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Top 10 Rappers Who Died Too Soon

VO: Matt Campbell
Script written by Shane Fraser Though they may have died, their music is immortal. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Rappers Who Died Too Soon. For this list, we'll be looking at rappers who, despite passing early in life, left a lasting impression on the industry. Special thanks to our users MikiTheSlayer and John MasterFall for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Shane Fraser

Top 10 Rappers Who Died Too Soon

Though they may have died, their music is immortal. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 rappers who died too soon.

For this list, we’ll be looking at rappers who, despite passing early in life, left a lasting impression on the industry. Keep in mind, this is a list of rappers, so those who were primarily DJs or producers are not included.

#10: Guru

For those who appreciate hip hop as an artform, Guru is their Picasso. Along with DJ Premier, Guru founded “Gang Starr,” one of the most revered rap groups in history. His brilliant lyrics and stylish delivery complemented Premier’s unique jazz samples and distinctive mixing. This combination made “Gang Starr” a truly original force in hip hop. Guru also had a successful solo career, and his singular sound permeated the underground scene for many years. In 2010, Guru lost his battle with cancer, cutting his life unreasonably short at the age of 48.

#9: Adam Yauch (MCA)

He’s not the most recognizable person on this list, but his music certainly is. Adam Yauch was one-third of the Beastie Boys, a group whose popularity in the '80s was staggering. With Yauch at the helm, the Beastie Boys reinvigorated hip hop with their humorous, punk-inspired riffs and high-energy delivery, not to mention breaking down barriers for white artists in the rap industry. After 30 years in the business, 50 million records sold, and a rock and roll hall of fame induction, MCA succumbed to cancer at the age of 47.

#8: Proof

Few did more to elevate Detroit’s status as a rap powerhouse than Proof did. Born in the Motor City in the early '70s, Proof grew up with Eminem and the two honed their abilities in the underground scene. He helped develop the rap battle circuit, which showcased local talent and was immortalized in the Eminem biopic “8 Mile”. He also founded D12 with Eminem, and the group attracted mainstream notice that would launch both their careers. With slick flow and authentic lyrics, Proof’s talent was undeniable, but his career was cut short at 32 when he was shot and killed during a bar fight.

#7: Ol’ Dirty Bastard

Never has rap had such a controversial figure. ODB battled through legal problems, drug problems, and domestic problems, and spent his life in and out of institutions, yet none of these blemishes overshadowed his musical output. With Wu-Tang Clan and as a solo artist, ODB produced a number of monstrous hits, and their success had much to do with his extremely offbeat style and unflinching lyrics. He was the magic ingredient added to a generic soup. This magic could only last so long, however, as his demons came to collect when he died of an overdose at age 35.

#6: Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes

Lisa Lopes was a founding member of the widely-popular girl group TLC. As a rapper by nature, Lopes infused TLC with hip hop elements, cultivating a uniquely diverse sound that crossed over genres. Her fierce mic technique and dynamic verses could be heard in many of their songs, and helped to earn TLC four Grammys and make it the best-selling female group in U.S. history. Although her life was often a troubled one, it was a simple car accident that claimed Lopes' life at 30. After swerving to avoid another vehicle Lopes lost control of her car and died shortly after from the resulting trauma.

#5: Big Pun

The name perfectly describes the artist. A man bigger than most with a penchant for clever wordplay, Big Pun took the rap industry by storm in the mid-90s. With verses that knew no lyrical bounds, he released two chart-topping albums, one of which went platinum and earned Pun the distinction as the first Latino solo artist to do so. At 698 pounds Pun's weight ultimately led to his death by heart attack at just 28 years of age. Despite his early death, Big Pun is still considered by many to be one of the greatest MCs of all-time.

#4: Eazy-E

Thanks to “Straight Outta Compton”, Eazy-E’s story is well known. From small-time gangster to rap superstar to the fixture of a cause of death conspiracy theory, his life—and afterlife—is indeed colorful. He founded N.W.A. and pioneered gangsta rap, helped launch the careers of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and a multitude of others, and had the coolest, most captivating delivery a rapper has ever owned. His life ended at 30 due to complications from AIDS, leaving behind an untouchable legacy, a wife, and seven children.

#3: Big L

After making his bones in the underground scene, Big L was signed by Columbia and released his first album in 1995. It showcased an incredible talent; a lyrical prodigy who could weave rhymes, metaphors, and allusions with the best of them. He was in the process of signing with Jay Z’s Roc-A-Fella label when he was killed in a drive-by shooting at age 24. An album and a few singles were released posthumously, so at least we caught a glimpse of what could have been, but his inimitable sound was never exposed to the mainstream audience.

#2: 2Pac

A poet from the streets, 2Pac explored the issues of impoverished and oppressed individuals, and treated them with a maturity and acuteness that could not be ignored by society. Being an artistic, literary man who explored philosophical themes, he legitimized rap as an important medium, and caused many intellectuals to rethink their position on its merits. He also delved into subject matter that was stigmatized in the black community, and became the voice for those too afraid to speak out. A fearless artist who died from his refusal to bow down, Tupac was just 25 when he was killed in a drive by shooting.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

- Nate Dogg

- Mac Dre

- Pimp C

- Heavy D

- Phife Dawg

#1: The Notorious B.I.G.

There was no bigger presence in rap history. Biggie Smalls smashed through the industry and sat alone upon the ruins, and there was nobody who dared to—or could have—stopped him. He possessed a distinctive, commanding voice and a flow so smooth that it produced auditory goosebumps. He released only one album in his lifetime—which has gone quadruple platinum—and that was enough to earn his place amongst the greatest rappers of all-time. But just like 2Pac, Biggie was shot dead - though he was even younger at 24 years of age.

Do you agree with our list? Which rapper death hit you the hardest? For more rhythmic Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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