, the most prominent prefix you’ll see in the rap game is “Lil.” I don’t know what the deal is with rappers and abbreviated adjectives, but this particular nomenclature is deeply ingrained into the culture of modern hip-hop. Their names make you think of characters that could be in a children’s book, but their personas are the real deal. Here’s my power ranking of “Lil” rappers past and present:
Honorable Mention: Lil B
This list wouldn’t be complete without Lil B (AKA The BasedGod). His rise to fame came in 2007, when his former collective, The Pack, released the smash hit “Vans.” I’m not sure if this was a coordinated effort with Vans’ marketing department, but everyone and their mom was rushing out to buy the shoes when this song dropped. Soon after, Lil B branched out to pursue a solo rap career. He dropped a never-ending catalog of mixtapes, blessed people, cursed people, and talked about pursuing a degree in higher education. It’s hard to hate on Lil B.
6. Lil Jon
Who could forget about the certified “King of Crunk?” Accompanied by his fellow East Side Boyz, Lil Jon took the rap scene by storm in the early ‘00s. To simply say that Lil Jon was popular would be an understatement. He was literally dropping hit after hit, providing the soundtrack for strip clubs and high school proms everywhere. Dave Chappelle was even inspired to create a skit about Lil Jon on Chappelle’s Show, which further elevated his star power. As one of the few rappers with a career that survived the ‘00s, Lil Jon is still as relevant today as he’s ever been.
5. Lil Yachty
Beyond his red braids and diamond grills, there’s really not much to say about Lil Yachty. He’s a trash rapper with mediocre talent and has one of the most monotone voices that you’ll ever hear. As a matter of fact, I watched a YouTube video where he kicked someone out of his show for calling him boring. Still, you can’t deny how this generation has really latched on to his music. I mean, he made a song for a Teen Titans movie so apparently the kids like him.
4. Lil Dicky
At first, I thought this guy was a complete joke; I’ve seen my fair share of comedic white rappers on YouTube. Then I realized that this dude could spit some serious bars. All of his viral videos had hilarious concepts and the music was actually really good. It wasn’t long before he was sharing the mic with the likes of Snoop Dogg and Chris Brown and popping up in commercials for Carl’s Jr. and Trojan. As if all that wasn’t enough, he’s getting his own sitcom on FX. For someone who used to rap about saving money, Lil Dicky doesn’t have to worry about living a frugal lifestyle anymore.
3. Lil Pump
Love him or hate him, Lil Pump is a prime example of where the state of hip-hop is currently at. He took a repetitive song about designer clothing and turned it into a cultural phenomenon. We all thought he was just going to be a one-hit wonder, but his rap career is still thriving. Fueled by prescription drugs and codeine, this 18-year-old rapper keeps releasing music to silence all the doubters. He collaborated with Kanye West on a song for the Pornhub Awards and dropped a music video for it that broke a YouTube world record. If that’s not a clear indicator that he’s made it to the big time, I don’t know what is.
2. Lil Uzi Vert
Drawing a heavy influence from Kid Cudi, Lil Uzi Vert was pivotal in ushering in a new era of “emo rap.” His use of melodic cries and whines over creative beats felt like a breath of fresh air from the mumble rap to which we had grown accustomed. Hip-hop fans agreed, as Uzi’s “XO TOUR Llif3” quickly climbed to the top of the Billboard charts and helped earn him a Grammy nomination. This guy is just getting started, too. With a much anticipated album entitled Eternal Atake in the works, there’s no question Lil Uzi Vert deserves to be number two on this list.
1. Lil Wayne
Come on, who else did you expect? Lil Wayne is simply a rap legend who has definitely stood the test of time. Over the course of his career, he has released 12 studio albums and 20 mixtapes. Let’s not forget that over 100 of his songs have charted on the Billboard Hot 100. If you’re a fan of rap music, odds are you’ve heard every one of those songs at some point. Personally, I have fond memories of driving to school and blasting his “No Ceilings” mixtape on repeat in my shitty old Nissan Sentra. After years of waiting, Weezy finally dropped Tha Carter V and reminded everyone that he still has more left in the tank. Beyond being the greatest “Lil” rapper, he’s overall one of the greatest rappers of all time..
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