The lyrical leaders list from the Source Magazine’s latest issue is quite controversial but still makes for a great debate. The list of 50 emcees has a top ten that consists of Rakim (No. 1), Nas (No. 2), Biggie (No. 3), Jay-Z (No. 4), 2Pac (No. 5), Eminem (No. 6), KRS-One (No. 7), Big Daddy Kane (No. 8), Lauryn Hill (No. 9),Melle Mell (No. 10).
LOVE IT: Nas has been the most criticized MC in hip-hop because his “Illmatic” debut was so great. You would think that after defeating Jay-Z with “Ether” that his doubters would give him a break. But the heat kept coming his way because Jay-Z’s “Takeover” credited his first album as his only valuable contribution to hip-hop and many of Jigga’s fans believed it. The Source made a great move by putting those lies to rest and actually stating what we all know as true. Nas Escobar is one of the best to ever do it and his ability to rock the party and drop knowledge is unparalleled. Listen to “Rewind,” “Heaven,” “Black Girl Lost,” “Ether” and his overlooked “Streets Disciple” album for a sample of his greatness. Being a step behind Rakim on this list can be disputed but is still a compliment to Nasir Jones. Escobar is two levels above Jay-Z which was an unexpected decision by the Source but well deserved.
Jadakiss makes the list at No. 24 and so does Styles P at No. 47. Even though there is big gap between the two the fact that S.P. is on the list shows he is getting his respect due. After owning the streets for years and still managing to make Top 10 hits such as “Jenny From the Block,” “Locked Up” featuring Akon and his own “I Get High,” it’s about time that “the ghost” gets his props.
HATE IT: The list is all over the place and we don’t get specific criteria on the selection process except to note that “this is not your hottest list” but purely about lyrics. The MCs judged had to release at least two albums to be considered. That’s not clear enough considering most artists like Lauryn Hill released a solo album, an Unplugged album, and two albums as a member of the Fugees. Does that count? Lauryn has to be discussed because being at No. 9 on this list makes her a target since many would say that she has underachieved and given us samples of her greatness. She only rapped on a few tracks and harmonized on the rest. This list should not be judging potential but actual facts. Lil Kim comes in at No. 45 and if you consider Kim’s role as the Queen B#tch alongside Biggie, there’s no way that she can be surpassed by Lauryn after her verses on “Get Money,” the “Get Money (Remix),” “Crush on You,” “It’s All About the Benjamins,” and “Players Anthem.” The fact that Foxy Brown isn’t on the list as someone who battled Kim constantly for the title of best female MC during the late nineties is also mindboggling.
The Source should have given us titles of these “lyrical” tracks next to each artist selected to show us what they were reviewing. It would have given the reader the ability to research and check verses for clarity. Maybe I missed something on 2Pac. Let me listen to “Hit Em Up” again to see if it will change my mind. Tupac does make the list but the Source brass states that it wasn’t his strongest suit. But aren’t lyrics also determined by their impact and how long they are discussed? Isn’t the fact that the Tupac hologram emerged at this year’s Coachella festival and the crowd sang “Hail Mary” and “Amerikka’s Most Wanted” with him a sign of his lyrical impact? The Source confused readers on this one as he is listed as better than Eminem but not higher than Biggie and Jay-Z. Eminem is clearly in the debate of best rappers ever.
If Melle Mell made the list because of his landmark record, “The Message” then there is no reason why Reverend Run isn’t also there for his contributions with Run DMC. He help build hip-hop and made it easy for others to emulate. The verses on “Walk This Way” and “Sucker M.C.’s” are just a peak into his lyrical prowess. He made it easy to comprehend and his rhythm and pace was remarkable.
Somehow Queen Latifah comes in at No. 25 but MC Lyte is nowhere to be found. Method Man and GZA make the list but no other Wu Tang MCs are present. Raekwon and Ghostface should have been a part of this as well. The list also has Snoop Dogg at No. 29 and Kanye West at No. 31 which clearly makes this list laughable. Finally, Royce Da 5’9” is added at the end and also happens to be on the cover of the magazine. Something seems shady.