In life, there is something called the Top 5 – Chris Rock made a movie about it. What it is, the Top 5 is your top 5 rappers. Not rap groups, not rap collaborations, although I do have favorites in those – Wu Tang and NWA and Run the Jewels respectively – but individuals doing what they do, and just doing it really really well. It’s like having five favorite directors when you’re a movie guy or having five favorite hockey players when you’re a hockey writer (Andrew Shaw, Corey Crawford, Steven Stamkos, Henrik Lundqvist, Brent Burns). So. Here’s my top 5, and when I was thinking of this, I thought, wow, I’ve really gotta listen to more rap.
So I technically have a top 8. I love DMX, Snoop Dogg, and Jay Z a ton, they’re great rappers and what they do within the art form is really unique, but I don’t love them as much as the guys in the top 5. DMX’s X Gonna Give It To Ya is one of my all time favorite songs. It’s awesome. I love everything about it, from the lyrics, to the way it makes you feel (invincible bad ass), to the dog barks. X is a terrific rapper. Snoop Dogg has that feeling off just laid back rap that nobody else has today. Dogg, or whatever else he chooses to call himself, is an amazing rapper, his style is undeniable, and the dude can rap. Whether it’s a feature or his own work, I will tune into a Snoop Dogg song. Drop It Like It’s Hot is one of the most catchy songs of all time, and if you watch it you will have every lyric in your head for a while. Jay Z is the mogul of today’s rapper. He’s todays Dre, the living legend, who built a career around his talent and got to marry (and subsequently cheat on) Beyonce. Holy Grail is an amazing song off an amazing album.
I love these rappers, and if this was a top 8 or a top 10, they’re easily in it. But this is the top 5, the big times, and they’re just not my 5 favorites.
5. The Notorious B.I.G.
Biggie was an amazing rapper, and his battles with Tupac defined the nineties and paved the road for other East Coast rappers. His music retains the classic feel that it did in the nineties, and his style of straight rap jams, with enunciated words and taking time to get through his verse, he’s still the best to ever use that style. Biggie’s Want That Old Thing Back is one of the greatest rap songs of all time, and his verses in it are some of his best. The beat works with the song, it takes its time which a lot of rap no longer does, and it just does its job and makes an impression. I love the song and I love Biggie.
4. Dr. Dre
It’s the D.R.E. dude. One of the best producers of all time, the guy who brought you Eazy-Es, Ice Cubes, D.O.C.s, and Snoop D-O-Double Gs, the group that said “motherfuck the police”, you can’t forget about Dre. With either NWA or on his own, Dre does not get the credit he deserves as a rapper, because of the credit everyone gives Eazy and Ice, but without Dre I don’t know if you have those two. The Chronic is a masterpiece, and 2001 might top it. It’s a shame that the guy has to teach you that’s he’s Still D.R.E. and that you Forgot About Him, cause I sure didn’t.
3. Chance the Rapper
A true Chicago boy, and a fellow White Sox hat rocker, Chance is what Kanye was 10 years ago – the guy who’s still trying to prove himself through amazing music, who hasn’t built enough of a discography to support an over-sized ego, who’s still nose to the grindstone and eager to prove himself. The thing is, Chance doesn’t have to prove himself, he can let his music speak for itself like Kanye used to. Chance’s style of optimistic rapping, the sort of dance rapping, the happy “yeah dude, that’s sick” that you feel after every song, it’s working, and I hope Chance keeps it up and keeps it coming. You really feel like this is All We Got and that this really is his Favorite Song.
2. Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick, aka K. is one of the best rappers alive, and everything he’s done so far in his pretty short career does nothing but support that conclusion. I don’t think there’s another rapper that could have gotten me invested in rap so much like Kendrick did, and he turned it from a genre I was “eh” on to one that I worship, and would love to try myself one day, if I wasn’t putting all my cleverness and ideas into standup and hockey writing (Bring on the, “is that why Brightside Ink isn’t clever” jokes). All of his albums, from Section.80 to Untitled Unmastered flow, work, every positive verb you can give to an album. They are all strokes of his genius, and we’re truly living in another golden age of rap because of him and the people surrounding him. I’ll come right out and say it. i love maad city.
1. Kanye West
Yes, I adore the over-sized ego. I love the man who loves himself, I find joy in the work of a man who gets up at awards shows. Because Kanye’s more than that shit. He’s a lyrical genius, a rapper who’s bring innovation and intelligence to the human voice and to rap, who layers over the human voice as well as creative beats, whose music moves you in all sorts of ways, who’s not made a bad song, let alone album. You should honestly Runaway from his talent, because Jesus Walks and cause he’s Famous. Every album Kanye does something different, and while there is Old Kanye and New Kanye, Kanye will always be Kanye, and in my eyes, that means the greatest rapper of all time.