Yesterday one of my favorite all time Hip Hop lyricists celebrated a birthday. Nasir Jones is one of the greatest Rappers to every pick up a microphone. He sparks critical thought in most of his lyrics even when we aren’t looking for a lesson. Some people would like to debate that he in fact isn’t the greatest and that they aren’t a fan of any of his critically acclaimed works. The words ‘greatest rapper of all time’ and ‘favorite rapper’ are terms that are used in our culture to describe almost anybody these days. When we say that someone is our favorite rapper what does that mean? What qualifies someone as one of the greatest rappers of all time? One is a suggestive statement and one is a fact. The fact is that no one can tell you who your favorite rapper is. That’s your choice whether it be a good choice or a bad one. I am almost as old as Hip Hop itself being of the Hip Hop generation and actually growing up with Hip Hop transitioning into a legitimate musical genre. Therefore my ‘favorite rappers’ span across over thirty years of Rap music. In no particular order are my top favorite rappers: Ghostface Killah, Tupac, Eminem, Nas, Guru, and Rakim. Now mind you that not everyone listed is considered one of the greats however they all have made legendary contributions to our culture cementing their legendary status.
Don’t get into a discussion with people about who the greatest rapper of all time is because that is rhetorical because that is someone’s OPINION. There is no concrete fact as to whether that applies to even a Biggie Smalls. The fact that there is no measurable scale or way to really asses how great someone can be is what makes that question obsolete. We’ve known for years that sales alone cannot qualify someone as being the greatest but you HAVE TO ASSES THE LYRICAL CONTENT! Lyrics are what make a rapper great! Wack lyrics = wack rapper. Good lyrics = good rapper. Great lyrics = great rapper. The problem with assessing lyrics is that not everyone is going to catch what is being said. Not all fans or listeners of Rap music really comprehend what is being said resulting in a misinterpretation of the message. Sometimes it may take years before you decipher a good rhyme. There are people still out there realizing Eric B. and Rakim’s ‘Juice (Know The Ledge)’ is about someone trying to rise to the top but failing to do so because of their lack of KNOW-LEDGE (know the ledge). Hip Hop isn’t for everybody that’s why I encourage people to go to school and read!
Understand this, your favorite rapper may not be one of the greatest of all time and for some none of the greats are their favorite rapper(s). When you get into these types of barbershop and salon discussions make sure you’re asking or answering the right question. It’s possible to get caught up in the heat of the moment when somebody says Rick Ross is one of the greatest rappers of all time. When you hear statements like that you can tell what type of Rap the other person listens to and that should give you the red or the green light to engage that person in this type of conversation. I was in line for a Hit Squad show a few years back and other concert goers debated whether or not Notorious B.I.G. was one of the greats. I clearly disagree but there were too many heads in on the exchange although I still listened to what was said because there were some good points. Not any that were worth remembering besides that BIG outshined Craig Mack on ‘Flava In Ya Ear’ Remix giving him the boost he needed to start his career. That was a reach but that was that man’s opinion!
In some circles if you say the wrong thing about the wrong rapper it can go all the way left. That’s why you can’t fall victim to answering this question. If you are amongst those who are versed in the culture of Hip Hop THEN it would behoove you to engage yourself and possibly become enlightened. You may learn something or even change your views on a particular Rapper. It’s called evolving and growing as a person within the culture. Have these discussions with your kids or youth that you encounter. There are plenty of kids out there who don’t understand what it means to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. I’m talking about legendary status! Not no ‘you get your whole album rotated on the radio so that makes you great’. Teach them about the impact of what these great men and women writers did to elevate our culture. I’m sure some adults don’t know the contributions made by these great artists, why? Because they’re blind baby, blind from the facts on who they are ‘cause they’re listening to that garbage.