Grandmaster Caz to Drake
January 11, 2016 10:21 AM   Subscribe

The Best Rapper Alive, Every Year Since 1979

The full list:
  • 1979: Grandmaster Caz
  • 1980: Kurtis Blow
  • 1981: Kool Moe Dee
  • 1982: Melle Mel
  • 1983: Run
  • 1984: Run
  • 1985: LL Cool J
  • 1986: KRS-One
  • 1987: Rakim
  • 1988: Slick Rick
  • 1989: Big Daddy Kane
  • 1990: Ice Cube
  • 1991: Q-Tip
  • 1992: Redman
  • 1993: Snoop Doggy Dogg
  • 1994: Nas
  • 1995: The Notorious B.I.G.
  • 1996: 2Pac
  • 1997: The Notorious B.I.G.
  • 1998: DMX
  • 1999: Jay Z
  • 2000: Eminem
  • 2001: Jay Z
  • 2002: Eminem
  • 2003: 50 Cent
  • 2004: T.I.
  • 2005: Jeezy
  • 2006: Lil Wayne
  • 2007: Kanye West
  • 2008: Lil Wayne
  • 2009: Jay Z
  • 2010: Kanye West
  • 2011: Drake
  • 2012: Drake
  • 2013: Kendrick Lamar
  • 2014: Nicki Minaj
  • 2015: Drake
posted by alby (117 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is this where I post a list but with "Rakim" in every year?
posted by GuyZero at 10:31 AM on January 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


I am not a huge rap aficionado so I am reluctant to weigh in on the decision-making, but those illustrations are fantastic.
posted by psoas at 10:33 AM on January 11, 2016 [20 favorites]


Yeah the best part by far was the portraits. There are a few I'd like to have in my house, I think
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:36 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Drake three times, but Kanye once? No.
posted by scunning at 10:37 AM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Drake three times, but Kanye once? No.

Kanye appears twice: in 2007 and 2010.
posted by alby at 10:39 AM on January 11, 2016


The linkbait headline doesn't match the subheader / content!

Anyways, great illustrations, good writeup, just further makes me feel like a crotchety came-wielder as I sit on my suburban commuter train home with my collared shirt, woollen pullover, and Liquid Swords playing at a sensible volume on my headphones.
posted by sektah at 10:39 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Missy Elliot?
Apparently they opened the award to women in 2014?
posted by ferdydurke at 10:43 AM on January 11, 2016 [14 favorites]


I'm not a hip hop fan so it makes me suspicious that I recognized all but three people on this list. Is it really likely that excellence is so uniformly rewarded with commercial success?
posted by Octaviuz at 10:45 AM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


What the fuck. Ice Cube wasn't even the best rapper in NWA. And anyone putting Drake above Kendrick Lamar is fucking high even if they try to write it off.
posted by bitdamaged at 10:48 AM on January 11, 2016 [22 favorites]


Apparently they opened the award to women in 2014?

Roxane Shante gets an honourable mention for 1984 and totally deserves winning one of those early years because she's so friggin' awesome.

Is it really likely that excellence is so uniformly rewarded with commercial success?

The headline is all fury- inducing, but then the subhead directly beneath ( "The rapper who stole each year...") says "yes" to your question, as that pretty much does mean $$$ once hip-hop became a thing.

At least that's what I'm telling myself, because seriously, Little Wayne, WTF...
posted by sektah at 10:52 AM on January 11, 2016


This list is bullshit.

Mos Def.
posted by Fizz at 10:54 AM on January 11, 2016 [11 favorites]


Is this where I post a list but with "Rakim" in every year?

Same, but
posted by Apocryphon at 10:54 AM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Biggest surprise to me was not having Public Enemy as #1 somewhere between 88 and 90. 89's Fight the Power was probably the most important album that decade, let alone that year.
posted by bonehead at 10:56 AM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Well at least they put Redman in the right place, so
posted by penduluum at 10:57 AM on January 11, 2016


Ranked lists movies/music etc is the clickbait equivalent of putting spiders in a jar and shaking it. OH LOOK THEY'RE FIGHTING. WHO KNEW.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:59 AM on January 11, 2016 [16 favorites]


No Guru from Gang Starr even as a runner-up/honorable mention. Eff that noise.
posted by blucevalo at 10:59 AM on January 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Are rap snobs still down on Lil Wayne? He's very uneven but when he is (was?) good hrs good. That is if your definition of "good" has room for clever stream-of-consciousness wordplay and not just political shit.
posted by atoxyl at 11:02 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Needs more Busta. More Method Man. Good to see Redman getting his due.
posted by thecjm at 11:02 AM on January 11, 2016


Yeah, they are basically listing off whomever was most commercially successful each year. Which is a both a cynical and appropriate interpretation of "best" when it comes to the music industry.
posted by schroedinger at 11:02 AM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm a fan of Run and all, but Cheryl R. James and Sandra Denton could have gone toe to toe with him any day of the week. The absence of women from this list is criminal.
posted by maxsparber at 11:02 AM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Because seriously: Drake? And I really like Drake! But: Drake?!
posted by schroedinger at 11:03 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think they may be going for "most successful rapper of the year" or "most quintessential rapper of the year" instead of "best", kinda clued in at Q-Tip, who while he is often a favorite rapper to many with a really cool voice and style, probably would never have even considered himself the best rapper out there in 1991. Also Spoonie Gee over Kool Moe Dee IMO. Then when we get into the more recent stuff I don't even know how people evaluate "best" anymore because I'm old. I don't find Drake to be particularly great at rapping but he undeniably connects with people and has a style a lot of people seem to want to bite these days.
posted by Hoopo at 11:03 AM on January 11, 2016


And, obviously, from 2010 on, it should have been Nicki Minaj, Nicki Minaj, Nicki Minaj, Nicki Minaj, Nicki Minaj, Nicki Minaj
posted by maxsparber at 11:04 AM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


ferdydurke: “Apparently they opened the award to women in 2014?”

On the 2014 entry for Nicki, it credits her as being "first female rapper in 56 years to have four No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart." So since 1958. I'm not sure if that's because the Billboard Hot R&B chart actually started in 1958, or because Della Reese had some hits I didn't know about.
posted by koeselitz at 11:06 AM on January 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


2015: Drake YOUNG THUG
posted by raihan_ at 11:07 AM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Are rap snobs still down on Lil Wayne?

Yes. Absolutely.
posted by alby at 11:07 AM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


List of the Rapper You Probably Recognize by Year
posted by Panjandrum at 11:08 AM on January 11, 2016 [12 favorites]


Anyway there's definitely a tendency in rap journalism to conflate "best" with "had the most mindshare according to some estimation" as if that's actually more objective than just saying what you like. But this is clearly in that tradition so no use complaining that your fave rap traditionalist/ niche boundary-pusher isn't on it.
posted by atoxyl at 11:09 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm a fan of Run and all, but Cheryl R. James and Sandra Denton could have gone toe to toe with him any day of the week. The absence of women from this list is criminal.

Salt N Peppa didn't debut until 1986 (they had a song out in 1985 under a different name, apparently) and Run is listed here for 1983 and 1984 so even if you want to argue they were better overall they're not beating Run because they didn't have any songs out yet.
posted by Hoopo at 11:10 AM on January 11, 2016


Doesn't change my point about women being excluded from the list.
posted by maxsparber at 11:11 AM on January 11, 2016


Yeah, it does look like Rapper with the Greatest Commercial Impact Per Year.

Billions of people would have had to die for 50 Cent to be Best Rapper Alive.
posted by ignignokt at 11:11 AM on January 11, 2016 [12 favorites]


lmaooo Drake

Fucking great portraits.
posted by Sternmeyer at 11:12 AM on January 11, 2016


> Billions of people would have had to die for 50 Cent to be Best Rapper Alive.

Please, stop giving him suggestions.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:13 AM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I came here to disavow any best rappers list that does not feature Missy Elliott multiple times.
posted by lieber hair at 11:15 AM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Biggest head-scratchers for me are DMX & Jeezy, who I know were both popular but come on, best?
posted by Hoopo at 11:15 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I guess the rationale for Drake in 2016 is the Meek Mill thing and his general dominance of social media? I like IYCRTITL but it doesn't *really* seem to me that he should be winning this year on music. I dunno. I might have put in for Thug too cause I love the idea that a popular rapper is, like, halfway to Diamanda Galas. Really though I wish he'd work with some weirder producers and maybe filter his output a little more.
posted by atoxyl at 11:16 AM on January 11, 2016


So taking this instead of "best" as "the rapper who most personified rap to the masses in a given year" I think makes a lot of sense.

And I think they could have spared a well-deserved 2015 honorable mention for Lin-Manuel Miranda.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:19 AM on January 11, 2016


Also sometimes I think Thug's fans might mostly be rap bloggers? Whereas Future is the one who'll actually get played in the (strip) club? But I dunno maybe Thugger actually is huge in ATL already.
posted by atoxyl at 11:20 AM on January 11, 2016


And yeah, only even mentioning Missy once (and that in the context of what a great year Luda had) is just bizarre.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:23 AM on January 11, 2016


Those are some really weird ways to spell "Chuck D"
posted by the phlegmatic king at 11:24 AM on January 11, 2016 [10 favorites]


If you read the actual intro to the piece, they analogise their use of best with a MVP in sports --- e.g. the player most valuable to his franchise, the one most responsible for the team's overall success. In that sense, I'd say whatever rapper sells a ton of records and dominates the cultural conversation around hip hop in a given year makes a fair amount of sense.

Still, though. Drake three times?
posted by Diablevert at 11:25 AM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Biggest surprise to me was not having Public Enemy as #1 somewhere between 88 and 90. 89's Fight the Power was probably the most important album that decade, let alone that year.

Yes, the egregious year being 1988's choice of Slick Rick instead of Chuck D. Um no, just no. The reason?
But still, despite all of the accolades you can give (ChuckD) during that period, he just wasn't the top lyricist.
Because clearly these lyrics from Slick Rick's "Lick the Balls" wil forever stand the test of time:
I eat you up and give your girl a bowl of Puppy Chow
You understand alright? Hello! I'm tryin to tell you now
Who stands, who falls, who crowds the halls
This one the DJ calls... lick the balls!
posted by jeremias at 11:26 AM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


What the fuck. Ice Cube wasn't even the best rapper in NWA

1990, though -- maybe look at it like AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted vs 100 Miles and Runnin
posted by Hoopo at 11:27 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Actually, in a way it's interesting to me that all the people commenting in the thread without reading the article seem to presume that "best" in this instance should denote some kind of Romantic adherence to individual artistic integrity, that therefore it is surprising that there aren't more women on the list given that there are surely many skilled female writers and rhymers out there. But hip hop above all other genres disdains "indieness". Money, success, credibility and the respect of your peers are thoroughly interlocked, in its value system. You can make as pretty a rhyme as you want, if nobody's buying what you're selling you aren't success and you can't be a failure and be the best.
posted by Diablevert at 11:31 AM on January 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


I see. So apparently there is such a thing.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 11:33 AM on January 11, 2016


Billions of people would have had to die for 50 Cent to be Best Rapper Alive.

"One death is a tragedy. One million deaths is a statistic." -50 Cent
posted by Apocryphon at 11:35 AM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I could've sworn that somebody at Grantland did something like this (with rappers--I'm not thinking of Shea Serrano's book), but now I can't seem to find it, and I wonder what key part of it I am misremembering.
posted by box at 11:35 AM on January 11, 2016


1995: The Notorious B.I.G.
1996: 2Pac
1997: The Notorious B.I.G.
1998: DMX


Kinda depressing timeline. I mean, I like DMX, but...
posted by leotrotsky at 11:35 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Because Lauryn Hill was robbed?
posted by box at 11:37 AM on January 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


You know they do have explanations of these (even if you disagree with them).
posted by atoxyl at 11:40 AM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Money, success, credibility and the respect of your peers are thoroughly interlocked, in its value system. You can make as pretty a rhyme as you want, if nobody's buying what you're selling you aren't success and you can't be a failure and be the best.

There's truth to this, but there's also what rappers say is good when they talk to each other. And it's never Drake or Puffy that they think is GOAT. Like, Jay-Z says its Rakim. RZA talks about G Rap. Ice Cube says its Chuck D. None of these guys sold billions.

I guess it's sort of like my understanding of Thor and Odin. The people loved Thor and thought he was the greatest. The gods thought that way about Odin. We can all figure out who the Thors of rap are. We were half-expecting more of a Odins of rap.
posted by ignignokt at 11:41 AM on January 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


NO MACKLEMORE???

... complained no one.
posted by dgaicun at 11:42 AM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Pretty good list, especially early on, although I would have included Kool Keith. But around 2000 it skews towards pop. Omitting MF DOOM is particularly egregious.

Some other 21st century rappers I think deserve accolades include Binary Star, Flying Lotus, Kid Cudi, Killer Mike, Lil B, and Talib Kweli.
posted by foobaz at 11:44 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just glad to see that no one is thinking twice about Snoop taking 1993, because not a lot of people have ever had a better year in anything than Snoop had in 1993.
posted by Etrigan at 11:45 AM on January 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


We were half-expecting more of a Odins of rap.

So, Fetty Wap?
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:46 AM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Because Lauryn Hill was robbed?

Agreed. You could not get away from Lauryn Hill that year if you wanted to. I guess they make a good point about DMX's chart record or whatever, but Lauryn Hill actually made, you know, a really good album in addition to being really popular.
posted by Hoopo at 11:49 AM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I guess I'm mostly ok up til the late 90s but then it's like, wow, i don't understand any of this until 2014.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:50 AM on January 11, 2016


"Some other 21st century rappers I think deserve accolades include Binary Star, Flying Lotus, Kid Cudi, Killer Mike..."

(emphasis mine) waitaminute.

:P
posted by raihan_ at 11:55 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


No Ice-T? No Lauryn Hill? Lil' Wayne was the best rapper in the world in two different years? This list is bunk. Wu Tang is also criminally underrepresented.
posted by Locobot at 11:59 AM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


FlyLo as Captain Murphy ain't bad but I don't think he himself would say it's the core of his work (and I'd guess he'd vote for Kendrick in 2012 or 2015)
posted by atoxyl at 12:02 PM on January 11, 2016


Up until about 2003, I was making notes on my "Oh shit, I never bought that album," list. I don't know what it is, but the game changed during the Bush years, and frankly, I felt a little like Dre, "Fuck Rap, you can have it back."

Maybe I'm getting old. Yeah, that's probably it. Get off my lawn.
posted by Chuffy at 12:06 PM on January 11, 2016


Because Lauryn Hill was robbed?

At she got listed as an honorable mention. MC Lyte's name doesn't appear in the whole piece and she put out two fantastic albums before she turned 20.
posted by Ufez Jones at 12:08 PM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Definitely some glaring errors but I appreciate the effort to cast rap in this specific way. It's as much a competitive sport as it is a musical genre, and I love that about it. Hope it never changes. But seriously, Chuck D > Redman.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:12 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also if they were just going by commercial success they'd have MCA on there so stash that noise.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:12 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Best producers" would actually be a more interesting discussion for me though then we get into a debate about people like Flying Lotus who are only *sorta* rap producers (but incredible musicians). Also the likes of Lex Luger and DJ Mustard banging out radio hits in a half hour vs. more carefully crafted stuff.
posted by atoxyl at 12:13 PM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I agree with this list more than I thought I would.

It's 2016. I'm in my forties, and I still have Kurtis Blow, Kool Moe Dee, Run DMC, KRS-ONE/BDP, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Eric B and Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, and NWA on my phone with a shitton of Beastie Boys, EPMD, Whodini, etc. I just find myself going back to the stuff I grew up with.
posted by Sphinx at 12:20 PM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


And anyone putting Drake above Kendrick Lamar is fucking high even if they try to write it off.

I gotta bone to pick! I don't want you monkey-mouth motherfuckers sittin' on my throne again!
posted by jimmythefish at 12:21 PM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


But seriously, Chuck D > Redman.

In 1992? I dunno man, there was a bit of a changing of the guard in the early 90s. I know Apocalypse 91 sold well but I remember it feeling old almost instantly with what else was going on at the time. In 1991-2 you had guys like Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Mohammed, Redman, DJ Muggs, Showbiz, DJ Premier, & Diamond D, The Beastie Boys doing Check Your Head, J-Swift doing Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, etc...they were all taking hip hop in different directions musically from the PE/Bomb Squad paradigm, and rappers went along with them. At least that's how I remember it, it may have been less pronounced. But in my memory, Redman and Public Enemy exist in completely different eras.
posted by Hoopo at 12:50 PM on January 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Good points! I bet they avoided groups like Pharcyde/De La just because that screws up their format. Anyway, I'd love to see an alternative history of this with the Albums Sold : Music Enjoyed ratio inverted. In which case this is the best album of 1992.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:58 PM on January 11, 2016


I don't want to step across any lines here, but some white dude that lives in suburbia made this list, right?
posted by Nelson69 at 12:59 PM on January 11, 2016



There's truth to this, but there's also what rappers say is good when they talk to each other. And it's never Drake or Puffy that they think is GOAT. Like, Jay-Z says its Rakim. RZA talks about G Rap. Ice Cube says its Chuck D. None of these guys sold billions.


Yes, but that's why the specifically say in the intro to the article that they weren't debating GOAT status with this list. That, like the MVP, they were looking at relevance at a given moment in time rather than overall legacy.

It's the inverse of the old Velvet Underground chestnut, the whole "nobody bought the album but everybody who was at the show started a band." Etc. A given artist can have a more important or lasting overall legacy through the successors they influence while never ever achieving that level of popularity/achievement that allow them dominate the zeitgeist at any point.
posted by Diablevert at 1:08 PM on January 11, 2016


Binary Star

Was actually two guys, One Be Lo and Senim Silla. The latter of which I always felt was the superior MC, which makes me sad that he only put out one solo album before hanging up the mic. Doubly sad that the album was fantastic.
posted by Panjandrum at 1:15 PM on January 11, 2016


I don't want to step across any lines here, but some white dude that lives in suburbia made this list, right?

Three white dudes, two black dudes, a brown dude, and a chick, according to a cursory glance at their bylines. Please feel free to sneer at the article if you like, but I do so appreciate it when one's contempt is informed by actually having read the fucking thing.
posted by Diablevert at 1:18 PM on January 11, 2016 [10 favorites]


Three white dudes, two black dudes, a brown dude, and a chick woman.

Interesting list, but seriously gotta agree with the atrociousness of omitting Chuck D. wtf? And for the really old skool, it could be argued that Scorpio was a better rapper then Melly Mel.

And no De La? Are they fucking kidding? Not even an honourable mention? wtf again.

So, ignoring commercial success, who would be your choice for the GOAT?
posted by marienbad at 1:24 PM on January 11, 2016


The absence of Chuck D invalidates this entire article.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 1:39 PM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


You know they do have explanations of these (even if you disagree with them).

The explanations are worth reading, even if only to get a sort of narrow, condensed History of Hip-Hop. The problem is that the list begins with people who were creating, defining, and re-creating and re-defining a genre. So it starts off by justifying the choices along the lines of "this person did something no one else was doing, and it forever changed the trajectory of hip-hop," and they can say that with the insight of hindsight.

As the list gets closer and closer to the present though, the reasons for the choices become less clear. Yeah, there's less room to innovate in a mature art form and it's hard to know what current MC will have lasting effect, but the authors seem to default towards picking whoever had the hottest record that year. Sure, that's a form of success, but the phrase "Best Rapper Alive" has some connotations that go beyond "sold tracks well."

By just focusing on, what is basically Top 40 Hip-Hop, the list makes some baffling omissions, some of which have already been called out here (Mos Def, Guru, anyone from Pharcyde), and some names which regularly make these sorts of lists but are completely absent (Canibus, Masta Ace). In exchange we get... Drake, who is basically a rapper built by committee who makes fine and forgettable pop music.
posted by Panjandrum at 1:53 PM on January 11, 2016


Yes, but that's why the specifically say in the intro to the article

Oh! I didn't read the intro even though you called it out! I guess I don't expect the non-list parts of a list article to be important. Carry on!
posted by ignignokt at 3:09 PM on January 11, 2016


MCA

Pours out a 40
posted by 4ster at 3:15 PM on January 11, 2016


Man, I like Chuck too, but I don't think there's a year I'd say he was the best rapper alive.

Realistically, I think we're looking at from about Nation of Millions to Fear of a Black Planet, maybe '88 to '90. They gave him an honorable mention for all three of those years. Which one of those years would you give him the crown?

1988? Over Slick Rick and KRS? Maybe. Over Rakim and Kane? Nope.
1989? Kane again, or G. Rap.
1990? Cube and Kane shut him down on his own shit.

Lifetime Achievement Award? Oh, yeah. First-ballot HOF? No doubt. But I don't think there's a year where Chuck D thinks Chuck D was the best rapper alive.
posted by box at 3:29 PM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I guess it's sort of like my understanding of Thor and Odin. The people loved Thor and thought he was the greatest. The gods thought that way about Odin. We can all figure out who the Thors of rap are. We were half-expecting more of a Odins of rap.

This is a fantastic analogy.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 5:34 PM on January 11, 2016


So, ignoring commercial success, who would be your choice for the GOAT?

I think popularity has to be part of it--not all, but part. If it's not, I think you're talking about something that isn't the GOAT. And that's cool, we can talk about rappers all day (seriously, I would like that), but they call it the rap game for a reason--it's a competition, with winners and losers, and people keeping score.

Or, uhhhhhh, let's say Mike Ladd.
posted by box at 5:46 PM on January 11, 2016


Kool Keith's "Sex Style" was released in 1997. Just sayin'.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:52 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Drake...Not even once...
posted by Increase at 6:36 PM on January 11, 2016


No Del and no Madlib. Fail.
posted by ostranenie at 7:00 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Some of you guys really don't get what this is meant to be.
posted by atoxyl at 7:20 PM on January 11, 2016


Madlib is one of the best producers ever but Madlib as Quasimodo comes nowhere close to a list of great rappers the fuck?
posted by atoxyl at 7:22 PM on January 11, 2016


Some of you guys really don't get what this is meant to be.

If they gave 2009 to Jay-Z for Empire State of Mind I don't think they get what it's supposed to be either.
posted by foobaz at 10:03 PM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


If they gave 2009 to Jay-Z for Empire State of Mind I don't think they get what it's supposed to be either.

Now this comment is more than fair.
posted by atoxyl at 10:22 PM on January 11, 2016


Agreed with foobaz that MF DOOM really should be on there someplace. But the problem, I guess - Madman never go *pop!* like snot bubbles.
posted by sapagan at 10:35 PM on January 11, 2016


Apple-F "Drake"
"50 Matches"

*grits my damned teeth, reads anyway.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:45 PM on January 11, 2016


What the actual fuck is up with not including MC Lyte on the list even as an honorable mention?
posted by mysterious_stranger at 3:11 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


This list needs to go on a "worst of" list somewhere. Good to see some controversial choices like Kanye and Nicki Minaj included, annoying to see Jay Z more than twice, idiotic to see 50 Cent, T.I., and Drake at all.

Basically, ignore the list from the article, make a list of rappers mentioned in the comments here, and you'll have a great list of *actual* best rappers.
posted by iffthen at 4:52 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


OK, here is a belated alternative list of the most innovative artists (including groups) of each year who never made it hugely big but made a giant impact on the craft. US only and please DO @ me if you think this I got it wrong. Jean Grae, for instance, never really made a breakthrough album, but in 2002, she was the most interesting person out there breaking new ground. Got a problem with that? Let me know.

1990: Chuck D
1991: Del tha FunkeƩ Homosapien
1992: Disposable Heroes
1993: Black Moon
1994: Dig Plans
1995: Aceyalone
1996: Kool Keith
1997: Missy
1998: Gang Starr
1999: Pharoahe Monch
2000: MC Paul Barman
2001: Dead Prez
2002: Mr Lif
2003: Jean Grae
2004: Mos Def
2005: Doom
2006: P.O.S.
2007: Busdriver
2008: Why?
2009: Shabazz Palaces
2010: Earle
2011: Lil B
2012: Azealia Banks
2013: Chance
2014: Kitty
2015: Michael Christmas

Spotify Playlist.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:36 AM on January 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


Hey, this looks like fun. Caveats: I tried to use Potomac Ave.'s criteria, and I didn't pick anyone that's also on his or Complex's lists. If I did this tomorrow, there would probably be twenty different names on it.

1990 - Lakim Shabazz
1991 - P.M. Dawn
1992 - Pharcyde
1993 - Freestyle Fellowship
1994 - Gravediggaz
1995 - Bone Thugs
1996 - Outkast
1997 - Company Flow
1998 - Black Star
1999 - Defari
2000 - Soulquarians
2001 - J-Live
2002 - Sage Francis
2003 - Dipset
2004 - R.A. the Rugged Man
2005 - Perceptionists
2006 - Dilla
2007 - Aesop Rock
2008 - Re-Up Gang
2009 - Sa-Ra
2010 - Dessa
2011 - Random Axe
2012 - Lecrae
2013 - A$AP
2014 - Isaiah Rashad
2015 - Vince Staples
posted by box at 12:05 PM on January 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


DVS or GTFO
posted by slogger at 12:31 PM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've *started* on the producers list but I'm busy today so I'm gonna need some help. This is going by a nebulous definition of "influential" so there's a slant toward the commercially successful but some "producer's producers" will make it in.

1988 - Dr. Dre though you could say The Bomb Squad
1989 - Dust Brothers
1990 - The Bomb Squad
1991 - ?
1992 - Pete Rock
1993 - Dre
1994 - DJ Premier? He's probably had better years though that's just the one with Illmatic
1995 - RZA ofc even though there's lots of competition that year
1996 - DJ Screw. You heard me.
1997 - ?
1998 - um, Dungeon Family/Organized Noise maybe?
1999 - Timb and Missy
2000 - Dilla? Hard to pick a year for him.
2001 - Kanye maybe? maybe?

This is where I leave off for now. There's another good case for Yeezy in '04. The Neptunes may have *several* years here. Lil Jon - influential, remember. Early trap guys like Zaytoven, Shawty Redd, Drumma Boy. Madlib's best year for me is 2002 but he might be too indie. Just Blaze? I dunno.


2010 - Lex Luger
2011 - Clams Casino
2012 - ?
2013 - Noah '40' Shebib (maybe the wrong year but I wanted Clams in '11)
2014 - DJ Mustard (sorry you know it's true)
posted by atoxyl at 12:32 PM on January 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Anyone think Rick Ross deserves a spot? How about 2006 for Port of Miami?

If you're listing producers, Dan the Automator and Madlib both deserve spots. Maybe give them 1996 for Dr. Octagon and 2004 for Madvillainy. Or even 2003 for Shades of Blue.
posted by foobaz at 12:44 PM on January 12, 2016


Producers:

1991 - Prince Paul
1997 - Puffy. I don't like it any more than you do.
posted by box at 12:52 PM on January 12, 2016


You might put Beats by the Pound in there somewhere, and Mannie Fresh.
posted by box at 12:57 PM on January 12, 2016


Shit I thought Madvillainy was 2002. I'm a huge huge fan of that album but I dunno if he really made a bigger impact than, say Kanye West in 2004. But then I could push 'Ye another couple years especially if I'm already giving him 2001.
posted by atoxyl at 12:58 PM on January 12, 2016


1996 is a hard (i.e. very competitive) year. I chose Screw because I really think he belongs (even though he wasn't technically a producer) and I'm pretty sure that was his peak, but he had a few years you could put him in for.

DJ Shadow actually probably put out the most impressive beat recording of 1996 but I made an executive decision that he does not fit the premise of this list.
posted by atoxyl at 1:03 PM on January 12, 2016


2010 - Lex Luger
2011 - Clams Casino
2012 - ?
2013 - Noah '40' Shebib (maybe the wrong year but I wanted Clams in '11)
2014 - DJ Mustard (sorry you know it's true)


2012 is Harry Fraud for this beat alone, though all his work for Action Bronson (and most his stuff for French Montana) is pretty stellar.
posted by joechip at 1:57 PM on January 12, 2016


2012: Flying Lotus yo
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:12 PM on January 12, 2016


Also you could put Prince Paul in a number of places but 1991 was both De La Soul Is Dead and the last Stetasonic record.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:16 PM on January 12, 2016


1994 - DJ Premier? He's probably had better years though that's just the one with Illmatic

I think he only did NY State of Mind, Memory Lane, and Represent on Illmatic. Not that that's a bad thing. But of those I'd personally probably only throw NY State of Mind on a "Best of Premier" mix. I'd say 94-95 are solid years for him. Hard to Earn, The Sun Rises in the East, "Unbelievable", "Downtown Swinga", his tracks on Illmatic, "Real Hip Hop", Livin Proof, "Rappaz R N Dainja" and "MCs Act Like They Don't Know", "Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers", "Next Level"...those 2 years for him produced so many classics it ridiculous.

2000 - Dilla? Hard to pick a year for him.

I'm gonna suggest 1996 even though you went with DJ Screw. But I mean look at 96 for Jay Dee

1997 - ?

Beatnuts!
posted by Hoopo at 2:20 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Alt-F Easy E...no results...goddamit people!
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 2:44 PM on January 12, 2016


El P might be 2001-2002
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:50 PM on January 12, 2016


Not counting FlyLo because he's not *primarily* a rap producer. I was thinking about El-P. But again in theory I wanted to list not strictly who was the best or even the most original but who was the most "important" to this history of rap - that just ends up getting muddled anyway as I try to balance the critically-acclaimed/worshiped-by-other-producers versus the unquestionably radio-dominant.
posted by atoxyl at 4:13 PM on January 12, 2016


I broke the must-produce-for-rappers rule in the other direction for Screw because his tapes did include tons of original freestyles over fucked-up versions of other people's beats and because his sound, subject matter, and approach to distribution were hugely influential.

That's related to what's really the main quarrel I had with some people's comments earlier in the thread - you may not like it personally but the rise of Southern party/drug rap is pretty undisputably the big trend of the last 15 years. You can't just dismiss those guys.
posted by atoxyl at 4:23 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Members of NWA Ranked as Rappers (caveats: this is based on their best rapping ever, which in some cases is better than the rapping they did as a member of NWA. And, although I provide both raw and adjusted-as-if-using-ghostwriters-doesn't-matter scores, don't get it twisted--it matters):

Ice Cube
The D.O.C.
Dr. Dre (if ghostwriters don't matter)
Eazy E (if ghostwriters don't matter)
MC Ren
Eazy
Dre
Arabian Prince
posted by box at 4:55 PM on January 12, 2016


I really don't get their BRA vs. GOAT vs. "biggest"/"most successful" matrix; it's all pretty esoteric and arbitrary and ambiguous. I'd agree also that the list is super New York-centric, almost comically so.

Anyway, Jeru the Damaja isn't anywhere on the list either, so again, eff that noise.
posted by blucevalo at 8:45 PM on January 12, 2016


All ya'll forgot Blue Scholars. But, I'll forgive you.
posted by cerulgalactus at 2:10 AM on January 13, 2016


The D.O.C.

Was in fact Dr. Dre's primary ghostwriter in the 90s - or so I've heard - though you probably know that.

Nowadays it seems a lot of Dre's verses are really, really obviously written by whoever among his star "discoveries" he happens to be guesting for e.g. Eminem on "Forgot About Dre" and Kendrick lately.
posted by atoxyl at 1:20 PM on January 13, 2016


He does still have the skills to deliver that stuff competently enough it's just pretty clearly the other dude's flow/intricate rhyme scheme.
posted by atoxyl at 1:24 PM on January 13, 2016


Yeah, but Dre sans ghostwriter does not bring as much to the table as Eazy sans ghostwriter does--he doesn't have the charisma. And Dre, over the years, has had better ghostwriters than Eazy did, so he benefits more from the if-ghostwriters-didn't-matter adjustment.
posted by box at 3:49 PM on January 13, 2016


I wasn't particularly making an argument about that, just an observation.
posted by atoxyl at 5:10 PM on January 13, 2016


My bad--I spent some time debating those ghostwriter-adjusted rankings with myself, probably misread your comment.

Then I wrote a comment ranking people who appeared on 'Don't Curse,' but CL Smooth will be happy to learn that my phone ate it. I just like ranking rappers.
posted by box at 5:19 PM on January 13, 2016


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