Jay-Z, LL Cool J among rap’s elite

Jeremy Dubois and Jeremy Dubois

Jay-Z is one of the cockiest MC’s on the mic. Though he claims to be retired, he leaves behind a legacy of work that most rappers could only dream of accomplishing. I think that Jay-Z owes his success to the death of 2 Pac and Biggie because I, like many others, believe he would not have blown up if it wasn’t for their untimely deaths. Jay-Z is a tight lyricist, but let’s keep it real. A good portion of his rhymes and concepts are stolen from other rappers, especially 2 Pac, Nas and Biggie. I had a lot of respect for Jigga back in the day, but I felt like his work ethic went downhill after Vol. 2. He brought himself back up to par with recent releases but in the process of doing that, we only saw him become more commercial.

I guess he feels he has to go down that route to sell records. To claim his spot as the supposed “King of New York,” Jay-Z had to go at who he thought was a threat to his “takeover.” Nas was that man. Nas knew that to be the best he had to challenge the best because he had once said that in a song of his, so that’s exactly what he did. Jay-Z and Nas engaged in one of rap’s best battles ever. Unfortunately, for Jay-Z, the people decided Nas was the victor.

LL Cool J is number five on my list. His consistency and longevity are the main reasons he has earned a spot here. He has been doing his thing longer than any other rapper in the game who is still releasing albums. He has had hit after hit, and in recent times, has managed to keep his lyrics relatively clean. I’ve heard several people say that LL is a better actor than he is a rapper. He is a good actor. As a matter of fact, he is one of the best rapper’s turned actor besides maybe Ice Cube and excluding Will Smith, who is best known for his acting career. I’m glad to see that LL Cool J is still in the game and still making hits.

As for the rest of the artists in hip-hop, there are some who are just now getting their chance to shine like Fabolous, Jadakiss, Kanye West, 50 Cent and Lil Jon; while others such as Eminem and Nelly experienced success much sooner.

Eminem, Nelly, 50 Cent and Outkast are rap’s best selling acts. Eminem is a talented individual who is versatile in what he does. Let’s be realistic though. He is selling records like he does because he is white, controversial and is making so-called black music. If it wasn’t for those things, I highly doubt there would have ever been a Slim Shady.

For those reasons, I consider Eminem over-rated, but he can’t help a lot of it. Consumers are the one’s who buy into it.

Personally, I can’t stand Nelly. I used to think he was decent until I realized what he was doing to the game. He was — and still is — single-handedly making what is supposed to be Hip-Hop, R’B Hop. He is constantly singing in songs and is making rap music soft. But unlike Ja Rule, he still manages to have hit after hit and sell millions of records because he does have mass appeal. I never thought I would see the day rap and country music combined but we have Nelly to thank for that. His song with Tim McGraw, “Over and Over,” is bound to be a hit because it mixes two totally different worlds and music genres.

Outkast is probably the most unique rap group ever. It’s hard to define what genre they are in sometimes because they have created their own category. It’s hard to organize them, especially Andre 3000, into any music genre. Though I have lost a lot of interest in them because of how far they have gone away from their earlier works, I still hold respect for their versatility.

It wouldn’t be right if I did an article on hip-hop and not paid homage to some of rap’s best underground acts including AZ, Mobb Deep and Taleb Kweli, who are among the best in the rap game but aren’t often given the credit they deserve.

So there you have it. I shared who I think the top 5 best rappers of all time are, and I gave some insight into other well-known rappers. I look forward to this November when new albums from 2 Pac and Nas are scheduled to drop.

Enjoy hip-hop.

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