Hip hop has always had the constant debate over “who’s the best rapper”. I’ve seen some SERIOUS fights and arguments break out over this simple question. Honestly, how do you fight or argue over ones opinion? How do you rate the rapper? Thru lyrics? Record sales? Their impact on hip hop? There is no clear cut way of making the list. Today, I have declared I am no longer holding B.I.G in the “G.O.A.T” (Greatest of All Time) conversation due to his lack of catalog. Just not enough material to throw him up to the top of the list. Many rappers fade out. How would he have done in the long run? He had 3 albums, if you count his double LP as 2. And one group album. Which, is no small feat….but doesn’t do it for me in the long run. Which is tough, because a lot of the rappers I think were superior lyrically died too young. Big L, Big Pun, B.I.G…..wait, maybe it’s having the word “Big” in your name that proves fatal……..
So, although those three are DEFINITELY on the top of my “Favorites to listen to“ list, they do not get my nod for Greatest of All Time award. I feel you must embody all that is involved in Hip Hop. Lyrics, impact, wordplay, it all plays in the list. If it were just lyrics, I’d have guys like Rass Kass and Fabolous popping up….but unfortunately, many of the greatest lyricists go over many people’s heads, and cannot be considered the Greatest…….
Here are my top rappers in no particular order……….
Jay-Z He’s been doing it for 15 years. 11 Number one albums. Considered by many as the greatest since B.I.G. He has had 2 undeniable classics and many other well put together albums. Had a few hits every time he comes out. He has sold out Madison Square Garden, and has headlined the best selling hip-hop tour of all time with “Hard Knock Life Tour”. He can flow any style, has witty metaphors, and catchy lyrics. His ONLY knock against him, is he does borrow, or pay homage, to others lyrics often. But, when he doesn’t do that, his lyrics are just as, if not more quotable.
Eminem The white boy they call Marshall Mathers has been a problem since day one. When he first came out, people labeled him “The best white rapper”, now 12 years later; the “white” part has been dropped. The man is creative, his wordplay is unmatched, and his flow is recognizable as anyone else to ever touch a mic. He’s sold millions upon millions of albums. No other rapper rides a beat as well and throws in so many multiple rhyme schemes as him. Sure, he started off as something of a “shock rapper” like a Chino XL or something, but has developed into a beast. No other rapper wants to battle him in freestyle, and especially on record.
Andre 3000 The man that brought lyrical respect to the South. As one half of Outkast, 3 Stacks has always been considered the better of the duo lyrically. He has a creative mind.
Kanye West Okay, sure he’s an asshole. We all know that already. He’s a fantastic producer, but that aside…..the dude can flat out rap. Get him in the booth, and this dude tears up just about anyone in the game. He shines on every track he shares with other artists, even Jay Z himself. He made “not being a gangster” cool in an ego driven, drug and violence landscape. This guy is the reason guys like Drake, Kid Cudi, and Lupe Fiasco exist. Although, he’s also the reason that bitch ass Jim Jones put out that wack ass “Perfect Day” track that his sings on….I guess he can’t win them all……
L.L. Cool J I know that this entry just made everyone just say “What? He’s buggin’”. And I get that. BUT, c’mon, this dude has been doing it since the beginning of hip hop! He was out when Run DMC were still on top of their game. He’s destroyed careers like Kool Moe Dee and Canibus. He’s had a relevant song on the charts for 3 different decades. He can come out and rip someone on a diss track, just as well as hit off the ladies with something sweet. Sure, he’s more known as an actor now, but that doesn’t eliminate what he’s done.
Nas C’mon, Nasir Jones has blessed us with some GREAT lyrics. He has had two classics, and countless other hits. This man displays a vivid image try and storytelling ability that rivals anyone.
Busta Rhymes Ol’ Busta Buss…..what can be said of this man. He brought you the best verse in one of the greatest posse cuts “Scenario” and has flipped his style from wild to rapid flow without missing a step. He knows how to start a party. Sure, he’s not a great story teller, but he embodies what an emcee does, and that’s bringing the crowd to a point of pure ecstasy. He gets people bouncing, and brings lyrics.
Ludacris This is the real king of the South. He took what Andre 3000 did, and cemented it. Southern rappers are not to be played with. He can do any style, and rap about any topic. He is probably one of the most underrated rappers of all time. But if you take the time to really think about what he’s done, and what he’s spit, you’d respect his hustle…..
Tupac What can be said of this man that hasn’t been said already? Okay, so he’s not the most lyrical. Not by far. But his passion, his story telling, his message makes up for that. This guy could have lead a revolution off his songs alone. He brings a message every time he spits into the microphone. This man, to most, IS hip hop. And many years past his passing, he’s bringing new songs and hits. That’s shows his dedication…….
Ice Cube/ Snoop Dogg This is a complete toss up. One brought you the lyrics of NWA and Amerikkkkas most wanted. The other brought you Doggystyle……it’s tough. They had the greatest contributions to the West being relevant. And they both have had the media legacy and longevity. So, this one is a tough call. If I had a gun to my head, I would choose Ice Cube. He’s more lyrical, and can beast upon the mic. But, you can’t lose either way…….