I’ve been listening to rap music for so long; I can remember when the very “first” rap song came out. I hadn’t even reached double digits in age yet, but I played that song, “Sugar Hill Groove” by the Sugar Hill Gang, so many times that I had the lyrics down cold by oh, the twentieth consecutive time I played the record.
I can remember my mother, Delores, telling me numerous times, “I hope you know you’re homework like you know that song!”
Now, three decades later, I am telling my children the exact same thing. Ironic, huh?
If anyone is qualified to comment on the greatest rappers of all-time, I would think I’m, at the very least, in that category.
Qualified or not, I have compiled my list of greatest rappers of all-time. Once again, this is just one man’s opinion, and readers are encouraged to submit their own lists which will be published at a later date.
So, without further delay, here’s my list,
If there was a Rap Hall of Fame, this would be it.
Givin me charges, lawyers makin a grip
I told the judge I was raised wrong, and that’s why I blaze shit
Was hyper as a kid, cold as a teenager
On my mobile callin big shots on the scene major
I did an in-depth article on Tupac a couple of years ago when his book and film of the same name, “Tupac: Resurrection” were being released. After seeing firsthand many of his poems and other early literature, not to mention interviewing his mother, Afeni, I came away with a whole new appreciation of Tupac’s literary genius.
With all of the great rappers to ever exist, I had a tough call to make for the number one position, but I firmly believe that Tupac’s brilliance earns him this place.
It’s a shame that his life and continuance of his majestic artistry didn’t continue longer, but that’s a story for another day. As it stands, even with a shortened life and career, Tupac was still good enough to become the greatest rapper of all-time.
I ain’t no joke, I used to let the mic smoke
Now I slam it when I’m done and make sure it’s broke
When I’m gone, I won’t be long, ’cause I won’t let
Nobody press up and mess up the scene I set
Rakim is my favorite hip-hop artist of all-time. If I could have, I would have put him in the top spot, but my conscious wouldn’t let me vault him over Tupac. However, I must say, Rakim is a baaaaad boy. When it comes to straight-up lyrics, Rakim is absolutely incredible. What’s more, if you play one of Rakim’s greatest hits, it’s like the song was recorded just yesterday, but then again, good music made in any era is good music period – and Rakim’s creative lyrics and unparalleled smoothness have withstood the test of time.
With your hat to the back, talkin bout the gats in your raps
But I can’t feel that hardcore appeal
There has never been, nor will there ever be, another rapper like Biggie. First off, the man’s voice was tailor-made for Hip-Hop. His style was also, unlike any other rapper before him. From the smooth delivery to the hot lyrics, Biggie was one of a kind. I know a lot of people think he’s the greatest rapper of all-time and I must say I can see their point.
Sex murder and mayhem romance for the street
Only wife of mines is a life of crime
And since, life’s a bitch in mini-skirts and big chests
How can I not flirt with death
What can I say about Jay-Z? The man has had more hits than Pete Rose. Jay-Z’s nearly unparalleled vision and diversity have allowed him to make several mega-hits that were at totally opposite ends of the spectrum – attracting a wide array of fans internationally. Jay-Z may not be one of my favorite rappers, but I have to say, the man makes great music
Well I’m all in – put it up on the board
Another rapper shot down from the mouth that roared
1-2-3 down for the count
The result of my lyrics – oh yes, no doubt
The lead man of the influential rap group, “Public Enemy” was a powerful lyricist whose tales were so poignant, that it affected an entire nation before we even knew it. I loved Chuck’s reality-laced lyrics, not to mention his distinctive voice. If you don’t think Chuck D. is top ten all-time, then you don’t know rap music.
Criminal minded, you’ve been blinded
Lookin’ for a style like mine you can’t find it
KRS was another lyrical genius, who like Chuck D. saw more important issues to rap about than guns, girls and weed. KRS raised the consciousness of a generation of youths – including myself.
Heaven and hell, rap legend, presence is felt,
And of course N-A-S are the letters that spell
Nas is actually my second favorite rapper of all-time. Having said that, I also think Nas is one of the greatest – if not the greatest – lyricists of all. Countless times I have listened to his lyrics and wondered, ‘How did he come up with that line?’ Nas has also displayed a wide array of diversity and recorded the most positive rap song (“I know I can”) since “Self Destruction” was recorded by several stars in 1989.
Ridin’ down the street, smokin’ indo, sippin’ on gin and juice
Laid back – with my mind on my money and my money on my mind
Ever since Snoop hit the scene over a decade ago, I have been a hugs fan. Snoop’s unprecedented smooth style grabbed the nation’s attention back then and he has yet to let go of our imaginations. The man is so original that he came up with his own language – which, coincidentally, was adopted nationwide. Who else can make a claim like that?
L.L. Cool J
L.L. Cool J. is hard as hell
Battle anybody I don’t care who you tell
I excel, they all fail
I’m gonna crack shells, Double-L must rock the bells
Incredibly, when I began putting this column together, I had to give L.L. some serious consideration for the top spot. No rapper has had the longevity and staying power that “Mr. Smith” has displayed for over two decades. I know he’s not what I would call a master of lyrics and he’s more recognized for his film work these days, but L.L. is a definite all-timer.
raah, raah Like a dungeon dragon
Still king of the flow, while my mink be draggin’
I had the treat of seeing Busta up close and personal three consecutive years during visits to Philadelphia. Each time, Busta appeared with several “big name” artists and each time, Busta outperformed them all.
I’ve always liked Busta’s music, but seeing his professionalism firsthand in concert gave me a new appreciation for the former “Leader Of The New School” member.
These rappers received some serious consideration for the all-time list and I actually had a hard time leaving several off.
DMX is one of my favorite rappers of all-time. The man’s voice is so distinctive and his hardcore street flow and “own language” make DMX a near, all-timer. With a few more hits, who knows.
Eminem is also one of my favorite rappers and a guy I think is extremely intelligent. His creative lyrics and almost unparalleled story-telling are putting Eminem on the fast track to all-time great status.
Doug E. Fresh
Would this list be complete without Doug E. Fresh? I think not. Not only was Doug and incredible rapper, but his “Human Beatbox” was off the hook, as the young people say. Doug E. is one of the true pioneers of rap music.
Big Daddy Kane
Big Daddy is another pioneer who was the smooth ladies man back in the day. His rhymes were always tight though, which make him one of the best ever.
Along with Eminem, I think Slick Rick is the greatest story-teller of all rappers. Rick could be funny, engaging and serious all in the same song.