17 June 2004

My 10 Greatest Rap/ Hip Hop Artists of All Time

Here is my list of the top 10 greatest Rap/ Hip-Hop Artists of All Time.

1. Public Enemy
2. Run DMC
3. OutKast
4. Wu-Tang Clan
5. N.W.A.
6. Beastie Boys
7. De La Soul
8. Eric B. and Rakim
9. Tupac Shakur
10. KRS-One


  1. Public Enemy
    Best Album: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back


    No band reigns supreme over their respective genre like Public Enemy does hip hop. A sheer force of nature, PE was a band geared more towards albums than singles. In fact, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is the genre's best album by far, and Fear of a Black Planet is certainly a strong candidate for number two. PE operated in the punk rock aesthetic originally inherent in hip hop- dissonant, angry, socially aware music reassembling an American culture that had excluded them and regurgitating it under their terms. "Fight the Power" may be hip hop's great anthem-- originally recorded for Spike Lee's seminal Do the Right Thing, it later appeared on Fear. Chuck D was able to tap into and nearly single-handedly create an Afro-Centric cultural revival, all the while making some of the most important music of any kind in the last 40 years. One of the greatest bands in rock history.



  2. Run DMC
    Best Album: Raising Hell


    It is fashionable to refer to Run DMC as the "Beatles of Hip Hop." A fair analogy, as Run DMC was, at their height, the greatest union of commercial and artistic achievement in hip hop history. "King of Rock" ranks as one of the genre's great songs, and Raising Hell is an amazing cogent album, containing the great cross-over "Walk This Way," a song who's importance, despite the attempts of many, has yet to be overstated. All this being said, Run DMC is more the Chuck Berry of hip hop, or dare it be said, the Elvis Presley. By tailoring their sound to their audience, Run DMC legitimized and introduced one of the most dominant cultural revolutions of the rock era to the American public.



  3. OutKast
    Best Album: Aquemini


    OutKast has had one of the great runs of albums in hip hop history- Aquemini, Stankonia and Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below are all deep, strong records in the tradition of Prince, P-Funk, Public Enemy and Stevie Wonder. Musically rich, forward thinking, never normal, OutKast may be the best band on the planet. Their crowning achievement is NOT on their greatest record, Aquemini. It is "Bombs Over Baghdad," a song that is hip-hop's "Stairway to Heaven"- or maybe it's hip hop's "Gimme Shelter." Or "God Save the Queen." Either way, it is as perfect as the music gets: frightening, funny, fast, defiant and like nothing else in rap. A true masterpiece, something OutKast is accustomed to churning out.



  4. Wu-Tang Clan
    Best Album: Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers)


    The Wu Tang Clan may be the most inventive group, lyrically, of all time. Containing no less than FIVE all time great MCs (Ghostface Killah, Inspektah Deck, GZA, Raekwon, Method Man), Wu Tang burst into the genre with 36 Chambers and gave the genre a shot in the arm analogous to the one provided rock and roll by The Clash. Wu Tang wasn't political though- instead, they were spare, mysterious, disturbing music accompanied by brilliant, diverse, complex rhymes. Wu Tang Forever may be their only weak effort, but it contains their finest hour, the towering, brilliant "Triumph," containing one of the great verses in a hip hop song by any MC, ever-- GZA's work mid way through the song. Fragmented now, the great talents in the group have split off to contribute some of the great works of hip hop, most notably Ghostface Killah's solo efforts and RZA's producing/ film work.



  5. N.W.A.
    Best Album: Straight Outta Compton


    N.W.A. was to hip hop what the Sex Pistols were to rock- shocking, offensive, vital, exciting and fucking brilliant. They both survived for only one truly great record, but in both cases, it was the only one necessary. "Fuck the Police" is "Anarchy in the UK," and "Straight Outta Compton" is "God Save the Queen." N.W.A. brought hip hop two of it's greatest talents- Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. Dre has become arguably the most influential producer in rap history, while Ice Cube is and always will be one of a handful of the greatest MCs of all time. Incendiary.



  6. Beastie Boys
    Best Album: Paul's Boutique


    The Beastie Boys are complete clowns, but good ones at that. Paul's Boutique is a classic of hip-hop's lost art- sampling. Their brilliant, heady rhymes over the Dust Brothers' remarkable sound collages are a high point for hip hop. Few rap groups have maintained the popularity and level of creativity as long and consistently as the Beastie's have. From Licensed to Ill to To the 5 Boroughs, the Beasties have moved forward, trying new and diverse ideas and filtering it through their personas- the Woody Allens of rock. Few rap acts have been as aesthetically motivated from top to bottom as the Beasties- every video has been a mini-masterpiece.



  7. De La Soul
    Best Album: Three Feet High and Rising


    The Beastie's spiritual brother-band, De La's Three Feet is as dense and perfect a hip hop record as has ever been made. Saddled as a result of the record with a "hippie hip hop" label they certainly never deserved, De La attempted to distance themselves from the idea with the follow up, De La Soul Is Dead, one of the great follow ups to a smash in rock history. Pos and the gang are great, potent MCs, and few bands- if any- have had the beats De La has churned out in their career. Arguably the most underrated act in hip hop history.



  8. Eric B. and Rakim
    Best Album: Paid In Full


    Rakim is more than likely (if not for number 9 on the list) the greatest MC in the history of hip hop. Better than Ice Cube. Better than Eminem. Better than Chuck D. Better than Ghostface. Paid In Full is Rakim at the height of these powers, a pure, unadulterated rap masterpiece, a minimalist work of art that consists of songs with a basic beat, a genius and the mic. Look out.



  9. Tupac Shakur
    Best Album: All Eyez On Me


    Just good enough to never have been overrated.



  10. KRS-One
    Best Album: By Any Means Necessary (w/ Boogie Down Productions)


    The prohibitive favorite as the "Greatest MC of All Time," KRS One has had great records throughout his career, and continues to be overlooked for his contributions as an MC and hip hop artist. One of the great hip hop culturalists, he is tantamount to the genre's Pete Townshend. An unfathomable talent.

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