Rakim was only 18 when he began his rap career, making his achievements even more astounding. He chose to focus on the lyrical quality of his songs, which made his art timeless. His music has influenced rappers for over two decades. His influence on other artists makes Rakim the greatest rapper of all time, because without him the styles of J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z, and NAS would be completely different. Rakim also has an incredible talent for crafting metaphors and flow. The way he delivers his lyrics is natural and at times he is able to rhyme words in the middle and at the end of lines. For these reasons, he is the greatest rapper of all time.
While Rakim is one of the most influential rap artists of all time, this does not make him the best artist of all time. Rather, by providing future rappers with a template to follow, Rakim ensured that the rap genre would evolve and that other rappers could use this template to become better than Rakim himself.