In 2014, Chris Rock starred in a movie entitled Top Five, a semi-romantic comedy revolving around his list of “Top Five MCs” of all time. But Rock’s character in the movie was neither the first nor the last person to compile such a list. And no two individuals’ lists are the same.
And because the decades have produced so many mic gods, the Defender, well, actually I compiled a list of who I think are the greatest 10 MCs to spit verses and bless the mic. Let me know what you think. In other words, let’s see how long it takes for you to realize I’m right.
And it goes a little something like this…
#10: KRS-ONE aka Lawrence “Kris” Parker nudges out several MCs that I love, like LL Cool J, MC Lyte, Eminem (Slim Shady), Busta Rhymes (Bus-a-Bus) and Talib Kweli because he brought the “edutainment” to the mic like no other. College professors quote KRS-One lyrics in their lectures because he’s nice like that with his verbal bombs that not only get you open for the dance floor, but open up your Third Eye, as well.
#9: ANDRE 3000 aka Andre 3000 of Outkast fame made “Virginia” and “continue” rhyme in a song. That alone should shake people out of their bias against southern rappers.
#8: L-BOOGIE aka Lauren Hill doesn’t get her due as an MC partly because she’s such a beast when she’s singing. Also, Millennials and Gen Zers know her mainly as the sister who gives a whole new meaning to CP time or only as that talented teen in Sister Act. These youngsters don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that “Fu-Gee-La.” Because if they did, they’d know who’s really “defecating on the microphone” in the spirit of Nina Simone.
#7: ICE CUBE aka O’Shea Jackson not only dropped some of the hardest lyrical bombs ever, he wrote the best rhymes ever spit by about four, five, 10 other MCs, as well. Yea-Yea!
#6: JAY-Z aka Shawn Carter’s sheer volume of work and longevity in the game, along with his hit-making skills demand that he be on this list. And the fact that he had the sense to marry some sister from H-Town doesn’t hurt his cause. At all.
#5: MOS DEF aka Yasiim Bey, aka “The Black Daunte,” aka “The Mighty Mos,” is one of the most underrated MCs in history. Period. He’s truly a Black Star. How do I know? Because “Umi Says.”
#4: NOTORIUS B.I.G, aka Big Poppa, aka Biggie Smalls, aka Christopher Wallace is so sick with his that he took the title of one of LL Cool J’s biggest hits (“Goin’ Back to Cali”) and turned a nice crossover jam into a hood anthem. And if you weren’t sure who was rockin’ the mic on that song, he let you know, “It’s the N-O-T-O-R-I-O, U-S you jus’ lay down slow.” Y’all better “recognize a real don when you see one.” “And if you don’t know, now you know…”
#3: BLACK THOUGHT aka Malik, front man for The Roots, often gets forgotten in this conversation of best ever. And that makes zero sense. Check out every song he spits and splits verses with another MC and you’ll realize that every time, his light shines brightest. Moreover, he may be the best ever at “coming off the dome top.”
#2: RAKIM, aka “The R,” aka “The Microphone Fiend,” has for years been heralded as the greatest MC of all-time… BY OTHER GREAT MCs! He literally gave us the definition of R.A.P. in the song “Follow the Leader” and one of the dopest lines ever in “I Ain’t No Joke” when he declared, “I hold the microphone like a grudge. B’ll hold the record so the needle don’t budge.” The R is truly “in E-F-F-E-C-T, a smooth operator operating correctly.” So, who on earth can top the only MC in history with his own theme (“Eager to MC”) while bringing “Lyrics of Fury?”
And coming in at the top spot, the #1 MC of all time is none other than “The Hard Rhymer,” CHUCK D of Public Enemy. Is there really any explanation needed here? It’s true that like so many others, for years I had “The Microphone Fiend” Rakim in this slot, based on my love of his music and skills and the respect he garnered from other MCs. However, over the decades, whenever I need a jam to get me going, a beat to remind me what time it is, a voice to rain down thunder on those who dare attempt to disrespect Blackfolk, I find myself always going to Public Enemy, because Chuck D’s bass, timing and message leave no doubt who’s really able to “Bring the Noise.” And if you dare doubt my wisdom, I challenge you to listen to the album/CD “It Takes a Nation of Millions” and see if you can still hold onto your wrong conclusion. Better yet, just peep the song “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos,” and as you find yourself rapping the chorus (“Death Row, what, what a brotha know”) with “The Hard Rhymer,” just remember who reminded us all to “Fight the Power.”
Let me hear from you. I’m at email@example.com. FYI, I can already feel the blood boiling in Tupac fans.