Here’s a rap PSA of sorts. My top 5 rappers, in no particular order:
This is apropos of a conversation I had tonight about young rappers, great rappers, and the fact that in the search for their own voices young rappers often forgo the obvious: if you wanna be great, start out by copying your idols. It’s the strongest foundation you can find. If you’re a young emcee reading this and you mimic any of these guys, you’re already ahead of 90% of the trap rapping, $5 dollar mic Youtube pollution that soaks up so much digital space. Just remember to push the boundaries of their styles, mixing up cadences and flows, trying new poetic devices and sounds in old styles. Use the greats as the ground floor and build from what they already laid down. Rise to the top of the rap land fill; respect your elders and advance your craft. (All of this is discussed in greater detail here)
For the record, Ghostface and Big Daddy Kane get honorable mention. Nas, Rakim and Ice Cube are all lurking around the top 10, but on any given day KRS, Biggie, Aceyalone, Big Boi, and Del the Funky Homosapien can creep on in. Depends on my mood. Oh don’t forget Cee-Lo–before all that Gnarls Barkley stuff, Mr. Green was quite the spitter of flames.
Here are a few commandments from the greats.
“Rape” – Pharoahe Monch
“Mighty O” – Outkast
“Gangsta Shit” – Outkast (cut down to just Andre’s verse here)
“75 Bars (Black’s Reconstruction)” – The Roots
“Tres Leches” – Big Pun ft. Inspectah Deck and Prodigy
“Role Model” – Eminem
BONUS: “Goodie Bag” – Goodie Mob (Cee-Lo gets the final verse on this. His groupmates allow him to wig out for roughly a minute and a half uninterrupted and it’s easy to see why. Cee-Lo’s swaggering, stream of consciousness verse is a mesmerizing tour of styles southern and otherwise, all filtered through Cee-Lo’s singular voice and personality. Matter of fact, Cee-Lo might be creeping up towards that top 5…)