Longevity became a value in hip hop in the last decade. Rappers who were age-shaming GOATs in the 2000s are older now and can only dream of staying relevant as long as people they were making fun of.
To prove this point LEVEL compiled the list of 40 MCs who have the most impressive creative run after their 40th birthday. The rating is based exclusively on the body of work that was released after they hit 40.
Eminem was included in the Top 10 with the caveat that the albums he released in recent years are still overshadowed by his early career achievements. Editors, however, recognise his ever strong word game and name “Music To Be Murdered By” as his best post-40 project:
Projects Released After 40: Five
Best Project Released After 40: Music To Be Murdered By
Best Song Released After 40: “The Ringer”
Saying Eminem has a way with words is like complimenting Michael Phelps on his breaststroke. Puns are simply what he does, and his 10,000 hours show in the rhyme clinics he puts on with every freestyle. Sure, Marshall’s late career albums have been a mixed bag sometimes weighed down by laborious flows and copy-and-paste duets with pop stars, but Em’s shock raps still sting — which says a lot during an era that’s somehow the easiest and most difficult to get a rise out of folks. Bar for bar, there are few who can stack up.
Marshall’s long time friend and collaborator, fellow Detroit rapper Royce Da 5’9” was rated much higher, as second to only Jay-Z. He is just 43, still, the amount of experience he gained while climbing up from the underground, multiplied by the years of his sobriety and self-awareness leads him from strength to strength:
2. Royce Da 5’9”
Projects Released After 40: Three (two solo; one collaborative)
Best Project Released After 40: Book of Ryan
Best Song Released After 40: “Caterpillar”
At the turn of the century, Royce the 5’9” was a new rapper with an incredible buzz. Then his major label debut, Rock City, was saddled with delays, only to be released later to crickets. This sent him spiralling back to the underground, where he’s spent much of the past two decades dropping albums and mixtapes both as a soloist and occasional group member (Slaughterhouse, PRhyme, Bad Meets Evil), becoming a respected underdog in the process. But these past eight years of sobriety have given Royce’s pen a pronounced tune-up, allowing him to deliver his strongest, most vividly personal material to date via two solo records, Book of Ryan and The Allegory. On these albums we meet an older, wiser Royce, now manning his own production and speaking truth to power, yet liable to drop a punchline that’ll make you laugh your ass off.
You can check out the full list on the LEVEL website.