There are a lot of good Jamaican rappers, both in Jamrock and in the States. While some lay their bars on traditional hip hop beats, others use rap style delivery on ragga and reggae beats.
Here is a list of the best Jamaican rappers from around the world, and across different genres.
The undisputed godfather of reggae and rap, Bob Marley, is a genius whose musical stylings included ska, rap, and rock for a unique beat. He’s also a significant figure in Jamaican culture, given his role as an activist and reformer.
Classic Marley songs include “Buffalo Soldier,” “Is This Love,” and “Three Little Birds.” If you don’t have Bob Marley on your playlist, get him on there ASAP. The music is chill, political, and poppy, with a great beat and singable lyrics.
Famed Jamaican-American rapper Shaggy is best known for his hit singles “Boombastic” and “It Wasn’t Me,” although this prolific rapper has an extensive discography. He’s won several Grammy Awards and collaborated with international superstars like Sting.
Shaggy’s unique voice, a fusion of reggae and rap, and hilarious song material make him a star to keep watching.
Another incredible artist whose life was cut short prematurely was The Notorious B.I.G., or Biggie Smalls. A legend at the end of the last century, B.I.G. fell victim to the West/East Coast rap fight.
Biggie was a first-generation American who brought Jamaican flavor to his songs. Much of his work had a soulful fusion of mellow hip-hop and R&B with rap, making his music unique. Notorious B.I.G.’s catalog is all exceptional, but one of his best jams has got to be the endlessly catchy “Big Poppa.”
Born with the tongue-twisting long name, “Sean Paul Ryan Francis Henriques,” this rapper lit up dancefloors in his native Jamaica and made big moves in the United States too. His unique voice, catchy lyrics, and club beat set him apart and earned him Grammys.
Sean Paul famously collaborated with big-time heavy hitters like Beyonce. His range, ability to weave rap into singable, danceable club songs, and the sheer volume of his portfolio make Sean Paul one of the world’s top Jamaican rappers.
Trevor George Smith Jr. allegedly gained his nickname Busta Rhymes from rap god Chuck D; the name stuck, and he continued a career as one of today’s top Jamaican rap stars.
Like many leading artists on our list, Busta Rhymes won several Grammy awards and is one of the top rappers of the 90s, thanks to his extensive catalog and fantastic sound. Busta Rhymes is a rap legend and creative in his music videos, with “M.O.P. Czar” being a top hit.
Ski Mask the Slump God
Although you might not have heard of Ski Mask the Slump God, he’s certainly one to put on your playlist. Born as Stokeley Clevon Goulbourne, Ski Mask the Slump God is of Jamaican origin with a solo catalog and collaborative work with XXXTentacion.
Some of his top music includes tracks like “Catch Me Outside” and “BabyWipe.” His lyrics are catchy and irreverent, with a fun, poppy rap style that you’ll easily find yourself singing along with; don’t be surprised if Ski Mash the Slump God becomes one of your immediate favorites.
Son of Jamaican musical royalty Bob Marley, Damian Marley fuses a combination of rap and dancehall reggae into a style that pays homage to his father but is firmly his own. Bob Marley is one of Damian Marley’s two famous parents, the other being Cindy Breakspeare, a beauty queen and renowned jazz singer.
With this heritage, it’s no surprise that Damian Marley has serious musical chops. You can hear Damian Marley’s solo stuff or enjoy his work with rap legends like Nas.
Shabba Ranks, also known as Rexton Rawlston Fernando Gordon, took Jamaican dancehalls by storm in the 1980s and 1990s. He’s one of the oldest rappers on our best Jamaican rappers list.
Shabba Ranks achieved popularity and fame in his home country of Jamaica and the United States. Some of his Grammy award-winning albums include his intro album Just Reality as well as X-tra Naked and As Raw as Ever, with the catchy song, “Mr. Loverman.”
Kisean Paul Anderson, better known as Sean Kingson, is a mellow Jamaican-American rapper with catchy club songs and collaborations, a signature style, and nearly universal appeal. You’ve heard Sean Kingston on tracks like “Fire Burning” and “Beautiful Girls,” and he’s worked with industry greats like Justin Beiber.
Whether showing off his solo skills or killing it on classic tracks and remixes with pop and rap greats, Sean Kingston delivers soulful tunes and rap favorites to his worldwide audience.
Jamaican-born Dwight Arrington Myers, better known as Heavy D, rose to fame in the late 1980s. One of the most famous rappers on our list, Heavy D’s rap catalog only matches his production chops and acting career.
His career and legacy ended abruptly when he suddenly collapsed and passed away in 2011 from a pulmonary embolism. His music, however, remains some of the most influential early rap.
Initially the frontman for Heavy D & The Boyz, Heavy D dominated Jamaican dancehall culture before making it big internationally. Heavy D’s legacy is well-known and respected, and many modern rappers and musicians claim that he significantly influenced their careers.
Germaine Williams, better known as Canibus, made a big splash during the 1990s and rose to fame with his 1998 debut album Can-I-Bus. Born in Jamaica and later moving to New York, Canibus became famous for freestyling and his musical understanding.
Once Canibus got started, there was no slowing him down. He went on to release a vast catalog of music, including 13 solo albums and dozens of collaborations.
Canibus has worked with famous other rappers like Cloak N Dagga and Sharpshooterz and is widely regarded as one of the best M.C.s of all time. Plus, his lyrics are next-level good, touching on the mundane and emotional.
Joey Badass is a Jamacian-American rapper whose portfolio stretches beyond music to acting and singing. Although he’s from New York City, Joey Badass’s heritage is Jamaican, and you can hear that influence in many of his songs.
His album Summer Knights shows a tremendous amount of range and is one of his most noteworthy compilations if you’re looking to get a taste of his particular talent. All-Amerikkkan Badass is another excellent album, touching on political and social issues. Although lesser known than others on our list, we’re sure we’ll see much more of Joey Badass.
Born Mark Anthony Myrie, Buju Banton is a reggae/rap fusion musician who rose to fame in the dance halls of Jamaica. His sound is catchy and clever and combines several different elements of rap and reggae. It also influenced American rap greats of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Buju Banton hit the scene internationally around the same time with a whimsically-named album called Stamina Daddy. Mr. Mention is another favorite album, and although it’s not very well-known internationally, it’s one of the top albums ever sold in Jamaica.
Born Moses Anthony Davis but better known by his stage name, Beanie Man, he rose to fame around the same time as Buji Banton. A local legend in his native Kingston, Beanie Man began his career as a Jamaican dancehall deejay.
Beginning his musical career early, Beanie Man learned how to make it big in the music business from his musically-inclined family. As a result, his music was predominantly popular in Jamaica, with songs like “Too Fancy” hitting the charts in the early 1980s.
Although Beenie Man didn’t reach international fame, he’s still a great artist to include in your Jamaican rap discography.
Lesser-known but incredible XXXtentacion only had a promising career that was cut short when he was murdered in his early 20s.
XXXTentacion, originally named Jahseh Onfroy, was a Jamaican-American Floridian who fused American rap with more traditional Jamaican beats for a classic, calm, and unique style. You can hear his song’s here.
Jamaican men aren’t the only people to hit it big in the rap world. Patra was one of the top dancehall voices in Jamaica, gaining recognition as deejay “Lady Patra.” She was well-known in Jamaica for several years before earning international fame.
In 1994, she collaborated with Shabba Ranks on his song “Family Affair” before releasing her own album, Queen of the Pack. “Think About It” became one of the album’s singles, dominating the rap charts in the early 1990s.
Will.i.am, born William James Adams Jr, is a rapper, singer, actor, writer, producer, and one of the founding members of hip hop group The Black Eyed Peas, who rose to fame in the early 2000s.
Not only is will.i.am featured on Black Eyed Peas tracks, but he also produces some of their music and is one of the group’s founding members. While you may have some Black Eyed Peas songs on your current playlist, will.i.am’s solo work is equally impressive.
Among his solo albums, Lost Change and Must B 21 capture the rap sound of the early 2000s, while the album #Willpower has a slightly different, more evolved sound. In addition to his work, will.i.am has collaborated with David Guetta, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and Miley Cyrus, among others.
Top Jamaican Rappers, Final Thoughts
With unique musical styles and original beats, Jamaica has produced some of the most talented and innovative rappers on the planet. So put these top American-Jamaican rappers on your playlist, and you’ll find yourself singing their catchy tunes all day long.
You won’t be disappointed and might walk away with a greater appreciation and understanding of this music genre and how today’s rappers and mumble rappers found their inspiration.