Make no mistakes; Hip Hop is still very much alive and just as significant as ever. In 2023, several rap artists have dominated not just their peers but also those beyond the Hip Hop genre. Their influence and reach are broad and undeniable. From newbies like Ice Spice to icons like Nicki Minaj, the best rappers in 2023 didn’t disappoint. They have saturated the mainstream with their songs and exerted their dominance in the music scene throughout the year.
Rap had a relatively slow start in 2023. Until very recently, no rap song had topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart since Nicki Minaj’s “Super Freaky Girl” debuted atop the chart in August 2022. An entire year passed before Doja Cat broke the cycle with the release of her hit song, “Paint the Town Red.” Nevertheless, it’s been a good year for the genre, and artists have consistently released great tracks throughout. A good song doesn’t have to be a chart-topper after all, and sleeper hits are also making the rounds.
Lil Durk has steadily risen since he released his debut album in 2015. Since then, he has released seven additional solo albums, and his discography has grown exponentially. His last five solo albums have peaked within the Top 5 of the Billboard 200 chart. Additionally, several of his singles have enjoyed some success on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. His most successful single to date, however, is the J. Cole collab, “All My Life.” It was released in May 2023 and has taken over the airwaves since. “All My Life” was the lead single from Durk’s eighth solo studio album, Almost Healed. It peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100 chart and is certified Platinum by the RIAA. The song is undoubtedly one of the soundtracks of the year and has solidified Lil Durk as one of the best rappers in 2023.
Nicki Minaj is already widely a legendary rapper, with nothing left to prove. However, the icon refuses to take the back seat. She continues to remain relevant almost two decades into her career. With the announcement of the highly anticipated Pink Friday 2, she is set to dominate the music scene once again. Her supremacy in 2023 can be traced back to her 2022 release, “Super Freaky Girl.” The track's impact lasted well into 2023, but she went further to support it with a few new releases.
Most notable are her two collaborations with her protégé, Ice Spice. The “Princess Diana” remix was a hit upon its release. “Barbie World,” however, was the icing on the cake. Being attached to the billion-dollar blockbuster movie Barbie, the song was already destined for greatness. It exceeded expectations, though, and charted well in several countries across the globe.
This has been a remarkable year for Ice Spice, and definitely one the young rapper will not forget in a hurry. Besides the aforementioned collaborations with Nicki Minaj, 2023 saw the release of Ice Spice’s debut EP, Like…? Additionally, her guest appearance on Pink Pantheress’ “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2” proved a huge success. It earned Ice Spice her first Top 10 appearance, peaking at No. 3 on the Hot 100 chart. She followed this with a feature on Taylor Swift’s “Karma Remix,” which peaked at No. 2. Ice Spice has also gone viral multiple times throughout 2023. Her impressive track record this year has cemented her as one of the best hitmaking rappers in 2023. Ice Spice is arguably 2023’s biggest breakout star.
Travis Scott’s last solo album before 2023 was the critically acclaimed Astroworld, released in 2018. In the five years since that body of work, fans hoped and prayed for a new album. Travis finally answered their prayers and dropped Utopia, his highly anticipated fourth album, in July. Utopia had been teased by Scott since 2020, so it was fulfilling to finally have the star-studded project.
Upon its release, the album debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart. Furthermore, all 19 of its songs appeared on the Hot 100 chart. In the short time since, it has raked in impressive streaming numbers. The album is already one of the most-streamed of 2023. Scott has dominated the charts and the music scene in such a short time. The album's impact continues to grow, solidifying Scott’s place as one of the best rappers in 2023.
Since 2018, Gunna has been a notable figure in Hip Hop. In 2023, he added an impressive album to his already impressive discography. A Gift & a Curse was released on June 16, 2023, and peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart. It spawned two singles, “Bread & Butter” and “FukUMean.” The latter went on to become a viral social media hit. “FukUMean” received generally positive reviews from critics and was also a commercial success. The song peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100 chart and is one of the biggest rap tracks of 2023.
In 2023, the discourse around Doja Cat has been very divisive. One thing remains unchanged, however, and that is that she is a massive star. Her talent is undeniable and has come well into fruition over the last few years. The rapper’s name has actively been present in the media for positive and negative reasons. She was again canceled on Twitter following some controversial statements about her fans. Upon the release of “Paint the Town Red,” however, they couldn’t help but salute her creative genius. The song is her biggest hit of 2023 so far. It was also a viral hit and rose to the very top of the Hot 100 chart. Further, it became the first rap single to top the chart in 2023. Doja’s fourth studio album, Scarlet, was released in September 2023 and is evidently making waves.
Drake needs no introduction. In 2023, the rapper effortlessly continued his impressive dominating streak. He is arguably the biggest Hip Hop star in the world right now and has been for a while. As such, he does not need to do much to greatly impact the music industry. In 2023, he appeared as a featured artist on a handful of tracks. The rapper has also released two songs as a lead artist: “Search & Rescue” and “Slime You Out” ft. SZA. The latter was released on September 15, 2023, and peaked at No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart. It is the second single from Drake’s eighth studio album, For All the Dogs. Following its release, Drake will complete his arc as one of the best rappers in 2023.