I’m not a big fan of “best of all-time” lists, regardless of who does them. But Billboard caught my attention when they decided to weigh in on the best rappers of all-time in a recent piece this past week, after all, this was Billboard, maybe they had some solid stats to back up their assertions.
Despite being one of the prevailing voices in the larger music discussion though, it’s obvious that Billboard is a ways off when it comes to the world of hip-hop. While I haven’t personally made a “best of all-time” list since my seventh grade English class, I couldn’t help but notice some discrepancies in the collection of names the magazine had placed around the top 10. A few a bit too high, some absent completely and others just simply misplaced.
First off, Tupac is nowhere to be found on the Billboard top ten rappers of all-time. I’m sorry, but regardless of your stance on the east coast/west coast debate there’s no denying ‘Pac is much deserving of a spot somewhere in the mix. Arguably one of the most prolific rappers of all time, his musical library and legacy alone earn him a spot on whatever list is being compiled, hell he would be on the Mount Rushmore of Hip-Hop. While I appreciate not simply giving a spot to a name, this wasn’t the place to make that decision. Pac is easily a top 10 rapper if not simply for the fact that he helped inspire the current work of Kendrick Lamar, who did come in at number nine.
Lauryn Hill at No. 7
Lauryn Hill is an amazing musical talent but with one solo album to her name and only scattered singles in the years since, we're left mostly wondering what would have been had she decided to release more work. In pure musical sense, Hill is certainly in the hall of fame for hip-hop, but there are many MCs who have put together full careers of music that probably deserve a spot above her. If you watch the recently-released Stretch & Bobbito documentary, you'll be blessed with crazy unreleased freestyles from Ms. Hill, it’s just too bad more of them didn’t make it to light to prove to the world she was in fact deserving of an honor like this. There are plenty of artists with full discographies that have had a lasting impact on the genre that went unnoticed with her inclusion.
Lil Wayne at No. 10
Lil Wayne landing at No. 10 is somewhat disrespectful as well. At this point, we can all pretty confidently point to Weezy for not only helping to spawn the current mixtape and release schedule, but also providing acts of his own in Drake and Nicki Minaj among others. Weezy is perhaps one of the most impactful and revered rappers of his generation and while Kanye was absent from this list entirely, Lil Wayne certainly deserves his respect. Kendrick is an amazing talent and I’m firmly in his camp for eventual GOAT, but there’s no denying Wayne’s confluence of business sense, consistency and pure talent. I would have had him up around Nas, Eminem and the rest of the top 5.
All in all, this list is exactly what every list is: a reason for people like me to roll our eyes. Biggie at No. 1 is an arguably solid choice, although Billboard's reasoning was that he never wasted a bar and only released great music. This is true but sadly less his choice than a result of his tragic death, but outside of that assertion, this list probably needs some work. They stress that it is ranking rappers not 'rap artists' like Kanye West and Dr. Dre, but the criteria should have to be a bit tighter for any of this to carry any real weight. Seriously though, no Tupac?
[By Jake Krez, who doesn't enjoy lists. You can follow him on Twitter]