Determining who is the best rapper in Africa is no easy task. With hip hop and rap music exploding in popularity across the continent in recent decades, there are now hundreds of talented MCs vying for the top spot. From major rap hubs like South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya to emerging scenes in places like Angola, Tanzania, and Rwanda, elite lyricists are popping up all over Africa and making their voices heard.
But a few big names stand out from the pack and demand consideration when crowning Africa’s best rapper. Candidates like Nigeria’s M.I Abaga, South Africa’s Cassper Nyovest, Kenya’s Octopizzo, Ghana’s Sarkodie, and Tanzania’s Professor Jay have each built up impressive bodies of work and massive fanbases. They’ve led hip hop movements in their home countries and laid down verses that showcase supreme mic skills.
Deciding between these rappers requires weighing factors like lyricism, hit songs, artistic vision, influence, commercial success, and more. There’s no simple metric that settles the “best rapper” debate outright. But a closer look at what each of these icons has accomplished can give a good sense of who deserves the title of Africa’s greatest rapper.
One of the frontrunners in the debate is Nigerian star M.I Abaga. Hailing from the African music hotspot of Lagos, M.I exploded onto the afrobeats scene in the mid-2000s with a fresh blend of hip hop and African rhythms. His technical prowess immediately set him apart from counterparts.Songs like “Safe”, “One Naira”, and “Action Film” dazzled with next-level flows, witty wordplay, and razor-sharp delivery.
M.I’s surprise 2008 debut album Talk About It announced him as one of Nigeria’s elite MCs. Singles like “Teaser” and “Short Black Boy” proved massively popular both at home and abroad. He followed up strong with a second album, M.I.2: The Movie. The record spawned bangers like “Number One”, “Undisputed Champion”, and the anthemic “Action Film”, which remains one of his most streamed tracks.
In addition to his own work, M.I has spearheaded hip hop movements across Nigeria and West Africa. He helped form the pioneering afrobeats group The Chocolate City, which groomed many of the region’s premier artists. Through his music and activism, M.I did much to elevate Nigerian hip hop and bring African themes to the global rap scene.
With 5 albums, multiple awards, and over a decade of influencing Nigerian rap, M.I Abaga has a strong claim as one of Africa’s best rappers ever. His technical mastery on the mic and pivotal role in Nigerian hip hop culture put him firmly in the “best rapper” discussion.
Another leading contender for the title is South African sensation Cassper Nyovest. He’s been one of the country’s most popular rappers over the past decade thanks to his catchy beats, hometown pride, and high energy performances.
Cassper arrived in the early 2010s just as a new wave of South African hip hop was emerging. His debut album Tsholofelo (2014) showcased talents for crafting radio-friendly hits and arena-rocking anthems. Songs like “Gusheshe”, “Doc Shebeleza”, and “Malome” earned constant play with local crowds. What Cassper lacked in advanced lyricism he made up for with big hooks, glossy production, regional flair, and an accessible style.
His crossover smash “Tito Mboweni” took South African hip hop fully mainstream. The celebratory track praised local styles and heroes amid a highly danceable beat. It became a slogan for national pride across South Africa. Cassper consolidated that success with his platinum-selling sophomore album Refiloe. Standouts like “Mama I Made It (#MIMI)” and “Gusheshe 2.0” grew his superstar status.
Cassper Nyovest then took things to the next level in 2018 by filling the 75,000-capacity FNB Stadium for his Mandela 100 concert. No solo South African artist had ever undertaken such a massive headline show. And Cassper managed to sell out that entire stadium – a major milestone for any African musician.
With a decade of hits, packed arenas, and advancing hip hop in South Africa, Cassper Nyovest has staked a real claim as one of Africa’s premier rappers and entertainers over the past decade. His music resonates nationwide and he’s inspired a generation of SA hip hop artists. Cassper’s massive success and popularity make him a top runner for the “best rapper” title.
While Nigeria and South Africa are more established hip hop scenes, Kenya deserves consideration for housing one of Africa’s most skilled MCs: Octopizzo. The Nairobi-born rapper has helmed Kenya’s growing hip hop movement over the past decade with a flurry of hit songs and platinum records.
Octopizzo broke out with his 2010 mixtape Young, Gifted and Black, Vol 1. It showcased a rapid-fire flow and thought-provoking lyrics addressing politics and life in Kenya. Songs like “Number One” and “Taswira” proved major club hits across East Africa. His resonance with local youth led to the homemade mixtape selling over 30,000 copies.
Not content to be just a mixtape phenom, Octopizzo pressed for mainstream exposure with his official solo debut, Chocolate City. Standout tracks like “Chaguo La Moyo”, “Lazima”, and “Nairoberry” incorporated contemporary hip hop styles into Swahili-language raps, building Octopizzo into a household name.
His stardom grew further with 2017’s Next Year. By now, Octopizzo had refined his raps into a versatile sound fusing trap, R&B, and pop melodies into his buzzing lyrical flows. Hit singles like “Junction” and “Bless My Room” again topped Kenyan charts while advancing the possibilities of Swahili rap.
Octopizzo’s output and business ventures have made him one of the foremost names in Kenyan music. He’s toured major stages across Africa and Europe, launched youth initiatives, and opened the arts center/brand Octopizzo Music. After a decade influencing hip hop and youth culture in Kenya, Octopizzo must be considered one of Africa’s premier rap talents. His technical rapping and pioneering Swahili trap music make him a top candidate for the continent’s “best rapper” crown.
When discussing Africa’s best rappers, Ghanaian icon Sarkodie can’t be left out. He’s been among the most celebrated and consistent hip hop artists across Africa over the past decade. Since his 2009 debut, Sarkodie has dropped hit after hit and raised the profile of Ghana’s local hip hop scene.
Sarkodie’s early mixtapes and singles like “Baby” and “Borga Borga” already showcased elite rap talents. His official debut album Makye established him as Ghana’s premier MC with its combination of Afrobeats, hiplife, and hard-hitting rap numbers. Songs like “Push”, “Good Bye”, and “Lay Away” became Ghanaian radio staples.
His sophomore album, Rapperholic, proved even bigger. Sarkodie linked with hip hop stars from Fuse ODG to El to create a more polished Afrobeats-infused rap sound. Hit singles like “U Go Kill Me”, “Oluwa Is Involved”, and “Onyame Nhyira” cemented him as a household name across West Africa.
Sarkodie then embarked on an unparalleled run of studio albums that saw him constantly evolving his sound and advancing African hip hop. From Mary (2015) to Highest (2017) to Black Love (2019), he balanced his rap skills with pop crossover, personal storytelling, and regional styles. Volume 1 of his Alpha album series included the massive single “Coachella” featuring Kwesi Arthur. Its blend of Afropop melodies and rapid-fire raps exemplified Sarkodie’s innovative sound.
With a decade-plus of hits, accolades, and huge concerts across Africa, Sarkodie stands as Ghana’s undisputed rap king. His commercial success and lasting influence on West African hip hop put him firmly in contention as one of the continent’s best rappers ever.
Tanzania’s hip hop scene has its own star rapper who must be considered: Professor Jay. He pioneered pop-infused hip hop during the 2000s and became a national icon throughout East Africa. Thanks to his trendsetting sound and success, Professor Jay played a major role in establishing Tanzania as a regional hip hop powerhouse.
Professor Jay first gained fame with his 2003 debut album Kamata Sukuma. Early tracks like “Kamata 1 & 2” and “Shule” introduced Tanzania to a flashy rapper zig-zagging between English and Swahili lyrics. It was an early East African example of pop-rap fusing American styles with local African influences.
His sophomore record Fanyabasi took things further into party anthems and love songs with mass pop appeal. The title track “Fanyabasi” and “Natacha” became runaway radio smashes across Tanzania. Throughout the 2000s, hits like “Asante Mama”, “Saluti”, and “Nimetoka Mbali” dominated East Africa airwaves and proved Professor Jay’s versatility across different rap styles.
By his fifth album, 2009’s Banjuka, Professor Jay had cultivated a fanbase of millions as Tanzania’s premier hitmaker. Tracks like “Shikamoo” and “Nichukue Paja” again highlighted his penchant for catchy pop melodies and radio-friendly soundscapes. Professor Jay’s albums became sure-shot hits while building his wealth and stardom.
After over 15 years as Tanzania’s leading rapper, Professor Jay has the legacy and numbers to contend for Africa’s best. His pop-inflected style modernized East African rap and helped transport Tanzanian urban culture across the continent. For introducing and popularizing hip hop in Swahili, he remains a hugely influential figure for any young African rapper.
The debate over Africa’s best rapper comes down to key players like M.I, Cassper Nyovest, Octopizzo, Sarkodie, and Professor Jay. Each brings elite skills on the mic, years of hits, massive fanbases, and an individual sound representing their city or country. While personal preference goes a long way in the “best rapper” discussion, looking closer at their bigger picture impact provides some angles for crowning Africa’s GOAT.
In that sense, Nigeria’s M.I Abaga stands out with perhaps the strongest resume. His technical lyricism and stylistic versatility have been polished over a decade-plus career. Songs like “One Naira”, “Action Film”, and “Number One” set standards with their complex flows. And M.I’s role leading the pioneering Chocolate City collective helped bring African rap to global audiences. For both his mic skills and pivotal leadership, M.I has a strong case as Africa’s best rapper.
Yet every contender here has ably led hip hop movements in their home country. Nyovest elevated South African house music, Octopizzo pioneered Swahili trap, Sarkodie modernized Ghanaian hiplife, and Professor Jay brought pop-rap to Tanzania. Their lasting influences on regional rap movements must be considered as well. There’s no definitive answer, but the debate over Africa’s premier rapper comes down to a handful of revolutionary MCs.
Top 5 Rappers in Africa