I first started listening to rap music in 1987, as Bowen Smallwood and John Tipton introduced me to some guy named LL Cool J, who continually told listeners he was B.A.D. (Bigger and Deffer). I’ll pause for a moment while you picture three little country boys running around with a boombox blasting Mr. Cool J.
Finished? Not quite?
Over the years, I’ve stayed fairly in touch with rap, at least more of the mainstream artists (overly long and indulgent side note: I leave the deep underground knowledge to my friends, in increasing order of undergroundedness, Shane Carpenter, Adam Thompson and Cory Graham, the latter of whom once successfully operated a late-night weekend rap show on WSKV, Stanton’s home to country, bluegrass and gospel and, for a short time during Cory’s run, Wu-Tang).
So, when Cory told me that Lexington radio station 104.5 FM’s morning show recently listed the “top five rappers of all-time,” he and I shared a good laugh. They were, to the best he could recall:
4. Li’l Wayne
5. (couldn’t remember; possibly Missy Elliot, but really, with a list this terrible, does it matter?)
It’s the equivalent of making a “best actors of all-time” list and putting Zac Efron or Shia LeBouf mixed in with Robert De Niro and Daniel Day Lewis. It’s just silly and makes the list’s creators look bad, all while doing a major disservice to the younger generation who actually thinks Ludacris and Li’l Wayne belong anywhere in the region of such a list.
Look, I like Li’l Wayne, but the guy is vastly overrated. He’s really just Master P with slightly better enunciation. That’s not high praise.
Cory immediately said we could name 10 rappers better than Li’l Wayne. I said 20. He upped it to 30, then just said to hell with it, we can name 50 who are better.
So, in no particular order, I give you this, Cory and Kevin’s Rappers Who Are Better Than Li’l Wayne:
1. The Notorious B.I.G. (actually, this is in order. Best. Rapper. Ever. Hands down. Or, if you prefer hands up, waving around as though you haven’t a care in the world.
3. Jay Z
4. Ice Cube (I still have a hard time accepting that a man who was once The Most Frightening Person to White America is now the star of gentle family comedies)
8. Snoop Dogg
10. Ad Rock
11. Mike D
12. Phife Dawg (That’s one of Cory’s, and I’m assuming it’s a real rapper)
13. . Eminem
14. Talib Kweli
(Note: I’d just like to point out how much my automatic spell check program hates rappers’ names. Every other word has a squiggly red underline).
16. Method Man
18/19. Brand Nubian
20. Kanye West
21. Mos Def
25. Chuck D
26. Will Smith (Yeah, it was silly rap, but the guy could flow. He’s imminently (or Eminemently more listenable than Li’l Wayne)
28/29. Mobb Deep
35. Kool G Rap
36. Black Thought
37. Big L (at this point, I’m pretty sure Cory was just slinging together random words, letters and numbers)
38. LL Cool J (Cory: “I’d personally put LL pretty much on the same level as Wayne, but he did have some killer battles in the day, so I’m pretty positive he could smoke Weezy in that situation. Edge: Cool J.”)
39. Scarface (Given the love affair most, if not all, rappers have with the movie Scarface, how many rappers do you think just sit around going, “Dammit, I wish I had thought to call myself Scarface”?)
40. Pharaoe Monch
41. Big Daddy Kane
42. Masta Ace
43. Zach De La Rocha
45. DJ Quik (Cory: “Quik makes every single one of these lists, regardless of output, just because he has to be the most terrifying person to battle on earth, based on one line.” That line, as directed to rap rival MC Eight: “Eiht, now should I continue? I left out the ‘g’ ‘cause the ‘G’ ain’t in ya.”
46. Lauryn Hill
47/48. Run DMC
49. Grandmaster Flash (Cory: “I mean, you’re really just counting one song, but it was far more significant than any of Li’l Wayne’s work. Still, it’s hard to really say that he could out-rhyme somebody.”
We stalled at No. 50. I suggested Salt & Pepa, saying I’d rather listen to them on a regular basis over Li’l Wayne.
“Yeah, true … but they had some remarkably awful rhymes,” said Cory.
“This is very true,” I added. “’12 inches to a yard, got me sounding like a retard.’”
“THAT IS THE EXACT LINE I WAS THINKING OF!”
“How could it not be?” I asked. “It’s the worst line ever uttered.”
History’s Worst Lines:
1. “12 inches to a yard, got me sounding like a retard.” – Salt & Pepa
2. You know, these Jews are getting to be a problem.” – A. Hitler
50. Lupe Fiasco
So, you will see that Li’l Wayne appears nowhere on this list, which was whipped up in less than 20 minutes. This was done without much thought, nor did we start combing the underground mix-tapes for guys who could dominate Weezy.
Unfortunately, the radio morning show reaches far more people than this blog ever will, meaning the damage is done: young kids’ minds are poisoned with the thought that rappers like Li’l Wayne and Ludicrous are somehow in the top five of all time. In a musical genre filled with boasts and braggadocio, I’m sure even Ludicrous would find that claim to be, well, ridiculous.