My Personal Top 10 Rappers Of The 21st Century


My Personal Top 10 Rappers Of The 21st Century
M.D. Wright
10.28.2010

I have been reading lists this year from BET, MTV and various different blogs that discuss peoples’ opinions of who the best rappers were in 2000-2009. Fine, I respect peoples’ opinions and don’t shout them down. It’s really subjective and no one’s wrong (unless you list someone who only has one album — *ehem* Drake *ehem*). Everyone has different tastes and what you like. I’ll list Independent/Underground artists on a separate list later, because in my opinion, they’re better than most crossover artists.

Mainstream/Crossover List
1. Eminem.

Sales are subjective. I school you cats (the ones who don’t already know) that being on a major label, with major distribution and being able to cultivate an entire fanbase that truly no one else in the game can develop — is not something that can be overlooked. You cannot compare someone on Interscope with Jimmy Iovine’s pull behind you, to someone on an Independent label who has to do everything themselves, including securing distribution. But lyrically, the guy has a style unique to anyone’s in the game. And he has the resume, 12 years in. He fell off and went into seclusion for a while, but his last two releases debuted at #1 and both nearly did Soundscan Platinum first week. They could eventually go Diamond as his best efforts did.

2. Jay-Z.

Jay has fallen off and kind of become lame lyrically. I was a bigger fan in the 90s when he was hungrier and showed uncanny versatility and ability to TRULY freestyle — something that is lost even on the underground circuit (I see a lot of cats claiming freestyles; even in battles — when they’re CLEARLY WRITTENS). But his lyrical content has become corny of late. Nevertheless, his catalogue cannot be denied. All of his albums this past decade were #1’s.

3. 50 Cent.

It is nearly impossible to maintain status atop the game in Hip-Hop without sacrificing what little authenticity most of these cats even have to begin with. But he had a nice 6+ year run before it really abruptly slowed down in 2009. You cannot deny the overall impact Curtis had on the game. And his sales are a by-product of his broad business acumen; something I respect (unlike his tendency to start beefs that he won’t ever finish).

4. Nelly.

What have you done lately? Not only a song by Janet Jackson, but what Hip POP heads who only care about sales and visibility will ask about Nelly. He hasn’t been all that relevant the past 4 years, but the first part of the last decade he sold multi-millions. And legitimately, even if you don’t like his music (which I don’t particularly, but they’re good for parties or background while getting a good run of basketball).

5. Jadakiss.

Consistent from start to finish from 2000-2009. Should’ve sold more, but some people obviously consider his bars to be repetitive and one-dimensional. Some even consider Styles to be better (depends on your taste, depending on my personal mood from day to day, it’s a toss up to me, Styles is more versatile, but Jada sells).

6. Cam’ron/The Diplomats.

The only real movement other than The Diplomats was G-Unit. And the Dips had a much wider influence (whether people realize/accept it or not). People who even hate Cam’ron and his music are using slang that he and fellow Diplomats either created or made famous (“no homo” — shouts to Jefferson). They had cats everywhere wearing pink — OD in many places — they brought swagger to rap with the slowed-down style of rap (slower delivery = intent to exude swagger with every syllable), developed a sound that is unique to them and them alone — the Chipmunk/sped-up 60s/70s soul records samples and maintain a grip tight lock on the streets here in New York. No one in the game can rival that except D-Block. Not Jay-Z, Not 50 Cent, Not NaS. Not anyone else on this list. They are also the first to achieve success as rappers on an Independent label (Koch, now E1 Records). All headed by Cam’ron since 1997. When you have that type of longevity, you matter to the game. And Cam’ron is still moving with new artist VADO to this day.

7. T.I.

KING OF THE SOUTH. Debatable to some, because there are those who say Andre 3000 is. Some will say Jeezy. Jeezy hasn’t done it long enough, but he’s had a decent run these past five years. T.I. has been doing it for almost 10 years now. And his rise coincided with doing multiple tracks with Cam’ron & Juelz Santana before truly blowing up in 2004/2005. He’s an idiot, though, and doing his best to ruin his peaking music/movie career with dumb moves in his personal life. But strictly speaking musically, he has a wider range of versatility than a Jeezy or any of the current posers such as Rick Ross. Andre 3000 has largely been unheard from over the past 3-4 years. Or else he’d be on this list and above all but maybe 2 or 3 of these guys.

8. Lil Wayne.

I’ve always said Weezy has two sets of fans. Those who go back to ’99 with him (as I remember him with CMB), and may or may not still be fans today, and those who came along with his meteoric rise around 2004/2005 (which coincided with Gillie the Kid writing for him and his similarly productive affiliation with The Diplomats, whom he can thank for a lot of his style in dress and lyrical swagger). But to go Soundscan Platinum and have the mainstream AND streets bumpin’ your music for FIVE STRAIGHT YEARS? You’ve got to be doing something right. I knock him because he swagger jacked after coming to Harlem 4 years ago and completely switched up his lyrical flow, style and content after it was revealed years ago that Gillie the Kid was actually writing for him (which enabled him to do those several hundred songs that he is known for doing in 2003-2005).

9. Ludacris.

He had a better run in the early part of the 2000s, but he’s still making records and somewhat relevant. The problem with southern rappers is that lyrical content doesn’t matter and so someone who does represent the south and has that ability can fall out of the public spectacle. It doesn’t hurt that he has also had a nice run of movies over the past decade as well, mostly successful.

10. NaS.

As good as it gets with mending fences between mainstream (mostly with his 2nd album and a couple in the earlier part of the 2000s) and keeping the streets interested. His sales aren’t great, and that’s why he isn’t higher; considering he’s been in the game for almost 20 years (yes, I count the BBQ joints with Main Source, from 1991 as years in the game). He’s been caught up in label politics the past 5-6 years, which has hurt his sales as well. But lyrically, there is no equal in the game on the mainstream side and very few peers from the inactive/retired/Golden Age or underground as well. That is worthy of being on this list.

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Honorable Mention:
Young Jeezy.
Rick Ross.
Prodigy.
Sean Price (although I’d rather have him on the underground list, since he shuns commercial appeal).
Clipse.
Kanye West (not great lyrically, which is lost on people who claim to know Hip-Hop).
Lupe Fiasco.
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