I started the year with a list. I got another one. Not necessarily a fan of them, and these days, lists ain’t worth the screens they were written on. Still, there is a purpose to some, maybe to remind the writer/ reader of what they like. Or don’t. I’ve been thinking of all the years I’ve been part of this rap ish (B, don’t ask) and how I’ve developed my tastes, my likes, the music and the artists that I’ve gravitated to, respected, listened and got the head nodding to. Seems like these days cats don’t want to admit that they’re rap fans. I’ve been a proud rap fan, still am. Here’s my favorite top ten rappers of all time:
1. Grand Master Caz – Way before most of youse effin time. My first rap idol. Ever. First rapper I heard in my life. He, along with GMC, JDL, EZ AD and Almighty KG, DJ Charlie Chase and Tony Tone formed the seminal rap group The Cold Crush Brothers. My dude put me on to a cassette tape (do ya’ll even know what that is) of them battling the Fantastic Five emcees. Caz or GMC was super lyrical for his time, with mad mic swagger. Even though the Fantastic Five were judged to be the victors of that battle, I will go to my grave knowing the Cold Crush won. Was featured in that Wild Style movie. The first known true sucker emcee Big Bank Hank (from the Sugar Hill Gang fame) did some sucker emcee shit and openly bit GMC’s raps for the first official rap record to become an eternal smash “Rapper’s Delight”. Truth be told, I hated “Rapper’s Delight” when I first heard it, for how fake and candy ass’d it sounded. The rap music industry wouldn’t be the same without Caz. We all owe dude, even if you don’t realize it. My first rap idol Thank you. Salutes!
2. Melle Mel – Second rapper I ever heard in my life. On a cassette tape. Way back when. On boom boxes. On the train, on my way to 42nd Street to catch triple features of my favorite Kung-Fu flicks (3 movies for $2.50). When yung cats like me could be murdered in the streets of NYC just for tryna look F.R.E.S.H. Lead rapper of legendary group Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five, along with his brother Kid Creole, Scorpio, Rahiem and the late Cowboy. All of them was dope, Mel was the dopest. First rapper ever to call himself a MC (Master Of Ceremonies). He ain’t lie about being one too. I’ll never figure out how dude crafted the blueprint to the art of rhyming. Was one of the hottest before the raps on records thing. Left us with the forever classic “The Message”. To this day, one of my favorite rap songs. Ever. So dope I forgive him for how he dressed back then, and how he likes to rock muscle shirts these days. Melle Mel’s raps, his influence will always remain in my dna. Thanks for that sir. Salutes.
3. Run – Of Run-DMC fame. The first of rap’s then new generation. A young rapper that I could identify with more than his predecessors. Not the best emcee by far, but god damn did a young Run kill the game with emcee swagger! Declared war against the Old School rappers (like the two I said before). So irreverant, so disrespectful. So fresh to the game. The perfect emcee image rapper contrasted against DMC’s perfect b-boy robotic style. The best rap duo that ever did it. Ever. Even if nepotism by being Russell Simmons’ younger brother placed him in the right spot, Run worked hard to earn his star on the pavement. Was there when he claimed Madison Square Garden his “‘mother fucking house”. Please believe a young Combat Jack was dipped rocking the leather pants and jacket set, along with brim and shell toes, as inspired by Joey Simmons. As a young rap fan, copping that issue of RUN-DMC on that historic cover of that Rolling Stones issue was one of the PROUDEST moments of my young life. And it wasn’t even me. Thank you Run, DMC. R.I.P. Jam Master Jay. Salutes! (A major middle finger still to them cowards that murdered Jason Mizell).
4. KRS-One - Holy. fucking. cow. The energy a young KRS-One brought to the game was, up until that point, unprecedented. Claiming the South Bronx (even though dude was a straight BK cat by way of Park Slope, up and down), KRS earned his stripes the old fashioned way, by challenging EVERYONE that came before him. Melle Mel, Run-DMC, all of them was game in this young spitters’ eyes. Alongside Scott La Rock and D-Nice, Boogie Down Productions gave up some of the GREATEST rap records ever dropped. Their first album ‘Criminal Minded’ blew me away for how graphic it was as the first official gangsta rap piece ever. That album stays in my eternal top ten. Before then cats wasn’t getting they heads burst by 9 millimeters. And who can argue that ‘The Bridge Is Over’ ain’t one of the genre’s finest diss record of all time. If you was lucky to catch a KRS-One show when dude was in his prime, you knew you’d always get your money’s worth. The beef with the Juice Crew, that Self-Destruction joint, him throwing that fat PM Dawn fellow off the stage, the first rap death that hurt me to my core (R.I.P. Scott La Rock), there will never be another rapper as dope as KRS One. Thank you. Salutes. (Whaddup DJ D-Nice?).
5. Big Daddy Kane – Rakim held the crown, but when Kane dropped, best believe Brooklyn stood the eff up. Barritone grown man’s voice, illest beats from legendary Marley Marl, Albee Square Mall swagger like nobody’s business, Kane’s hi-top ruled in ’89. Like most rappers of his day, Kane’s stage show was no joke. Star member of the famed Juice Crew, nobody wanted with BDK. KRS even made sure to omit Kane from his attacks against dude’s crew, just cause it was obvious KRS never want it from dude. No one did. So nice even that rumors in the New York streets at the time was that God MC Rakim might have problems with Antonio Hardy. So nice even that he mentored the young Shawn Carter, grooming him to one day take his place. Kane warmed it up better than most, and the pedigree bar for Brooklyn rappers was forever raised. Long live the Kane indeed. Thank you B. Salutes.
To Be Continued