Yes, you read the title right (you don’t need contacts), so as you may have already gathered, it’s time for Brainstain to evaluate the impossible and dig into the common notion of who is really in the Top 5 Dead or Alive in Hip Hop & Rap Music. Throughout the ages, many have tried and failed repeatedly to create the perfect list, but here at our office we retain the celebration of all that is the very best in all areas, so we reckon that we got this in the bag already. So, we’re in effect about to “shut sh*t down”, (or whatever the hell the kids call it these days) and we’re going to make it up as we go along too, straight off the top of the dome, freestyle, see?
Make it up? You must be kidding, since it only took us five minutes to figure out the Top 5 and this isn’t based only on lyrical prowess on the mic, or on those double time raps, or even on who has the most elastic vocabulary or who has killed it the most in the last ten years. Instead it’s rated by who has exemplified all that is Hip Hop and Rap with an incurable passion and undeniable raw skill, which would really bury other MC’s six feet deep in a grave, symbolically speaking. We also took the legendary factor into account and we can’t be biased either, so we will do that another time (NEVER!).
After all, this list is probably more sacred than the Top 5 Gods of all religions combined, but now it’s about the craft of MC’ing, since never has a form of music ever been closer to that of a religion, where words and poetry manifest an ideology and movement, and that’s really why Hip Hop was the most feared new musical form, to ever eclipse another form of music in all of human history, as it did in the mid 90s.
Yes admittedly, we could do a Top 20 MC list of all time, but now let’s just focus on these 5 complete original artists, who whenever they got on a mic or track, rocked the whole house and they even remain as popular even after death, let alone still being alive, they truly made their mark on the Hip Hop and Rap scene. But before we commence, we can already picture all of those artists that didn’t make the Top 5, so to those that we forgot, sorry, but we’re going to stick by this list very proudly for now. Starting from last to first. This is the Brainstain Top 5 Dead or Alive in Hip Hop & Rap, so let’s get into this!
No introduction is really necessary here. This Long Island, NY native, William Michael Griffin Jr. is the epitome of calm cool and collected on the microphone, with an undeniable venom of delivery, hitting the Hip Hop scene in 1985 with Eric B, forming the famous duo of Eric B. & Rakim, with hits like “Follow The Leader” and “Juice” and nobody ever flipped words and brought the charisma and justified machismo like this MC within his storylines. Since Rakim was truly something that nobody in the world had ever seen before and he set a new benchmark in the Hip-Hop game. This gritty street sound was killer and Rakim’s work is still the stuff of legend, and today he’s 49 years old and is still considered as one of Hip Hop’s best to ever do it. Rakim is a living legend, so he’s definitely in our Top 5, “Don’t Sweat The Technique”. Shout out to Rakim! Follow The Leader, indeed.
Yes, this list had to include the eclectic and effervescently smooth conquistador of the microphone, Q-Tip, since never has there been a more prevalent voice that brings that vibe to a song, that you just can’t help but bob’ your head to, no matter the content or beat. Q-Tip does the conscious mind of Hip Hop justice all day long. His lyrical style has enough poise and slick party flows in his armoury to bottle service a whole generation with those cool rhymes, like gin on crackling ice rocks. But, if Q-TIP isn’t your kind of tonic, then well, you’re not listening hard enough, since the Abstract is just that, a pure original and no one can ever emulate or copy his style or flow. Never. The pivotal front man of A Tribe Called Quest has crossed over so many times, purely down to his talent and genius in music, that it’s seen him chameleon onto pop, dance, rock and any other musical style that he chooses, without ever losing any dignity. Who can say that? Nobody, so what a legend! There’s not enough praise that one can bestow on him, so hats off to you Kamaal. Here’s probably his biggest hit, so how’s that for doing your own thing, forever and ever?
BIG L (R.I.P)
Now, here’s arguably the most talented MC that ever walked on planet earth, hailing from Harlem, New York, and unfortunately his life was taken away from us way too soon, in some seriously mysterious and questionable circumstances that haven’t even been solved further on from, who they said did the shooting, Gerard Woodley (a childhood friend), or was he just a hired hitman? Nobody knows, but it was clear that Big L’s talent, charisma, and rhyme style was something that would embarrass all and any that came into contact with him. His lyrical style is sharp as knives and let’s be real, never was there another MC who could ever upstage BIG L, not ever. Not on a track or in a lyrical battle or in a cypher, since Big L always had them sewn up into body bags and surely this made him into not only a target of envy, but he was probably also on the radar of political intervention in Hip Hop, because during his rise, there was so much money and evil endeavours inside the Hip-Hop industry, amidst the burgeoning establishment infiltration into genre of music in the mid 90s. Ooops! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. R.I.P. – Big L, to us your still alive. Take it away – BIG L.
Now here’s probably the greatest and most monumental musical artist of all time, with a personal story so unbelievable, yet undeniably real and authentic, that you’d think it was taken out of the BIBLE or written by Sir William Shakepseare, or something along those lines. He’s a little bit like Jesus and his tragically infamous story of worldwide music domination has shades of Macbeth written all over it. That’s a new one for ya’, since 2Pac came up against the greatest resistance than any other artist of our time, has ever come to face, ever. So, through his story we come to learn that sometimes all the natural talent that one has, can pose a problem to others, amidst them not being able to control you and mould you into something that you’re not. To be an artist means, that you should be true to yourself and to speak from the heart and this is something that 2Pac always did.
He stood up for what he believed in, to no end, until the day he died and that’s why he’s on a whole other level, not to mention, everything he did, it was pure heart on the sleeve antics in his struggle to free himself from those that wanted to harm him. This was a man with no time for bullsh*t, with piercing eyes, superior intellect, good looks and a notion to pick up on other people’s fakery and envy, so this was the reason he quite clearly irked other people, who envied him. Whilst, to political America, he was Public Enemy Number 1 and very much a target that they wanted to eliminate. All he needed to be was himself and it was a problem for other people. In life, people fear reality and the uncensored speakers of the truth, that tell it like it is, which garners jealousy and envy because they’re not on that level of greatness, as 2Pac was. Despite his young age, he had to grow up even quicker and learn the harsh lessons and pass them onto us, even after he passed away. So, some say that Jesus died for all our sins, well 2Pac, sparked the brain that will change the world (guaranteed). R.I.P – Tupac Amaru Shakur. Thank you for the music. (basically, you’re number 1 and everyone knows it).
Now you didn’t sincerely think that we would miss out on Keith Elam, did you? The Guru was quite possibly the most poignant, poised and composed lyricist to ever pick up a microphone, with knowledge beyond his years, he was the MC from Gang Starr, the frontman ahead of DJ Premier’s decks & production and this was after all, the benchmark of late 1980s and mid 1990s Hip Hop, which got propelled into being the biggest musical & cultural phenomenon that the world had ever seen. And Guru was very much apart of that, much like his name, he expressed lyrics abound with so much knowledge, introspection and outro-spection, that it touched all the minds that put on their headphones and just really listened to him. Guru as like the sanskrit Hindu definition explains, it defines a “teacher, guide, expert, or master”. And, Guru was all those things rolled into one, so we’d like to suggest that 2Pac and Guru share the top spot, both completely different artists and people, leading very different lives, but both have been undeniable teachers to many listeners across the world.
So, there you have it! And, if you think that we missed out on anything or anyone, then please do comment down below. We’d be interested to hear your views, and if you think you have a better Top 5 List, then by all means, please let us know.
Brainstain, over and out!
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Featured Photo Credit: The Odyssey Online