The 50 Most Essential Spanish-Language Rappers of Yesterday and Today

The most essential Spanish-language rappers, the G.O.A.T.s, and the most riveting Masters of Ceremonies, of yesterday and today: It’s a heavy crown that only a few dozen are worthy of upholding, and of passing on its majestic power. As a salute to hip-hop’s golden year, with the genre officially turning 50 on Friday (August 11), the Billboard Latin and Billboard Español teams are uniting to compile a list of the most extraordinary, compelling and commanding Spanish-language hip-hop acts of our generation and beyond. 

As any self-respecting rap pundit knows, hip-hop was born in New York, 1973. But unbeknownst to many is that the Latin immigrant population dwelling in the Bronx played a fundamental part in the genre’s growth. Nuyoricans took the style back to the island, where in the 1990s, it got the tropical treatment in the hands of genre pioneers Vico C, known as the Father of Latin Hip-Hop, streetwise poet Tego Calderón, and her royal reggaetón majesty, Ivy Queen — and later Residente, who revolutionized the style via sardonic wordplay and fearless social commentary.

Through cassettes and bootlegs, the Spanish-language art form traveled far and wide, planting seeds of rap throughout the Hispanophone world. Trailblazers began adopting the lyrical style in Spain during the ‘90s, thanks to the likes of Nach, SFDK, El Chojin and more.

By the turn of the new millennium, the blockbuster Eminem-starring film 8 Mile inspired a movement among the youth in pursuit of winning rap battles, as they flexed their freestyling abilities. Mexican tianguis eventually became a hotbed for battle rap, where batalla heavyweight champ Aczino helped elevate the art form to the next level.

Enter Red Bull’s Batalla de los Gallos — formed in 2005 — which, throughout the years, helped boost the booming scene across Ibero America, snowballing by the years and making stars out of urban kids with lyrical dexterity. There’s also Buenos Aires’ battle rap competition El Quinto Escalón, which began in 2012, where the likes of Paulo Londra, Duki and Wos rose from the Argentine capital’s underground scene to international notoriety, via viral YouTube videos.

Today, Spanish-language rappers continue to play a formidable role in the movement’s evolution and expansion.

In a similar approach to Billboard/Vibe’s 50 Greatest Rappers of All Time list, the Billboard Latin and Billboard Español teams took into account the following criteria in the selection process and ranking: body of work/achievements (charted releases, gold/platinum certifications), cultural impact/influence (how the artist’s work fostered the genre’s evolution), longevity (years at the mic), lyrics (storytelling skills) and flow (vocal prowess.)

Note: We opted not to include the significant contributions of pop-reggaetón acts on this list, or of rappers like Bad Bunny and Anuel AA, who have focused more on reggaetón and the reggaetón lifestyle. This is not a reflection of their rhyming capabilities or commercial success, but rather our attempt at keeping the focus of the list on artists whose output have been more rap-centered. We also aimed to spotlight the most representative rappers of Spanish-speaking countries with foundations in hip-hop, for the sake of diversity.

So without further ado, here are the 50 best Spanish-language rappers — including both solo artists and groups — and let the battles begin!