Originally posted by NemeBro
Me personally no, popularity means almost nothing. If I cared about popularity a relative unknown (though he's been getting more buzz recently) like Joyner Lucas wouldn't come anywhere near my list.
Big Pun also likely wouldn't make my list, because for some reason people seem to have forgotten he is an A-tier rapper, one of the all time greats up there with Pac and Biggie, since his death.
Anyway, it's based purely on how well they appeal to me. As for what appeals to me personally, I'm something of a backpacking fuccboi who really likes technical rappers, technical skill being length and density of rhymes, voice, flow, etc. Speed also plays a factor, though a rapper can be fast without being technical. Tech N9ne is the best example of this IMO, with highly advanced rhyme schemes, appealing and varied cadences, and probably the best and most versatile flow of any rapper I've ever heard. Eminem and Big Pun are also highly technical rappers, and the others on my list aren't too far from them. Here's a song from Big Pun (featuring Fat Joe) called Twinz that exemplifies some of what I'm talking about :
In particular, the couplet at the end of Big Pun's first verse is amazing.
"Dead in the middle of Little Italy little did we know
that we riddled some middleman who didn't do diddily"
This is a hot as **** couplet in terms of the rhyming, and his almost breathless flow and delivery really appeal to me.
I do value lyricism though, which is to say, emotional depth and ability to paint a vivid picture and say something with meaning. Every rapper on my list can do this, but it's largely the reason Joyner Lucas is on the list.
These are two of the most heartbreaking and intense songs I've ever heard, though they aren't particularly technical compared to Twinz for example. Which isn't to say that Joyner can't be technical either. His slaughtering of Future's Mask Off shows this:
Lucas' flow, rhyme schemes, and delivery are on point in this song, and he spits one of the fastest verses of his career during it.
Content does play a role, yeah. Part of why Tech N9ne is my favorite rapper is his darker (relative to most mainstream rap anyway) content. I'm also something of a horrorcore fan, but far too much horrorcore focuses on style over substance, which is to say they get the feel and look right, but they don't have the technical or lyrical chops to support it most of the time. Rappers that can, such as Tech N9ne (who admittedly isn't super horrorcore, especially these days), Eminem, Bone Thug, or Brotha Lynch Hung (who didn't make my list but I am a fan), as such appeal to me greatly.
You also forget an important aspect of hip hop: beats! Boring, annoying bad, or unfitting beats can ruin songs. It's not the most important thing to me, but it does matter.