It’s hard to be king, but in a sport as competitive as rap, everyone seems to want to be the crown holder. Especially in the birthplace of hip-hop, New York City.

Over the years, many rappers have tabbed themselves the emperor of the Empire State. Most notably The Notorious B.I.G. gave himself the moniker of Frank White around the mid-1990s, a nod to Christopher Walken’s drug kingpin character in the 1990 film, King of New York. Biggie was later officially regaled as the ruler of the Rotten Apple on the July 1995 issue of The Source and posed with a crown on the now-famous 1997 cover of Rap Pages.

Since Biggie’s majestic decree and untimely death, MCs have been clamoring for the title, including some of the biggest artists in the game at the height of their powers. Jay-Z is seen by many as the man who succeeded Big Poppa, but there are dozens of artists who have begged to differ on wax and in person. On a few occasions, including Kendrick Lamar’s infamous “Control” verse in 2013, the person grandstanding as the grand ruler is not even from NYC, or the East Coast for that matter. Even women like Cardi B have openly called for the crown.

The debate will range on until the end of time, but there is no shortage of rappers willing to put themselves atop the pedestal, whether they are just popping off, trying to speak it into existence or really have a solid case.

XXL compiles a list of rappers who have staked claim to the crown of NYC on wax or in interviews. Watch the throne.

  • The Notorious B.I.G.

    “The What” (1994)

    “The thrill is gone, the Black Frank White/Is here to excite/And throw dick to dykes”

  • Jay-Z

    “The City Is Mine” (1997)

    “I'm the focal point like Biggie in his prime/On the low though - shhhhh, the city is mine”

  • Big Pun

    “Dream Shatterer” (1998)

    “The king of New York, lays his crown in the Boogie Down/And sprays the town with the MAC—hoodie down”

  • Fredro Starr

    "Thug Warz" (2001)

    “The head nigga in charge, king of New York/Greatest of all time, you wanna talk streets, lets talk”

  • Fat Joe

    "Intro" (2005)

    “Coulda blazed y'all but gave y'all a slight condition/Never to defy my wishes/I'm the king of NY, all these other niggas liars and bitches”

  • MF Grimm

    “King of New York” (2005)

    “I’m the King of New York/I rule with an iron fist/Gold around my neck and on my fingers and wrist”

  • Prodigy

    “Put 'Em in Their Place” (2006)

    “Kings of New York, I'm one of the few of those/Difficulties to come, it's gon' be funerals”

  • Jadakiss

    “G’s Up Freestyle” (2006)

    “You could see the pictures I paint son/If I ain’t the King of New York then there ain’t one”

  • 50 Cent

    “P.I.M.P. Pt.2” (2007)

    “You could never go broke when your G tight like me/You wanna ride with the King of New York maybe”

  • Uncle Murda

    “Can’t Tell Me Nothing (Remix)” (2008)

    “Uncle Murda coming for the mutherfucking throne/Listen, you could call me the king of New York/You can’t front, I’m doing my thing”

  • Shyne

    “King of NYS” (2012)

    “Blow his brains on the sidewalk, just so I remind him/I run New York, even from an island/Flex got the bomb and New York is mine, lil busters, fall back”

  • Smoke DZA

    “BCE Freestyle” (2012)

    “Kushgod, one and only King of New York just call me K.O.N.Y./Laying the smack down on you jabronies”

  • R.A. The Rugged Man

    “Definition of a Rap Flow” (2013)

    “I love myself, I'm so vain/I'm not just the king of New York, I'm the king of the whole game”

  • Kendrick Lamar

    “Control” (2013)

    “I'm important like the Pope, I'm a Muslim on pork/I'm Makaveli's offspring, I'm the king of New York/King of the Coast; one hand, I juggle 'em both”

  • Nicki Minaj

    Interview on The Breakfast Club (2013)

    “I’m the queen of New York, I’m the king of New York. Let me tell you why. Platinum albums, plural. Number one in five motherfucking countries. Don’t play with me. You better respect my motherfucking gangster, bitch."

  • Papoose

    “Rap God (Freestyle)” (2013)

    “But for me to run up with them shooters would be a bad scene/I'm from the back blocks where they clap rockets/I'm the king of New York/And that pap blockin”

  • 6ix9ine

    Instagram (2018)

    6ix9ine: "If I wasn't the King of New York, y'all wouldn't pay me no mind. If I wasn't the King of New York, y'all would be like 'Just let that fucking clown talk, that nigga's irrelevant.'"

  • Cardi B

    “Who Want Smoke?” (2018)

    “The fur on my shoulder mink, tell me what Hov would think?/I get the money, I am the king of New York/And I rock a sew-in weave”

  • Rich The Kid

    Instagram (2019)

    Rich The Kid: "I am the hottest rapper out of New York. Name a ny rapper who get more a show than me? Name a new york artist got more Platinums ♂️."

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