Shut Up & Listen – MCs You Like Mostly For Tha Voice
A few weeks back I wrote A Letter to Guru as part of my blog week. It was soon after the legendary MC had suffered a heart attack and slipped into a coma. While a few folks thought it was a premature tribute, most got what I was trying to do. And for those that missed the memo, I basically flipped the song titles of almost every Gang Starr record and used them to compile the letter.
While going through Guru and Premiere’s catalog, one song title in particular stood out to me—“Mostly Tha Voice.” In addition to an MC’s ability to put words together, his/her greatest tool is actually their voice.
Guru said it himself…
It's mostly tha voice, that gets you up
It's mostly tha voice, that makes you buck
A lot of rappers got flavor, and some got skills
But if your voice ain't dope then you need to [chill... chill...]
When I came across that particular song I started thinking about artists with notable voices. You know, that person that has a voice that just seemed destined for the microphone. I’m not talking about the Rakim’s or Snoop’s of the world. Yeah, you could pick them out of a chorus of MCs with your eyes closed, but there are some cats that are blessed with extremely unique vocal chords.
Some rappers use hooks to this shit
But if you took that shit out
And you took all the music out
What would remain? The voice no doubt
I initially planned to follow-up my letter to Guru with a post about MCs with the best voices but I got caught up in a hectic workweek and never got to it. Being that Guru was my initial inspiration and the brother passed away earlier this week (R.I.P.), I felt it only right I revisit the idea to list some of my personal picks for rappers with standout voices.
For clarity’s sake, I’m not saying these cats are the best on the mic or got crazy flow; they’re just a bunch of MCs I like mostly (and in some cases only) for tha voice.
I know I missed some key people but it’s my list and this is who resonates with me. Besides, now it’s your turn to voice your opinion. —Anslem Samuel
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LORD HAVE MERCY
Pretty much the only thing I know about the former Flipmoder is that he had a crazy voice. His intros to Busta Rhymes’ albums back in the day were epic. I don’t recall him rhyming that much, but whenever he spoke I listened… But maybe that’s just me.
Only a deaf person couldn’t appreciate Rock’s gravely pitch. During my high school days, it was this brother’s voice that flooded my headphones during those long commutes. I love BCC to death, but when Rock left; the fold didn’t it feel like something was sonically missing? #NoShots. Glad the gang's back together now.
Hands down, if I had to choose one rapper to feature on a record strictly for their voice it’d have to be Bun B. That’s probably why he gets so many guest spots in the first place.
BIG V (NAPPY ROOTS)
A lot of people sleep on Nappy Roots but I’m not one of them; those boys got something to say. I was listening to one of their tracks the other day and Big V’s voice (he’s the big guy in the group by the way) just stood out. Not for nothing, is it just me or does he sound a little like Scarface?
Speaking of ’Face, the O.G. is not only one of the best with words, he got a voice to match. ’Nuff said.
Grrrr. X and his rabid fans would probably bark on me if I didn’t include him on this list. Moving right along…
Technically, he was more of the Lost Boyz hypeman than a rapper (although Tah was known to spit a few bars from time to time) but he truly was the voice of the group. In fact, the LB Fam was never truly the same after he passed. That right there alone makes him worthy of being one of hip-hop’s best voices.
KOOL G. RAP
The idea of a hardcore rapper having a lisp sounds like the makings of a Living Color comedy skit, but much like Mike Tyson, G. Rap is a knockout in his field. Not for nothing, his voice probably gave him an edge over his peers in that he had to go twice as hard.
THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.
When Big spoke cats listened. His flow was crazy, his rhymes were tight and they were all backed by an impeccable voice that just caught your ear. Am I lying?
It’s hard to standout in a crew of nine MCs, but Meth did for one clear reason—his voice. While Wu made many classics over the years, Meth was responsible for a lot of their classic hooks. From “C.R.E.A.M” to “Ice Cream,” and even his own joints (“Method Man”) his vocals added that extra magic to their records.
Say what you will about Po (now) but no other rapper’s career was so closely tied to his voice. People thought he sounded like Biggie (I guess but not really) and with Big Poppa gone, a bidding war started for the Brooklyn (by way of Belize) rapper. He could spit crazy, but you gotta agree, it was mostly tha voice.