So once again I’m revisiting my opinionated post identifying Biggie as the greatest. My affinity for hip-hop has actually fallen off slightly so this may be a more objective analysis of these artists. I’m playing more and more D’Angelo and Sia these days and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I wanted to take a closer look at the arguments I would make for some of the guys that may challenge Biggie for the crown. Since so many of us have our “top fives,” there will never be a clear victor. But I will say that there are popular and unanimous vote-getters in the GOAT department.
Let’s start with Jay-Z.
Shawn Carter is the most iconic hip-hop artist of our time in terms of truly coming from the bottom and evolving into a wealthy entrepreneur right in front of our eyes. He is the quintessential American Dream for rap artists. While rappers like LL Cool, Ice Cube and Queen Latifah have enjoyed much success transitioning to Hollywood, Jay was always in the “best to do it” convos and he is still a relevant artist and businessman…or business, man.
Why Jay-Z is the greatest:
He did it on his own. When the labels fronted on him, he invested in himself (well maybe Kareem Burke helped) and created his own company which allowed him to spit rhymes about being able to match a triple platinum artist buck by buck with only a single going gold. He picked up where Biggie left off and infused the street life, drug talk with radio friendly hits and eventually began to sell records. Hov then became the number one trendsetter and wherever his sound went, the industry followed. Whether it was Swizz’s sample-free keys, Timbaland’s futuristic synths or the soulful backdrops provided by Kanye, Bink and Just Blaze, he led the followers year after year.
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Dear Lil Wayne’s Jeggings,
I watched you perform on stage a few weeks ago at the Video Music Awards and I wanted to reach out right away, but I knew my email would get lost in the barrage of letters you were going to receive directly after the show since you got a Twitter page so fast.
You don’t know me and I have no place bothering you on this Monday but I’ve been following your owner/partner/pal for a minute now.
Let me back up a bit. I’ve flip-flopped back and forth for years about your guy. At times, I’ve heard people call him the heir to the throne, the best rapper alive, and the leader of the hottest crew out.
Then I’ve also been around when the word came back to me that he was graded on a curve because he got a whole lot better after a shaky start, that he could never be the king of hip-hop because his subject matter isn’t diverse enough and some folks just said that when it comes to Carters, Dwayne will always be number 2.
How do I feel? I’ve been listening since “Bling Bling,” my ears perked up on Biggie’s Born Again and when Wayne decided that rap was a serious tool on the first Carter LP I was there telling dudes, “you know who can spit?”
But so what? There’s no award for thinking someone had potential, he gradually took over where Busta Rhymes and Ludacris left off and featured on everything moving. Then Weezy decided that he was going to spank anyone that got next to him on a track and made Swizz’s “It’s Me Bitchez” and DJ Khaled’s “We Takin’ Over” his coming out party for anyone that didn’t know Tha Carter II was about him trying to prove he was the Best Rapper Alive.
Then the mixtapes began to make noise, talks of Young Money got louder, New York began to embrace him and all of a sudden, “A Milli” became the foreshadowing record that would catapult Lil Wayne into a superstar that was also an emcee.
It’s not an easy task to be on top of the game while critics praise your pen. Jay-Z sat comfortably on top for years selling records and winning arguments about who was the best to do it. Sure Big and Pac will always have a mention, Nas may get shouted out, 50 definitely had a moment and Eminem will forever be regarded as one of the greatest to ever do it.
But your dude is from the slums of New Orleans, he has fashion dreads, gold teeth, tattoos everywhere, we knew him since he was a baggy T-shirt-wearing adolescent, he was accused of stealing Gillie the Kid’s style and flows and he kissed the Birdman in the beak.
The odds seemed to be stacked against him, but for some reason he prevailed. He signed Jae Millz and we were perplexed a little, signing Nicki Minaj seemed like it could work out, but putting her and Drake out and making them exist on their own was bold and it worked. He put two stars under his umbrella and didn’t let the Kanye-directed (sabotage attempt) “Best I Ever Had” video hurt Drizzy.
He made sure Nicki deflected the Kim comparisons and jabs and remain who she is and voila. Young Money is an army, better yet a navy. So there were some holes in the ship when he showed up to an award show singing about how he wanted to have sex with every girl in the world while his daughter pranced around the stage.
It didn’t matter much that he didn’t really rap on “Lollipop,” became so obsessed with autotunes that he created a T-Wayne moniker, and tried his hands at a rock album. Tha Carter III did a million in a week and not many rappers can say that for themselves. Not many can say they saw it coming either.
And with all that said, there I was telling people again that Wayne was a real contender for the crown. I got Watch The Throne and told folks that it was solid but I expected more.
The jail time and the sobriety were supposed to slow him down but it didn’t. “How To Love” is a good record, “How To Hate” is even better.
Wayne jabbed Jay-Z in a polite way and even let people know it was coming. “She Will” is one of my favorite songs of the year. So why am I writing this letter? I saw the VMAs and every argument I had that hinted to the fact that his latest LP was better than those that came out weeks before, got destroyed after he hit the stage and brought you out.
The autotuned mic was bearable, the off beat live rendition of “John” without Rick Ross and the shirt coming off revealing his boxers was bothersome. But when I saw you with your leopard print all tight and shiny, it just deflated my fanship. It’s not your fault, some stylist grabbed you off a women’s clothing rack and you got a free trip to an award show. I would have gone too.
Every time I see your boy on a major stage shirtless with sagging tight pants jumping around displaying his gold Baby-slobbing teeth, I cringe.
When he goes on sports shows and I have to see that earring in his face and excessive facial tattoos I don’t know why it bugs me that he sounds twisted and he speaks slow in order to sound knowledgeable and it almost works. I want him to win deep down inside. But I can’t help what I feel about looking at him as opposed to hearing his music.
It makes me sad to be a rap artist; I’m almost bothered to belong to the same race. And this isn’t hate…this isn’t even on purpose. It’s like thinking of your mother having sex with your boy. I make that face you just made when I see him take the stage sometimes.
Wait you don’t have a mother, or a face, but you know what I mean Mr. Jeggings. You’re a combination of two things, (jeans and leggings) and I don’t think you should have to be subjected to being with a man, but what can you do? I just wanted to let you know that you helped me decide that Lil Wayne is not my favorite rapper, nor is he the King of the game.
His sales are impressive, his music is strong, his punchlines hit every six out of ten times, it’s cool how he personifies life, death, has sex with the world repeatedly and I love his passion. But like Kreayshawn’s popularity, I just don’t get it sometimes. I don’t know what’s hot and I don’t pretend to anymore.
Jeggings may infiltrate my generation, men may begin to sag their suit pants in corporate offices, but for me I’m bowing out here. So again, Mr. Jeggings, thank you for showing up on my TV screen in non-HD on that Sunday evening, I was starting to lose my way but now I hath found it.