Originally published on Thursday, February 19, 2009.
So, my name is Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur and I am one of the two co-founders of this website. I’ve been looking at this Top 5 Dead Or Alive AllHipHop series like, “I want to tell the people my list…but I don’t want my favorite rappers to get crucified, by the Ill Community!” Not that anybody would care what I think, but this age-old argument goes back to my school days. We would argue every lunch about what rapper was the best, which MC had the illest lyrics and nobody would concede – EVER! We would just go back and forth like a broken record…or…messed up MP3.
Anyway, the other side of compartmentalizing your favorite rappers to a mere FIVE is almost disrespectful. I literally have no less than 15 “Top 5 Dead Or Alive.” It presents a moral dilemma not to include Krs-One, Nas, Big Pun, Scarface, Ice Cube, Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. when they are actually some of my favorite rappers.
So, in order for me to make this list, I took the top rappers that have affected me in ways that extended beyond music. Obviously, the music is the cornerstone, but this list consists my personal Top 5 rappers that have affected my LIFE. Let it be known…
CHUCK D OF PUBLIC ENEMY
For some reason Chuck D of Public Enemy never makes these lists. I think its safe to say this is because Chuck D isn’t a typical battle rapper. He gets in battles, but its not other artists – its governments, politicians, and other nefarious forces like war mongers. Because he doesn’t disrespect other rappers doesn’t discount him for inclusion in the Top 5. Chuck D is absolutely one of the illest lyricists ever. You want hardcore, unrelenting rhymes? “Rebel Without A Pause” You want Class A story telling? “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos.” You want influence? “Fight The Power” Listen. Chuck D captured all of my rebellious energy and helped give me a purpose beyond my immediate life. His voice is booming and powerful. His lyrics speak truth to the power and the powerless alike. In fact, if you look at what Chuck D, you can never understate the positive impact he and PE had on people of all races and backgrounds. Chuck did this though lyrics and The Bomb Squad did it with the beats. But, don’t sleep, Carlton Douglas Ridenhour is an emcee that deemed himself the “Rhyme Animal” and he was not to be played with even when he was inspiring people. On top of it all, Chuck D and the PE crew have a stage show that is second to none with a super DJ, the best hypeman in Flavor Flav, the militaristic S1W’s and a band.
“Fight The Power”
Back in the 90’s there wasn’t as much emphasis on release dates, but I’ll never forget when Redman’s CD debut dropped. I listened to that CD in the middle of class I was taking. So flagrant, so disrespectful, but I couldn’t wait. I had followed Reggie Noble from the second he rapped on an EPMD record and his lyrics shined like a light on the darkest night. A lot of acts get credit for reinventing themselves, but Redman was a master. Also, up until he dropped the unfortunate Malpractice, Redman was the king of consistency. He held it down with the Hit Squad, the Def Squad and he and Method man partner up to this day. Lyrically, he can stare just about anybody in the eyes and bundles that with a rambunctious style that is practically visual. Redman also gave me some gems to live by. Even though he is now the poster man for weed smoking, he once said, “No need to puff or sniff it, because I was born with it.” Loved that, since I’m a different sort of dude that doesn’t smoke at all. I love rappers that step out on a limb and make the daring, bold moves and back it up with lyrics of fury.
“The Head Banger” EPMD Feat. K-Solo & Redman (Red dumbed out on this)
I have an admission. I was a latecomer to the Jay-Z parade. I mean, I was a fan in the 90’s, but I didn’t really start drinking the Hip-Hop Kool Aid until the Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life in 1998. The early 90’s were so competitive and you had a lot of emcees competing for the same space and attention. Also, the gods of rap (Rakim, Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane and others were still extremely prominent) But the time the late 90’s kicked in, Jay-Z was leading the pack and had a movement with him. Songs like “U Don’t Know” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” are songs to live by. Unlike some of my other favorites, Jay-Z can make people dance, nod, and spit bars that make the most critical fan make “the ugly face.” There’s really not an artist with more versatility. On top of it all, Jay-Z’s business acumen has him at the top of the revenue chain without releasing any music. Performing for President Obama? I’m done.
“Resevoir Dogs” – Jay-Z with Beanie Sigel and The Lox
DMC of RUN DMC
Some people might question this one. I would chalk it up to age, ignorance or just stupidity. Before I get into lyrics, I want to establish this: DMC is one of the most influential rappers ever as well as one of the finest. You can hear his technique in a lot of the rappers in the South (like my homey Bun B – respect due), you can hear his bars in Top 5 rappers like Biggie Smalls and Redman. He and Run also ghostwrote for the Beastie Boys on their first album, Licensed to Ill.
Now, lets get down to the gully part. It is difficult to separate the group, because Run and DMC were larger than life figures in rap – they were the Super Heroes of Hip-Hop. To make the distinction between Run and D is simple. I could see myself in DMC. He read comics. He could draw. He called himself “Quiet Storm.” He was the King of Rock. I could relate. Run was more out front aggressive and cocky, equally important in rap. Lyrically, I note that DMC absolutely SET IT OFF on some of Run DMC’s biggest songs. Think” “My Adidas” and “King of Rock.” Like Chuck D, his voice was like an explosion and he ushered in a New School of Rap through pure hard rhyming. Peep:
It’s highly appraised when the hell is raised
So demanding and commanding that you all stand dazed
The unbelieving receiving prophesy so true
I cut the head off the Devil and I throw it at you
My mighty mic control, already bought his soul
The rock king is so bold when he rocks and roll
A black hat is my crown, symbolizing the sound
Signifying, we won’t play around
Now, I am not a fool. I know that when these raps were written in ’86 before some of you were even born. It may be hard to conceptualize why DMC is over somebody like Big Daddy Kane or Nas. The point is this; DMC was a rapper that wasted just about everything that came before him. Lyrically, he was ridiculous and his impact can be seen to this day. There is a reason Run didn’t want to be a performer without D, even at Russell’s insistence. It’s DMC.
KOOL G RAP
One of my best friend’s favorite rapper is Big Daddy Kane. Mine is Kool G Rap. We once had an “argument” over who was better in the middle of a Big Daddy Kane concert. Classic. After that show, I walked over to Kane and said something like, “Kane, you are one of the best, but Kool G Rap is my favorite of all time.” And Kane coolly responded, “Mine too.”
Here it is with Kool G Rap. He ethers your favorite emcee hands down. With G, I can go bar for bar with any rapper on the face of the earth and prove this point. The stuff he did in the 80’s is more progressive than today’s rappers. What ever happened to evolution? Also, G Rap’s style heavily influenced the late, great Big Pun, Nas, Chino XL and other rappers like Notorious B.I.G. Far from an actor, G lived much of what he rapped about and that’s why he’s considered the “Donald Goines of Rap.” He was that second wave of “New School” writers that pushed the art forward in leaps and bounds (props to Rakim and BDK as well).
You want an epic adventure story? Check out “Thug Love Story Parts 1, 2 and 3” (from 1998’s Roots of Evil)
You want BARS? “Men at Work”
Collaboration? “The Realest” – Mobb Deep ft Kool G Rap
You want respect? Jay-Z, Jadakiss, The Game, Big Pun and many others through the years have name checked Kool G Rap as a barometer for their own greatness.
At my old job, in the 90’s, I successfully converted a Rakim fan and made him proclaim that G Rap was the best G.O.A.T. I didn’t do a lot of talking (well maybe I did). I really just played G’s rhymes and compared notes. He saw it my way. You might not, but Kool G Rap is still better than your favorite rapper.