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10 Brilliant Examples of Intellectual Hip-Hop

Nic Swaner . . . Comments

Hip-hop can be an excellent form of artistic expression, but there is a strong stigma that anything related to hip-hop or rap cannot be a decent form of music. If you look beneath what the masses are listening to, you’ll find the subtle niches several artists have carved out and where the music is progressing, and though they are nowhere near as well-known, they are ultimately more lyrically powerful and moving. There are undoubtedly some artists that fell between the cracks during the making of this list, so just remember: videos are for your viewing pleasure.


Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Memorable Lines: I’m an individual, yeah, but I’m part of a movement / My movement told me be a consumer and I consumed it / They told me to just do it / I listened to what that swoosh said.

Macklemore’s masterpiece, using Nike’s multimillion dollar branding campaign, famed logo and slogan as an example to convey his message, is about consumerism and dreams and how companies pretty up their products and sell nothing more than a brand nowadays for prices that are thinly veiled as ridiculous. Ultimately, the brands you choose over another are still just things and mean nothing in the end; there is no need to attach more value to them if you paid more for them.


Brother Ali
Uncle Sam Goddamn

Memorable Lines: Now the grown up Goliath nation / Holdin’ open auditions for the part of David, can you feel?

Uncle Sam Goddamn puts on a show of criticizing the United States, as Brother Ali points out how its current and past racist actions, greed, patriotism tunnel vision, propaganda and government corruption still continue to taint the country. If you put up with the hypocritical constitutional rhetoric in everyday America, this song is a much needed consolation that others are just as fed up as you, if not more.



Memorable Lines: But I don’t want to go home yet, so I’m gonna talk to my cigarette and that television set / It doesn’t matter what brand or station, anything to take away from the current situation.

Commenting on the struggles of day to day life, making ends meet and the emotional overload of reality, Atmosphere directly addresses his audience with the state of his life an end ends with: the only guarantee in life / is a life worth dying for. There are many interpretations to this lyric, as he could possibly be referring to his son, who is mentioned earlier in the song, or it could be a general statement about how life is worth the suffering of death.



Memorable Lines: Now I’ve seen the way that you count your blessings / Like hatch marks on the wall / And I’ve seen you coming out of Sunday confession / With a numbered list and all / Now I don’t bow my head for supper / I never do kneel besides my bed / But it looks like your afterlife is covered / I hope on Earth you’re careful kid.

Dessa reaches out to a friend (or relative) in this song, singing to a half-innocent woman who is either covering for a criminal man or assisting a fugitive man, telling a story of a conflict between friends now torn apart by a felonious third party. She advises of the man’s future actions and intentions and offers the woman a place to sleep, which, by the tone of the song, we can assume the woman refrains from accepting the offer.


Eyedea & Abilities

Memorable Lines: I can only build if I tear the walls down / even if it breaks me I won’t let it make me frown / I’m falling but no matter how hard I hit the ground / I’ll still smile.

Eyedea & Abilities’ (the former has passed on) last release revealed to us this beautiful composition on compassion. The lyrics are teeming with examples of people lacking and showing compassion for others and the chorus sums it up sufficiently. To put the chorus into perspective, the walls Eyedea refers to are not physical walls, but figuratively speaking, the walls we all have between each other.



Memorable Lines: Mom was a religion and happiness was a fact / It’s a shame how the time goes past / Movin’ so fast / Its like I’m movin’ at light speed / Slow down.

As a recollection of memories and how they seemed to pass by so fast, Grieves explains the importance of taking your time in life to see the beauty in things. Admittedly, it is a concept that has been done, but is explained succinctly in this song and taken to a length unseen before. You don’t need to go at such a pace all the time.


Sage Francis
The Best of Times

Memorable Lines: Don’t listen when they tell you that these are your best years / Don’t let anyone protect your ears / It’s best that you hear what they don’t want you to hear / It’s better to have pressure from peers than not have peers.

A lyrical memoir, The Best of Times is another hit out of the ballpark by Sage Francis. Dealing with his childhood and molehills overcome and the memorable experiences he reflects on, he sends a message in the last few lines that promises the next generation that it only gets better from here as you get older and to not give in and give up.


Buck 65
Wicked and Weird

Memorable Lines: I figure when I make it to the heavenly gates / they’ll be working on my car and playing 78s.

Buck 65 takes us to a life on the road in this song, going nowhere, everywhere and anywhere in this random amalgam of imagery, wordplay and rhyme. He seamlessly combines the folk genre with the hip-hop flare as the banjo plays over his ramblings. There really is not too much to dig for in this song, he is straightforward and honest as he cruises along.



Memorable Lines: Hush / let em try to find the beauty in your face / something more than a song / they hatin’? Aw come on / dust / let em try to find the beauty in the baseline.

The perception that outer physical beauty tarnishes peoples perceptions of others is the topic covered in P.O.S’s song, Purexed. No matter how righteous we all claim to be, everyone has been guilty of thinking thoughts about perceived visually differences and elevated social statuses because of it. P.O.S addresses the fact that skin and bone is the least important part of who you are.



Memorable Lines: Lionel Terray said it the truest, I set it to music / We’re all “Conquistadores of the Useless.”

Astronautalis weaves a tale of a deceiving duo who feign being disabled to prey upon the generous souls of one city before moving on to the next. Although a highly unlikely scenario and an unsuccessful scheme as the way it is portrayed in the video, the concept is beautifully written and conveyed to the audience.



Memorable Lines: Here let me sign your poster strike a poser / Sleeping in my armor while you’re sleeping on your holster.

Not any one artist, but rather any of the Doomtree Collective, a record label which boasts several artists and two already included on this list. This song is their take on a mainstream bombast.

  • snickersman

    Great list! I always love music or art that makes you think differently at everything.

    • formerly known as Dangsthurt

      Great list?

      Hip-hop, by definition, is never intellecutal. They shoulda gotten a real American educatation.

      • diana

        Educatation? Wow.

        • Idiots…he misspelled it on purpose. Geez…. Humorless geeks.

      • QWERTY

        Wow, seriously, just because it’s hip-hop it can’t be intelligent? That’s pretty ignorant. Why don’t you try listening to more before you knock it. There are many more examples than the kind shown here, and they provide inspiration to many people. Just because you think yourself above it through some misplaced sense of hierarchy doesn’t mean that it isn’t intelligent. I’d argue you’ve just shown how much you don’t know.

        Also, i was gonna note the irony of educatation, but Diana beat me to it….

        • Jamie

          Akala SBTV – F64

          British Rapper who went from talking about gats and hoes to talking about how it really is.

      • oldirtykoala

        This is the sort of person that compares justin bieber to the beatles….. baby baby baby oh, baby baby baby noo… compared to the rest of mainstream music these days, pop, punk etc Hip hop is very intellectual.

        • Jamie

          Nothing wrong with Justin Biebers Music, it appeals to the audience its suppose to , young kids and girls. You dont have to listen to it.

          • oldirtykoala

            I never said there was anything wrong with his music( although i could make a top ten list just on the that subject matter alone), i was more making a point of hip hops relevance as intellectual music in comparison to the rest of todays mainstream music.

            For people to say, and i quote ” Justin is like a one man beatles” is absurd. I admit he is very talented but producers of pop these days are are so obsessed with sales, that they are willing to pump out, say 3 albums a year, instead of an album every 3 years. Quantity of music is so much more important than quality these days that mainstream music is just turning into a sound, not an artpiece.

            Sorry got way off subject there. Damn you JB

        • Brian

          Alright – let me start by saying I am a 42 year old bassist who is fully aware of the genius that is Lennon/McCartney. However, (and I am SO ashamed to be defending Justin Bieber) the Beatles’ first few albums were loaded with lyrics such as “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah. She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.” and “I wanna hold your hand.” That being said, teenie bopper music (like the Beatles started as) is supposed to be silly and fun. And I promise I will never say anything else positive about Bieber ever again. :)

          • Maggot

            fully aware of the genius that is Lennon/McCartney. However, (and I am SO ashamed to be defending Justin Bieber) the Beatles’ first few albums…

            Heh, I agree, it’s silly to compare the two, but (and here I go) is Bieber even remotely capable of evolving musically as the Beatles did, and in such a short period of time? A question without an answer because we’ll just have to wait and see I guess. But I’m betting “no”. Admittedly I talking from ignorance here because I have not heard any of his songs, but he’s maybe three years into his “pop” recording career, has put out an EP and two albums and a third album is scheduled for release in early 2012. In roughly the same amount of time (well, not including the earlier Sheridan recordings), the Beatles were into their 4th or 5th album, and were already progressing well beyond composing “mindless” pop tunes. A couple of months later, their 6th album Rubber Soul was a huge leap musically and lyrically, and they just continued to raise the bar further after that.

            Granted, Bieber is younger in physical age and probably maturity than the Fabs of ’62-65, but when he can write something like If I Fell, I’m a Loser, Yesterday, Norwegian Wood, Girl, Nowhere Man, In My Life, etc. etc., then maybe his fans can get back to us with their “like a one man Beatles” comparisons. To which we can retort: Oh yeah? Give me an A Day in the Life then…

          • Piotrek

            Let It Be…

      • Sgt. York

        I find it interesting that you take time out from your attention-whoring over at Youtube (“thumbs up if Listverse brought you here” is the intellectual equivalent of blurting out “first”), to criticize a musical style as non-intellectual while misspelling “education”. Actually, it was more entertaining than interesting. I point and laugh at you, “sir”.

      • DannyB

        Hip means to know, it’s a form of intelligence. – KRS One : )

      • DannyB784

        Hip means to know, it’s a form of intelligence – KRS One : )

      • Kou

        I agree only because all the “memorable” lines listed looked like something a middle schooler would write. Great music isn’t even JUST about lyrics that have meaning. Great music in a combination of composition, arrangements, meaningful lyrics, and the emotion in which it is performed. Rap never fits that because there’s maybe a total of 3 rap songs that don’t steal instrumentals from other songs. Hip-hop on the other hand there’s plenty good of, but it’s no wonder none of these on this list are hitting it big.

        • Nic S

          “I agree only because all the “memorable” lines listed looked like something a middle schooler would write.”

          The key word here is in your reply is “looked.” You haven’t taken the time to listen to them in their ambiance and context; you are blindly skimming the list and picking out the highlights and not seeing them in their whole presentation. As for your credibility, I am not convinced you are the best authority of what middle schooler writings read like, this remark is more inflammatory than it is insightful, and not in a way where truth hurts.

          “Great music isn’t even JUST about lyrics that have meaning. Great music in a combination of composition, arrangements, meaningful lyrics, and the emotion in which it is performed.”

          No argument here, but I believe you’re missing the point. In rap, the focus is on the lyrics instead of other parts of the musical formula, such as what you have listed; it’s what differentiates each and every genre from another. To disrespect it because of these differences is to discriminate against it.

          “Rap never fits that because there’s maybe a total of 3 rap songs that don’t steal instrumentals from other songs. Hip-hop on the other hand there’s plenty good of, but it’s no wonder none of these on this list are hitting it big.”

          I don’t how to hit the bent nail on the head on this one as you’re very far from the truth and don’t provide any evidence as to what those 3 rap songs might be. On another note, rap is the music of the culture of Hip-Hop. Lastly, you talk about “hitting it big.” If there is one thing I want to make clear, “hitting it big” is not synonymous with music that speaks to the soul, heart, and mind.

          I don’t abstain from other genres of music as well, I am an avid rock fan who also enjoys jazz, classical and orchestral arrangements– hell I’ve heard my fair share of local country music in my time. I’m not looking to confine myself to one genre, I’m trying to get the most out of the music that we, as humans, have created (which reminds me, Jupiter makes interesting sounds as well). I don’t believe this makes me a duller blade, having a broad view of music, just rather having many blades for each occasion.

        • NIk

          Typical, because it isn’t the form of music that you listen to, its not “real music”. Please look at Billboard, I think that you will actually find the opposite of what you wrote. Sampling is something that young artists do. Established artists tend to stay away from them and the good ones produce their own music. Just because the three rap songs you heard were sampled doesn’t mean the majority are. Please broaden your horizon and get out of the little box you live in.

    • sega

      hipster garbage just like the first list

      this list needs more cowbell and icp

      • Live from New York it’s…

        Cowbell and ICP, hilarious! Great vid, love ICP!

      • mom424

        More votes for ICP.

      • I hope you aren’t serious…

  • jfreaker

    this kind of list sucks!

  • FunkyFunkelman

    I’ve never heard of any of these…

  • Green

    What about M.C. Hammer?

  • Real Hip Hop Fan

    What kind of “Hip Hop” list is this? 1st of all they all seem to be “White” artists which seems very biased.Clearly the person who created this list has no sense of what real intellectual hip hop can really be.Where are the other great intellectual hip hop artists such as Rakim or 2pac? This list is straight bullshit and should be taken off solely for the respect of hip hop.

    • dermo

      Definatly some truth in that, but still atleast hes promoting good underground american hip hop whic can be very hard to come by these days

      • weputalistanboutlistsinalistaboutlists

        Real Hip Hop Fan, can’t white people do hip-hop now? I understand that the majority here are, and yeah, that’s pretty biased, but your phrasing could be misconstrued.

        • Juanonymous

          Well it’s not that it isn’t possible, but if you think about the context of lifestyle that hip hop spawned from, it’s easier and more likely for people in the black community to specialize in speaking truthfully (and subsequently intellectually) through the medium of hip hop than white people
          But again, nothing is absolute and I’m sure there are some great, white intellectual rappers, but it’s much more likely that there are more worth noting from the community that this music came from

        • mindbreaker

          There are really two different genres between “Hip-Hop” and “Rap” that started way back when. It started back when a tribe called quest, the roots, and de la soul went one way (Hip-Hop). NWA, Snoop, Biggie, 2pac went another (Rap). Currently there are more Black artists doing rap ala Lil wayne, Nelly, Jay-Z (sorry not the biggest fan but I’m sure there are more recent ones I’m missing). White artists have gravitated more to the Hip-Hop side rather than rap. There are a few bigger names of Black artists that can still be considered Hip-Hop. Common, Nas, MF doom, Mos Def, etc. Then there are the artists that kinda fringe both genres. Busta rhymes, Wu-tang etc. At least that’s kinda how I see it. Although I agree there are a few black artists that could have been mentioned for Hip-Hop Asheru is another good one (he did theme music for “Boondocks” cartoon if you’ve ever watched it)

          • mindakrobatix

            Ok Mindbreaker, it seems that I gotta school you on a few things. First of all, Hip Hop and Rapp (Yes, the original spelling is “Rapp”, not “Rap”) are one in the same. If you took a look at the history you would realize that Rapp is a style of music, whereas Hip Hop is a culture. The 5 elements of Hip Hop are (were?) Breakin’, DJing, Graffiti Art, Rapping, and Beatboxing. The decision to eliminate the other four elements was by record companies that found that they could get paid with the one element, Rapp, without the others. Likewise, the decision to separate the Hip Hop and Rapp was decided by a VERY racist MTV (not so much now, but back in the early 80’s MTV made no excuses about not featuring black artist.) to allow a demanded style of music on their airwaves, but at the same time keep their appeal to their predominantly white audience. Hip Hop was decided to be safe for all to listen to, while Rapp was given the “That’s what black people listen to” label.
            The problem is that Rapp is an element of Hip Hop and the two can NEVER be separated. It’s kind of like saying “Boxing” is different than “MMA” when the truth is that since Boxing is a martial art, then is it actually an ELEMENT of MMA, and can’t be separated from MMA. So when you say that some artist went the way of Hip Hop and others took the path of Rapp you are wrong. It’s ALL Hip Hop, but the sad fact is that some Rappers are just better than others…point blank. If there is a separation it would be mainstream vs underground Rapp. The difference between the two is that mainstream Rapp limits itself by reintroducing the same topics over and over again (money, guns, and hoes) while underground Rapp has limitless topics (money, guns, hoes, poverty, love, responsibility, spirituality, racism, respect, etc.) and might make you actually use a brain cell or two to get the message.
            Also, this list is VERY bias, and it kinda makes me question if the author actually listens to Hip Hop or just listen to white Hip Hop artists, and has an agenda of wanting to get their names out there. I don’t have a problem with putting great lyricists name out there (I actually support it) but this list comes dangerously close to saying that white Rappers are intellectual, while other (black being one of the “others”) Rappers are ignorant. Not sure if that was the intent, but that’s kinda what I got out of it. Dope artists tho, can’t deny that.

          • Jordan

            Totally agree with midakrobatix. Took that words right out of my mouth. I feel like all this guy did was watch an Atmosphere/Eyedea video on YouTube and then clicked on every related video. Just because a rapper is white, he’s known as “intellectual” and that’s just bullshit. The only good rappers on this list were Slug, Eyedea, and Brother Ali. Someone who actually truly listens to Hip Hop should be making lists like this, not some white kid who’s only comfortable listening to white rappers.

            I should also say that I’m aware that I’m blatantly assuming the author is white, and I don’t care. Sorry.

    • Sgt. York

      I think since we let Darius Rucker do Country, then some white folk can do hip-hop.

      • Gumbi

        That may be the best comment i have ever read on listverse!

    • Eumesmopo

      Indeed, it is ridiculous that there are ONLY white artists in this list. This is worst than being just biased, that’s being racist.

      • Munk

        Lookup Brother Ali.

        • scrappy

          I think it’s you who needs to look up Brother Ali. He is an albino who’s parents are WHITE. He’s not a black albino.

      • jus sayin

        POS is black, and he got number two. the video posted with it is not his song.

        • Ok your right “P.O.S. is black”.. I guess he managed to get the token in there. How funny the video is of a white guy to match the other 9…

          • backhandedcompliment

            P.O.S. is intellectual!

            (… for a black guy)

      • Joe

        Slug is mulatto

    • I’m glad to see this comment… I was looking to see if anyone else noticed or were bothered by the lack of color in this list. It seems kinda racist to me. Almost like people of color aren’t intellectual enough to be brilliant according to this list writer. Maybe the title should have been “10 examples of white intellectual hip-hop”?

  • Dermo

    Can’t say ive heard of many of these but im Australian, so that probably explains it. But ive your looking for good lyrical hip hop and not the mainstream BS that comes out of American “rappers” (rick ross, eminem etc) then check out Horrorshow, there an aus hip hop mc/dj combo from sydney, there lyrics are insane .

    • BenAndre

      Being austalian doesn’t hinder you from hearing about international music, you sense no make.

      • dermo

        Actually, any real hip hop fan would no its extremly difficult to find good underground music from other countries

        • Vagabond_Sam

          Yup, I find Hip Hop from other countries to be less relevant to me and so lessw enjoyable. The Aussie guys seems to know what matters in Australia

      • PeterAndre

        Yes it does, if you’re like me.

    • Kurt

      implying eminem isn’t an amazing rapper

  • Frank lesnar

    This is not intelectual i dont give a fuck about their ghetto lifes or how they smoke weed or how they love watermelons fyi

  • jhonnieo

    Y r there no people of color on this list? This list reduces hip hop to some mad rambling white boys.

    • Pukimak

      Isn’t white a color?

      • Napalm

        Yeah, thats what I thought too.

        • chris s

          he meant black, and if you didn’t know that’s what he meant then you’re too stupid for the internet

          • Pukimak

            So color is only reserved for people who are black? That’s racist. How about brown people? Or yellow people? Are they colorless then? Huh?

            Perhaps if you knew how to use capitalization and punctuation you wouldn’t be too stupid for the internet. Duuuhhhh!

  • Dirtiest

    OK I will find a few that I think are better.

    1. Soul Position – One Love –

    2. Cunninglynguist – Mic like a memory

    3. El-P – Tasmanian Pain Coaster

    4. Mos Def & Talib Kweli (BlackStar) – Thieves In the Night –

    5. Jedi Mind Tricks, RA Rugged Man – Uncommon Valor –

    • Sam

      Does the rapping that system of a down do count? Does M.I.A? Mainstream not white not black people doing smart rap (if this counts)

  • BenAndre

    oh music, why must you be so subjective

  • Hippidyhop

    Anyone who doesn’t mention Jedi Mind Tricks is wrong, mad lyrics right there. Also, its an oldie but Dead Prez “They Schools” and most other tracks on the “let’s get free” album worth a mention. Wow, just so many misse here, kudos for Sage Francis though, I’m a recent convert.

  • baz

    I liked the list of intellectual rappers better

  • almin18

    never herd about any of these but it is really good

  • c vivendi

    Never care about music list because its always an opinion. However asl these study are great I extremely recommend listening to these artist and when they come to your town check them out tickets usually 20 dollars or less. Also atmosphere isnt one person its slug and ant but thats a simple mistake.

    • c vivendi

      Damn phone asl=all study =artist

  • Julius

    I find the lack of Aesop Rock disturbing.

    • Nic S

      It felt like I had cut out a part of me when I cut him out of the list. He originally held the #1 slot with No Regrets, then Fast Cars, then None Shall Pass, until it was deemed I should cut him out for lesser known artists with the same staying power.

  • here is where u see the blacks missing from the picture

    racist? nah

    just the truth

    • oldirtykoala

      WOW an asian bloke putting shit on black folk about hip hop. As a white man this hurts my head,

  • wtf listverse

    WTF is this? The Whitest Hip Hop list ever? Good job, culture co-opting douchebags. So people like Nas and KRS-1 and Pac etc etc etc don’t even get a passing mention? Listverse, JFrater – WTF guys?

    Intellectual = White I guess?

    • oldirtykoala

      Why would the lister need to mention artists that everyone knows. It did not say THE TOP TEN intellectual hip hop artists (besides this is a second list), it merely showed artist that the lister found brilliant/or thought others would. AS for NAS ( my all time fav hip hop artist, also my cats name) PAC etc etc their writing is beautiful, even genius but the subject matter is not, gangsta rap is not intelligent hip hop.

    • Zach

      Strawman Fallacy much?

  • spacemonkey

    What about scroobius pip?

    • Lauren

      My exact thought. That man is a genius.

  • Geko

    What about M.C Solaar?

  • AliciaS

    Where are the people of color?
    What is your definition of intellectual?
    Why do most of them still trying to sound black?
    (some of this is pretty close to Amos ‘n’ Andy)

    This doesn’t sound much different than the “intellectual” hip hop of 15 years ago.

    If you think this is intellectual maybe it’s time to turn off the computer and go to the library.

  • Ness

    I’m sure this person only listens to white rappers.

  • jer-bear

    Uh, top ten white boys you will never hear their names again? Dirtiest’ list of 5(!) had more names and meaning then the ghost list you published. Underground privileged rap is not what’s up!

    You might as well add me to this list

    My hangover has got me pissed

    In my chemistry lab in the mornin’

    Is where you’ll hear me snorin’

    Mom and dad pay by bills

    And by night I bitch about my ills

    It’s so hard being white and right

    Might as well crash my Acura tonight

    • oldirtykoala

      Congratulations you just topped Ryan Thomas’ list of intellectual rappers. Good for you.

  • Another fucking hipster, hip-hop list, not a mention of intellectuals like KRS-One, Tupac, or a Gang Starr? So many more should be named… This is a pathetic list from a suburban kid with no idea of what true hip-hop is, this makes me want to vomit. Are all these guys post 2000’s? Wow. Teen angst hip-hop bullshit.

  • Will Trame

    I figure every generation has its own style of music to groove to. Music is most important and influential to one between the ages of 13 and 30. As I am rapidly approaching 54, I am not fond of hip hop and techno; the very title of this list is an oxymoron. But then, we’ve come full circle. The way I view this genre of music is precisely the same way my parents viewed Elvis and the Beatles.

    • Metalwrath

      Don’t worry about it, I’m 25 and think rap, pop, r’n’b and whatnot suck. I like metal, celtic music and classical.

    • Nic S

      Will Trame, I always appreciate your opinions (I also wrote the 10 Rock Songs over 10 Minutes list), and I will not try to push any of this music on you, but thanks for your comment.

  • ian

    Nice list! I’m personally hate recent hip-hop because they spread hate, drug, and sex… I never realized that there is other side of hip-hop… I think I should know hip-hop much more… How about Arrested Development (hip-hop group, not the TV series)? I think they should also included in this list

    • Julius

      “How about Arrested Development (hip-hop group, not the TV series” We’re legally obligated to make that distinction.

  • Marla

    Will Trame has said it all.

  • oldirtykoala

    Also big shout out to my man Jase aka Mr Tears.

  • Sgt. York

    Outstanding. Hadn’t heard of a few of the artists here and i just became a fan of them thanks to this list.

  • Ryan


  • I wish that whatever broke up the Smiths would attack hip hop next.

  • Metalwrath

    Without wanting to be condescending, the ABAB or AABB rhymes that rap seems to be limited to are somewhat ridiculous.

    If a modern poet wrote rhymes like that, which were the style of 19th century poetry, it would be considered kind of cheap. Kind of how in painting or sculpture there aren’t any famous artists who paint/sculpt like they did in the early 19th century classic art. I mean art evolves with time, and rap is stuck to old school ridiculous rhymes.

  • grendel

    Is this list a rebuttal from a previous list?

  • Name

    Cool list. This is coming from somebody familiar with all these artist. The only problem is labeling it “Top 10 Brilliant Example of Hip Hop”. It’s subjective. Half the list is from RhymeSayers. Seems like a particular and narrow view of underground hip hop. I’m certain I could come with a better representation of intellectual hip hop. 2 and 3 was pretty wack, seemed pretty obvious to come from a girls perspective. LISTVERSE…HIT ME UP FOR INTELLECTUAL HIP HOP STUFF. ALL YOU’RE HIP HOP LISTS ARE PRETTY WACK! I PROMISE YOU MINE WOULD BE BETTER!

  • blk30

    cant u notice?? most artists here are signed under rhymesayers.. Blu, Soul Khan, MrLif, DeadPrezz, Guru and Witness deserves to be on the list

  • Nic S

    @JFrater: I seem to have made a mistake when I linked to the list’s 2nd entry, here is the video for it:

    As for everybody’s comments so far I can explain my reasoning behind this list:

    Originally, Philip Cheek’s list was referenced and examples of each artist were used, however, I decided to take the list in a different direction and contain some of the artists on his list then also expose some other artists as well, in a sense, juxtaposing them. I discluded some bigger names in the underground scene (such as Aesop Rock). The list changed several times and was reordered several times, not because of importance, but to allow varying types of songs at every turn. The last and most important change the list took was that I decided to provide music videos for each entry. This resulted in the removal of several artists. So if you feel there is an artist missing or if you have a general complaint about the list, this is why.

    As for the international underground scenes, I was not comfortable in including them as I am not experienced in that area, but I am definitely exploring it, any recommendations are welcome.

    • JayDoom

      Check Akala and Lowkey from England, in my opinion there are the best mcs from the UK who both rap about similar topics and should certainly have a place on this list .

  • Name

    wrong video for P.O.S. with some white boy.

    • Name

      you ain’t name B I T C H. I’m name…get off my D I C K or i’ll eat your grandma’s cookies

  • oouchan

    I like the topic idea, but I\’m not a fan of hip-hop. And after reading this list and listening to clips of the choices, I\’m still not a fan. To each their own I guess. Even though I don\’t like the genre, I still think the list concept is good.

    Good job.

    • Brackus Studley

      Very mature of you to simply state the truth and not slander Hip-Hop.If only more people could say what you said and not say “It’s all a bout killing” or whatever

  • Doobie king

    What about Mos Def? And i can’t believe Disposable Hero’s of Hip Hop didn’t make the list!

    No Pete Rock or Tribe either

    ‘so kids watch your back ‘cos i think they smoke crack, i don’t doubt it it, look at how they act

  • Jon

    Tech N9na and Nas

    Most people don’t find them “intellectual” but that’s their own fault. The way Tech N9ne puts things into his verses, it is unexplainable. He actually does talk about real shit instead of money, drugs, and sex.

    Most of the said rappers on here I do not like because their flow is so wacky

  • Moerkoe

    This is just a list of white rappers. Shame on you.

  • hitmonroo

    Seriously guys, there are alot of excellent hip-hop out there that are about more than the usual. Really not that hard to find with youtube and all these sites now.

    Some of my favourite artists with examples of their awesome music:

    Bliss n Eso –
    KnowMads –
    Bop Alloy –
    Illis –

  • JFrater, what the??

    By excluding other “racially disadvantaged” rappers, you also do a disservice to those you have included in this list. What a bunch of bullshit.

    You forgot Brian Austin Green, Pee Wee Herman, and the yellowest white family to ever perfect intellectual Hip Hop, “the Simpsons Sing the Blues”.

  • 504KO


  • Lifeschool


    Not my kinda Rock.

  • MillZ Nj

    There is a guy that won an Eminem Battle named Godwon, he has a song called “Dream” that details a near death experience and journey to hell, missed him on the other list too. @Godwon

  • Rya

    Immortal Technique anyone?

  • Isn’t ‘intellectual hip-hop’ an oxymoron?
    I am not a fan of hip-hop and generally any music labeled as intellectual scares me as it always tends to be some college kids playing mathematically ‘correct’ chord changes on a way too jangly guitar shrieking about George W Bush being a fag. Anything labeled as such tends to be preachy and more from the head than the heart which isn’t a music I am interested in. Anyway, good list man. It was obviously well thought out. Its just not for me. George W Bush is a fag.

  • Wikki

    Number 2 is hilarious! Sad little emo’s hanging out with Shia LaBeouf, “rappin'” about their lives…truly the worst list in a long a$$ time.

    • mom424

      I hate Shia LaBeouf – worst hero ever. Looks like a big, pasty, bobble-head. And I love the comment – whitebread hiphop is an oxymoron imo.

  • mom424

    I don’t know a ton about Hip Hop but I too was struck by the paleness of these entries.

    Hm, I do believe that anybody can and should be able to do what they will regardless of color but…..isn’t hip hop supposed to be about personal experience? The poor white guy with the Nikes I can sympathize with – I had 4 boys; but still nowhere near the angst I’m hearing.

    I do know that the hip hop my boys listen to, is NOT mostly white guys.

    Feel free to correct me, but I’m thinking we have some under-representation.

  • Rosenkrantz

    All white boys, complete BS!!!

  • BashD

    Great list ! Although I, myself would have brought up some more mainstream artists. J. Cole is the perfect example of intellectual hiphop that has found it’s way into the mainstream.

    Take this for example :

    A song about someone knocking a girl up, and the consequenses of that. Sure, he’s using profane words and what not, but he’s deep, philosophical, and lyrical.

    Still a good list !

  • John Smith

    This is the most ridiculous top 10 list listverse has ever produced. Hip Hop is a music genre dominated by African American artist. However, not one African American artist is on this list. Therefore, we have to conclude that in the opinion of the fine people at Listverse, the works of little to unknown white artists are more though provoking then any of that produced by the more famous and successful black artists. Who wrote this list, Jesse James and Kat Von D while donning nazi regalia.

    • Maggot

      Jesse James and Kat Von D while donning nazi regalia

      Lol, I think your point was made without invoking these two over-exposed idiots, but it was still pretty funny.

    • Munk

      Lookup Brother Ali. Still a white list though

  • evolutionhoax

    I guess I don’t really understand what intellectual hip-hop is . . .

  • lukemcw

    What about Flobots- handlebars ? Surely that’s intellectual hip hop ?

  • JPierSun

    Essential missing from this list:


  • Chantale


    ALSO, Grieves is the man. I love that guy, he is going to be huge!! :)

    People who are complaining that this list is ‘too white’, this might be true but there are MANY intellectual ‘black’ artists. We should make a another top 10 to add people like MURS, Aesop Rock and ETC! :)

  • Swapie

    Hip-hop is for people who cannot sing…..

    • yup

      You mean rap, right? That still doesn’t make rapping bad. Same can be said to the numerous genres of rock.

  • Cleared Hot

    OK list. I went to University with Buck 65. Smart guy… his degree was in Microbiology if I remember correctly. I never liked Hip Hop but I always went to his shows because his lyrics were just so intelligent and entertaining. Not the typical street / gangster stuff. Besides, the beer was always cheap at the places he played when he was starting out!

    • BrackusStudley

      You’re fucking lucky, I love Buck.And you’re right about his lyrics.

  • saywhat

    theres lots of intellectual hip hop but i dont think these are the best examples.
    also theres not a single black hip hop artist in this list, weird considering hip hop is predominantly black and there is so many intelligent hip hop tracks far better than these by black artists.

  • Vnny

    All white people! What a joke

    • c

      POS (number 2 on the list) is black. wrong vid was posted for hikme

  • Medeaux

    Its Funny How All These People Are White.

  • chris s

    Red Hot Lover Tone

  • Cari Hislop

    Number 1 should be John Forte! He’s a brilliant musician/Hip-Hop artist. The way he uses words is art. I dare you to listen to StyleFREE and not buy the whole album. And he can sing too!

  • notmybacon

    R.I.P Eyedea. You were gone to soon..

  • what

    i was wondering what you meant by intellectual, obviously you just meant white haha. what about mos def? nas? talib? damn, even kanye is smarter than most of these guys.

  • Manchez


  • drfrigmundpseud

    Gangstarr – Just To Get a Rep

    Blackalicious – Alphabet Aerobatics

    2pac – Changes

    Foreign Beggars – Frosted Perspeks

    Immortal Technique – Dance With the Devil

    It doesn’t always have to be rhythmic bragging…

  • Garrett92

    My top ten (in no order)
    Scroobius Pip
    Mos Def
    Aesop Rock
    A Tribe Called Quest
    Black Thought
    Talib Kweli
    MF Doom

  • daniel

    imma span a few genres and decades. in my opion all these songs are better than whats on this list. just food for thought.

    curtis blow, close to the edge

    ice cube, my summer vacation

    immortal technique – Bin Laden

    mos def, close edge

    2pac, brenda’s got a baby

    krs-1, why is that

    oh and buy the way one of the best “street rappers” as opposed to “intellectual rappers is a jew with a degree from nyu.

    • daniel

      *soul kahn

  • MT

    I’ve listened to hip-hop music since it began and never heard of these groups. Being a white rapper is like being a white boxer that says,” I denounce my birthright of prefential treatment and instead of going to school and getting a good job with the help of my family and friends I will instead fight my way out of this ghetto that I can relate to because I visit it every day”.

  • jkldd

    Those of you crying because you don’t like hip hop need to shut up and get over the fact that other people in the world are allowed to have different preferences from yours. Those of you crying because there aren’t enough black guys on the list need to get over yourselves. Hip hop is just a style of music, it doesn’t belong to black people.

    There was a very similar list a few months back that was full of black guys. It’s just a list of little-known rappers. Get over it. Why aren’t you complaining that there aren’t any Asians or women on the list either? I’m pretty sure they exist too.

    • Maggot

      Those of you crying because you don’t like hip hop need to shut up

      I don’t care for hip-hop, but I don’t feel like shutting up about it. Well, I did at first, but then you told me to, so I changed my mind and decided not to.

    • No Women on this list? I wonder if you just skimmed over the list instead of reading it/watching the videos.

  • K

    Anyone notice that every single rapper listed is white?

  • CHRC

    No lupe fiasco? ktnxbai.

  • Salmo

    No MC Paul Barman? COME ON. Or how about Cannibal Ox? Or Rakim?

  • Sardondi

    Intellectual Hip Hop? Well, I confess at first my mind reeled. I just couldn’t grasp the concept. If ever there was an oxymoron, I thought, it’s “intellectual hip-hop”. It’s like saying “Most Beautiful Wart Hog”, or “Sexiest Lepers”.

    But then I realized I was looking at it the wrong way. we can’t hold hip-hop to the usual historic standards of Western Civilization – they’re just impossibly high for the genre to have a hope of ever meeting. So this list is like having a Special Olympics, where we’re happy to see the participants able to do anything. I mean, with the Special Olympics we pretend for the sake of the kids that their skills, talent and performance are the equivalent of the actual Olympians, because we want to encourage them and make them feel loved and accepted just as they are. Because we can’t expect them to compete on a level field.

    So now I understand why we have list called “Intellectual Hip-Hop”: it’s the Special Olympics List, where we pretend for the self-esteem of the hip-hoppers and their fans that they’re just as smart and just as valuable as any other pursuit which requires true intellect. So you Hip-Hop kids, you’re super, super smart, and soooo talented.

    Gosh I feel good.

    • yep

      yeah… your taste in music doesn’t correlate with intelligence. Oh, and also try a freestyle battle with a rapper since you are sooo smart. #punkbitch

    • A high pedestal is a very unstable one.

    • kn83

      That was the most racist, ignorant, inaccurant and intolerant post I have ever read on listverse. Seriously, go screw yourself. ***hole.

  • Manchez

    The greatest intellectual work of all creation was the masterpiece of none other than rap’s first truly apex lyricist. This legendary artist was lyrical poet and blazed a trail for all other intellectual rappers to follow. If we were discussing human evolution, he would be likened to humankinds first bipedal ancestor. Other rappers may be more developed in this day and age; however, they owe their fundamentals to this man. He was the first on the scene to use big words and impliment double entendre with didactic breakfast analogies explaining about how quickly he could dispatch a feeble mind. He was quick to the point. There is a bit of genius in his brevity. It is almost as if he actually “dumbs it down” for us so that we can grasp the deep meaning in his songs. If you could blend Kanye West’s child like playfulness with P-Diddy’s maturity and wisdom, you would find somewhat of a close approximation to what his modern lyrical equivalent would sound like as main stream music; although, no one can do what he did because it is already done. I read that he no longer raps and has switched musical genres. One day he will return and lead his people to A1A… beach front avenue! Nonsense, I take this list as serious as I take “ebonics” being declared it’s own language. Please, learn to play a traditional instrument or sing and pull up your pants. At the very least, rap (talk) while you play drums instead of using a recording of drums you ripped off and looped from a real band. If you compare any of these rappers (talkers) to the intellectual rants of real poets, it would be like comparing a little child to his Mother. I’m going to dive in the archives to rid the taste of this drivel from my eyes.

  • gigi

    HipHop has a bad rep because everybody over-hypes the sex/bling/drugs/guns themes and ignores the songs covering heavier topics. HipHop generally focuses on glamor, but it makes the deeper stuff that much more of a gem when you find it.

  • Bimpeccable

    Just because a Rap artist is Main stream and not underground and unknown doesn’t mean there is no intellectual thoughts in the music. Take a rapper like Drake, metaphors are way more clever and thought inducing than anyone can come up with on this list, he paints a picture and appeals to the Masses while doing it. And also Hip-Hop is a black culture I’m not saying white people can’t do it but that is like having a woman in the NFL in my eyes. These artist are unknown for a reason. They suck. A real artist can give a message and have meaningless songs too. This list isn’t any good in my opinion.

  • skin2win

    Bullshit… learn a fcking instrument. Makes a joke out of Real music, sold to people that would swallow their own poop, if it was new and hip.

  • hehe

    i love how on both lists most of them are from rhymesayers.. i represent saint paul/minneapolis!

  • skywatcher

    Ahhh, rap. The word originally meant simply “a form of music in which the lyrics are spoken rhytnically rather than sung.” It was a small and unimportant genre, but we had a hero, a man who strode like a colossus through this small village of music : Sir Lawrence Olivier, the Godfather of Rap.

  • Yesie

    zion i

  • Soulja4daHOLY1

    No Lecrae/Trip Lee/Tedashii/PRo/Katalyst/Decipha/Dwayne Tryumf/Canon/C-Lite/KJ-52? what a SHAME………

  • Murphy

    What about the mighty Scroobius Pip?

  • Griot

    Isn’t is amazing that hip hop becomes intellectual when white people express themselves with the art form….

  • Joe

    Intellectual (snicker) hip hop. Talk about your oxymorons.

  • bigski

    hahahahaha…..waaaaaay to many white folk for “hip hop”. im like the robot….this does not compute !!

  • Bassbait

    Immortal Technique – GET HIM ON THERE!

  • Green

    It’s like “top 10 people who are not dumb”
    And from #10 to #2 are white folks, and on top of the list…tada #1 all other white folks

    All other color just can’t make it into any list about intellectual shit. We probably don’t even know what this word means

  • Waytogoat

    If u wanna go all white, at least put vanilla ice into the mix. He’s probably crying now



  • chase

    As usual, the comments are as subjective as the list.

  • Carra 23

    Intellectual Hip-Hop: A new oxymoron?

  • Motorat

    What a joke, this is all just hilarious bubblegum crap! Calling this noise brilliant intellectual Hip-Hop is like saying a Honda Civic is a world class sports car… LOL!!! Listen to some Immortal Technique you ignoramus.

  • InsaneGnome

    Atmosphere is actually the name of the group. Slug (Sean Daley) is the rapper, and Ant (Anthony Davis) is the DJ/Producer.

    Great list

  • Carra 23

    Sorry Joe: wrote mine before I read the rest;

    And to the twit *jkidd* who told us to “shut up and stop crying” (that’s called paraphrasing) – correct: we ARE all allowed our own preferences – – – – however: WE prefer MUSIC – not some talentless hack that can’t sing or play an instrument and hasn’t enough friends to form a band. Music and singing are just that – NOT mouthing pointless poetry to a beat!

    BTW – the quickest way to get people to respond – – – is to tell them to shut up: especially on listverse!

    • Most songs are poetic. Music is almost naturally poetic. In fact, I bet you could easily put any poem to instrumentals or even a simple beat and have a “song.” Also, your argument about rap simply being being poetry to a beat can easily be reversed on any other genre that uses or is closely associated with specific styles or instruments, i.e saxophones for jazz or guitars for rock. And if hip-hop is poetic, and music is poetic, why isn’t hip-hop music? Either way it goes, all three are art forms.

    • youngJohan

      WE prefer MUSIC
      Jesus christ…
      Honestly, who are you to determine what music is or not?
      Music has no boundaries, limits or rules for that matter. It’s a form of expressing yourself, just like any other art.
      Ridiculous comment.

  • keller

    while on the subject of Buck65, you shoulda popped in some more canadians, they have good stuff up there. K’naan, (Wavin flag, T.I.A, abc’s, take a minuite, soobax) K-os, Samien, Classified, Sweatshop Union, Shad, Saukrates, Samian.

  • fukkyou

    What an absurd, disgusting list.

  • Sam

    I never really hear hip hop, so I wouldn’t know if these people are famous or not, still I remember hearing mainstream artists with very deep lyrics, and music that could be actually considered music. I think reaggeton has the same stigma. Maybe not Pitbull, but once upon a time Daddy Yankee did protest songs.

    • yep

      Usually the serious songs from “reggaeton” artists are in the form of rap. i.e. Don Omar and Tego Calderon’s “Bandolero”; Wisin y Yandel con Franco Devita “Donde Esta El Amor”; Cosculluela “Dime con quien andas” ; or one of my favorite ones Mexicano 777’s “Bendicion Mami”. Many of them just do both dembow and rap, and even in some cases the occasional “bachaton”, merengue, and salsa.

  • Racist_Kuntz

    According to Listverse:

    Intelligent Hip Hop = White Hip Hop

    Cancel out common terms (Hip Hop).

    Intelligent = White

    What the fuck happened to this page, seriously?

  • yep

    num 10. I’m willing to pay more for a shirt with Murray Rothbard than a Che shirt, because I value it more. In short, prices are subjective.

  • yep

    All white list, cmon son! gtfo! I would understand if it was only recent songs, but if u are gonna do it, u need to throw some Big L or Rakim, or sht Ice Cube, who tackled many of the themes in hip hop during his five album streak in the early 90s. Or Big Pun, or sht Canibus.

    • chris s

      big l was smart, but not intellectual. “I don’t have it all upstairs but who the fuck cares”. that’s a smart line about being dumb. there’s a difference. I think all this ‘intellectual hip hop’ needs to stop. witty, smart, provocative , fine….. ‘intellectual’ ,not fine.

      • yep

        You’re right.

  • Riou

    Where’s Daylight by Aesop rock?

    decent list bot could have been better.

  • Jack

    Its not the type of hip-hop I like. Lots of whining and most of it is really self indulgent. Hip-hop should be outward looking rather than inward looking. Interesting list nonetheless.

  • Em


  • Zee Kempahh

    I noticed here that you titled this list “Intellectual Hip-Hop”, but there is not a sinlge black musician on here. HORRIBLE title, beit your implication or not.. you seem pretty “un-related” to black artists and the true pioneers of “hip-hop” or “rap” (Jeezy, TC, Drake, Chuck D ALL very ‘intellectual’) i’m very disappointed in this list, and I hope the author is very limit on his posts for this web site.

  • Rosenkrantz

    The funny thing is, apart from classical music, white people dont have any music from their history. Rock, Country, Blues, Pop, Hip Hop, all invented by black people. Read up on their histories. White people like black music without the black people in it. Shit!!!!

    • Maggot

      The funny thing is…

      What’s “funny” is, your grossly inaccurate overgeneralization. Actually, it’s not very funny. It’s kinda sad.

      white people dont have any music from their history. Rock, Country, Blues, Pop, Hip Hop, all invented by black people.

      White people this, black people that…aren’t we all just people, period? Looks like YOU are just as guilty of making a distinction between groups of people based on skin color alone, while at the same time blaming others for doing it. Hypocrite. Hell man, maybe it was some Neanderthal who “invented” music in the first place, the first time he tapped a bone against a rock to a rhythmic beat while sitting around the ol’ fire pit, and all future humans, regardless of color, have just expanded on that into the various genres we have today. Who cares who “invented” some particular genre? Yes, it’s interesting to learn about the various style origins from a history and/or cultural standpoint, but at some point, musicianship and the music itself should just be able to stand on its own merits, without having to pay attention to the “color” of the individual musician or the person who enjoys it (or not).

      • Scrappy

        You say blacks invented rock, but that’s not entirely true. Black people started the rock movement in the very beginning, with such artists as Bo Diddly and Little Richard, but white people took it up and brought it to different places, made it harder and formed new sub genres like metal, and punk. Black people started hip-hop, white people are just starting to join in that and who knows where it will be even ten years from now. “White” music and “black” music mixed together to form Ska. It’s very ignorant to think that white people only created classical music. On top of the collaborative genres I already mentioned, whites also invented country and bluegrass entirely without outside influence, as black did with jazz and hip hop. Did you forget about those!? Especially with the example of America, music is very intertwined, good musicians intertwine ideas to create something new all the time. It is both ignorant, limited, and straight up wrong in some cases to say all but classical was made by non whites. Music is a collaborative thing shared by all peoples.

  • Migz

    Where’s Immortal Technique

  • scrappy

    And by intellectual you seem to have meant… white.

  • scrappy

    Did you forget about the roots? What about mos def? What about immortal technique? You can’t cough this up to coincidence.

    • B


  • tarena

    WTF, seriously? 2pac, gang-starr, intellectual? what happened to the hiphop fans of now. pathetic examples. After seeing Grandmaster Flash live a year or 2 ago I realised how great music can be. (Before that I only went to rock/metal concerts, I still do, but I make an exception for such good shows).
    The hipster kids now really have no clue who 2pac is, they have no clue who grandmaster flash is. They think that eminem is the best and that 2pac is still alive.
    Nice list, but these comments make me fear for humanity…

  • scrappy

    Blackalicious! Bahamadia! Public Enemy! I find this even more upsetting as a white person myself, I don’t even listen to hip-hop that much and I can still name people right off the top of my head who should have been on this list.

  • B

    Why are the majority of artists on this list white?

    What about Lupe, M-1, or Nas?

    Can someone make a better list of conscious rappers? PLEASE?

  • Erin

    Sigh. This isn’t even the first “white rappers are smarter” list on here.

  • Killinger

    No Aesop Rock? Shame.

  • Hellion

    None of these videos are hip hop, they may think that they are but they are not.
    I hate to bring up race but the only white people to do real hip hop is the Beastie Boys and that’s it. Hip Hop is from the streets and not from suburbia.

    The music listed above is in the genre of “hipster pukage” which is a form of music that non-creative kids make to describe the daily life of their boring generation.

    Also, English people and foreigners should not make Hip Hop music. All you are doing is ruining the genre.

  • woodrow

    For hip-hop to be intellectual has has to be performed by white rappers?
    What a racist joke!

  • Herpaderpa

    And in the Balkans region the first place definitely goes to Mar?elo.

  • Reggie PUSH

    no this is a list of white rappers that u feel should get more EXPOSURE..and i’m sure you are related or actually are 1 of these artists..the MOST GARBAGE list and racist me makin a best country album list with all Black which can be done..

  • dg

    So… No Lupe Fiasco
    this list is bullshit

  • tboondit

    listen to dance with devil by immortal technique, thats some real shit right there.

  • KTO

    bad list if you were trying to represent or put a face on hip hop.

  • patrick

    It appears that only white acts can make intelligent hip hop? The writer of this list knows nothing about hip hop! This is mostly not hip hop, it’s more like suburban rap music.

  • G Gang Starr – Moment Of Truth

    this is good intellectual hip hop,

  • Maria
  • skywatcher

    Intellectual hip-hop appears to be an entirely different genre and deserves its own name.

    I suggest we call it I-Hop.

  • Austin

    He embedded a Cage song instead of the P.O.S. song.

  • robvader12

    thank you so much for the list…. as a 23 yr old male, i have myself earlier in life hated hip hop music…. thats because i was listening to the radio. .. then i educated myself. this list perfectly demonstrates a point i constantly try to tell people. the format of hip hop allows the mc to fit many more lyrics/ideas/thoughts into a smaller amount of time. i have many of these albums and im thinking of using this list as an extra xmas present. a new playlist for my sisters drive back to college. anyway, despite what people might say…. the list is great the format and outline are great and im thankful these artists, and i mean artist’s, are being introduced to a new audience.

  • Matt

    A list of 10 “Brilliant Examples” of intelligent Hip Hop and you leave off the father of Edutainment?

    KRS-ONE should be #1 on the list, there are so many samples to pick from at random and off the top of my head I suggest

    othing I say now is hypothetical
    These are the facts, a little metaphysical
    We are one, every heart every lung
    So why then was the black man hung?
    He was hung by the so-called Christians
    that went to church, and did not listen
    See Jesus couldn’t stand politics
    so they nailed him to a crucifix

    At any rate, if you don’t know, I say, do some investigation and you will find none better than him for this subject

    That is all

  • Joe

    Where is Jay Electronica the man is a genius.
    Scroobius pip is a good shout also

  • Joe

    The bullitts feat Jay Electronica

    RUN & HIDE

    Sentimental? rain drops The tears fall in increments Like incremental pain drops That wash away the stained spots, The Western World is just a hive of Scum and Villainy That’s why Superheroes wear disguises in trilogies. When the future is uncertain, And the wizard is just a man inside the booth behind the curtain Behaving like a serpent With a bag full of everything, Except your home, Just remember, be yourself, And accept your own, Or Run & Hide… Nuff said

  • Dead_Parade

    No mention of Aesop Rock? A big “boooooooooo!” to you Nic Swaner.

  • tealc

    i got fifty bentleys in the west indies

  • youngJohan

    I love how the image is a collection of MAINSTREAM hip hop albums…yet you didn’t even list off ONE relevant rapper …smh.

    it’s clear all u did here is select 10 underground hip hop artists and talk about them. Not saying their music isn’t any good, but your message here is very obvious: mainstream rap/hip-hop doesn’t contain any intellect .

    Well your wrong. Try looking around a bit more.. Kendrick Lamar for one.

    • Criggz

      K.Dot’s mainstream? O__o

      Since when?

  • Edu jara

    Minneapolis REPRESENT

  • yuriy

    what?? no mc hawkings??

  • dopetype

    aesop rock
    talib kweli % dj hi-tek
    mos def
    jedi mind tricks

    the list goes on…

    This should be the “Awesome White Rappers List”

  • Naussica

    Really, all white guys? I normally like the lists and have never posted but cmon. Leave maybe brother ali and replace the rest. Hip Hop is about the production too, the beat, the flow, the feeling of the song. I couldn’t make through any of these videos in full except Brother Ali and Atmosphere. Rhymesayers is not the only label.

  • Gumbi

    Well i have no idea the difference between rap and hip hop, if there is one? i see people argue both ways. but i absolutely love immortal technique to add some more diversity to this list.

  • BrackusStudley

    More like your ten favorite rappers list.I love Hip-Hop, but a similar list was made not too long ago with half the same artists, so can we stop with these kinds of lists?

    Make these lists on your Facebook or something.

  • Graeme

    This list needs more Shad.

    The dude is brilliant. All of his songs.

    • Boxing

      Shad is another great one, also 2Mex, Afu-Ra, Jeru the Damaja, Chino XL, Ras Kass, Gift of Gab, Del Tha Funcky Homesepien, Sir Menelik, Kool Keith, Blu, Cee-Lo, Scarface, Qwel, Capitol D, Senim Silla, One Be Lo, R.A., Edan, Akrobatik, Supernatural, and many many more, make a top 100 list.

  • Curious1

    Intellectual hip-hop and you don’t have KRS-One? Shame. Great list though!

  • Criggz

    Hip Hop = The culture
    Rap = The music originating from that culture.

    This post was simply about INTELLECTUAL hip hop. Period. Who cares about race? There are plenty of white, Hispanic, Asian and “Middle Eastern” rappers out there. Ya’ll never heard of these ten people? There is a reason; They’re not forced down your throat by the mainstream media. Rapping or singing about actual important or at least socially conscious topics is not “cool”. Ignorance rules all, as shown by most of these ignorant comments on this list >__>

    Fyi . . . I too haven’t heard of ANY of these emcees but I can at least sit back and appreciate what they bring to the genre. If you don’t like Rap then that’s fine; Your reasons are your own. But there is no point in bashing the genre as a whole because of what you heard on the local Rap radio station. Basically all genres of music has its less technical or intelligent sides . . . I give you Death/Black Metal as an example.

    Don’t like it, don’t listen. It’s that simple.

  • this was stupid.

    how the fuck was number 1 a song featuring tegan quin? where’s a tribe called quest?

  • Laura

    B. Dolan is also awesome btw… :p I dont know if youd count Scroobius Pip as hip hop but his poetry is amazing

  • EmbarrasedToReadThis

    “Because Hip=Hop’s better than its black roots” screams Nic Swaner from behind a white hood

  • BrothermanBill

    No Blue Scholars?

  • iwrotetoomuch

    this article is absolute shit.
    only responding because I raged. you are attempting to cash in on philip cheek’s earlier list on this site, his top 10 most intellectual rappers. that was a good list. it went into detail, it explained things, it was honest and when he wrote it he tried to avoid bias and the like explicitly.
    you on the other hand. I don’t know what’s going on with no black rappers on the list, maybe that’s incidental but it doesn’t seem like it. in all your so-called “brilliant examples of intellectual hip-hop”, not one of them is saying anything deeper than “there are walls between people” and that “society’s ideas of things are distorted”. that doesn’t actually mean anything. It’s a given that due to the diversity of human personality and culture not all people will explicitly understand each other and they will act different, and there will be misunderstanding.
    I can’t believe you actually think you’re clever when you write this stuff? it’s so cliche and generic, and you don’t seem to pick up on anything past the immediate ‘surface’ of the texts – which, yeah, they can be clever, and cleverly worded too, but in these instances there is nothing beyond that. you aren’t pointing out intellectualism, you’re just pointing out a few verses that made you think a little. that doesn’t correlate to intellect. I don’t understand why you don’t even have someone like lupe fiasco on this list then? because he works incredibly cleverly on the ‘surface’ much of the time. enough to shit all over all the examples you provide in this list. try his song ‘dumb it down’. maybe it’s because he doesn’t stand for the same feel-good ‘intelligence’ you’re looking for? where it turns out everything was just a big misunderstanding and everybody could be happy together etc (not to be too cynical) and people who notice this are somehow more clever than others? or is it because he’s mainstream? and that seems to matter to you, given how you started your article off.

    tl:dr; you need to look deeper and further before making a claim about what you think are supposedly ‘brilliant examples of intellectual hip-hop’. find a reason why they are brilliant, not just state that they are brilliant because they refer to the workings of cultures/societies, and then list a lyric that isn’t particularly great, not even compared to the rest of the song in most of these instances.
    no offence, but you seem like the kind of guy (based on your article) who would think that B.O.B. is a legitimate clever rapper who is on to something.

    tl:dr:tl:dr; do more research before making such a claim, and expand the stuff you listen to.

  • JE

    Haha ok so apparently the apex of intellectual hip hop is only occupied by a handful of white rappers with no flow talking about the struggles of suburban life, nikes, driving cross country, and all the bad stuff America has done to black people? Wow. Thanks listverse. I think Ill stick to Mos Def, Common, Talib, Lupe, and A Tribe Called Quest. This list if offensive.

  • JE

    Totally agree. This list is offensive. Not only to African-Americans but to real hip-hop heads. Everything on this is hipster wannabe garbage.

  • Cole

    P.o.s. is black

    • Joe

      Slug is Mulatto and about half of the doomtree crew is black

  • rightmeow123

    people complain way too much, if there isn’t a black rapper shouldn’t there be asian ones? hispanic ones? political correctness is what’s outrageous in this country. BESIDES the list says 10 brilliant examples, it doesn’t say 10 best of all time. people are such crybabies these days.

  • Boxing

    @ mindakrobatix

    Unlike Rap with Hip-Hop, MMA was started after Boxing, over 100 years, Rap is Hip-Hop, but Boxing is not MMA, You can call Shawty Lo’s music Hip-Hop, same with Pahroahe Monch’s music it’s Hip-Hop, but you can’t call what Ali or Chavez do, Mixed Martial Arts, because Boxing is a part of MMA, but MMA is not Boxing.


    Pahroahe Monch
    Kool G. Rap
    Mikah 9
    Percee P
    Black Thought
    Big Daddy Kane
    MF Grimm
    Sick Jacken
    Mos Def
    Talib Kwali
    Killah Priest

    and a dozen more Emcees should be in any type of lists like this one. Can’t make a top 10, make a top 100

  • chunkylegs

    so spot on… by any chance did a girl make this list?

    • Joe


  • RacistPeopleAnnoyMe

    What the fuck does the colour of their skin have to do with anything?! No, I don’t get the picture, he probably just likes those particular artists, it’s not like the majority of the list is signed to the same label. Rhymesayers has a lot of shitty artists, too, he didn’t just blindly select them because they’re signed to that label. Dessa is female.

  • greethan

    Edan. Mind-bending, picture-painting, beat-creating Edan. Look up “Beauty” and “Making Planets” on YouTube. It’s like Acid Rap. BTW the guy creates his own beats and once did a show A Capella after a power outage.

  • Marissa

    people are saying P.O.S. is a black artist, but i’m seein’ a Cage video there… cyber Freudian slip?

  • minz

    i like all these artists. Eyedea is truly one of the greatest minds to grace hiphop.

    but how can you have Grieves and leave out Kristoff Krane. Krane was taken under eyedea’s wing as it were and displays similar levels on genius and though provoking lyrics

  • Thetruth2012

    This is list is outrageous …. hip hop has always been considered intellectual..its just people consider the sub genre of HIP-POP rap on the radio for HIP HOP…just because a person is rapping doesn’t make it hip hop..besides how can this make list without the likes of MOS DEF TALIB KWELI COMMON NAS BLU & EXILE LUPE FIASCO JAY ELECTRONICA AND ELZHI smh….

  • Bloody good list… but I think the exclusion of black rappers was pretty weak. Check out Binary Star, they’ve got some of the most meaningful and intelligent lyrics out there.

  • luke

    sorry but where is 2-pac nas and immortal technique some of these guys cant even be classed as rappers

  • The Truth


  • mrdls1988

    yup what must I say about Eyedea and Slug two of the most rawest mc s of their day rip eyedea wish I could met him. Ps. Yo bro u forgot one more mc and I stand by him to as well playa his name is E40 check out his music on youtube I encourage that u add him as a bonus on this list I feel people should know him. Much love light and blessings chuuuuuch Mayne!

  • yup

    Garbage list, you missed Nas, Rakim, Andre 3000, AZ, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Wu Tang Clan, De La Soul, Brand Nubian, Dead Prez, Black Thought, ATCQ, DMX, Ice Cube, and a whole bunch of other rappers. And don’t give me that bullshit excuse that it was showing underground rappers, because most of them started as underground rappers.

  • GlycerineP

    One word. WU-TANG ………….. Wisdom of the Universe …………………………
    Yall must be limited by your selections. Stay outta the main circuitry

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