The list of greatest rappers is often so subjective and experience-based that no single person can agree on one definitive hierarchy. This phenomenon is captured best in the Chris Rock film, Top Five. However, it appears Billboard has taken on the difficult task, releasing its list of the "10 Greatest Rappers of All Time." The list has Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar and others rounding out their top picks. The article has already ratcheted up a bit of controversy, with authors questioning the exclusion of important acts such as Nicki Minaj and KRS-One. However, the list's most glaring omission (among many) was that of rap icon, Tupac Shakur.
Billboard ranks The Notorious B.I.G. as the number one rapper, reasoning, "Unlike everyone else on this list, Biggie never dropped a single bad song, or a single errant bar." The magazine judged rappers based on their lyrical dexterity, ability to move a crowd, and overall rapping skill. This separates the winners from artists like "Dr. Dre and Kanye West" who don't match the mic skills of those listed here" despite their "legendary producer-artist" status.
The list begins with Lil Wayne at number 10. Billboard writes of the New Orleans rapper, "...his dizzying run of mixtapes, albums and guest spots from around 2004 to 2009 is arguably the most prolific example of quality meets quantity hip-hop has ever seen." Wayne arguably hit his peak with 2008's "A Milli."
Kendrick Lamar and Ghostface Killah come in at numbers 9 and 8 respectively. Then comes Lauryn Hill of The Fugees at number 7, whose 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, and included hits such as "Doo-Wop (That Thing)."
Andre 300 of Outkast at number 6. Writing of Andre, the magazine says, "As the better half - no offense to the also awesome Big Boi - of Outkast, Andre 3000 was the limber anchor behind the group's impeccable five-album run, one unmatched by any other hip-hop act in terms of quality, success and innovation." The two hit number one with their song "Hey Ya." However, Andre's skills may be heard best on "Da Art of StoryTellin'."
Nas comes in at number five, with his classic album Illmatic earning credit for it's realist imagery and serious tones. Legendary New York innovator Rakim hits number four and iconic Detroit rapper, Eminem, locks in the number three position. Writing about their number three choice, Billboard explains, "Eminem is one of the few who broke through to the mainstream, thanks to censor-stoking rhymes about rape, murder and drug abuse delivered in a tongue-twisting, thought-provoking way." Eminem's storytelling capabilities are best heard on his song "Stan."
Number two went to Jay Z who, according to the magazine, "developed a remarkable discography with rhymes that continuously wow, delivering several classics along the way." Jay Z has received an enormous amount of fame, due not only to his rapping, but his business ventures and marriage to Beyonce. Many say 1996's Reasonable Doubt was his best album, which included a masterful collaboration with the number one seed.
Many were angered with Tupac's omission, as his influence over Hip Hop has been extremely wide spread and acclaimed. There has long been a debate over whether Tupac was more talented than Biggie, however, it seems that Billboard has staked its claim. Despite artists like Dr. Dre and Kanye getting special shout outs for their dual abilities, there is no talk of Tupac's lyrical dexterity, social consciousness, or thespian chops on the list. There is no mention of his influence over rappers they chose to incude, like Kendrick Lamar and Eminem.