Jay-Z vs. Biggie
Going on a year ago, the hip-hop department slash mail room over at MTV put together a list of the 10 Greatest MCs of All Time. As I noted at the time on my own site, it wasn’t that bad of a list (especially by MTV standards) except that the order was all fucked up.
I didn’t object as much to the idea of putting 2Pac on a list of the greatest MCs of all time, but to have him at number two, second only to Jay-Z and ahead of the likes of Rakim and KRS-One was downright laughable as far as I’m concerned.
More bothersome to me was the fact that they had Jay-Z ranked ahead of the Notorious B.I.G. I mean, no one really thinks ‘Pac was a better rapper than anyone else on the list, but I can appreciate his status as an icon. But ranking Jay ahead of Biggie might lead some of the more impressionable among us to believe he’s a better MC than Biggie, which I obviously don’t believe is true, though I wonder what the rest of you ‘bags think.
I bring all this up because I recently came across yet another prominent list that ranks Jay-Z ahead of Biggie in the pantheon of the Greatest MCs Evar. Well, sort of.
Rolling Stone magazine recently put together a list of the top 25 artists from New York evar. It’s not a specifically hip-hop list, but it does include rappers. And since so many great MCs hail from NY anyway (7/10 on the MTV list – or 8/10 if you count ‘Pac as being from NY), it functions not unlike a non-region specific list would, with maybe one or two exceptions.
The top 10 New York rappers evar, according Rolling Stone magazine:
2) Notorious B.I.G.
3) Beastie Boys
4) Public Enemy
6) Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five
7) Wu Tang Clan
8) Eric B & Rakim
9) A Tribe Called Quest
As you can see, Jay-Z – who came in fourth on the overall list, behind legendary NY rockers Velvet Underground, The Ramones, and Sonic Youth – was once again ranked ahead of Biggie, who was right behind Jay at fifth on the overall list. Other high-ranking rappers included the likes of the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, and Nas, who were at seventh, tenth, and eleventh respectively.
Last year, I kinda wrote the MTV list off as being nothing more than a typically shoddy bit of hip-hop journalism from a corporate entity (I know, XXL…), but now I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t a trend: Do more people these days think Jay-Z is the Greatest MC of All Time, ahead of the Notorious B.I.G.?
Like I said before, I definitely don’t think this is the case. Jay-Z is a great MC in his own right, but he only became King of New York after Suge Knight and the LAPD had Biggie assassinated. While it’s true that Biggie’s body of work pales in comparison to Jay’s in terms of volume, I’d say it’s superior in terms of quality. No Jay-Z album is as great as Ready to Die, and I’ll take the 20 best Biggie songs over the 20 best Jay-Z songs any day of the week and twice on Tuesday.
A case could be made for Jay being the greatest, if not the very best, MC of all time on account of all that he’s managed to accomplish outside the studio – from the clothing line to the position at Def Jam to the basketball team and so on and so forth, but I don’t know. Call me a hater, but I don’t know how having all that shit really makes you that much greater of an MC, or even if it should. Judged solely on the basis of his achievements as a rapper, which is what I care about, I don’t know that you can say he’s the greatest of all time.