Stating one’s top emcees may often lead to a contentious debate. There truly is no right or wrong answer. Differences in rhyme styles and delivery impact listeners in various ways. Some gauge an emcee’s skills by the message in their lyrics; others want impactful punchlines and tight delivery.
Limiting the list of emcees to a top 5, or top 10 is impossible. My list of the best rappers dead or alive often changes. There are however a few emcees that never leave my list. I have a preference for bars with depth and lyricism that really say something. I love listening to a track on the third or fourth listen and getting something new from it.
While I’m a fan of both Biggie and ‘Pac, neither make today’s list. Jay-Z is one of the greats, but he’s not a favorite of mine. Before you say I must be crazy, I recognize their impact on our culture. Their contribution to Hip Hop is undeniable. Whether you agree with me or not, these are my top emcees, dead or alive.
Nas is a living legend, period. If you came up in the 90’s, Nas is the greatest emcee of our generation. Sure some will site B.I.G. as the rightful king of the thrown. Perhaps that would be the case if Biggie’s life hadn’t been cut short. I make my judgment based on Nas’ body of work compared to that of anyone else. Jay-Z might come close but I view the Hard Knock era negatively. My position in the Takeover vs Ether debate is obvious.
There are very few that could go bar for bar with Black Thought of The Roots. Very few try. Thought has some of the most complex wordplay in Hip Hop. You’ll almost never get the full meaning of his double-entendre laced raps, on the first listen.
So underrated. Pharoahe always drops intelligent rhymes, with unique cadence and delivery. His linguistic ability is on a level rarely reached, if ever in Hip Hop. Pharoahe’s unconventional rhyme patterns can’t be easily duplicated.
Sean Price aka Ruck
Sean P. doesn’t fit the mold of some of my other top emcees, but that’s the point. He broke the mold of what a rapper was supposed to be. His sometimes absurd, no holds barred lyrics let you know he wasn’t one to play with, while also bringing levity to the music. He is certainly a rap legend who is gone way too soon.
If you’re down with Hip Hop culture, don’t forget to subscribe and share.