Young Guru Lists 5 Gender-Neutral Criteria for Judging an Emcee

Aspiring rappers, pay attention.

Young Guru and 9th Wonder stopped by the Rap Radar podcast this week, where the pair spoke with Elliott Wilson and Brian "B. Dot" Miller about Rapsody's outstanding new album, Laila's Wisdom, 9th's work on Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. album, and what they've learned from working with one another. 

During their conversation, Miller brought up how Rapsody is often mentioned as "dope for a female emcee," a backhanded compliment similar to the comparisons she has drawn to Kendrick, to which Guru, in a very measured response, provided simple, gender-neutral criteria that everyone can and should follow when judging an emcee.

"She's a woman, so she's going to talk about it from a woman's perspective," Guru says, "but judge her things we judge emcees on: the bar structure, the patterns, the flow. How did you handle these subject matters? Did you tie things together well? And she does all of those things exceptionally well. It's annoying sometimes when people say things like [she's dope for a female], that's what it feels like. She's an incredible emcee, just period."

To review, Guru's criteria for judgment include:

  1. Your bar structure 
  2. Your pattern (rhyme scheme)
  3. Your flow
  4. How do you handle the subject matter?
  5. Did you tie everything together?

If ever there was a DJBooth article to bookmark or print out, this is the one. Artists, and rappers, in particular, are often judged by factors—income, sex appeal, age, religion, skin color—that have next to nothing to do with the music they've created. It doesn't matter where an artist ranks on the Forbes list or whether or not they look good in a string bikini. Can he spit? Is she technically sound? Is what he's rapping about being presented in an original manner?

These are the only questions that deserve answers.