Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Suburban White Kid's Top 10 Rap Artists

This one is totally off topic, especially given the complete insanity that has taken hold of the sports world and my weekends over the past month or so, but I'm putting it up on request from one Mr. Dan Clarin.
So, from one white kid with a suburban upbringing who attended a 4-year college and now works as a financial consultant, here are who I personally consider, based on their overall contribution to the hip hop scene, the top 10 hip-hop artists/groups of all time.

10. The Roots - Probably the least recognized name on this list, and one of the most underrated hip hop groups of all-time. What separates The Roots from the rest is the "live band" format they use, which introduces elements to their music that other hip hop artists using beat machines can't replicate. Combine that with Black Thought, perhaps one of the best MC's of all time, and you have one of rap's best live performers, and what I think is it's most overlooked artist.

9. Eminem - There's something to be said for being the first successful white hip-hop artist in a genre that has been dominated by African-Americans. On top of that, his rapping ability may be overlooked a little bit with all the other controversy and whatnot surrounding him, but when it comes down to it, his skills on the mic should rank up there with the best of them.

8. Outkast - While they flew under the radar for much of the beginning of their career, Outkast's musical evolution has produced some of the most innovative and unique musical stylings in the history of not just hip hop, but all music. Known for combining catchy rhymes and hooks and not just settling for your standard repeated beats, Outkast is one of the most critically acclaimed hip hop groups of all time, and rightfully so.

7. Public Enemy - While they never gained the mainstream popularity of other artists on this list, Public Enemy were really the first hip hop artists to use rap to make political statements, and in doing so, paved the way for future rappers to use their music as a political forum. What allowed them to do this though, was their innovative music, which expanded upon the rock-hip hop fusion that Run DMC had introduced before them.

6. Kanye West - Taking a cue from both Dr. Dre and 2Pac, Kanye is trying to bring the music and the message back to mainstream hip hop. While pushing the envelope further on his production efforts, Kanye is also trying to deliver more than just empty words on his albums, something which hip hop has seemingly lacked in recent years as it became more prevalent on the pop charts. He's still young, inexperienced, and will always be a subpar rapper, but if he continues to revolutionize hip-hop at his current pace, who knows how high he could end up on this list.

5. Dr. Dre - With NWA, Dre was one of the first to help bring hip hop into the national spotlight and expand the market to a growing number of suburban fans, strangely enough, by glamorizing the gangsta lifestyle of the inner cities. Then, he made an even bigger contribution in his solo career by being the first to really put a stronger emphasis on the production side of hip hop. His lyrical skills are not great, but no one has had more of an impact over a longer period of time than Dr. Dre.

4. Jay-Z - Likely hip hop's biggest "crossover" pop star of all time, yet all while maintaining his lofty standing in the hip hop community, Jay-Z came on the scene right before the deaths of Biggie and 2Pac, and was the king of rap for the next 10 years or so. While his skills on the mic are undisputed as one of the best of all time, Jay-Z's biggest impact might actually end up being on the business end, with his clothing lines and shoe deals and various other ventures which have helped establish hip hop's place in mainstream corporate America.

3. Run DMC - The innovators of modern hip hop, Run DMC were the first rappers to really bring hip hop into the mainstream spotlight. Their tricks seem simple now, but a lot of the stuff they were doing at the time had never been done before, and is still being copied today.

2. Biggie Smalls - Not only did the Notorious BIG have perhaps the best aliases in the history of rap, but very few question that he was the best lyricist and smoothest rapper that hip hop has ever seen. The original drug dealer turned rapper, Biggie may have at times lacked the impact of 2Pac's message, but still had plenty of great stories to tell.

1. 2Pac - Ask any person on the street who the most famous hip hop artist of all-time is, and 9 times out of 10, 2Pac will be the first name mentioned. Considered by a vast majority to be the most influential and important hip hop artist of all time, 2Pac was not only a very strong rapper, but had a very strong message that resonated not only with those that could relate to him, but to those that hadn't necessarily experienced all that he rapped about. Sad to say, but like many others who suffer a similar fate, his early death probably helped cement his legacy.

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