Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Top 5, Dead or Alive

About a month ago, a guy I work with, Slev, printed off a blank, March Madness style bracket that Vibe magazine had put together to determine the Best Rapper Alive.  Each artist was assigned a seed based on their merits in the rap game and my final four ended up looking like this (seeds in parentheses): (1)Jay-Z, (3) Ludacris, (4) Common (2) Nas.  This inspired me to come up with my own concrete list of the best five rappers of all time.  I'll expand it to include the departed.  

Everybody who listens to rap, even occasionally, has their own ranking, whether it's set in stone or fluctuates with each new record.  Some will base it on commercial success while others focus solely on lyrical content.  Any list of elite emcees will elicit controversy because the genre has so many talented rappers it's difficult to narrow it down to a handful.  Here's my attempt, feel free to holler with feedback or your own Furious Five.

1. Jay-Z, my Michael Jordan, my Wayne Gretzky.  The most versatile rapper ever, fast songs (Jigga What), slow songs (Song Cry), club songs (I Just Wanna Love U), hood songs (Hard Knock Life).  Every other album he puts out is a classic or close to it.  He's been mixed officially with Linkin Park and unofficially with Oasis and the Beatles.  For my money it doesn't get any better than Young Hova.
2. Eminem, he really did a lot for the rap industry, breaking down racial barriers and such.  He's got some of the biggest balls in the game as well, as noted when he completely went after hip hop's favorite magazine, The Source, putting the publication and it's owner, Benzino, on blast on numerous records.  Em brought battling to the front of the casual fan's mind when 8 Mile came out.  One of the most personal rappers of all time, he let the fan get to know a new part of himself with every verse.
3. Nas, dropped Illmatic, which some consider to be the greatest album of all time as a 21 year old and didn't come out with another record close lyrically for several years.  I mean can you really blame him with a debut that dope?  Nasty Nas has put together a recent string of hot albums together over the last few years as he becomes a tad more commercial than he was in his 20s.  Incredibly insightful
4. 2pac, so many classic cuts because he was always in the studio making songs, Brenda's Got a Baby, Live and Die in LA, Hit 'em Up, I ain't Mad at Ya, Bonnie and Clyde, California Love and on and on.  When you hear that raspy voice on a track, you know it's going to be something hard.  Often insightful, he was a flight of stairs ahead of the rest of the West Coast at all times.
5. Biggie, what a talent, he sounded to effortless, might have been the most natural rapper of all time, it was just so smooth and easy to listen to.  He didn't have the work ethic of Pac so only two albums were released before his much too early demise, but both Life After Death and Ready to Die were classics.  Think of the artists who we would probably have never heard of if not for Notorious...Puffy, Jay-Z, Mase, Fabolous, Jadakiss, Styles P...

Honorable Mention: 
LL Cool J, he's been doing it for 25 years come on!
Rev Run, a pioneer in the game who still can bump out a new killer verse now and again.
Kanye West, brought a new look to the genre that's been run by tough guys for decades
Ludacris, I've often thought he's had the best voice in rap since 2pac but early in his career his songs seemed to be too simple for me (sex and drugs).  However over the last few years, he's mixed things up and grown a lot repping ATL harder than anyone else in my book.
DMX, I had to throw Y-O's finest on here.  X had one of the most ridiculous debuts I can remember when he dropped Get at me Dog.  The way that song took over NY was like something I never saw a record do before or since.
Scarface, he's been doing it for Texas forever, great voice, easy down South flow relaxes the listener.
Snoop Dogg, has the same longevity as LL but doesn't lick lips as often as he licks blunt wraps closed.  The Doggfather is a G, he usually has too many features on his albums but you can't dispute bumps like What's my Name?, Murder Was the Case, Beautiful and Drop it Like it's Hot to name a few.


1 comment:

  1. The fact that you seriously just put Eminem at number 2 in front of Nas is an absolutle JOKE. In the words of KWharff - get real Jesse.

    The guy made 2 good albums and then 3 or 4 more terrible ones all about his future whore daughter and his bitch ex wife. If he would have died after The Marshall Mathers LP he maybe can be mentioned up here but he has been garbage since like 02.