You know what I love about writing hip hop reviews? I’m guaranteed to have at least one commenter telling me I don’t know shit and another saying the artist in the post is dope. People who listen to rap have opinions, and opinions are what bloggery is all about. So here’s a review of the most anticipated rap album of the year . . .
Is he “best rapper alive since the best retired,” as both he and Jay-Z agree on “Mr. Carter”? No. Is he one of the best? Yeah. Not because his flow is the sickest (like Rakim or Andre 3000); not because his rhymes are shockingly original (like Eminem); not because he has an uncanny ability to match beats with verses, so that his every sound makes music (Jay-Z); not because he breaks new rhetorical ground (like Nas proclaiming that hip hop is dead) or is hilariously funny (Ludacris); not because he turns hip hop inside out by making the beats follow his lines, instead of the other way around (MF DOOM); and not because he can take tired old themes like bling or gangsta-ism or being a d-boy and make them sound fresh (Kanye, The Game, and Clipse, respectively). No, those are the skills of some of the other greatest living rappers. Wayne’s talent takes a little bit of all that, and mixes it together in a raspy, drunken haze. For a guy who releases a new mixtape every five minutes, it’s astounding that he was able to save so much material for an official release. Yeah, there’s a little too many tossed-off bars here, and half the time he sounds like he’s barely trying, but after getting so much from him for free in the past few years, you owe it to him to buy “Tha Carter III.” Weezy hits every genre sex rhymes to boasting, from hardcore to hipsway, and he ends on a long, 10 minute ramble about the justice system that proves that he’s as compelling as anyone, even when he’s (obviously) stoned out of his gourd. Is this the best rap album of the year? Absolutely not. But it may be the most interesting.
So careful readers of this review can maybe figure out who some of my 10 favorite (living) rappers are. Again, these are living rappers. Don’t drop me a comment and tell me how great Pac and Big are. They’re not alive, y’all. Accept that and move on. And before you drop a comment and tell me how Talib, ?love, Mos Def, and Common are better than these folks, lemme just say: I’ll listen to anything they spit, once. But twice? I’m just not a huge fan. I recognize their skills, but they just don’t crack the top 10 for me.
In no particular order, the 10 best rappers alive in the game right now . . .
2. OutKast (when they are together, they’re the wonder twins, apart, not as good)
4. Eminem (but he may be past his prime)
5. Kanye West (whenever he can’t think of a word to rhyme, he makes a word up, but nobody can make songs like him, matching beats to rhymes)
6. Masta Ace
7. The Game (a true violent poet)
8. Ghostface Killah
10. Lil Wayne
A little of the best:
Never Snitch-Scarface and The Game
Run Part 2-Ghostface, Lil Wayne, Raekwon
Brooklyn Blocks-Masta Ace and Buckshot
Super Ugly-Jay-Z dissing NaS
Freestyle-Nas (dissing Jay-Z)
Bombs over Baghdad (OutKast cover)-Rage Against the Machine
And get some Em here.
Honorable mentions: Buckshot, Boots Riley (The Coup), Brother Ali, Clipse, Raekwon, Missy Elliot, Joe Budden.
Up-and-comers: Joell Ortiz, A.C.
To those who say I left out LL Cool J, Reverend Run, E-Z E, Ice Cube, Chuck D., Ice T, Rakim, or KRS-1, they’re not the best in the game today. They were at one time, but not anymore. To those who say I left out 50 Cent, you’re right. He’s a good hitmaker, but his rhymes haven’t been brilliant except on a few mixtapes and one album. To those who say I left out Lupe Fiasco, he’s made one fantastic album and a few great mixtapes, but The Cool wasn’t all that. And as for Luda, I love the guy, but he makes songs, not records.