While I was makin lists, I figured why not... One of the most common questions we get at the restaurant is: Top 10 dead or alive? Here it is. (disclaimer: i'm not sayin this is the top 10 to end top 10s, its just what I like. feel free to leave ur own in the comments.) Of course, with any list like this, there will be blood.... Let's keep it to a minimum haha
Ready to Die is a perfect album. The closest second IMO is Illmatic, but it only had 10 joints... I just don't think there is anyone with 2 better albums than Big. If you took Reasonable Doubt, Blueprint, and Black Album then put the tracks side by side and compared it against Ready to Die or Life After Death, Big wins. If you look at each album as a complete work, Ready to Die still has a better throughline and narrative. From the INTRO, him and Puffy got you... intro to things done changed to one more chance to juicy to big poppa to unbelievable to suicidal thoughts ... untouchable.
Its the blueprint for a rapper introducing himself to the public. Quintessential rags to riches, against all odds, ashy to classy American story... To me, Big is a dude that America didn't want to come up, but he circumvented the system and got paid through hip hop. It hasn't been the same since. After Big, people were LOOKING for the next one cause the "man" saw he could get paid with hip hop too. The struggle was different. There will never be another BIG. Hip hop, feminism, and most other counter cultural movements is for anyone who couldn't get paid the same amount for the same amount of work. We all just tryin to get money, power and respect. Wall St. may not value what we do; we have to find our own audience and consumers. And we did. Big embodies what the post-Rakim era was about? Gimme the loot...
Favorite Track: Unbelievable or Things Done Changed
Man... I repped Hova hard up till the beef with Nas and only recently can admit that he has the better body of work. I used to put more value in Nas because he always had "something to say". Back to Africa, political, philosophical statements, etc. But after a while, I started seeing Nas as the Professor and Hov as the hustler. Jay is actually the dude gettin it in outside the ivory tower... He's a business, man. Most prolific rapper of all time. The Black Album put him over the top. Moment of Clarity is one of those tracks that really completes an artist's story... After hearing that track, Jay made a lot more sense to me.
Like Public Enemy birthed NWA and Rakim birthed BIG/Nas (rhymes w/in rhymes), Jay-Z birthed all these rappers that talk about hip hop as a business... What's next? Well... if we look at other industries, there's usually a movement to "independents" and "organic". The "boom" is over. I think rappers/labels will figure out how to commodify music once again (post-napster) and package it in a way to get the money more direct to rappers. Its always a push and pull between "state and federal" so to speak. I think Hova moved it federal and the artists will bring it more local in the future. With a move like that, we're looking at more experimental, less concentration of thought, and cultural divisions. I think it's a good thing. Big Krit, Currenssy, Whiz Khalifa, Kid Cudi, Soulja Boy (this dude blew up the myspace hustle, can't knock it), Wale, Jay Elec, etc.... All got skills.
Favorite Track: 99 Problems
This is the most controversial of my top 10. "Tragedy is easy, comedy is hard." First off, Cam isn't even trying. Imagine if this dude WANTED critical acclaim. He just wants ur girl to wear the dipset chain. That's the extent of his ambitionz. During the Nas beef, "Show You How to Do This" was the hardest track that came out of the Roc. "Call me 10 10 winds/in 22 seconds I gave him the world/took his chick wit me/came back gave him his girl." No one got range like Cam... He had all of harlem wearing magenta, he shouts out king jaffe jo, spacely sprockets, ATM, MTA, and hood legends like steady b.
He can take "Oh What a Night" by The Four Seasons and remix it for all the homies on parole. He took "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and had every one doin the two step. He will piss old mother fuckers off by rhyming over Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it On" and I still bump that shit! Cam'ron on the politics tip? I see u Chuck D and I raise you the No Homo Lobby and the Stop Snitchin Movement. This dude had the greatest O'Reilly appearance of all time. He made JIM JONES relevant. COME ON! Beans one of the greatest to come out of illadelph all time and Jay couldn't take Beans platinum this dude Cam took a weed carrier Jones platinum. Where's Jungle Nas? Where's Spliff Star Busta? Nobody put they peoples on like Killa and 50. Don't make me put my two arms up...Touchdown.
But in all seriousness. How can I put Cam above Rakim? People have stigmatized hip hop as ignorant... Cam'ron embraces that, he eats it up, he plays bojangles, but in the end, he's laughing at you. He's got you being the stereotype. You're the one being bamboozled cause he's telling YOU to "sing" (killa cam on purple haze) and he's getting paid. The jester is the sharpest... He may not be W.E.B. Dubois like Dice Raw, but he is a reminder that hip hop for a lot of artists is still in that Booker T. Washington cast down your bucket in harlem mindset... Not every one wants to show the world who they really are, some just want to eat your lunch. He is one of the most selfish, independent, gully mother fuckers on the planet and I love that shit.
Favorite Track: can't say... he is missing that "moment of clarity" track and that's what people will hold against him... speak ya mind cam
4) Rakim - The original paid in full rapper who took hip hop from ABC rapping to what it is now... Pioneer shit.
Favorite Track: I Aint No Joke
5) Nas - pound for pound greatest album of all-time, made the comeback with stillmatic and god's son, but then I think fell back off. Marley carried the last album. It Was Written is a classic though. People sleep on that album. I think it's top 25.
Favorite Track: Ether or Halftime
6) Dr. Dre
I really didn't want to put Dre here, but as a kid, Chronic was my shit AND... as a producer, he had more influence on the 90s sound than anyone not named premiere and maybe even more. Lyrically, yea.... But content, production, style, etc. Can't put him any lower.
Favorite Track: Lil Ghetto Boy
7) Ghostface tied w/ Raekwon
Nobody does the stream of consciousness non-sensical but sensical flow like Ghost. When he gets on a track, he just demolishes the shit. Even on the slower joints, Ghost goes nuclear like "back like that". I like how he's mad random with the banana nutrimen, strawberry/kiwi/baked ziti, and of course blue and cream "ima rock it this summer" haha. He's one of the biggest personalities in hip hop and I give him points for that.
Rae is credited w/ having the quintessential NY flow and slang. I think Rae bridges Mob culture/style/word play and the hood better than anyone else and many a rapper shark bit him. That mid-90s tommy hill, polo, nautica style can be chalked up to Raekwon and Snoop's Letterman appearance. When listening to Cuban Link just picture yourself playin' c-lo at Rao's.
Favorite Tracks: Spot Rusherz (i know, i know... i just like it) and Triumph
I can't split em up. Every one likes to say Andre is superior but I can't do it. They're just different. Yes, Andre got that metaphysical, soul, futuristic flow and content, but that doesn't mean Big Boi is cold pizza. He had the best album of the summer and you could see how much he brought to outkast. That Jazzy Belle, electric guitar, daddy fat sacks facet of outkast is all him.
Favorite Track: Elevators
I really didn't want to leave off Big Pun cause he had the illest flow of all time but I think the white boy has more significance culturally. Lyrically, Eminem can't be touched. His last two albums are straight doo doo on a stick, but the first two are bonkers. His story has an important place in hip hop. He's the Jackie Robinson of hip hop... I'm not saying anyone "tried" to keep white people out, but Eminem kicked down a lot of stereotypes so give him his props. I don't think people were open minded enough to embrace acts like Kanye (every one was hating on his style when he first came out), Kid Cudi, Drake, or B.O.B. if Eminem didn't come first. He took hip hop from Hot 97 to Z100. It's not always a good thing, but there's historical significance and a lot of people got paid... He had the better verse on Renegades, he had the best verse on Forever, and he also completes Dre's catalog. Put the D on the map... Took a bunch of bums platinum with D-12 and 50 doesn't sell 15 million copies w/o Eminem putting him on.
Lastly, If you ask any rapper the top 5 rappers they don't want to battle, I think it goes: Nas, Eminem, Jada Kiss, Jay-Z, and KRS-One. At this point, I'm asking why he's this low on my list, but it's late and I need some sleep.
Favorite Track: Rock Bottom or Just Don't Give a Fuck
Most Slept on Album of All-Time ... Camp Lo: Uptown Saturday Night
My personal fave artists who won't make anyone's top 10: MF Doom, NORE, 50-Cent, DMX, Cool Breeze, T.I., Nature, The Clipse, Lupe, Keith Murray, Jay Elec, Gemini w/ Danger Mouse, Too Short, E-40, Master P (sorry), UGK, and Currensy.
And a question for yall.... at what point does Kanye enter the top 10 convo?