I've been listening to alot of Hip Hop lately and it has me thinking about my all-time list. My list is slanted old-school and east coast but I've tried to be somewhat objective. NAS has been climbing steadily on my list the last several years but my #1 has never changed. I start with a 2-way tie for 10th place.
10. Biggie - My boys are gonna get on my shit about the Biggie pick since I wasn't a Biggie fan at first - but I've been listening to ALL of Biggie's tracks for the past 4-5 years and I realized how talented Biggie was and could've been -- if he rapped less about materialistic life and more about hood life I think he could've been one of the top 3. Juicy and Warning are my 2 favorite tracks from Biggie.
10. DMX - I had to include DMX on my list because in my opinion - NOBODY had a 2-album drop that was as SICK as DMX's first 2 albums. DMX's tracks on those albums were epic. Grimy, gritty yet inspirational but always thoroughly hood..... if you don't agree --take some time out and listen to his first 2 albums and then drop a comment. His autobiography E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX is a good read - captures the essence of the internal fires that drives his art (and demons).
9. LL Cool J - The "young-ens" out here today don't understand the impact that LL had on the rap game and hip-hop culture. This guy was a teenager dropping the craziest shit anybody has ever heard during that time with his "My Radio" track. He was one of the first mega-super stars and was rich before the age of 20 -- and everybody knows that LL had the best love rap track ever with "I Need Love" - (even though this cost him a bunch of hardcore rap fans)
8. Run DMC - They rocked and they ruled for a better part of a decade. Run DMC didn't just spawn albums - they propelled an entire industry and the team around these guys was just as amazing (big shout out to Russell). The guys above Run DMC on this list have built their legacies on the shoulders of these pioneers.
7. Snoop Dogg - I feel that Snoop probably has the smoothest delivery that any rapper has ever had - his delivery is always near perfect. I wasn't a big fan of his lyrics but his flow is tremendous and I still think that Deep Cover track was his best work (but his work the last couple of years with Pharrell from the Neptunes has been soooooooooogood).
6. NWA -I'm using this spot to also include the solo careers of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube & Eazy E. - I would probably have these guys higher if I was a west coast guy...
5. Public Enemy - Big shout out to Orlando Segarra from Camden, NJ for putting that damn Public Enemy tape in my car talking about some new rap group that was gonna take over - we all thought he was bugging - until Chuck D's voice demanded and dominated your attention - and you wanted to do nothing but listen. Definitely 1 of 2 guys on this list that Blew My Mind Up.
4. Eric B & Rakim - Need I say anything about Rakim - he has Snoop's effortless delivery but lyrics that impacted your mind and left deep impressions on many people. Rakim arguably had the best combination of delivery and lyrical wizadry of anybody on this list. These guys probably had the best hip-hop album of all time with Paid In Full and probably the hottest one minute verse in hip-hop history with the title track off this album - Paid In Full.... "thinking of a master plan .. aint nothing but sweat inside my hand .. so I dig into my pockets ... all my money is spent ... I dig deeper .. but still coming up with lint... " -- oh shit - gotta stop - getting goosebumps.
3. Tupac - Tupac never really had a great album - but he's probably had the most great single tracks then anybody on the list - such as Me and My Girlfriend, Hail Mary, Dear Mama, Changes, Aint Mad at Cha, Uppercut, Staring Through My Rear View, etc. - but the reason he's so high on my list is that he simply blows my spirit up -- Pac's tracks have the most impact on me emotionally. He's the only rapper on the list that can significantly alter my mood for an entire day. I CANNOT listen to Tupac before going to work.
2. NAS -I used to have NAS at #4 (behind Rakim & Tupac) but NAS keeps dropping such serious poetry throughout the years that he just keeps climbing the list. This man is simply amazing. He went from a young phenom dropping a legendary Hip Hop classic album to a chiseled veteran taking down rap heavyweights. He can drop a diss track as well as anyone - sorry Jigga - but right after that he can drop a street masterpiece and then come back blowing your mind up with some extreme consciousness rap. NAS is a legend and he's been on my regular rotation for the past 6-7 years - I can't get enough of this guy.
1. KRS1 - Boogie Down Productions - Well folks... nobody and I mean nobody could blow your mind up like KRS; he was the king of "consciousness rap" and is the reason why he's #1 on my list. In addition to blowing your mind up he arguably has the heaviest hitting diss track ever in "The Bridge is Over" -- while rappers were trying to diss each other individually -- KRS1 took down entire NY Boroughs and forever put the South Bronx into the mythical Pound-for-Pound ghetto category. I seriously believe that other NYC boroughs suffered serious inferiority complexes after that (for many years) even though they were pumping out star after star. KRS was also notorious for his incredible freestyling skills where he probably has the most knockouts then any other battle MC. KRS forced your mind to expand with his cultural and socially themed lyrics and I've personally witnessed the signficant positive impact his work has had on young ghetto minds during those times (mid-late 80s) -- especially mine.
Honorable Mention : Tribe Called Quest, Sugar Hill Gang, Afrika Bambaata, WuTang, Doug E Fresh and anybody else I forgot -- and no -- I did not forget JayZ :). Finally, I would like to dedicate this list to a lady named Ms. CrumbPacker (I think her first name is Karen) from Spokane, Washington. In 1991, she asked me about my music interests and commented that "Rap is just a phase, it's the new Disco... it'll be gone in a year or two".... so I dedicate my All-Time list of this 30 year "phase" to Ms. CrumbPacker from Spokane, Washington.