Complex posted an article breaking down the best rapper of each year since 1979. It was a very interesting and no pun intended, complex piece. The reason I’m mentioning this is because we all have our favorite emcees and guys that resonate with us personally. When we talk about the GOAT, the arguments are slightly different. So yes there will be advocates for Ghostface, Big L, Big Pun, MF Doom, Joey Badass or whoever you believe is at the top of the game. But, “The GOAT discussion is reserved for the chosen few; no rookies or new jacks qualify. It’s strictly for the catalog artists, people who have shifted the culture in previously unmovable ways, artists whose music has permeated and resonated over an extended period of time.”
I feel like they handled a lot of my rebuttal to the hip-hop heads that put Redman and Black Thought above Biggie and Jay. This post isn’t really about the most lyrical lyricist because we would have to try to include everyone from Kool G. Rap to Lupe Fiasco.
With that said, do you include the guys with the strong track records and years in the game? Where do we place T.I., Kanye West, Rick Ross, 50 Cent, Cam’ron, Young Jeezy, Scarface, Jadakiss, DMX and Lil Wayne? Is my generation holding on to the 90s legends?
The new hall of fame class will include Drake, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, Big Sean and Kendrick Lamar. But at what point can any of these men wear the imaginary crown?
Well we have to be honest and consistent when it comes to criteria. Album sales matter, public opinions are a factor, classics under the belt count for something, but most of all when an artist is running the game there is a feeling that we all have. We anticipate their release and when it happens, it is the most talked about project. It comes up in barbershops and ball courts. The question isn’t, “Have you heard Get Rich or Die Trying?”
The question becomes: “Do you think College Dropout is a classic?”
There are certain LPs that you can’t shun or disrespect. You can try and break down Illmatic if you want to. You can argue that there were only 9 songs and two were released early. You can make the case that some of the lyrics in 3 songs are interchangeable. But there is a feeling that you can’t deny when you listen to the album. Maybe it speaks to the youthful rap fan that witnessed a transition from rigid categories like gangsta rap, conscious rap or party rap to introspective street rhymes that were not only narratives, but they were placed in front of a variety of noteworthy producers. Nas was a pioneer in his own right. Just like Scarface was for his sound in Houston. These guys had their moments in time where they commanded the national spotlight. 50 Cent made a valiant case for being top canine but although cases can be made for the guys I listed lets simply cross them off the list.
I wrote this post almost a decade ago. It’s interesting to read where my head was back then. Recently a bunch of people have been celebrating the life of Christopher Wallace and every time his birthday or death anniversary rolls around I see the posts and specials and I think about his impact. Just seeing footage of the people outside his funeral stirs my soul.
At the age of 25 this man was a legend. With two albums under his belt, The Notorious B.I.G became an icon. But was he really the best that ever did it? Was my post premature, slightly inaccurate, or maybe just incomplete?
Has enough time passed that we can further analyze the factors that I presented and find fault in them? Or was Biggie simply just a product of his time running out before he could actually fall? I reread everything I wrote and after careful analysis I can safely say that I have evolved as a listener. The ears that didn’t mind “nigga” and “bitch” and admired the tricky use of wordplay to describe murder threats and sex acts are a bit older and more aware.
With that said I had to really take a look at my current playlists and see how many of my favorite rappers are in my rotation. And then that thought got quickly tossed out as I realized that I probably don’t even have my five top rated emcees in my phone. Although I did win some One Musicfest tickets last year by having Nas’ “Life’s a Bitch” in my phone when I was out at an after work function (I deleted all of the Nas catalogue out of my phone since then). Don’t feel bad Mr. Jones, Hov got erased as well… especially that Magna Carta thing. Some new Kanye exists, along with a couple of Marshall Mathers’ songs and even Tupac’s “So Many Tears” gets some spins. So what does that say about who I believe is the greatest of all time? I still believe Biggie provided the greatest influence on this generation of rap artists. I still count all of the factors I mentioned as reasons that he ruled way beyond his passing. But I have to admit that at some point there will be a new crown holder. While Jay-Z ran the table for years, his last few efforts including the throne watching collaboration could have truly placed him in an untouchable position if those projects were outstanding.
So allow me to repost this, feel free to skim through it and in a few days I will revisit this idea and take a look at a few other candidates. Read the rest of this entry »