Being an emcee compiling a list of this magnitude is tough. There are so many talented emcees out there, it’s almost impossible to make a top 10 list of any sort without leaving someone out or causing a debate. From writing screenplays to authoring my own books, I’ve managed to create my own ways to express how I feel about the industry and to get live feedback from fans, critics, and well-wishers. My zeal is fueled by my love for music. Everything I do is motivated by that, even when I pick my top emcees. I make sure any emcees I pick really makes a difference in that category of Hip Hop, R&B, Soul, Rock, Gospel, Blues or even traditional African music, Soca, Calypso, and Reggae. When I write my Blogs, I try to shed positive views using the most accurate information.
This comes as no surprise that I’m a HARDCORE Hip-Hop head who has listened to his fair share of the best rap albums out there. My D-Block mixtapes, Dipset, Camron albums Pappose, Maino and so on, are just one part of how I keep it tight. From mainstream chart-toppers to local and underground anthems which may sometimes go unnoticed or even the poorly produced mixtapes from random up and comers. So if you were able to listen to countless mixtapes from even the most unpopular independent artists in the world, and you’ve played the rest of the best rap albums that ever came out in the last ten years, you should have earned a notch or two for going through that much material and as an emcee you should be able to make comments publicly about those materials.
The following emcees are my most consistent of this decade of 1999 to 2009. Even as Hip Hop has gone through its ups and downs, these emcees have represented it to the fullest. By consistency I mean at least; (a) +3 solid rap albums released within the last ten years (b) lyrical wit, flow and (c) originality. Swagger and album sales count as well, but that does not affect my overall decision. Awards won, number one hits, radio anthems set aside there were some good albums that came out over the last ten years that never saw the light of day. I call them undiscovered classics or anthems. Those records count in my book along with all the mega-hits that came out.
KARDINAL OFFICIALL – A unique and talented Canadian who crossed into US mainstream markets. Canadian emcees are seasoned. Many may not have been to the Haj of Hip Hop yet, but you should never underrate their talent. When Nas released, Hip Hop Is Dead, Canadian emcees use to say, Hip Hop is not dead, it lives in the north. If Kardinal and his Black Jays crew haven’t proven this, then take Drake for example.
Up in the T.Dot, you will find many who claim to be sicker than Drake or Kardi, but when you talk consistency, they won’t measure up. This emcee is the real definition of consistency. Between 1997 and 2005 Kardinal Officiall released at least three well successful and profitable albums plus one EP in Canada which sponged him into his well-deserved spot with Akon and his Konvict emblem. He released his most successful album, Not4Sale in 2008. That album has received favorable reviews from music critics and crossed Kardi over into the United States and the rest of the world.
MISSY ELLIOTT – She has released six commercially successful albums since 1997 to now. 1997 she dropped, Supa Dupa Fly, it went platinum. That album was also a classic. 1999 she released, Da Real World and it went platinum too. Her 2001, Miss E… So Addictive album rang with so many anthems, like, One Minute Man, it was not only a mega-hit, the phrase became a dating slogan for girls and boys across the world. Not to mention the hit, Get Ur Freak On, which was another Missy anthem that year. The following year She returned with her most significant and best selling album ever (according to her stats on the charts and sales of course).
Under Construction, debuted at #3 on the billboard 200 and sold over two million copies to earn Missy double platinum right after gaining platinum the year before. 2003 saw Missy with yet another platinum album entitled, This Is Not A Test. Two years later She brought another plaque home with her, The Cookbook album and after killing radios worldwide and TV with music videos, she took several awards back. Basically living on the charts for eight years straight, she stepped away from the stage to work behind the scenes. Her next album is scheduled to hit shelves in 2010.
FREDDY WILL – I nominate myself on this list because this is my list LOL! No, since I started recording in 2006, I’ve managed to release one mixtape (Stay True) and two albums. My First album was While I’m Still Young – The Talking Drums, published in 2008. It had several singles. That album went on to sell over 7000 physical copies on the streets and gain #1 status on several College radios in Europe and Canada. It also featured a host of Canadian and USA R&B singers. Less than a year later I released, While I’m Still Young – The Talking Drums 1. 2v during the summer of 2009. Radio plays increased in New York, New Jersey, Stouffville, Ontario, South and East Africa, Holland, etc. It was a dope joint.
This second album was released with my first book, My Book Of Chrymes in a book/CD package. In October 2010 my third release (yet untitled) will be launched through GBEnt/GBDist. This will be my first album in Krio and the first to be solely marketed, promoted and distributed via my Ghetto Breed Entertainment and Ghetto Breed Distribution imprint. The only English song will be my bonus track. Here I sang off my own hooks and shuffled African melodies between Hip Hop, R&B, and pop genres to come up with a unique Sierra Leone brand of Hip Hop. For more info check it out at soon.
STYLES P – Money Power and Respect has to count. Collaborations with Biggie, DMX, Diddy, Ma$e and the Ruff Ryders all comes to play when you count the bars this LOX/D Block emcee has put in. Yeah, his album sales have been low, but we all know it’s not because be can’t rap. Anyway, P’s debut has to be a classic. Gangsta and a Gentleman had such an impact in the Hip Hop circuit he took a gold plaque home regardless of the censorship barrier that hinders gangsta rap from getting a fair share of media exposure. You’ll probably be asking why Styles is on this list if his second album, Time Is Money came out four years after several push backs.
Not to mention that it’s been three years since his 2007, Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman). However, all of his solo albums debut on the Billboard chart and they earn him even more street cred. Their lyrical contents are true to his brand. The kicker in Styles P’s discography is not his album sales but that since 2005 to now he has recorded and released over thirteen dope mixtapes. Each mixtape is well received and plays the soundtrack to many lives in the hood. His most recent mixtape, The Green Ghost Project is set for a late 2009 release. We already know it’s going to be nuts!
50 CENT – For someone who got signed in 2002 one will assume that Fif is not in that ten-year bracket, but Fif had been acknowledged years before he was signed. On the street his mixtapes were gold. Throughout 1999, 2000 and on to when he got signed, 50 Cent was one of the most consistent battle emcees of this decade as he has never relented in challenging the toughest opponent. He released four commercially successful albums among a slew of mixtapes containing original material and launched a massive internet community called ‘thisisfifty’ where he promotes Hip Hop. That’s consistency at its finest.
50 is a screenwriter, a co-author and a video game developer. But that’s not all. You have to count that he’s a Vitamin Water business genius or equate his G Unit clothing factor. His actual studio albums have reached record successes mirroring or surpassing many emcees who have released several more albums with more time. From sparking controversies to recording record-breaking hits, 50 Cent has been everywhere you turn all through the last decade. His latest album, Before I Selfdestruct, is a prominent hit but ironically he has been one to brag that he will sell more than what is sold on that.
GHOSTFACE – One of my favorite emcees ever. When he dropped Ironman in 1996 who would have known that over ten years later this Wu-Tang strong man would have seen a decade through a solo career? Let’s talk Wu-Tang for a sec. From a fans point of view, this was the illest group ever. One that you knew just not to fuck with. Yeah, Ghost earned his reputation fair and square off the 36 Chambers. But there was also, Cappadonna, GZA, RZA, Methodman, Raekwon, ODB, Inspectah Deck and Masta Killa.
Ghostface was just one guy out of a bunch of talented guys who were all starting out their careers at the top of their game. But then Ghost went and released a slew of solo albums that hit! Then he dropped another one, and another one and then a hit and another one and on and on. Next thing you knew Ghostface Killah has been banging on eardrums for ten years plus. And every album is a treasure.
TRINA – Who would guess that the first lady of Slip –N- Slide Records once had a thing for real estate? In the year 2000, she was introduced to the limelight with her debut album, Da Baddest Bitch. That record reached #33 on the billboard 200, and it earned her a gold plaque. Her second album, Diamond Princess, was released two years later. It did even better on the billboard 200. It peaked at #14 with singles, No Panties – feat Tweet and B R Right – feat. Ludacris.
During the cause of the decade in 2005, Trina released a third album called, Glamorest Life and it spun two hit singles, one featured Lil Wayne and the other featured Kelly Rolland. This time her album debuted at #11 on the billboard 100. Three years later she released, Still Da Baddest and it debuted at #1 on the billboard 100 chart with the single, I Got A Thang For You – feat. Keyshia Cole. Between 2007 and 2009 Trina released ten mixtapes. Her next album was called, Amazin, which was then scheduled to drop in 2010. Needless to ask why this Miami emcee made my list.
NAS – Nasty Nas being on this list shows a steep level of consistency on his part. I’m talking about a legend who shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence with many of the stars on this list. But he is consistent. When Jay Z was making his debut into mainstream circuits, Nas was already a veteran in the game. This was in the late 90’s when Heavy D and the Boys were staging a come back, when Eric Sermon, Redman, Wu-Tang Clan, Tupac Shakur, Suge Knight, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Junior MAFIA, Biggie, the Fugees, etc.… even Das FX were hanging in tight while Busta Rhymes rose to prominence.
This was when Nas held his ground among all the new artists that came out, and he has done that over and over and again. The only other emcee who did this was L.L.Cool J. Nas has basically dropped a classic during each era of Hip Hop. He released enough classics over the years to be immortal in raps hall of fame, and he’s sold records through the roof. Nas did not branch into fashion and label owning on a highly successful level but as an artist, he consistently delivered that street-smart album, and he kept everyone buzzing. As if this stat is not unusual enough Nas has teamed up with Damian Marley to record an album entitled, Distant Relatives.
JAY Z – It’s difficult to perceive why Jiggaman should even be on this list. Due to his status and enormous record, it would be unfair to compare him with other emcees. When you look at his scorecard, when Jay came along in 1996, there were dope emcees in the game who had already made a mark. Jay Z never wavered. Hip Hop was touchy in 1996 but the last person to underrate, history will later prove, was Shawn Carter from Marcy. This clean, street credible emcee is a master of invention.
After ’96 Jay rose to fame quickly and reigned for over ten years and counting. If anyone made Hip Hop work for them, that person would have to be Jay. You will have to mix Russell Simmons with Suge Knight and add in a lot of Slim if you plan to measure up. Ten top ten albums in a row where even Elvis Presley is barely his runners-up? Jiggaman’s formula worked. He continues to spank his competition in every category musically, business-wise and whatever money can buy. In my book, that counts as consistency.
TUPAC SHAKUR – Truly the most hardworking emcee to hit the studio. During 1995 and 1996, Pac recorded enough material for nearly ten albums. He acted two movies within that short period of time. Every year or two during 2000 – 2010, there’s been a new Tupac album in stores and on the chart with a spanking hot single on the radio, and that’s talking record releases after his passing. Not to mention that nearly half of his albums released during this decade were double CD albums. His lyrics are strictly relevant to today’s lifestyle to a point where one could think he recorded the song last night. But Tupac has been reported dead for over thirteen years now. For someone to produces so many hits from the grave, one would wonder why he is not number one on this list.
LIL WAYNE – Between 1999 and 2009 Wayne probably released the most material for one person in all of Hip Hop. Lil Wayne can basically match Tupac in the number of collaborations and album releases he’s done, but Tupac is still ahead because a lot of his albums were double CD albums. Nevertheless, Mr. Carter aka Young Money has been a face of the Southern Hip Hop for ten years straight. Nuff respect to T.I and Young Jersey, of course, Outkast will get a bow along with Scarface, Trick Daddy, and UGK. But still, it comes to be agreed that Lil Wayne dropped approximately seventeen releases if not more in the last decade.
Those CDs include seven commercially successful studio albums and at least ten well-circulated mixtapes. Wayne blew up to mega-stardom and recorded at least one arguably classic in his career. He was even featured on almost every hit in the decade including working with Eminem. Many local artists also owe Wayne some gratitude for his appearance on their songs. His impact is so immense, power players like Jay Z and 50 Cents finally saluted Wayne for the work he puts in. This once underrated emcee from the South is now a force to reckon with, on a global scale.
EMINEM – The big showdown right now for Hip Hop would have to be a Jay Z/Eminem battle. Will it be fair? I don’t know. Jay Z has a right to be washed up at this point in his career, but he is not. Jay Z has spanked the game so hard over the years, even now that he has retired and returned for a post-retirement era of his career, no emcee in his or her right mind would dare step to him lyrically. Well, 50 Cent and the Game tried recently plus Jay Z has always been attacked on wax by fellow emcees dating back to when Tupac couldn’t stand him to his beef with Nas and so on.
Then there is Detroit’s own Eminem. The fearless emcee with his own controversies. With his wit of wits in a game where his greatest strength (wordplay) is a far fetch for many accomplished emcees, Em remains well received in Hip Hop. Being a white boy, it is clear that there is a cap on how many stars he earns as per what he should have made if he was black. All of Eminem albums are classics, but no one seems to want to stamp them even though he’s outsold every artist from Pac to Snoop to Jay Z. What would be worst? Battling Eminem? When he signed 50, the rest was history. Em has made Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope Records the most consistent music powerhouse of this decade. And now he’s branching out and working with other producers? WOW!
SNOOP DOGG – The originator. The inventor. Snoop Dogg is always on my top list. It seems like every year He comes out with another dope album and if you think Snoop isn’t you must be from another planet. Lately, the Doggfather is selling more records than Michael Jackson. Guys like 50 Cent, Eminem, Nelly, Ludacris, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Jay Z had crowded the news with their stats but what? Snoop is right up there with them.
He’s not selling a million CDs in his first week of release, but his consistent platinum certified albums cannot be ignored. On every single record, he sells between 150, 000 to 500, 000 copies in the first week of release. Then the albums go on to a subtle but definite double or triple platinum certification. Snoop’s style of entertainment has always been unique. Not much has changed since this guy stormed the world with The Doggystyle in 1993 and returned with Malice N Wonderland in 2009. When you look at it, we as a whole can never get enough Snoop Dogg.*