Saturday, March 06, 2010

Top 10 Most Underrated MC's

Earlier this week, I started blabbering on Twitter about this list that I've been conjuring up in my head over the last few months. Everyone always talks about who's in their Top 10 MC's of all time, or the ever-popular Top 5 Dead or Alive list. Well, I've been thinking about something different.
Ever since I started listening to rap and hip-hop when I was 11 or 12 years old (1982 or 1983 to be exact, I know, old guy), I've always been drawn to exceptional lyrics and lyricists. The art of emceeing is something that grabbed my ear and never let go, from buying every album that came out on cassette (there were only a few a month back then) to making a career out of it.
We all know about the greats that make most peoples lists (Biggie, Jay, 'Pac, Nas, Rakim, KRS and YES Em), but this isn't about them. This list is about the guys that haven't quite got their proper due or recognition as spectacular rappers, in my opinion. So, while I love Redman and Ghostface, guys like that aren't on this list because I think most people hold them in very high regard amongst the best. This list is about the other guys that often aren't mentioned in that discussion, but probably should be. The guys that on their best day could probably tear a New One in some of your Top 10'ers.

So without further ado, here is my Top 10 Most Underrated MC's list.

10. Black Rob: To me, this guy is one of the best street story tellers of the post-gold age rap era. Anyone that disagrees just take a listen to his verses on "I Love You Baby" from No Way Out for a reminder. Rob's dead pan flow packs a casual power that has been often overlooked. I think label issues and legal issues have really held this special artist back from where he deserves to be.

9. Nature: This one might cause some grumbling, but I feel strongly about it. Nature is one of the most gifted Queens MC's to never get his full shine. His simple but extremely poignant flow paired with wit and depth makes him really special. His debut album For All Seasons is an overlooked gem, and his verses from The Firm album are stand-out classics. Check out "We Ain't Friends" and holla back.

8. Brother J.: The X-Clan's main flow came courtesy of none other than Brother J., one of the smoothest but aggresive voices in the history of rap music. J. kicked X-Clan's brand of pro-black, militant rhetoric with such force and talent that even if you took issue with some of their views, you had to give it up to him. Although there were only two original X-Clan albums before the original members of the group disbanded (To the East, Blackwards and Xodus), J.'s delivery was so memorable that his style is imitated and his lyrics are quoted to this day. Check out the title track from the second LP "Xodus" for proof. Brother J. says YUCK!

7. Wiae Intelligent: Hailing from Trenton, N.J., the lead rapper from Poor Righteous Teachers was hands-down the best reggae/rap toaster ever. His melodies and intricate lyrics were simply incredible. P.R.T. had 4 albums out of the gate in the early-to-mid 90's and Wise never slipped for a second across all of those discs, even when there wasn't commercial success. Take a listen to "Easy Star" to hear Wise at his freshest.

6. The D.O.C.: Unfortunately for us, this guy was only able to make one (classic) album No One Can Do It Better before his vocal chords were severely damaged in an auto accident shortly after the album's release. Yeah, there's really only one album, but put it on today and it still stands up. That Dre guy has always been good at finding great rappers. Imagine what he would have done with The Doc if his full voice was still rockin'. The D.O.C. still remains a frequent Dre collaborator, penning several classics on 2001. Anyone needing a reference, check "Whirlwind Pyramid".

5. Del the Funkee Homosapien: Aa you may or may not know, D-E-L is Ice Cube's cousin. But their blood relation is where the similarities end. We first heard Del's voice on Cube's classic Amerikkka's Most Wanted, and he dropped a couple of classic albums and seriously complex and deep verses along the way after wards. This pioneering lead MC from the Hieroglyphics crew is one of my personal faves. Peep his twisty and flavorful verses on "Wrongplace" (Casual Remix) to remember.

4. Big L.: There's not much to argue with here. Right before L.'s untimely passing in 1999 he had blossomed into one of the best rappers in the game and was in his absolute prime. While he hadn't hit his stride quite yet on his major label debut, the world learned just how ill he was when his posthumous Rawkus album The Big Picture dropped. The classic "Ebonics" is all you need to know.

3. Royce Da 5'9": It has always amazed me just how many incredible rappers have come out of Detroit, and in particular the storied Hip-Hop Shop scene. Royce arrived on the scene in it's later stages, and quickly gained a reputation as one of Detroit's nastiest MC's. Personal bias and history aside, the fact that Royce still rhymes at the level that he does after all these years is simply incredible. If you don't know, give a listen to "Boom" for a reminder where he was and check out "Street Hop 2010" to see where he's at.

2. Big Pun: Another unfortunate early loss for hip-hop fans worldwide occurred when Pun passed away at an early age in 2000. Simply the illest Latin rapper of all time happens to also be one of the most underrated rappers ever. Pun was so nasty and quick on the mic that his verses commanded rewind buttons everywhere for years. "Dead in the middle of Little Italy..." is one of the most memorable lines ever. Listen to "Leatherface" loudly. Now.

1. Kurupt: A personal favorite of mine ever since the Death Row Dogg Pound days, Kurupt Young Gotti is still rapping at a level above most. Hailing from Philadelphia but spending his adult years on the West Coast caused Kurupt to develop a unique East Coast flow with that Cali twang that is one of a kind. Kurupt's solo album Tha Streetz Iz A Mutha and Space Boogie are both extremely overlooked gems that still get play in my rotation to this day. Check out the hard rhyming on "I Call Shots" to see where he was and listen to the sublime "Yes Sir" with Pete Rock to see where he's at.

So, there it is. I hope that this list causes anger, elation, frustration, memories and most importantly debate. Let us know who's on your Underrated list... the greatest thing about the list is that it's yours and thus nobody can be wrong.


Pair-A-Dyce said...

Dope list, definitely can't argue much about it really

Francis Vallejo said...

My list in no order:

AZ : Do or Die is a classic, overshadowed by Nas
Scarface: from the Geto Boys to solo, always droppin gems
Elzhi: Never a weak verse.
OneManArmy: one of the nicest out the mitten next to Elzhi. I'm from E. Detroit, and when I heard Binary Star's album, changed my life. And that they were from MI..icing.
Royce: agree with your thoughts.
Big Pun: the amazingly flavery one himself
O.C. - Jewelz is a mega classic
Cl Smooth: I admit, he didnt pop off with out Pete Rock much, but when he did...classics for days
Black Thought: is the most consistent MC of all time, but slept on for some reason
Big Boi: Andre gets the props, but Big Boi comes correct always

props for Black Rob though, couldnt fit him on my list, but Life Story is one of my favorite albums of all time. skits and all.

Its kill or be killed
My skillz leavin them chilled on ice
Like twice when I flash my steel
They can't touch
Won't touch
Never touch
Driving around with the toastly whip, never bust

Unknown said...

i would add sean price!

nevertheless this is a good list.

shouts from germany!

Big-A said...

where the HELL is Tech N9ne?! Like fo REAL !!!!

W. J. Rice said...

Respectable list. Pun was one of my all time favorite MCs.

Vanilllove said...

5. Cunninlynguists, but only when You can forget about their last 2, pretty disgusting, CD's. Their "Will Rap For Food" was epic. Maybe they aren't heavy-headed philosophers, but they having fun like Viagra-addicted pervert on a blind date with Victoria's Secrets angels. Bondage included. It was fun listen to them, they made my smiling, they had mas skillz and I
could hear, how much were they joyful in a studio. It was pure, bright-side magic. Unfortunately, they decided to try be like a stars, become a little bit more mainstream. And they screwed their underground legend. RIP for it.

6. Likwid E - man, it's really hard to get his songs. You have to sweat like a pneumonia-sick whore while giving head to get it. But, if You finally gonna have it (and cure pneumonia, btw), You gonna have something incredible. Scientists will probably agree, that music is a thing, that You never gonna touch. That's bullshit. His music is like a physical state. You can almost see and feel, when he was pissed and when he was smiling. And he score all high levels in being mean, good, charming and crazy same time. That's very dangerous mix. Although, he should wake up and do something new - this fucking Earth can't explode without his part of energy. Na-aaaaaaaah.

7. Demigodz - as a crew (not present, this version with Apathy, Celph Titled, Louis Logic and Jedi Mnd Tricks). I'm sure You've seen "X-men" and Watchmen". If mutants could rap, they will be just like them. But, unfortunatelly, Professor Xavier screwed up this time. And crew dismembered. What a shame. Bad, bad Professor X. Go to bed and forget about dinner!

8. Alias - imagine, he is an autistic child, playing with music. Maybe he isn't role model in his life, he doesn't try to be,
and maybe even he wets his sweater while watching commercials on tv - but, look - his music is just beautiful. Especially when he describe reality, not talk about it directly. I could called him a musicpainter. His songs are like a rooms and I like to be inside. It's art, You know? More feelings, less Kanye West. No offence, Mr. Businessman. ;>

9. Drastic Tha One - but his on this list only because I can't do really clear border because being "underrated" and being "underground". Well, maybe I will not writing about "Drink-In-My-Cup" stylish songs, because I get it - he needs to be laud, he needs to be on the top and he wanna promote his music mainstream way. But, when we forget for a while about this stuff for club-lovers, he's very valuable MC. He's wise, he know how to dill with life. I believe him. He puts his heart into rap game and doesn't expect have it back. I appreciate it. He is real. It's hard to see in other players. I trust his words, like his music and I think he deserve a chance to have more listeners. Because he has something to share with them. That's unusual, 2010. :)

10. Wild Child - since I've heard “What hip hop means to me?”, I'm still thinking about. Using his song. And Aaliyah songs. And porn sounds. But, to the point - I think he's very talented, very strongminded and very full of experiences. I'm glad he was kind enough to share with us all. And that he did it so damn good. His music is good shooter, it hits my weak points. That's why he's on my list, Mr. Paul. :)

Take care!

Vanilllove said...

My list (sorry for speaking ponglish, I'm still' learning, Mr. Paul):

1. Eminem - he's probably bravest man ever existed, and he always know how to put his own words directly into human minds. No
matter what he will describe in his song - he has flow for life, flow in his voice, in his eyes, in his thoughts, I'm pretty sure of it. He risk all and get all except understanding, sometimes - because people are amazed how fucking "ill" (is it this word, You like to OD in US since 2008?) he is, and they just don't care about his reasons and his genius. Platinum CD's? Man, it's just a thing, just a appreciation from music industry, just a toy. Real respect starts in mind and live over there. That's horrible, that some bitchez didn't see nothing wrong with dancing to "Remember Me" or "Sing For The MOment". It's creepy, that some hood boyz will be just like Marsh, because they can't see throught this music. All they see is money, success and couple millions wannabe-grouppies on his Myspace. People think, that he's absolutely happy, cause he can live and do what does he love. His music is just a symptome for them. Everything turns into rap, he's a living proof for that. Every situation, moment, mind state, emotion. And he know, that rap is a huge responsibility. But people can't see, that it's so fucking complicated. He's not damn Hannah Montana, he really takes care about his name, about his message. He reborns himself, do it all by Eminemself. That's why I'm sure he, his genius and his rap are underrated. And if You gonna count all "rap" word in this part of my post, You gonna win a lollipop. :)

2. Vast Aire - when he doesn't care about rough fucking Your sister while watching "Beavis and Butthead" and eating chips,
you can hear it in his voice. If he wanna play hide and seek with Your paranoia and conscience, he can do it, because he's allmighty when You listen to his songs. I can smell a street from his voice. Big ego and very extreme point of view too, but I'm ok with that - I don't have to be present in his world. But I'm excited when I can watch it.

3. Immortal Technique - because he cares. About situation, about people, about politic. He lives in urban chaos, mentally connected with all rebel people. He's more like an icon. His music is full of anger and fight, but it's brilliant, too. He know how to mobilize people to do something. And he can stick his words together sooo unique, as if his saliva was a glue. That's big.

4. K'naan - "And learns the English language, Just to share his observation!". When I listen to him, I think, that it is worth all energy and all struggle. He's from kind of exotic place (thug way), just like me. And defect, that only dreams and talent is important(in not living in US, I'm just naive :) And he has very rare melody in his voice. And very interesting premonition, that people deserve to being someone in their lives just like he does. If I will pick some artist which lyrics will be studying in a school, his music and rhymes will be damn, fat obligatory book. Ok, maybe without this rington song with Adam Levine. Students shouldn't dance in class, right?

Laura D said...

Ok so I'll show my age by going back to 80-81 and add Jimmy Spicer and Angie B from The Sequence. They are pioneers with the raw hunger to spit with passion (somewhat laking in hip hop lately, I gotta say).
P.S. If Lindsey can sue for the "holic" reference can Em sue for all the titles with "em" in them? lmfao

Allogenes said...

Dope list...interesting choices.

Martin Campoverde said...

Thank you for showing my man Black Rob the proper respect he has always deserved!

Brand New Bulb said...

I like the list...I never felt Big Pun was underrated...Maybe cause he's my favorite emcee and most of my pplz are from the BX...But Nature x Royce x Kurupt are very underrated...Good seeing ya 2nite

ChrisdotRivera said...

and where is 1 Charles Frances\Eddie Lee Hamilton? he should be numbero uno on the list mr rosenburg :(

Leon's stance said...

Certainly Royce Da 5'9. He would probably have been as famous as 50 cent if he was under Shady Records.

Unknown said...

Ka'Ron - from Houston, TX is the most underrated MC from Houston and the South, his flow is unique, unchallanged and a breath of fresh air. check him out on you tube - KA'RON "In the Hood" and be the Judge for yourself........He is the best, but most unwise kept secret from Houston and the South......

TasteOfTheGo said...

solid list, also francis V good damn list too! have to add a few...

Twista - who has he ever done a song with that he has not KILLED on wax..

Killah Priest - His heavy mental album is up there wit big pun's capital punishment, rae's purple tape..yea i said it LOL

elzhi is the truth, i slept for a minute! SV always been inspirational

and last but not least....
c'mon...P is arguably the most SAMPLED rap artist in the 90's erbody used his voice on a hook

BillyJ said...

I feel like MF Grimm is criminally slept on when it comes to these lists. He's got classic songs on the Scars & Memories album and dope verses on KMD & Kool G's albums. The American Hunger triple disc was consistent with some really nice stand out tracks. On his song "Half Baked" he spits 2 story-telling verses using just the names of candies, it's insane. Ghostwriting on the West Coast in the early 90s. 3rd place in the '93 Battle for World Supremacy.
In my opinion, if he doesn't get shot in '93, he becomes a household name.

Peep if you've never heard the shit from the Stretch Armstrong show in '95 with Kool G Rap.
Every verse Grimm drops on that radio show is filthy! DON'T SLEEP ON THE REAP!

Rival-The-Ace said...

Dope list i have to say,but i would love to have seen AZ,XZIBIT TALIB KWELI,EVIDENCE,Elzhi,and THE ALCHEMIST damn The ALCHEMIST,it still puzzles me alot why Eminem hasnt put alchemist on any of his albums after The Re-up,ALC is a beast on the beats,he did damage on the Weatherman LP and The Layover Ep both by Evidence. Much respect coming from SOUTH AFRICA,paul bring EM to SOUTH AFRICA will ya?

Bozier said...

1. mr lif - because they made it that way is one of my all time fav's from this humble mc.

uk rapper called 2. Life, just check out the moviedrome track to really understand his vocal talent

3. Akil from Jurassic 5 is so dope, 4. Chali 2na , he can rap over a acappella and you'll still bounch ya head to the track.

5. Nine. his album Nine livez is a killa album, still have friends who ask "who is this?" when i play the album. what ever happened to Froggy Frog ??