Earlier this week, I went back through my favorite top ten rapper/emcees of all time. There’s no way I can list every one that influenced me, and to those not mentioned, my bad. Still, since the whole world is on that list thing, here’s the rest of mine:
6. LL Cool J - James Todd Smith got it part right. Not the G.O.A.T. but the Greatest Underrated Of All Time. To date, the rapper with the longest career in this thing of ours. His 1985 ‘Radio’ debut cemented his place in history. The game’s first solo mega superstar. The young teenager from Queens boldly held his own against all challengers. And went on to maintain his spot for years. Put Def Jam on his back. And Def Jam carried the whole industry. We all need to seriously pay homage to dude. Rap ain’t never made it easy for a rapper to maintain sex appeal, hardcore image and pop access. LL made being the first to do it look so easy. For me, what’s better than a rapper always ready to battle, confident in his mic skills, but still crafting radio joints, club bangers? Nigga made it cool to mack chicks with the first true Hip Hop love song, while at the same time causing many a sucker to get timb stomped by a crew of angry youth juiced up on murderous beats with L encouraging them, cause his momma said it. Truth be told, I didn’t become a fan of dude’s until that ‘Momma Said Knock You Out‘ album. He ain’t want to admit it, but that was the greatest comeback album evah!. Behind the scenes story tell of how, after Uncle L blew up, Run of Run-DMC fame felt a ways about him performing in his house. Cause he was hard as hell. [||] I could see that. LL Cool J, salutes.
7. Chuck D – When dude spoke, a nation listened. Cat spit like Martin Luther King spitting Malcolm X. Undeniable that he and his Public Enemy set dropped the greatest rap album of all time. First rapper to make a nation of millions want to get smarter, be more politically active, to stand up against that. The best one to own some of the illest beats created by the illest Bomb Squad production team. The rapper from the best rap group of all time. With the greatest hype man of all time. The rapper that crafted my FAVORITE rap song of all time, “Rebel Without A Pause”, Chuck D’s influence to rap music is unlike any other. ‘Fight The Power’, “Don’t Believe The Hype’, ‘Welcome To The Terrordome’, too many classic joints that was also anthems. That night at the Garden, when Chuck, Flav, Terminator X and the S1-W’s (Griff was on time out) rocked that Pete Rock “Shut ‘Em Down” joint and had thousands of fans, Black, white, Latino etc. standing, chanting in unison to shut the bitch down, fists in air, Chuck was the most powerful rapper on the planet. I still got my fingers crossed, waiting, hoping they’ll be another rapper like Chuck, another group like PE to roll through this rap shit. Thanks for calling out Elvis, John Wayne and all them other simple and plain suckers. Salutes.
8. Ice Cube – As a young’un from Brooklyn, if someone had told me one of my top ten was gonna be a cat from L.A. rocking a Jheri curl and with a corney ass name, I’da thought they’d been sipping on too much of that Cisco. The drank. My pre N.W.A. world saw the West Coast scene as goofy niggas with ghey names like Pop Locker Larry, all up in bright neon baggy pants. And with some L.A. Gear kicks, curls dripping off they foreheads like a damned rap clown. O’shea Jackson kilt that the first moment I heard him. Expanded my rap speak by introducing me to words like “gat” (one of my fav words), and waxing poetic about “wetting niggas”. If my introduction to gangsta rap was through KRS, Ice Cube and the 2nd greatest rap group of all time was gangsta on steroids. Not only the lead spitter but also the main writer for co-members Eazy E and Dr. Dre, Cube (along with MC Ren) made the whole team sound right. Then, right after he made us nervous around L.A. cats, he went ahead and got complex with his solo album. Gang banger gone conscious. Crying at dead homies funerals, but loading up later that night with his set to peel caps in revenge. Plus how he spit it. The raps, the stories, the emotion. My kids who loved him in that ‘Are We There Yet‘ flick can’t ever comprehend how years back, Cube was THE most feared rapper in the game. There had been some attempts before him, but Ice Cube was that first cat to wholly bring the West Coast to the East. For that, I thank him. Salutes.
9. The Notorious B.I.G. – My peoples had been working with Puff and Bad Boy for about a year. The summer before ‘Ready To Die’ dropped they handed me a super early advanced cassette of the album. So early that some of the songs had to be re-produced because they had samples that wouldn’t get cleared. Plus my copy had that collabo with him and Sadat X. My favorite album at the time, right before then was the Gravediggaz ’6 Feet Deep’. But the minute I put Biggie in the walkman, it was a wrap. Right then and there, I knew that my city of Brooklyn was about to be the center of rap’s universe. I played that tape so much that my tape almost popped. Best. flow. period. There ain’t much I can say about dude that you aint already hear, that you ain’t already heard. The King of NY, the G.O.A.T. Still can’t believe they killed dude, even though I was at the funeral. R.I.P. Christopher Wallace. Salutes.
10. Jay-Z: I rightfully stay partial to Brooklyn rappers. Like they don’t rap it the best. When they drop the box set, that bitch is going to weigh a ton. And with nothing but hits. You even try to name another rapper, dead or alive, with more hits in their complete body of work than Jay-Z, I won’t even acknowledge that you’re in the same room. Maybe it’s that partial thing, but I do not get how some folk claim say they never felt Jay. That sounds like hate, or like they never really have a clue of what’s dope in rap, just looking at image and such. I’m not even talking about our recent New York Yankee Hov, more like “Friend Or Foe”, “Where I’m From”, “Brooklyn’s Finest” Jigga. Shawn Carter took all he learned from Kane and cranked it up another million, trillion. Timeless flow, the best rap beef battle of all time, longevity to rival LL’s, the word play and double, triple entendres, Jay rearranged the blueprint for all rappers that follow in his footsteps. The greatest rapper alive indeed. Without a reasonable doubt. Thanks for holding down all them summers. Salutes.
Honorable mentions: Slick Rick, Kool G Rap, Nas, Scarface, Redman, Eminem, Mos Def, Doom