After taking a week off last week on #thereisnospoonfriday to review the new Avengers movie Avengers Age of Ultron Red Pill Talent Review, I am back to my “Top 5” list theme this week. Again by a reader request, this week I take on the rap game. While I will never have the skills (or the balls quite frankly) to rap myself, I have long been a fan of the genre. I will admit right out of the gate that I am an “old man” in my rap tastes. I think pretty much everything out since 2008 sucks. I find current rap in a depressing state for me – no longer original. Every song seems to be talking about money or booties these days, and it all feels really played out and generic. Throw in the fact that every rap song (or pop song for that matter) these days is “featuring” someone or has a “special appearance by” another artist and in the end I feel like we might have already seen the prime of rap as a whole. That being said – I am a huge fan of a lot of rappers and especially the early years through the mid 2000’s era. Everything has to end sometime right? It just feels like now might be that time. I am a huge classic rock fan, but I know that it is really a form of music that is no longer “cool” these days and probably peaked at the grunge era. So – long winded way of saying there will be no rappers past 2008 on my “Top 5 Rap Acts of all time” list. As always, this is according to me – so your lists might be (and probably are) very different than mine. Here we go:
1. Run DMC – the godfathers of rap. Without them this list doesn’t even exist. It kills me that I put them ahead of who will be number 2, but even my number two would say these guys are the GOAT. They were the first to take rap to the mainstream and to make suburban white kids like me fans of the genre, and they were also the first to merge rock and rap with Aerosmith, bringing even a bigger audience to the fold. Their raps, while not angry, political or very technical, were pure awesomeness. The way Run and DMC would play off each other in verse, literally finishing each others sentences, was amazing to hear. I defy you to listen to anything from Run DMC and tell me it isn’t great. Not many rap acts (or bands) can make such a bold statement. Favorite Song: King of Rock – Video here for King of Rock!
2. The Beastie Boys – my personal favorite rap group of all time but just couldn’t bring myself to put them ahead of Run DMC based on the impact and influence Run DMC had on all of rap. With that out of the way – not many musical acts (never mind just rap) can claim the epic body of work that the Beasties can. I often say that there are only three bands that I can listen to every album they ever made without fast forwarding – The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and The Beastie Boys. Yep – I just said that. Even more than just putting out solid albums from start to finish – they evolved musically every album. From the basic rock/beats combo of Licensed to Ill to the drugged out/laid back feel of Paul’s Boutique to the pure jamming on Check Your Head, they truly changed styles with every album – and it is all amazing. The three of them, MCA, King Ad Rock and Mike D rhyme perfectly with each other, and each bring a unique style and tone to their delivery. You always know who is rapping, and with each distinct style is also a distinct personality with each delivery too. Just a truly epic group in every sense of the word. Favorite Song: Shake Your Rump – Video here for Shake Your Rump!
3. NWA – Rap’s first “supergroup” and also its most dangerous. They only made two and ½ albums (“100 miles and running” not being a full album) yet their impact is still there some twenty years later. Not only were these albums “all timers” with classics from start to finish, but this group launched three of the all time greatest in rap as individuals: Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy E. Yes, their lyrics were harsh, violent and sometimes over the top, but that’s why I loved them so much. Great production, better beats and angry but technically excellent delivery epitomized all of their songs. Honestly, Straight Outta Compton might be one of the most important albums ever made. Favorite Song: “Straight Outta Compton” – Video here for Straight Outta Compton!
4. Public Enemy – they simply kick ass. The first to make rap music “important”, they took amazing beats and put political and impactful/meaningful lyrics over them. Chuck D might just be the greatest rapper to have ever lived, and with Flavor Flav as the “hype man” they were a group that not only entertained you but made you think too. “It takes a Nation of Millions” might be one of my all time favorite albums ever, and their subsequent albums just kept going with the same quality. I had the pleasure of seeing them live too, and they are awesome performers. They truly made “albums” instead of singles, and the message was a big “F You” to the establishment, but unlike NWA who said it with curses and venom, PE said it with smarts. Favorite Song: Black Steel in The Hour of Chaos – Video here for Black Steel in the hour of Chaos
5. A Tribe Called Quest – Mix rap up with 60s era vibes, 70’s funk and a political yet playful message and there you have my 5th greatest rap group ever. Q-Tip has one of the most recognizable and distinct styles of any rapper ever, and Phife Dog was the perfect foil to Q-tips laid back delivery. They took the genre to a place it had never been and has not been since, literally infusing jazz (!?) into it. Their rhymes were great, and they too made albums – not singles. They are one of the most copied acts since they came out, and their influence is still felt today. Their beats were crazy good but musical – not a lot of rap acts can say that. Favorite Song: Award Tour – Video here for Award Tour!
I really struggled with this list – but after reviewing it a second time I think it is correct. Some really great rappers/rap groups I left off include: Eminem, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Geto Boys, Wu Tang Clan, 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G., 3rd Bass, Cypress Hill, BDP, Salt n Pepa, De La Soul, EPMD, Eric B & Rakim, Outkast and I am sure others I am forgetting. What is your top 5? Do you agree with my list? Leave a comment below! Remember until next week – there is no spoon. Happy Friday!