Someone once told me this amazing quote and they attributed it to Jay Z. I don’t actually know if Jay Z said it, but it’s still an amazing quote and a great point nonetheless. It went like this, “You’re more likely to be an all-star in the NBA than you are to have five good years in the rap game.” Think about that. There’s 24 NBA all-stars every year, there’s only 20 people on this list. And honestly, there could hardly even be a 21st person on this list. That’s nuts.
Yet, that’s how the game goes. Some of that has to do with rap being such a young genre. Hip-hop is only about 40 years old, not even old enough to be your grandpa. In recent years, rappers like Jay Z, Nas, and Eminem have found ways to remain relevant and productive in the later years of their careers. Hopefully, they've laid a foundation for future rappers to follow. But beyond rap, consider that even legendary artists like Jimi Hendrix only had about four years of mainstream exposure, and the three albums he released he released that changed rock music forever—1967's Are You Experienced & Axis: Bold as Love and 1968's Electric Ladyland—came out in an 18 month span.
Still, consider that even some of the dopest rappers around could barely string five consecutive quality years together. In 1992 and 1993, Snoop Dogg was the Best Rapper Alive. He was the main voice behind Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, and his album Doggystyle is a certified classic. He killed every song he touched. But by 1996? When he dropped his second album, Doggfather, he hit one of the worst sophomore slumps rap has ever seen. Just like that, it was gone. Thankfully, Snoop later returned to prominence but that doesn’t mean he didn’t stumble along the way.
That’s why five year runs are so important. Just ask The RZA, he built the Wu-Tang empire telling the rest of the crew, "I'm taking us to No. 1. Give me five years, and I promise that I'll get us there." For many of the greatest rappers ever, the large majority of the highlights in their career can be found in that brief window. A rapper’s prime rarely lasts longer than that. So we took a look at some of the Best 5 Year Rapper Runs (and presented them chronologically) to see which rappers really held it down for five summers...