While Kanye West himself may argue he was destined to become the greatest rapper of all time, he didn’t reach the level he’s now comfortably poised at without a precarious blend of hard work, sacrifice, and the unrelenting support of his mother. The multitalented musician, born in Atlanta on June 8, 1977, has since risen to prominence as one of hip-hop’s largest and most critically acclaimed names, coming light years away from dropping out of college to produce for Jay-Z and polish his own material after hours. His 2004 debut, The College Dropout, went on to sell over 2.6 million copies, winning Best Rap Album at the 2005 Grammys, further enabling West to soak up the spotlight he craved since a young boy growing up in Chicago. With six solo albums, his joint offering with Jay-Z called Watch The Throne, and 21 Grammys all under his belt, the legendary producer-turned-rapper has since branched out to develop his own successful fashion line, tour the world with his reputed live performances, lend his talents to countless others, and help cultivate the careers of other rising artists through his own G.O.O.D. Music imprint. Although at times his controversial and outspoken opinions overshadow his impressive accomplishments, West’s distinctive personality and impassioned drive helps add to his allure, resulting in his topping several lists celebrating him as one of the most influential creatives in the world. Musically, with each release, West experiments with a variety of styles, both in his rapping and in his production, allowing him to continue safeguarding his legacy as someone unapologetically dedicated to breaking boundaries and pushing hip-hop culture forward.

Killah Priest (born Walter Reed) is best known as being an affiliate of the Wu-Tang Clan, part of several supergroups (the HRSMN, Sunz of Man, and Black Market Militia), and for weaving themes of spirituality and politics into his lyricism. The Brooklyn born emcee first appeared on the 1994 Gravediggaz album 6 Feet Deep, rapping on the tracks, “Diary of a Madman” and “Graveyard Chamber.” Following this release, Killah Priest made two appearances on two Wu-Tang Clan members’ solo albums in 1995, Ol’ Dirty Bastard‘s Return to the 36 Chambers and GZA’s Liquid Swords, respectively.

He then released his first solo album, Heavy Mental via Geffen Records in 1998, with the label signing him by way of taking the sound advice of GZA himself. Killah Priest then went on to release his second solo effort in 2000, View from Masada, solidifying his reputation as one of the most intriguing artists originating within the extensive family of the Wu-Tang Clan. Although the album was fairly well-received by critics, it suffered commercially, resulting in Priest being dropped by Geffen and inspiring him to start his own imprint Proverbs Music. With over a dozen projects to his name, Killah Priest recently released the follow-up to 2009’s The Untold Story of Walter Reed in February 2017 with a Part 2. With over two decades in The Game, Killah Priest’s repertoire also includes several film cameos and a plethora of guest features, plus an incessant hunger to continue raising the bar as a socially conscious artist.

“Kool” Keith Thornton is a rapper from the Bronx, New York, rapping under the names Dr. Octagon, Dr. Dooom, Keith Korg, Mr. Nogatco and most notably, Kool Keith.

Keith is known for his abstract, sexual, and oftentimes shocking rhyme style, which he has referred to in the past as both “pornocore” and “horrorcore,” the latter he claims to have invented. He is both a solo artist and a member of the groups Ultramagnetic MCs, The Analog Brothers (with Ice-T, Marc Live, Black Silver and Pimp Rex), Ultra (with Tim Dog), Masters of Illusion (with Motion Man and producer Kutmasta Kurt), Thee Undatakerz, KHM/The Clayborne Family (with Marc Live and H-Bomb), and Project Polaroid (with producer TomC3).

Keith got his start as part of the Ultramagnetic MCs, a group he formed in 1984 with Ced Gee, TR Love, and Moe Love. After the release of their first album Critical Beatdown in 1988, Keith released two more albums with the group before embarking on a solo career. They’d later reunite for a fourth album in 2010.

Keith’s solo debut album, Dr. Octagonecologyst, was released in 1996 with Keith billed as Dr. Octagon. He’d go on to release over two dozen projects as both a solo artist and as part of a group, with 1999’s Black Elvis/Lost in Space standing as his most commercially successful project to date.

Born Lawrence Parker, KRS-One is a Bronx, NY native and one of hip-hop’s earliest participants and pioneers as member of the group, Boogie Down Productions (with DJ Scott La Rock and Derrick “D-Nice” Jones). The group released their debut album Criminal Minded in 1987. Soon after, La Rock was murdered and KRS-One was inspired to start the Stop the Violence Movement.

BDP continued with KRS-One and D-Nice. Parker took the reigns and developed the group’s content to become more political in nature. In 1993, Parker stepped out on his own with his solo album debut, Return of the Boom Bap. The album was well received by critics, earning him a four-mic review in The Source.

His later projects would play with genres, in the same way his collaboration with rock band R.E.M. did. In 1997, his album I Got Next featured a lead single “Step into a World (Rapture’s Delight),” which incorporated punk and new wave through an interpolation of Blondie’s “Rapture.”

Parker would later give the role of record executive a try. In 1999, he was named the Vice-President of A&R at Reprise Records. It was a short-lived period in KRS-One’s professional career. In 2001, he resigned from his position at Reprise and continued to record albums. Soon after, he recorded a gospel-rap album titled Spiritual Minded, even after making controversial statements about Christianity.

Throughout his career, KRS-One has released a total of 25 albums, including 2017’s The World is MIND.