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Now that almost every MC is altering their voice using the latest studio equipment, The Urban Daily is paying tribute to 10 MCs whose real voices are as critical to their success as their lyrics. Admittedly, when we first did this list back in 2008 there was one glaring omission–The Notorious B.I.G. This wasn’t because we didn’t like his voice, but I think we were trying to overcompensate for the “East Coast” bias that we’ve been accused of having from time to time. But the beauty of the Internet is that you get to do things over, make adjustments. If The Source can go back and give people Mics we sure can go back and add one of the greatest MCs of all time to a list.

So who did I bump off to make room for Biggie? Nobody.  As a voice I still think Scarface’s is one of the most unique and powerful I’ve ever heard from an MC, but I placed Biggie neck and neck with Chuck D. Read on to see why.

(Props to Big Jo at Beatlcub for sparking this topic!)

1) Scarface

There are deep voices and then there are deep voices. No disrespect to Jay Hova but if God was an MC he’d sound like Brad Jordan. His unmistakable timbre has a mix of southern gangster but holds the weight of a preacher.

2)Chuck D/ Notorious B.I.G (tie)

If Barack Obama were to lose his voice tomorrow, I’d call Chuck D to overdub all of his speeches. The authoritative bass in his vocals is both unmistakable and undeniable. The late Christopher B.I.G Wallace had the uncanny ability to adjust his voice to suit the track (think “Party And Bullshit to “Kick In The Door” to  “One More Chance (remix)” ) and over a decade after his death is the most recycled, sampled and reused voice in hip-hop–much like Chuck D’s.


From the canine growls of “What’s My Name” to the calm of “How’s It Goin’ Down” Earl Simmons knows better than most the power of his own voice. Unfortunately, these days he is doing more talking before a judge than before an audience.

4) Busta Rhymes

As I’ve stated before The Dungeon Dragon has a voice that spits flames (“Woo Ha”) or simply smolders (“Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See”) depending on what the beat tells him to do. But you really don’t appreciate a voice like Mr. Smith’s until you hear it live.

5) Ludacris

Chris Lova Lova’s days on the radio have made him one of the most listenable MCs in the game. Vocally, he rivals Will Smith for clarity, cross-over appeal and replay value, but brings a swagger that is uniquley his own.

6) Mystikal

A Cajun cousin to Busta’s growl, Mystikal brought a weezy twist to the scream scene. On cuts like “Danger” Mystikal takes a more musical, singy approach giving him a Scatman Crothers in a strip club feel.

7) Rev. RUN

From “Rock Box” to “Run’s House” to “Jockin’ Jay-Z” no voice has proved as enduring as Rev. Run’s.

8 ) Ice Cube

Forget bean pies and St. Ides, props to anybody that can sling “Are We There Yet?” and Death Certificate and be completely believable without altering his voice one bit.

9) Rakim / Big Daddy Kane (tie)

One of the most sampled voices in the game, Rakim seduced listeners with an easy-going delivery that set you up for some of the most potent couplets ever put to paper. Kane was the pimptastic alter ego that could talk the stripes off a zebra.

10) Lauryn Hill

Gender be damned, she raps better than most rappers and sings better than most singers, but doing both so well is simply divine. Her voice is distilled with so much pain and passion that you just want to pour it in a highball glass and zone out.

Honorable Mentions:

Chubb Rock

MC Lyte

Slick Rick

Kool Moe Dee


Rah Digga

Lord Have Mercy

Treach of Naughty By Nature

Melle Mel

Rock from Heltah Skeltah


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