Before justifying my 2017 Greatest of all Time (G. O. A. T.) list of emcees, we will make three considerations. 1) The lack of women on this list; 2) my criteria for what is a G. O. A. T. emcee and; 3) the current state of Hip Hop. In recent years, we (Hiphoppas), have had to establish our own information sharing platform to counter the propagation of harmful misconceptions of our Kulture. Nowadays, instead of relying on the radio or other mainstream gossip outlets, fans can easily access the right information from people who really care about Hip Hop.
The reason why this is so important is because most mainstream radio programmers,
For female emcees, it is ironic that after all the talk about equality, most of the young Hip Hop women prefer the thot to baby mama route today. They target athletes, industry executives or any high roller who will facilitate them to live their dream of being a socialite. A successful thot to baby mama route can lead to a Reality TV show, thousands of dollars in child support payment or millions in alimony payouts. Mathematically speaking, this is much more rewarding than the problematic, energy consuming and uncertain struggle of a master of ceremonies.
Mainstream corporations often willfully sign or support the wrong artists, spread the most negative stereotypes
Suffice it to say, today, many women are opting for professional or commercial careers. Yes, you could recruit more female dancers, models, socialites, strippers or even video vixens far easier than you would a female columnist, writer, emcee, deejay, graffiti artist, industry executive, music/film producer or any position in Hip Hop that does not rely on how beautiful a person looks. How many women care to perfect the skill of beatboxing or battle rapping? Today’s Hip Hop women, who are caught up in the financial independence and sexual liberation of feminism, would instead get attention from racy selfies than any other original talent.
There are no women on this list not because of discrimination but because there are very few female emcees at this time. Out of the few, even less have enough talent or have done enough to land in this discussion. Nicki Minaj was a G. O. A. T. by default because there were no other females to compete with her. And now, without an honest response to the Remy Ma dis, she no longer qualifies to be a G. O. A. T. emcee. Her music has even deteriorated since Safaree. But we will wait and see how she bounces back from her current setbacks.
Who is a master of ceremonies? He or she is more than just another rapper. Emcees are the voice of the Kulture. We echo the realities of our lives in an artistic interpretation as they are concerns of the Hip Hop masses. To do this, the emcee needs to originate his or her own style of rhyming, poetic lyricism, bars, punchlines, charisma, knowledge of Kulture, street cred, etc. A dope emcee needs to have a respectable body of consistent work with some proper accolades proving their social impact or influence in the community. When this artist releases an album that most people can relate or vibe to, over a period of time, we call that album a classic.
In this list, I’ve highlighted some of the best battle rappers of all time, as well as some of the most hardworking
The current state of Hip Hop is such that, over the last number of years, many New Skool rappers have not earned the respect of an emcee. Some are not even considered emcees. This is serious. No, it’s not because they are gay, sing a lot of murmurs their raps. It’s not the tight pants or purple / pink hair. It’s because many cannot rap well enough to be considered one of the best. This situation is not so bad as the scarcity of lyrically captivating emcees in the mainstream has shed much light on areas of the game that were underestimated or ignored earlier. Two such areas of the game are the independent and battle rap sectors. This time around, they weigh in heavily.
This West Coast Top Dawg Entertainment superstar has some enormous shoes to fill. Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac are just three examples. His debut album, “Section 8o” did not gain much acclaim, but the Compton emcee really showed out on his “Good Kid, M. A. A. D. City” album. At that point in his career, everyone knew that only a legend could offer such a classic. We were also worried that it was too soon to crown him the best. After “To Pimp a Butterfly,” everyone in Hip Hop felt confident that Kendrick Lamar is the next G. O. A. T.
Some have debated Rick Ross for the number one spot, but despite his elite ear for production, the corrections officer scandal really hurt his credibility. And when it comes to Drake, he cannot shake off his alleged ghostwriter scandal either. With “Good Kid M. A. A. D. City” and “To Pimp a Butterfly” being classic albums, in this era of fewer words, less lyricism in mumble raps about black privilege, thots, and precious possessions, the community is thrilled to see an emcee from this generation who continually reminds us of what Hip Hop really is.
Kendrick’s “Untitled Unmastered” teaser is far better than some major releases out there. When He gave us “Damn,” it was immediately slated as his third classic album. No, you can’t go wrong with an Aftermath and Interscope backing. But with Kendrick’s original style of rhyming, poetic lyricism, bars, punchlines, charisma, knowledge of Kulture, street cred, etc. he is perfect for the number one spot right now.
He is probably just as good (rapping-wise) as Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar combined. Cole is definitely a high-quality lyricist. One thing I like about his music is the fact that it’s reminiscent of Old Skool Hip Hop. He has a perfect flow. Cole passes with flying colors when you grade his original style of rhyming, poetic lyricism, bars, punchlines, charisma, knowledge of Kulture and street cred. The only difference for him, going for the number one spot in this category, is Kendrick projects a more political and social consciousness.
Cole’s legacy will be decided by the number of classics he releases. I can attest that he has a bunch of classic songs, but I cannot call any of his albums a classic. Some records take years to grow and, of course, Cole’s collections are among them. Problems are now in this generation of streaming, where music is generally digitally downloaded, it’s not like when CDs were favorite and can be seen laying around and popped onto a CD player. Now, the music is lost in your collection of downloads, or you can lose your playlist when switching from phone, tablet, or laptop.
Where Kendrick is strictly respected for his lyricism, Cole landed this high on my list, above Drake and Kanye mainly because he is also a music producer. He produces the majority of his work which if you combine his production skill to his emcee level, he quickly makes the top three best emcees. From “Cole World: The Sideline Story” to “Born Sinner,” “2014 Forest Hills Drive” and now, “4 Your Eyes Only” this Roc Nation star hit the ground on the right foot. Kendrick has Dr. Dre behind him, J. Cole has Jay Z behind him. Therefore these two will be playing tag for the number one spot in Hip Hop. And as Jay Z and Dr. Dre are both G. O. A. Ts, it is evident that their artists are in the right lane to become G. O. A. Ts as well.
He has released seven studio albums. Five of the seven are among the best Hip Hop albums of all time. Three of them are indisputable classics. He has an original style of rhyme, poetic lyricism, bars, punchlines, charisma, knowledge of Kulture and street cred. Like J. Cole, Kanye also writes and produces most of his work. This is a double talent. Then you can look at his impact on the Kulture.
The Louis Vuitton Don is also a fashion god. When he first started, who knew that there will come a time when young people will rock pink polo shirts and dream of a kilt outfit? This is the magnitude of Kanye West’s influence. I debated Gucci Mane in his stead since Gucci has fathered several great careers. But when I compared his body of work, even though Yeezy is from the 00’s, he made a musical transformation that fits in this era. His most recent, “The Life of Pablo” is not yet a classic, but it’s on its way to being one of the most enjoyable albums in Hip Hop. The beauty of Kanye West’s career is that we know there is more good music to come.
Placing Drake at the top of a list of G. O. A. T. emcees is troubling to us all. First, he’s a pop singer who can rap. Secondly, does anyone doubt if he writes his own songs or if he uses a ghostwriter most of the time? And third, a few artists have jumped from the woods to accuse the 6 God of jacking their flow. These are not the qualities one would have if I were to consider them a G. O. A. T. emcee. I found Kevin Gates for this spot, but like T. I. and Ludacris, Gates is one of those greats that does not appear on many lists.
When it comes to an original rhyme style, Drake has that. His poetic lyricism is actually one of his strongest points. He has six bars, punchlines, charisma, knowledge of Kulture, but his street cred is not robust. Well, Drake’s street cred is more potent in Toronto than in any other place. Now that he has lined up with the Hip Hop movement in the UK and presented some of their legends to the mainstream, he could have a significant pull in England as well. Where Drake takes the cake is with his smash hits.
Let’s face it, for this generation of young Hiphoppas Drake has delivered a few classics in his own right. What he lacks in penmanship and originality he makes up for with hits. He makes a different kind of Hip Hop music. His music is the feel-good type like Will Smith. All of his albums are classics even though the older generation will debate that. Since he’s from Canada and he sings well enough to compete with female R&B and Pop singers, many in Hip Hop will scratch their head on whether he’s a real emcee or not. However, when Drake raps, you can hardly find any flaw and the fact that he lives, speaks, dresses and comes with numbers to back his game. I’ll have to say he’s G. O. A. T worthy.
Chance The Rapper
This is one of the most hardworking independent artists in the game. Hip Hop has evolved from the extra gangsta image of a rapper who rhymes about crime life in the hood. Some even call that kind of rapping, dry snitching. They claim the rapper is either snitching on him or herself or giving out vital information on how things work in the hood. Now, we have an eclectic breed of rappers who rhyme so different we hesitate to call them emcees. Like Drake, many of them have added singing to their skill set.
Chance is one of those new guys who made my list due to the high value of his artistry. In Hip Hop we’ve always had the Del La Soul, Brand Nubian or A Tribe Called Quest type. I guess if you want to go deeper you can cite Poor Righteous Teachers in that category. It’s an intelligent breed of emcees who are rooted in Nubianism, Afrocentrism, The Nation of Gods and Earths, etc. This breed adds a spiritual essence to their art.
Chance The Rapper is one of those emcees who falls in the Common, Kid Cudi, Kanye West category. It’s something like Neo-Soul emcees. The thing with him is he has a few classic songs under his belt. He has a unique and original style of rhyming, his music is riddled with poetic lyricism, and he’s got the bars, punchlines, charisma, knowledge of Kulture and street cred to be rated among the beat emcees during his time.*