Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Top 10 MC's of the Rap Game

MTV announced that after extensive debating their brain trust has devised a list of the top 10 MCs of all time. They’ll be announcing their findings next Monday but the following is what they had to say about how they came to decide the top 10 MC’s in the game:

There was a mathematical formula involved at the start — everyone submitted a top 10, with each #1 pick getting 10 points, the #2 pick getting nine points and so on — but when we added all the lists together and did the math, the resulting list, while mathematically accurate, did not correspond to what many of us felt in our hearts. So we took that list, analyzed it and argued about it. Then we argued some more and made some controversial, hotly contested adjustments that not all of us agreed upon, but all of us respected.

I was a little upset that the MTV brain trust didn’t do a better job defining the term MC. It might have saved them a lot of time and made my job a lot easier. According to MTV an MC makes “the world move with just words and flow. They don't just entertain us — they teach us about life; introduce us to new styles, regions and slang; and act as our counselors in times of need.” Given this ambiguous and purely subjective definition, allow me to provide you with my list of the top ten MCs of all time.

Queen Latifah
Slick Rick
Lil' Wayne
Guru from Gang Starr
Cee-Lo Green
Notorious BIG

Groups that deserve Honorable Mention include:
A Tribe Called Quest
The Roots

I'll defend my top 10 to death, but let me know if you think I left someone essential out.
Get at me!


Brother Afrocan said...

I dont yet have my Phd. but I have to get my hate on. Are you from Brooklyn? because thats the only way it makes sense to have Hov at the number #1 spot. If you are basing your ranking purely on record sales then Britney Spears should be first followed by Em. Sorry to hate but I totally dislike Jay Z, he is a genius as a record executive and knows how to get his stuff to fly off the shelves, but come on man! he is a total d$#% rider- he bit Biggie (yes many of Biggies rhymes did come out his fat lips), he bit Pac (bonnie and clyde- in a silly MTV commercial music kind of way with Beyonce, almost made me throw up listening to it!). His stuff is made for radio garbage. Ok to be honest that was hater hyperbole, not all his stuff is commercialized garbage, but a big proportion of it, too big to put him on any top 10 list. My revised list is,

Mos Def- though he is pissing me off right now with his eclectic B/S!
Slick Rick- the ruler
Juvenile- When the south first came up, the hot boys were led by Juve. 400 Degreez is a classic, as good as Lil Weezy is, Juve still is the master and Wayne is still the student.
Snoop Dogg - say what you will about him now, but when he first came on the scene and was gettin' funky on da mike like an ol' bunch of collard greens, he was tearing it up!
Lauryn Hill- Don't sleep on L'Boogie, She has crazy game, I mean crazy game!, however, like Mos, she seems content to piss it all away
OutKast- andre and big boi nuff said
Nas - Nas is tight, though some times he goes on crazy mind trips thinking he is some kind of
mafioso don (nas escobar? hell is that B/S).
Eminem - simply put the best lyricist I have ever heard, his flow is flawless, probably the best freestyle rapper in the game right now.
Notorious BIG - nuff said
Tupac- any list without pac on top is a joke, he was versatile easily going from dropping knowledge (keep your head up, changez), to gangsta (hit em up, me and my girlfriend)
to club bangers ( how do you want it, cali love), to play in your car hits(picture me rollin)
The thing that set Tupac apart was he had emotion and he showed in in his music- he dropped

Brother Lightness said...

Notably absent from this list are KRS-One and Rakim. Are you serious?

I'm reluctant to get into these debates with people from our generation because quite honestly, we were reared during the downward trajectory of hip-hop. Our immediate knowledge base on these matters is limited at best, and the garbage that dominates FM radio waves and the club environment doesn't help our understanding.

If anyone 30 years of age or over is reading, please sound off. As avid of a hip-hop fan I am, I am also the first to admit that I'm lacking all-encompassing knowledge in composing such a list. Being born in '83 does more harm than help in this situation.

Brother Spotless said...

Smartness, I am disappointed in you; I thought you knew better. How does Cee-Lo make anyone’s top 10? Not even in ATL does that happen.

How about 2 names that you left off: Rakim and KRS One. Both men had the lyrical skills and creativity to make any list, and Rakim is most definitely top 5. His abilities went unmatched from ’86-’89. KRS One was a monster in his own right (he looked like one too…but I digress). They both make any list over Cee-Lo, Lil Wayne and Queen Latifah.

And about that Latifah pick. If you asked her, she’d tell you that you’re sadly mistaken.

It is ashame we can’t split groups from individuals, because Andre 3000 would definitely be on my list (I dare you to listen to Elevators and not feel me on that).

Anyways, my top 10:

10) LL
9) Slick Rick
8) MC Lyte
7 )Nas
6) KRS One
5) Eminem
4) Rakim
3) BIG
2) TuPac
Numero uno: Jay Z

Note to Afrocan: Simply put, Jay-Z is the best mix of lyrical mastery and pop appeal. Most important is his lyrical mastery. Professional poets can’t mess with him.

Brother Smartness said...

Brother Afrocan,

I like your list, but Juve!? I don't know about that one.

Let's get to Jay-Z though. First and foremost, he's alive. He doesn't have that posthumous celebrity that Pac and BIG benefit from. Lyrically, I have just two words: "Reasonable Doubt." That same versatility you attribute to Pac most definitely should be attributed to Jay-Z.

A Swagger Jacker? Everyone is jacking swag from previous artists. Jay-Z has just had an extensive career and so his jacking is more evident.


The list is purely subjective. Rakim falls in my top 15 but not top 10. KRS-1 was an omission on my part I admit. That dude had a profound effect on me.

But while I certainly encourage 30 year olds to respond to this, I don't think you have to be an earlier hip-hop head to provide your two cents.

Brother Afrocan said...

Smartness and Spotless, I gotta admit I have my doubts about putting Juve in that list, but I think he spearheaded the rise of the south in 96 with Cash Money to where the South is today - Lil Jon, Dem Franchise etc., that is a big footprint in the hip hop scene. I always thought he was the best Cash Money product, or maybe I just liked 400 Degreez.

As for Jay, I dont know bro, first of all I will admit, I am biased, I never liked the guy's preoccupation with reminding the world he is the greatest or greatest alive, whatever its like almost 30% of his lyrics- come on how insecure is he? Secondly I thought Jay got slayed by Nas lyrically back during the Ether drama. Thirdly, I agree Reasonable Doubt is tight, Reasonable Doubt and Black Album aside, Jay has alot of commercial stuff out, which is not neccesarily bad, it gets you paid, but catering to radio and mass appeal produces diluted music with catchy hooks and nothing more-look no further than the king of radio 50 cent.

Thanks for correcting a major oversight on my part, KRS 1 and Rakim are def in the mix. To Lightness I think such lists are always subjective and can never be objective standards to uphold to all. They depend on individual tastes regardless of what generation you poll and personally I hate Jay Z.

Brother Spotless said...

Afrocan, I look for consistency in arguments. Your argument seems to be a bit lacking in that department. Here's why:

If you put Juvenile on your list because he put the South on the map (c'mon, you don't really believe that right?), then where is Ice-T on your list? He put the West Coast on the map. Where's the Sugar Hill Gang? They put rap on the map...

Brother Afrocan said...

In I dont think Juve alone put the south on the map, but I do think the Cash Money and No Limit revolution in 96 brought the south to prominence and served as a template of what we get now from D4L, Dem Franchise, Lil Jon. before that it was basically Outkast but their style did not embody the South music that is popular now with simple repetitve hooks and drums (Ha, with Mannie Fresh on the boards).

You do however raise good points about Ice T and Sugar Hill and the consistencies of my arguments.

Brother Afrocan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Khab said...

I respect your top 10 beside the few major flaws. To be on the The Top 10 MC's of the Rap Game list I have to have more than a few tight songs or albums. I think you would have to have a major impact on hiphop culture and the rap game period and a couple of people on that list just don't have anything they have done for the culture. One of those rappers that you put on ur list I believe at #6 is Cee-lo Green. This guy I don't even want to refer to him as a rapper but this guy doesn't even belong on the top 50. When he went solo he was worse than when he was with Goodie Mob and Goodie Mob was an average rap act minus a couple of hits. If you take out there classic song Cell Therapy they have no classic songs in the catalog of songs. Cee-lo never filled any void in hiphop nor does he have enough skills to fulfill a void. You probably couldn't recite half a Cee-lo verse. Ceelo probably couldn't recite a Cee-lo verse. When you nickname yourself Cee-Lo you had to be alittle bit desperate for a rap name considering your not a gangsta rapper. Secondly I don't think Lil Wayne should be on the list either. And eminem I feel is commercial and eminem is only a laterday midiocre version of Big Pun or Chino XL with flow, lyricism and wittyness. His first album was his best in my book when he was broke and had the hunger. His second album was when he started rapping about nothing. And today all his bum bum raps, and taco bell songs with that dog from wherever triumph the puppet dog that goes "i joke, i joke, i keed, i keed." So eminem gets half approval from me. The eminem of today is no better than have the rappers out.

If you include Outkast as top 10 mc's of rap it means you can include rap groups sooooo...

My top 10
#10 NWA- NWA put the west coast on the map.

#9 The Fugees/Lauryn Hill- Purely off the The Score and the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

#8 Chuck D of Public Enemy- Public Enemy has a couple of the best albums in hiphop ever how could you not include Chuck D.

#7 Wu-Tang- Probably the most influential group in hiphop history. From all there charasmatic mc's, lyricists, and most influencial producer to our age of hiphop (rza), you can't knock there influence on hiphop. From the albums 36 chambers, liquid swords, tical, return of 36 chambers by ol' dirty, only built 4 cuban linx, and ironman you have so many rappers that bit the style and producers because of their one style.

#6 Krs-ONE - He was sick period.

#5 Rakim - He has been swagger jacked more times than the bank has been robbed. His stuff is golden.

#4 Jay-z- Sometimes commercial sometimes real that is why he gets the #4 spot for me.

#2/3 Biggie/ Nas- I know I am going to get alot of flack for this but esp. snce Brooklyn is like 3 million plus strong. But Biggie was a great rapper but seemed too be a bit one dimensonal, no different than Jay-z. Nas I felt took more chances and for that had alot of music that was slept on or not appreciated because he didn't do the obvious rapper move. He made Illmatic then It was Written and it was slept on because everyone wanted Illmatic 2.

#1 Tupac- Not a big tupac fan I still need to listen to more of his music but he definately I feel has has a bigger impact on rap from back pack to commercial to anything hiphop. He was too real to be contended with.

Khab said...

I actually meant to put Mos Def on that list too but I forgot.

LL is an honorable mention too even though even now all he does is show his chest and lick his lips. And slick rick is also.

Brother Smartness said...


Cee-Lo's album was the truth for me. I think his genious has yet to be recognized. I can recite both of his albums after Goodie Mob from front to back.

I just want to say that the list is subjective for me. KRS-One was an omission that was horrible on my part. But most of the rappers a lot of you mention didn't do it for me. I couldn't recite a Rakim verse if you paid me, I couldn't recite a Public Enemy verse if my life was on the line. That doesn't mean I don't respect these artists, I'm just telling you all how I feel.

I also based my list on the MTV definition of MC. I was bumpin' Queen Latifah and the woman has a profound effect on the way I saw black women.

All in all, I respect your selections and thank for sharing them with us. I guess we'll see who MTV choses tomorrow and we'll be able to critique them just as well as we're critiquing each other.

Anonymous said...

it is essential to get blastmaster krs-1 in that mix. rakim, too. the two see themselves on the same level, and "criminal minded" and "paid in full" came out within months of each other. also, everybody's sleepin on a tribe called quest. pfife and tip could hold their own with most of these top-tens. and if you're talkin about female emcees, where's mc lyte?

Lamo said...

Have you ever heard of Snoop Doggy Dogg? The most famous rapper ever!! More famous than 2pac or Biggie. Snoop was the worlds first superstar of rap. He is the reason why rap crossed over into popular culture. Doggystyle sold millions upon millions which was unheard of at that time. The chronic was successful only because of the impact snoop made to Dr. Dre's album. Dre couldn't make a hot song by himself back then.

I won't hate on your other picks because I don't want to piss anyone off. All I can say is that you can't deny snoop his place in raps hall of fame (first ballot).

What about master P? He is the reason why the south became a factor in rap. Does that mean nothing? Outkast had their presence, but outkast was never seen as dirty south rap. Master P opened the door for Cash Money and the rest of southern rap.

Master P is not really an MC but neither is Cee-lo.

Anonymous said...

I'm of belguim and i only wanna know if you serious. You put Jay-z as first mc???? How could you do something like that. Why not 50cent,ironic. I think that you also forget mythic mc's like Dr. Dre (chronick 2001 is one of the best hip hop albums ever) krs one, (the king of the begin of the 90's) Rakeem ( a real prince in the hip hop biz) Eazy E ( precursor of gangsta rap). You also forget to mention the best crew ever or one of his mc's "the WU-TANG" 2 of their albums ( more then 60 songs) could be considerate as historic. And to finish i hope you joking when you talk about queen lathifa,cee lo etc. You are to subjectif to do a list of best mc's man. Be professional.My top 10 is (crew incl).

10 Eazy -e
9 Snoop dogg
8 mos def
7 jay z
6 Wu-tang
5 dr dre
4 Nas
3 Eminem
2 Big
1 2Pac

Anonymous said...


I'm form belgium and so i eventually don't know some of the biggest underground mc's but i know who' the best rappers are. I know that it is very difficult to make a list. But you approximatly know who the best mc's are. Ans what i certainly know is that queen latifa, cee lo, lil wayne aren't the best why not Nelly, chingy and ludacris?????(i'm ironic). You also forget a lot of great crews or mc's. I thnik that you are to subjectif to make a list. If you like some bad rappers their is no problem, they also need a public,but don't make a ridiculous list. You forget mc's like : dr dre ( chronic and 2001 where great albums in rap history) krs one ( the father of the 90's) Rakim, Dmx( he brought true hip hop back in 1998), the Wu-tang clan and all it mc's( method,gza ,odb,rza, ghostface particulary), nwa.
And a last thing, oké jay z was a good mc but he really work a lot to sell, and this with plagia(he didn't innovate, he was a remix of B.I.G., Krs'one and britney spears) If you like him cool but couldn't place him before mc's like 2pac,big,dre or even nas.