Of course. Now, I know that there’s a tendency in nearly all areas of entertainment to look at what is fresh and new and anoint it as what is best, but it is worth saying that I’ve been listening to hip-hop for as long as I’ve been able to turn the radio stations on my own and buy music and I strongly feel that Nicki Minaj is probably the best female MC of all-time if we’re ranking rappers separately by gender. If we don’t rank rappers by their gender, Nicki Minaj is still near the top of the list; she’s an incredible MC.
Is she my favorite female rapper? She’s up there, but, no, not just yet. I think that my favorite is probably still Lauryn Hill. I don’t know if I am physically capable of hearing a Lauryn Hill track — whether it is solo (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is one of the greatest albums of all-time) or from the Fugees — and not listening to every word and every beat. I’m also a big fan of Missy Elliott (I can’t wait until she finally drops Block Party!), Eve, and, of course, the late, great Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. And not only would I be remiss, but I’d be downright embarrassed if I didn’t mention the first-ballot Hall of Famers — pioneers like Roxanne Shante, Queen Latifah, Lady of Rage, Monie Love, and MC Lyte. Also, they didn’t last very long, but I’ve still got love for Infamous Syndicate.
Music is subjective, so a lot of this is a matter of personal opinion. I am a big fan of both Jay-Z (I understand that he dropped the dash, but I’m forever trapped in 1997) and Kanye West, but I think that Jay-Z is better. Now, that could all change someday and a lot of that is due to Jay’s longevity and the expanse of his overall discography. I’ll also acknowledge that if you look at each track that they’ve made individually, Kanye probably has a better overall batting average of hits (good or great songs in comparison to “eh” songs) than Jay does, but again, that’s also largely due to how many songs Jay-Z has made over the past 20+ years.
As an MC, I agree that Jay-Z is better, but I also think Kanye is underrated when it comes to his ability as an MC. Few people doubt Kanye’s talent and I doubt many hip-hop fans would disagree that he’s a nice rapper, but even with all of that I feel like his ability as an MC is often overlooked because of his personality and public image. Still, Jay-Z is one of the best ever, and even if some of his newer songs aren’t setting the world on fire (let’s go ahead and pretend that most of Magna Carta Holy Grail didn’t happen), he’s still at the top of his game as an MC. With both guys, few rappers can even approach them when it comes to content or delivery.
What I like best about Jay-Z and Kanye West is that they are the opposite of Lil’ Wayne in one crucial way. When Weezy drops a new album, I pick it up knowing that there are going to be ten tracks that I delete immediately, one that I play constantly for the next few weeks, and two or three that can go either way but which will usually need a half-dozen plays before I can make a decision on them. With Jay-Z and Kanye, I usually don’t delete anything because if the tracks don’t catch on immediately, I know I’ll soon catch myself repeating a hook or even randomly realizing, “Oh shit, that was a triple entendre!” If quality rap was just about flow, Tech N9ne would be selling records like Lil’ Wayne and if it was just about lyrical content so would Talib Kweli, but the very best, like Kanye and Jay-Z, have the total package. Jay-Z put it even better in Moment of Clarity: “If skills sold, truth be told/I’d probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli/Truthfully, I wanna rhyme like Common Sense/But I did 5 mil’ — I ain’t been rhyming like Common since”.
That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate some of Lil’ Wayne’s stuff (some…I’m not a huge Weezy fan), Talib Kweli, or Common. In fact, Common is one of my favorite of all-time — I mean, if you only know Common from AMC’s Hell on Wheels (or, tragically, from Just Wright), do yourself a favor and go listen to the last verse from “Soul by the Pound” on Can I Borrow a Dollar?. Anyway, the point being that Jay-Z and Kayne are on a completely different level than almost every other rapper who has ever picked up a microphone, so it’s really difficult to choose between them, especially when I am a big fan of both, but I give Jay-Z the edge while not counting out the fact that Kanye may someday surpass him (but probably not). Most of all, I’m glad they work together so frequently.
Damn, picking just the top five off-the-top of my head is really difficult, but here we go:
1. 2Pac — All Eyez On Me
2. Dr. Dre — The Chronic
3. 4080 Magazine — Bay Area’s Greatest Hits, Volume 1
4. Wu-Tang Clan — Enter the Wu-Tang Clan: Return of the 36 Chambers
5.(tie) Wyclef Jean — The Carnival; Snoop Doggy Dogg — Doggystyle
I’m leaving out so many incredible albums that it hurts my heart to post this, but I feel okay with this list for now.
Interesting question. I don’t really keep any music saved on my computer, but here are the Top 25 Most Played songs on my iPod. I wouldn’t necessarily say that these are my Top 25 Favorite songs, but it’s a pretty good representation.
1. Dr. Dre (feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg): Nuthin’ But a G Thang
2. Wu-Tang Clan: Triumph
3. Radiohead: No Surprises
4. 2Pac: Hit ‘Em Up
5. Alice In Chains: Down In A Hole (MTV Unplugged)
6. Jay-Z: Hola’ Hovito
7. Elvis Presley: Trying To Get To You (‘68 Comeback Special)
8. Notorious B.I.G. (feat. Eminem): Dead Wrong
9. Loose Cannons: Jihad On Me
10. 2Pac (feat. Rappin’ 4-Tay): Only God Can Judge Me
11. Nirvana: Heart-Shaped Box
12. Outkast: Ms. Jackson
13. Eminem: Space Bound
14. B.o.B.: Lovelier Than You
15. Clipse: I’m Serious
16. 2Pac: I Ain’t Mad At Cha
17. Sublime: Waiting For My Ruca
18. Johnny Cash: Bird On A Wire
19. The Beatles: If I Fell
20. Mos Def: Ms. Fat Booty
21. Pixies: Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)
22. 2Pac (feat. Dr. Dre): California Love
23. The Hollies: The Air That I Breathe
24. Andrea Bocelli: Ave Maria
25. Method Man (feat. Redman): Walk On