My album “A Toast” comes out June 12 – my first at bat. It’s a tribute to the Hip Hop on which I grew up. In honor of that, I’d like to walk you through my Top Ten influences (in no particular order) on both my ears and the genre in general- one a day until the release of the album. Feel free to join the conversation. All artwork done by yours truly.
What hasn’t been said about Tupac? Never has there been anyone more prolific, more prophetic, more controversial than 2Pac. In a 5-year span he released 5 albums, 2 of which were double discs (WORK!). It’s easy to forget he was only 25 by the time of his unfortunate passing. What 25-year old mc today would you trust to be the voice of the people, and to really speak on what’s right and what’s wrong with America? Not many even want that responsibility. I wouldn’t say he was ever ‘Lyricist of the Year,’ but he gave you all of him- every last ounce of passion. The conviction made you stop and listen. He framed Hip-Hop in a way that people could understand it had power.
Imagine the landscape of our music if he were here today. There would be no [you know who]. Our culture would be reacting a little bit more intelligently to some of the wrongdoings that we’ve experienced recently. We’d have a true leader and a fearless voice.
May he rest in peace.
MC Ricky D! Name a rapper who hasn’t been influenced by #SlickRick and I’ll name a rapper who shouldn’t be rapping. Plain and simple, he has inspired more of hip-hop than We can keep track of. The imagination, the swag, the gold chains, and ESPECIALLY the art of story telling all date back to Rick the Ruler. “The Great Adventures” is still one of the most important albums ever. There is no competition for his showmanship and charisma. Not to mention he was in groups called the Kangol Crew and the Get Fresh Crew. I could go on…
*sings La Di Da Di*
So I asked my #DayOne homie Wayne why the #NotoriousBIG was so special to us growing up?
“Truthfully it might be time/place. He is the nexus of what #hiphop was at the time. Grimey gun raps about the hood, #champagne on the back of yachts. He was the epitome of what a kid who started rhyming wanted out of life. Buying your momma a house, being able to pay your bills- all from rapping. With certain people it was an act and with certain people they were too real. He was right in the center. He was on the yacht having champagne, but that shit was as new to him as it was to us seeing it. Then when he got back in the studio he never lost sight of the fact that there’s younger, hungrier emcees out there. Never got complacent. I think if he was alive today… even after 2 decades of niggas calling him the best. I bet he would still be trying to prove it.”
In short, #ItWasAllADream.
A lot of people have mixed feelings about #Eminem. Not me. Hands down one of the best. His content might not have always fit in, but that’s what made him him. Rhyme patterns, flow, creativity, vocabulary- it’s all there. There’s better lyricists in terms of true poets, but #SlimShay‘s delivery and vision for how you experience the song was way more intense at the time. Each track and video was a scene you had to prepare yourself for. Some can’t get down with the shock value of his lyrics, but that’s #hiphop. And there isn’t a track he doesn’t hold his own on. “The white boy blossomed/ after #Dre endorsed him/ His flow on Renegade… f***in awesome” -Jay Z
#BustaRhymes is the perfect example of how much #hiphop allows you to be yourself, your full self, and even an exaggeration of yourself. In an era where the types of artists and sounds varied so much more than they do today, #BusABus was on of the first characters in the genre. Being so animated put him in a class of his own til this day. By far the most creative and definitely one of the most versatile. His fast flow will shut anyone down, he can smooth it out with Mariah Carey, then turn up with Swizz Beats. “Woo Ha!” and “Dangerous” are timeless videos. Can’t forget about the first time we heard the hunger in his voice on #ATribeCalledQuest’s Scenario. “Raaaraaarrr like a dungeon dragon.” Busta is a classic.
Until #LBoogie came along, #MCLyte was my favorite #FemaleMC. But since #SisterAct2, there’s never been another. (Closest thing might be @janellemonae) Sexy, classy, cool. She’s one of the illest #emcees to do it. One of my favorite lines from #TheScore, “And even after all my logic and my theory / I add a ‘MFer’ so you ignant ni**as hear me” shows how cunning she was with the wordplay and how important it was for her to always say something meaningful in her music. “Lost Ones” and “That Thing” are conscious songs that we love to party to. People act like singing and rapping is something new to #hiphop, but #LaurynHill excelled at both way back on #Miseducation. I just wish she would make another #album.
Other notable female #MCs: #RahDigga #QueenLatifa #LilKim #Eve #JeanGrae #MissyElliott #FoxyBrown #YoYo #DaBrat #MonieLove
#Outkast. The best thing that ever happened to #hiphop. Period.
#NastyNas in ya area! My first exposure would be “If I Ruled The World”. Wrote down the lyrics and studied them til I had the whole song locked. Then I went back to #Illmatic. ? As great as that #album was, I hate when people say he fell off on #ItWasWritten. Like #SlickRick, his storytelling is what made his #lyrics king. Creativity rooted in reality. I respect his career because he’s always made the album he wants to make, and not one to follow a trend. So aware of himself and the world around him, #Nas will make the music that #hiphop needs at the time to keep itself in check.
People used to say they didn’t like #JayZ, and then I’d recite a few songs… and they would stop talking. Since #TwentyTwo2s it’s been a ritual to sit quietly and listen to the new Jay-Z album. You knew you were getting the best in lyricism, wordplay, production and style. It was like watching a top athlete compete. It’s the authenticity that’s gotten him so much respect and the confidence that makes us want to learn every word. #Hova might not be the best on some people’s list, but he’s by far the smartest. The highest paid #rapper last year is 45 years old. He always finds a way to refine #hiphop. There’s a #Jigga lyric for EVERYTHING. “Hov’s a living legend and I’ll tell you why/ everybody wanna be Hov and Hov still alive.”
Jay Z #albums ranked:
(Note: Ranking #ShawnCarter albums is harder than coming up with your #TopTen #MCs)
Since he and @mosdefofficial dropped “Definition” on the classic #BlackStar, I’ve been a huge @talibkweli supporter. #TalibKweli is one of the most intelligent artists we’ve had in #hiphop. From the rhyme structure to his commitment to thoughtful messages, to me, he represents “what Hip Hop was meant to be.” His music isn’t for lazy ears. If you’re not familiar, listen to #ReflectionEternal and your life will be forever changed. I bumped that album all throughout college- ask @kendesign32. It’s still hard to believe he’s on my album. #bucketlist. Special thanks to @starchile @iamtrox @devinenoise @cruz_rsm @nehemiahonline for their involvement on the track. I can’t wait for you all to listen to this song. “If skills sold, truth be told…”