Hip Hop is hands down the most competitive form of music. Rappers are obsessed with being the best at their craft and letting it be known in their lyrics. As a result, fans often weigh in on who they believe to be the best and this leads to the infamous conversation of who is the “Top Five Dead or Alive.” The problem with these lists is that it seems everyone is either too scared or too oblivious to stray away from the same generic list: Tupac, Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem and Andre 3000. I get it, these rappers are absolutely amazing and definitely deserve all the respect they get, but common people, let’s get some variety and some real personal opinions and beliefs to breathe some life into these carbon copy lists. More specifically, the thing that makes me most frustrated about these lists is the omission of my personal favorite rapper of all time, Black Thought from The Legendary Roots Crew.
“Y’all know he’ll raise the bar though like Brigitte.
See there a star go, don’t blink, you might miss it,
It’s precious cargo, you gotta be strong to lift it.
The light comes in different types, be more specific,
Shit, he’s Black Thought, what could be more prolific?
For this love, he’ll go above and beyond a limit.
He told y’all he’s above and beyond a gimmick.
-Black Thought in “Right On”
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of why I believe Black Thought should be involved in these “Top Five Dead or Alive” conversations, it is important that I set what I believe to be the important credentials that an MC must possess to be considered as one of the best of all time.
An MC must have an impeccable flow supported by a creative rhyme scheme, coupled with such a rhythm that their vocals seamlessly fit in with the instrumental. They must also embed some deep lyrics while maintaining this flow, whether by being clever with their punch lines, telling a story or bringing about some sort of emotion out of you. Another important aspect is their beat selection, because the greatest rapper could spit one of the greatest verses of all time; but if it is not over a great sounding beat, it is basically worthless as it would lack any sort of musicality. Lastly, a rapper has to achieve a high level of consistency. If an MC drops a full length album that blows you away and then follows it up with an uninspired effort, they should not be in contention.
“Right now it’s somebody who ain’t eat all week,
That would kill for the shit that you throw away in the street.
I guess one man’s trash is the next man’s treasure,
One man’s pain is the next mans pleasure.
One say infinity the next say forever,
Right now everybody got to get it together man.”
-Black Thought in ‘Right Now’ (Song by Fort Minor)
When have you ever heard a bad Black Thought verse? Better yet, when have you ever even heard an average-sounding Black Thought verse? The legendary MC commands the mic with a flawless flow. He is also very diverse as it is very difficult to hear a verse that sounds similar to any other. Black Thought is not only a flow-based rapper, however, he is definitely also an extremely proficient lyricist, but this is often overlooked because his lyrics can go over listeners’ heads as a result of his flow. Black Thought utilizes clever wordplay with obscure references to rap or pop culture. He also has a track record of rapping some incredibly inspiring verses, especially on How I Got Over. Kendrick Lamar has been praised by the entire industry for his storytelling abilities on good kid m.a.a.d city and yet, Black Thought gets no love for his showcase of storytelling on the December 2011 release Undun.
“Tryin’ to control the fits of panic,
Unwritten and unraveled, it’s the dead man’s pedantic.
Whatever, see it’s really just a matter of semantics,
When everybody’s fresh out of collateral to damage.”
-Black Thought in ‘Make My’
In terms of beat selection, how can you possibly go wrong when being backed by the greatest full band in hip hop, The Roots? The Roots definitely create some of the best instrumentals that hip hop has ever seen with their full set of instruments and skilled instrumentalists. There are definitely not many rappers out there that would be able to handle the instrumentation that The Roots demand Black Thought to rap on. I think that part of the reason why there is a lack of Black Thought in these “Top Five Dead or Alive” conversations is because he is part of a group and is not credited as being a solo artist, however, this logic is very flawed.
It is incredulous to discredit the man’s raps because his name is not listed in solidarity, as each member of The Roots plays an essential role to their overall sound they are trying to achieve. Lastly, Black Thought definitely has achieved consistency. The Roots have released 12 full length albums since 1993 and each one showcases Black Thought’s dope raps. In addition, Black Thought and The Roots show no sign of slowing down as they have announced that they will be releasing another full length LP in 2013, called &TYSYC.
“Lost generation, fast paced nation,
World population confront they frustration.
The principles of true hip-hop have been forsaken,
It’s all contractual and about money makin’.
Pretend-to-be cats don’t seem to know they limitation.
Exact replication and false representation.
You wanna be a man, then stand your own.
To MC requires skills, I demand some shown.”
-Black Thought in ‘What They Do’
Enough of all this talk about Nas vs. Jay-Z or Biggie vs. Pac, let’s get Black Thought in the mix. I understand that Black Thought gets little to no hate in the rap world, but I think he deserves a hell of a lot more attention.
Think Black Thought!
Are there any rappers that you feel should be in these ‘Top 5 Dead or Alive’ conversations that are often ignored?
Let us know who these rappers are and why!