So after looking at the best albums, It is only right to just give a little attention to the top artists of the time period. Not much to say other than the sum total of their work over the period is taken into consideration along with their actual skill and influence over the hip-hop community.
lol it's a no brainer, since 1995/96 Jay has been constant on the scene and while we can debate the actual quality of his albums as they come out, you cannot deny that he is the most consistent out of all of the other rappers when it comes down to the high quality of his discs. This is why he is on his own scale of success. Not to mention his business accomplishments, launching roc-a-wear, a record label that saw it's heyday in the first half of the decade, to his newest label/distribution ventures. Without a doubt, Jay is the biggest artist hip-hop has ever seen.
2. Kanye West
From his albums to his outbursts no one personality is more polarizing or well-known that Kanye. He has the ability to crossover, and the broad appeal that takes him out of the range of hip-hop. From his fashion to his sound, Kanye has grown to a superstar icon from relative obscurity growing up in Chicago. The guy no one wnated to hear rap has every opportunity at his disposal.
3. 50 Cent
As little as 2 yars ago, Fif was the biggest thing in hip-hop with the ability to carry corporations on his back. Look at his deals with Reebok, his movies and acting, book publishing company, and his shrewd investment in Vitamin Water. He might be the one guy whose business acumen you cannot deny. Then there are the 'negatives', he destroyed Murder Inc.,Fat Joe, almost killed The Game's career, and had a hand in banishing Cam'ron to Florida. More recently, even while 'taking the L' 50's name and fame is what led to Rick Ross' rise to fame. When artists are struggling to hit 100k, 50 does 150 in a week and it is considered a flop. That tells you about expectations.
The king of the South doesn't have the lyrical ability of Jay or Kanye but he is probably on par with 50. After almost flaming out listening to LA Reid, Clifford Harris took his career into his own hands, established Grand Hustle, and brought 'Tip' to the masses. Several arrests and jail stints have not derailed his popularity nor did a verbal ass whooping at the hand of Ludacris which all show his styaing power. T.I. introduced us to the other side of Atlanta rap that isn't Outkast related and ushered in the era of Trap Music.
5. Lil Wayne
The fifth spot needs to go to Lil Wayne just because of the way he has come on to close out the decade. While I prefer the pre-Carter Wayne, the masses cannot be ignored to a certain extent. His sales success in the age of internet and bootlegging cannot be denied. Neither can his work ethic, taking the efforts of 50 Cent and The Dipset to the next level, Wayne put the flame to his career by dropping songs by the dozen after the defection of Mannie Fresh. That along with the break-up of the Hot Boys and the sudden demise of No-Limit had everyone thinking that Cash Money was on the brink of failure. Wayne proved them wrong and is the biggest thing next to Jay-z for the second half of the decade.