By: Harrison Giza
Giving compliments to a person is a wonderful thing, but the second titles like “best ever” and the “greatest of all time” drop into the mix you begin to get death stares.
This is a common story in popular culture with feuds ranging from theater, television and of course film. However, I tend to find that music is the biggest opinion pile of the four. In fact, there is one type of music that breathes in feuds and ear beef like no other.
Any hip-hop head you meet has opinions, some their own and some borrowed through generations of backseat banger-bumping. As a lover of rap, I know what I like in my hip-hop.
Here is a short list of what I look for:
- Lyrics out the wazoo – having the ability to talk about anything at anytime and still having the power to connect to me. Eminem is a prime example for youthful rebellion towards my parents (Without Me) as well as symbolically organizing rage, hatred, and humor into the characters he spits out (Stan, Evil Twin, and Fack). Not to mention he can rhyme literally anything.
- A certain type of organic sound – by organic I mean that the music behind the words matches the lyrics over the music. Peanut Butter Wolf and A Tribe Called Quest have never failed me in this department because both artists have a breed of intelligence and rhyme to sample and blare their ideas over anything. An example of an artist failing to meet my high maintenance taste would be Jay – Z’s “Magna Carta Holy Grail.” To hear the Jigga man, a dude who has given hip-hop such classic albums as “The Black Album” and “The Blueprint,” rap over trap beats and talk about “psycho bitches” in his lobby while married to Beyonce? It didn’t twerk for me.
- Originality – this is the key to every great rapper. You can use stolen flows, homage to classic lines, and copy your favorite cat as long as you turn your thievery into personal possession. I have heard many rappers talk about “hoes” with examples from MF DOOM (“I got this girl and she wants me to duke her, I told her I’d come scoop her around 8, she said “Super!”), Ludacris (“I’ve got hoes in different area codes”), and my main man Snoop (“So what you wanna do? Sheeet! I got a pocket full of rubbers and my homeboys do too”). Each rapper’s way of presenting the “bitches and hoes” brand rap carries so close to it’s heart are all different compositions of talk.
Many rappers have been labeled “the greatest,” but who truly is the MC Ali? We live in an age of hip-hop where Lil Wayne can just syrupy-slur “IMTHEBESTRAPPERALIVE” four times in a row and and people eat it up as gospel.
No mainstream artists sample Miles Davis anymore. Even Nas thinks hip-hop is dead.
My thoughts? There are bad, good, and ugly rappers with good, great, and sinisterly dynamic talent. Some have given loads of new sounds and stories while others have popped in enough molly, purple diesel and hyper-violent sex to make Rick James seem tame.
Since I cannot declare my favorite rapper (I have too much BASED LIL B love to hate), here are five masters of ceremony that I think are worth a few titles of greatness.
1.) MF DOOM – though he may label himself a super villain, DOOM truly is a hero of hip-hop. He embodies creativity while spitting Dylan-rhyme fire. He samples and swings like a king in the trees. He rhymes and rhymes but never gets boring because of how unique his voice and sound are. Each time I listen to “Madvillain,” I am reading a comic book with my ears.
2.) Eminem – slim, shady, and undeniably one of the more impressive and popular rappers, Marshall Mathers is a god. He references better than Wikipedia does and rhymes like mother goose raised him. My parents labeled him a talentless, foolish, and ignorantly violent pig because that’s what the media doodled for them. To me, he is not only one of the last pure forms of hip-hoppers but a guy who has inspired more artists than he has school shootings. Yes, violence is an answer in Em’s world but that’s only because it’s Eminem’s world. He does whatever he wants – from a crazed fifth of opera to songs about gerbils being dropped in one’s anus. He’s a Beastie Boy on steroids and a cartoon trickster at the same time (often in the same line).
3.) Del the Funky Homosapien – with a flow as recognizable as a can of Coke, Del has been admired by The Gorillaz, Wu-Tang Clan, and Tony Hawk himself. One of my favorite songs of all time, “Things You Can Do,” comes from Del’s “Deltron 3030,” an album all rap fans should listen to for four weeks straight. He just goes in and inhales his words like Wiz Khalifa goes through joints, breaking out more badness than Walter and Jesse ever could. Yet, he is humble and lives the life of a man rather than rock star.
4.) Biggie Smalls – considered one of the greatest because he is one of the greatest, The Notorious B.I.G. will forever stay that way. I can remember being ten years old and trying to hold the obese suaveness of “Big Poppa” in my kitchen eating cookies. No one sounds like Biggie because of his untraceable snake charmer-flow and low growl of a voice. He was a cooler than cool Coogi sweater-wearing king that deserves New York’s golden crown. While the gangsta sound has become cliche and as dead as Christopher Wallace is, Biggie groomed it into cinematic narrative.
He’s Hip-Hop’s Hendrix.
5.) Kanye West – whether he’s got a Benz or a backpack, a crown or a skirt, Kanye is bound to make most hip-hop head’s lists for his sheer passion for crossing streams of popular culture. He has made dance tracks, Skinhead screamers, and sped up Harold Melvin samples while walking with Jesus Christ. My ears changed the second I heard the acoustic guitar-infested “All Falls Down” and I owe a lot of my pop culture-obsessed brain to Mr. West. With albums like The College Dropout, Late Registration, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye has given classic after classic.
He’s worked with both Nas and Jay. What else is there to say?