A friend of mine and I always have trouble trying to figure out who we would put in our Top 5 favorite rappers list. There are many that people like to consider when compiling a list like this, such as record sales, longevity, lyrical content, popularity, where they’re from, what era they’re from, etc. I feel like when one is considering who they feel like should be in their Top 5 list, you should put rappers who are you FAVORITE TO LISTEN TO, not who you think is better. For example, I will agree that Eminem is probably the best lyricist in the rap game today, but just because I think he is the best, he would not be in my top 5 because I simply prefer to listen to other rappers more. A Top 5 list should be personal to you, not to what stats and other things suggest. My top 5 is as follows:
5. Jay-Z: I tried to front like he wouldn’t be in my Top 5 for a long time because most people that do put him in only do it because of his popularity, but there is a reason why he is so popular, and that’s because he is a very good rapper. Even his music today, which is super watered down, commercialized, and often branded as “1% rap”, is still better than most rappers out. You also cannot forget that when he was at his best, he was a force to be reckoned with. Reasonable Doubt is my favorite album from him, and although since then, his stuff has been hit or miss, he has always been consistent with his output. His flow is timeless, he knows how to create songs for the radio and for the people(the latter half isnt always seen but it is there), and he is someone I always listen to. He comes off as a cliche choice to put in a Top 5, but there is a reason for that, and it is because he is that good.
4. Lupe Fiasco: He is the best lyricist I know outside of Eminem. I loved all of his albums, my favorite being “The Cool”. He makes you think. His content is based around religion, politics, education, and the lack thereof within the black community. He is like the Batman of hip hop; giving us the music we NEED to be listening to, and not neccessarily what the people WANT to hear right now. He is creative, fun to listen to, and brings a uniqueness to the game. The only problem I have with him, if it can even be considered a problem, is that he isn’t very charismatic. One thing that is undelying within hip hop is the fact that every rapper thinks he is the best. I feel like if you are going to compete with the best, and if you want others to think you are the best, you have to be your first fan. He doesn’t do an awful lot of bragging, which is good and bad. While he doesn’t do stupid bragging like how much money he has, or girls he sleeps with, I like to hear rappers say that they are the best. Hip hop is a competition, the first step towards being the best is to want it, and the only reason I didn’t rank him higher is because of this.
3. Nas: I am writing this late October 2014. I only started really listening to Nas in about January of this year. So the fact that in 10 months I went from only knowing Nas as the rapper paying more child support than Diddy with maybe less than half the yearly earnings, and also for the singles he put out over the last 13 years, to ranking him on my all time favorite rappers list as number 3 says a lot. Nas is a king. He is a champion of the game that is hip hop. Lyrically, content-wise, he is impeccable. My favorite album without a doubt is It Was Written. I also absolutely loved Stillmatic, God’s Son, I Am, and Lost Tapes. His content is gritty, but he can also be political, and matured through the years. He is one of the most creative rappers I have ever listened to, with songs like I Gave You Power, and Fetus coming from unigue perspectives, yet creating a timeless flow no matter what point of view he is rapping from. His newer albums don’t really hit the same buttons like his older ones, but I think that is because the 90s and early 2000s saw him at his prime; gritty, hungry, going through highs and lows, he was younger, more alert to the world around him, and he was still actively fighting for the top spot. As time went on, and fueds with Jay-Z ended, he relaxed, and it showed in his music, like most veteran rappers. Its still alot better than most of the crap out, just not as good as his best.
2. J-Cole: This is a stretch, putting someone so young as my second favorite rapper of all time, but its true so here it is. J-Cole is easily the youngest rapper on my list, and the only one under 30, but it is well deserved. He was the first rapper of whom I had either downloaded or bought all of his mixtapes or albums when they first came out. He was the first rapper that I had listened to since day 1, along with Drake, Big Sean, Kid Cudi, and Wale, and he is my favorite out of all of those guys, and more. I listen to him so much because of his content, the relativety to his story that I have (absent father, struggling mother, college) his flow is amazing, the whole southern drawl with the east coast flow, and he produces most of his own beats, some of which are actually amazing. His first album was underwhelming, except for a few gems, and his second album was a solid hit. Its his mixtapes however, that show his true talent. He has an ear for really cool samples, old school hip hop heads will love his music for the samples alone. I forsee him having an impeccable career, and MAYBE going down as a next generation great.
1.Kanye West: My favorite rapper of all time is Kanye West because he can literally do anything he wants, say whatever he wants, and doesn’t give a fuck about what anyone thinks. Sometimes the things he says are stupid, but that’s only sometimes. He takes the bragging thing a little too far nowadays, and although many people say it’s because of the money, only real fans know he has been doing that since he had all of his jawbones. His musical resume? Perfection. Although his flow may not be as smooth as Jay-Z, although he hasn’t been as political on more recent albums as he had in the earlier days, although he doesn’t get into as many beefs, and doesn’t always write all his lyrics, he is my favorite rapper because he doesn’t have anything to prove to people. He is a true artist. When he dropped College Dropout, no one really believed in him because it wasn’t the sound of the day, and what did he do? Make it the sound of a generation. 2 of the people on my Top 5 list wouldn’t have a career without Kanye West. He is also one the the best producers the game has ever seen. He pioneered a whole separate fashion sense of hip hop parallel from the baggy jeans and Timbs, that now everyone from Jay-Z Scott Disick has indulged in. Personally, College Dropout was his worst album, and I absolutely loved it. Late Registration showed Kanye at his best lyrically, while on Graduation he focused more on production. 808s saw him experimenting with emotions, creating (unfortunately) a whole new style of hip hop using Auto Tune that I feel that no one else has been able to come close to emulating. I absolutely despise all other rappers that heavily use auto tune, because there isn’t that emotional sense that Kanye put into it. MBDTF was another banger, that saw him put the lyrical skills back in place, and the highly experimental Yeezus was one of the most controversial rap albums ever and he didn’t even have to say “fuck the police” or talk about killing his ex. His collaboration albums I will admit have been less than favorable. Watch the Throne was a really good album lyrically, and production was on point, but it was basically rich people talking about rich people stuff. Cruel Summer was terrible; I try to pretend like it didn’t happen as much as possible. But the fact remains that no matter how much I feel like I would dislike Kanye West as a person, as a rapper, he is number 1. Point Blank Period.