Remember when Kanye was dropping new interviews the way Lil Wayne was dropping guest verses in '08? It was kind of a whole thing. But while Yeezy's been relatively quiet lately following his nuptials, Interview Kanye is back with a new GQ feature. There are some good quotes in there - he says he's a blowfish that's often mistaken for a shark, about how with Jay you only see the wins, and with him you see the losses and the wins, etc. - I couldn't help but seize on this quote:
"[Kanye] knows he is no longer the most popular man in rap. "Currently that spot is taken," West says. "Let's be honest—he got last summer."
"You know. There's only one person."
"Yeah. He got last summer. And I'd never given it up till last summer." Now he's thinking about taking it back. "It's a real question for me. Do I want to?"
Well oh shit then! It looks like Kanye just gave me the perfect opportunity to do a new round of the Rap Power Rankings. How often do we get a major rapper admitting another major rapper has surpassed him in the Rankings? Never, that's when, and I'm seizing the opportunities.
As a quick refresher to those who are new, the Rap Power Rankings are exactly like the Sports Power Rankings except, you know, while sports can be very easily and exactly quantified, in music, we're basically making this shit up. That doesn't mean that the criteria is completely subjective though. The Rap Power Rankings have three pillars:
1) Rappers only. Dr. Dre may be one of the most powerful men in hip-hop, but come on, he's a full-time Apple employee and occasional producer, not a rapper. The same goes for Diddy. I'm talking people who have rapped, for an extended amount of time, into a microphone.
2) I'm really weighing four factors here. One, cultural influence; how much do they influence other rappers, and American culture at large? Two, commercial success; money still matters. Three, how respected are they as an artist? And four, who else are they putting on? This is about whose the dopest or best rapper, this is purely about who has the power.
3) We're talking right now, at this exact minute. I still don't think anyone's topped Kendrick's "GKMC" album, but regardless, that was almost two years ago now.
Got it? Take a few marinates to really marinate on it, this shit is important. Take your time. Ok, now let's get into the specifics. Namely, is Drake really at number one, as Kanye says? Let's work backwards.
First, there are a few rappers who have undeniably dropped a few spots since the last edition. Rick Ross has fallen faster than...Rick Ross trying to jump rope...since his "Mastermind" flopped for all intents and purposes. And while Kendrick is still highly esteemed, as I mentioned earlier, I think it's just been too long since he's put out any real solo work for him to really be in this discussion.
Second, I have to say, I agree; Drake's over Kanye right now. Every time Drizzy drops a new track it's all anyone's talking about for 24 hours, even if only to crack jokes, which is the definition of cultural influence. Also, he's been turning out a pretty steady stream of music lately, most of it's been pretty damn entertaining, and there's a pretty good chance that Drake's next album will go platinum first week, a feat that's almost unheard of for a younger artist in 2014. Plus, while Kanye's obviously got GOOD Music still humming, Drake's earned a lot of extra points lately for putting on his OVO crew. Plus, there's just no way I can put Ye ahead of Drake when YE HIMSELF picked Aubrey.
So how about our previous number one, Jay Z? Excellent question. Jay continues to be hip-hop's president, the man who respresents hip-hop to the larger world. And while Solange-gate showed some kinks in his usually impenetrable armor, ultimately I think he came out stronger and more liked for it. Still, while his guest verses have been top shelf, there's just no denying that Hov's last album, "MCHG," is basically a non-factor a year later, while "NWTS" continues to get burn. (Interesting side note: Jay did give Drake a poop sandwich verse for "Pound Cake." If Drake hands in a guest verse that bad for Jay's album, Jay sends it back, right? Plus, this.)
Finally, I think it bares mention that while I haven't washed the bad taste of Wayne's last two or so years of music output out my mouth yet, if all of "Carter V" sounds like the shit he's been dropping lately, and it sells big numbers, he could easily vault to the number one or two spot. It might be Weezy and his protege Drake battling for that top spot in a month/whenever "Carter V" actually drops.
Anyway, after much careful deliberation drinking, right now, here's my Top 5 Rap Power Rankings.
2. Jay Z
3. Kanye West
4. Lil Wayne
Yes, I know I just got done saying Kendrick's not really in the discussion right now, but then I actually stared at these rankings on my computer for 30 minutes, and I decided I just couldn't leave him off. Clearly I'm not concrete on any of these picks, I could be persuaded to move a few spots around, and I'm sure DJBooth Nation will be able to do the persuading.
Have at it people...
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]