“NUMBER 3 IS WHO?!?” : The Problem(s) with Top Rappers Lists
The biggest problem with these is lack of consensus on definition of terms.
As you’ve probably noticed, hip-hop Twitter has once again been swept with ranking fever. I hear it may have started with the lists discussed in this article but it’s neither here nor there. As the homie Theez would say, I’m not sure who bugs more the people obsessing over the lists or those who are spending energy complaining about those obsessing over the lists.
So my biggest beef with these lists is that the criterion leans more on commercial success than skill-level which would be more acceptable to me if what a given list was trying to measure was laid out more clearly. I could slice a top 30 list a few different ways…top 30 MCs in terms of skill, top 30 MCs in terms of discography, top 30 in terms of over-all “greatness” score weighing all of these things and more- and I’m not the only one. That’s what makes these lists frustrating – is they all are claiming to be more general than they should be claiming to be.
A lot of these lists are just “greatest” rappers lists- what the fuck is greatest? Based on what most of these lists look like it sounds like “Greatest” means “who was popular from 1990 to 2010”? Again, this simple analysis helps reveal why these lists are so dissatisfying: any fuckmonkey can look at the charts from the last 25 years and write a list of the 50 most recurrent names of the rappers on said charts and that makes such lists boring and repetitive.
Another problem is there will always be a contingent of rappers, a surprisingly wide-ranging swath to be honest, that is just mad that they are not on said lists. There’s the cousin of that simply bitter rapper that is a certain breed of oldhead, mad that the list is full of newer names that he is not familiar with.
"Who's ya top ten / is it MC Shan is it MC Ren?"
Another phenomenon is almost agreeing with someone’s list so you dwell on the 3 or 4 names on the list you disagree with – “WHAT? You have Pharoahe Monche at FOURTEEN?!?” Part of what’s happening if we want to be heard and affirmed, we want to see our opinions and identities reflected back at us. I think a lot of discussion happens not because people are unhealthily obsessed but because you feel like if you’re already so close to someone’s thinking you can perhaps persuade them to seeing it more like you do. There’s a lot going on psychologically behind the stir that occurs whenever bigger outlets put out these lists.
So circling back to the overly general nature of most of these lists, I think the solution is the more specific list: 10 best rap discographies, 10 best rap vocalists, 10 best guest track verse deliverer etc. and I’ll be doing lists like that for Zus and other outlets I write for in the near future to try to practice what I preach.
Lists are cool enough of a measure but making them too massive, too general and too dependent on commercial success for validation waters down what can be interesting about them in my view.
Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for Zus Entertainment, a Jooseboxx and Untapped Hip-Hop contributor, and member of the Inland Empire, California based nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers.