After ‘Rather You Than Me,” Rick Ross should probably be in the G. O. A. T. conversation. I say perhaps because I’m one of those Hip Hop bosses who thought no one could spit better than Rakim. Of course, I adore Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash, Slick Rick, L. L. Cool J, Ice Cube, and Ran DMC. In the late 80s, those guys were the best on my short list. That’s what I thought until Snoop Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound.
Soon we had The Notorious B. I. G, Guru, Wu-Tang, Luniz, Bone Thugs N Harmony, Eric Sermon, Keith Murry, Redman, MC Lyte, Ma$e, Cypress Hill, and of course Tupac, L. L. Cool J, Queen Latifah and Nas who made it into the 90s. Considering you know I’m mainly referencing the mainstream emcees who I was listening to, and understanding we all agree that there were so many more excellent emcees like Biz Markie. Special Ed and D.O.C. who did not get their proper shine. The list would be endless if we decided to name every single dope emcee who ever lived.
At one time in Hip Hop it seemed like every five years there was a new group of excellent emcees. The Fugees, Outkast, Mobb Deep, The Lox, Carpone N Norega, Queen Pen, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, A Tribe Called Quest, Onyx, Busta Rhymes, Goodie Mobb, West Side Connection, etc. Even with the arrival of instant legends like DMX, Big Pun, and Eminem, everyone was settled on Tupac, Biggie, Jay Z, Nas and Snoop being the top five greatest emcees of all time. This is while Birdman and Master P were claiming the South with Cash Money and No Limit Records. Then 50 Cent blew up. Papoose, Ludacris, Remy Ma, Trick Daddy, Trina, TI, EVE, Cassidy, D Block, Beanie Sigel, Freeway, and AZ were out.
Veterans like L. L. Cool J, Q Tip, and Ice Cube were slowing down, Jay Z, P. Diddy, and Snoop rose to god status. “Snap” arrived. The Hip Hop community started to complain about how washed up the new rappers sound. People began giving into conspiracy theories about the Hip Hop Police working with major record labels and distribution companies to destroy the core of Hip Hop. They say the endorsing or signing of the wackest emcees is a plot against the Kulture. The newer generation is gay. Of course, Hip Hop was immediately called out as a homophobic culture. And with the success of the civil rights movement, being homophobic became one of the most terrible names to be called.
The people believe in the streets. They define great emcees by a Kultural essence that is true to the inner city, bars and how well they can flow. Hip Hop music was in limbo. Not even one new rapper was considered to be great, yet alone the greatest.”
Lil Wayne had entered his prime, Kanye West seemed destined to return the music to its glory. That did not happen. Instead, Jay Z, Nas, and Lil Wayne climbed to the top, while most other rappers fell out of the limelight. Then entered Pusha T, Young Jeezy (later shortened to Jeezy) and Gucci Mane. Ross came with a Jay Z type of swagger. He owns his label, seems to be baptized in the Kulture and he has dope bars with a sic flow. He was the immediate savior of Hip Hop. Well, until the scandal became widespread that he is a former corrections officer.
The savior of Hip Hop is a former correctional officer? That should have been a career end for Rick Ross, but it was not. The “Teflon Don” blew us away with one solid album after another. Everyone who listened to his records agreed on one thing. The guy can rap! The Hip Hop community is at odds with the police because of racial profiling, destroying the future of millions of youth, with police brutality and bizarre murder of unarmed black and brown men. Any emcee that has a connection to them loses credibility, instantly.
But Rick Ross stood firm. We had seen him hold his own with guys like Future, 2 Chains and Drake (who also lost some credibility when Meek Mill, a Rick Ross artist, revealed that he does not write his own lyrics). Rick Ross has worked with a lot of great emcees as well. He always seems to have a positive spin in every situation. And his work is as good if not better in some cases.
If you’re looking for that original flow right now, you’ll have to go with The Game, J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Kevin Gates or Rick Ross. Although the stain from being a corrections officer is immovable, from “Port of Miami” to “Rather You Than Me,” Rick Ross has consistently delivered dope bars, sic flows with a profound awareness of the Kulture in his music. He should be considered as one of the best masters of ceremony.*