I’m sure that I had this convo with some of you cats a while back. For the most part, those of us with the ability to use reason (read: those of us not still sleeping in the bedroom that we’ve had since we were ten) we all understand the difference between Hip-Hop and rap music. Now I’m not going to say that all rap music is bad, because it surely isn’t. Hell, all Hip-Hop ain’t good. Aesop Rock is definitely Hip-Hop and he’s got some joints, but I would go on a killing spree if he were the only type of Hip-Hop artist available. Fifty Cent is a bonafide rapper. He makes catchy rap music that makes you sing along because it’s so simple. There’s no thinking or themes required when listening to ol’ boy’s music and sometimes it’s actually good to shut off one’s brain.

So why not create a list of the top 5 emcees and the top 5 rappers? I like making lists. It’s the sixth element of Hip-Hop. Truthfully, Ernie Pannicioli is the sixth element of Hip-Hop. Telling other people ‘They Are NOT Hip-Hop’ is seventh, and eating breakfast cereal for dinner is eighth. Lists might be the ninth element, but they are definitely in the top ten things that are Hip-Hop. Anyhoo… Here’s the criteria for selecting the top five names for each category…

Does this emcee exude empathy towards poor and disenfranchised peoples?
Does the emcee have the “starving artist” body type?
Does the emcee give a high energy stage show?

And more importantly than anything else…
Does the emcee make fresh rhymes?

Does the rapper have the ability to place products and consumables within rhyme verse?
Does the rapper have endorsement deals for product that have no apparent connection to rap?
Does the rapper have a lot of money?

And lastly, and even surprisingly some might say…
Does the rapper make fresh rhymes?

Let’s go top five alive and active (studio record within this year). No old heads or washed up emcees for this shiny new XXL Mag Dot Com list.

Mos Def
Black Thought

Put Redman at the top of any list you want to make. As a matter of fact, put him at the top of your ‘Must See Perform Live’ list. Redman was hurtling himself into audiences way before it was fashionable to party like a rockstar. Plus, he wrote all of Erick Sermon’s best and most memorable verses.

I’m sure the only one that raised an eyebrow was the insertion of Black Thought, but if you ever have the blessing to go to a live Roots crew performance you will understand why Black Thought is one of the greatest emcees evar. You see not only does he have his entire catalog of verses within his skull, but he also has the verses of everyone else who ever rhymed so that he has the ability to go from vocalist to hypeman with seamless transition. At a concert I watched him guide the onetime greatest rapper NaSir Jones to remember his own verses.

Com, Mos and Ghost is just academic and if you need an explanation you should prah’lee tongue kiss an electrical outlet.

Fifty Cent
T Pain

There are millions of rappers to choose from especially if you count RapSpace.tv, but when you use the criteria established the list becomes shorter and more pithy. Fifty Cent is clearly the alpha rapper. Not just because he has more money than God or that he is the ultimate corporate pitchman. Fifty Cent is the top rapper because he lies to you to your face and you dance to it. He makes it look so easy that you almost assume he was a former criminal because of his self-assuredness. Trust this much, if Vitamin Water was even remotely similar to the dye-filled, sodium benzoate “quarter water” Coca Cola would never have come calling. Fifty Cent is the person that facilitated the deal. For corporate America (read: wealthy white) being close to him is like getting a tan without even having to worry about harmful UV rays. It’s the instant connection to the young Black consumer that influences the young white consumers with access to their parents’ checkbooks. Good shit.

That’s the strength of everyone in the rapper category. Subscribing to their lifestyle means obvious and conspicuous consumption. This isn’t the list for thinking freely, but more like buying into a look that says you are a rebel, without actually having the courage to be one. This list is like owning a Nike Che Guevara shirt. There’s nothing morally wrong with that either.

Emcees versus Rappers isn’t a good against evil argument. Both sides are good at the same time and people should recognize that and accept it. Emcees are great when they use their platforms to stretch the boundaries of their art and our understanding of the world that created the art. Rappers are good too because they tell us what to buy in order to keep the capitalistic machine from grinding to a halt. If we stopped being debt-ridden consumers then the government might have to kick in our doors and take our rubles the strong arm steady style.

It’s all about taking the red pill or the blue pill, and at the end of the day both pills are manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.