You often hear the question, “Whats the best [insert here] of all time?” Now, how often do you hear the person answering that question answer with something from the past? Probably nine times out of ten huh. Now there is nothing wrong with that answer, and maybe it actually is what you felt was the best [insert here] of all time is, but is it fair? Have you ever thought to yourself, am I being fair to the present. This question could be asked throughout many different topics like sports, fashion, movies, lifestyle, etc., however, I’ll keep it strictly to Rap to avoid confusion or inconsistency.
Example One: Who’s the Greatest Rapper of All Time?
Now this argument can never be settled and solved but there is an average opinion of rappers that usually will come up in this debate. The most consistently said names would probably be 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G., and Jay-Z. Now Jay-Z is the interesting one to me. Jay-Z without a doubt is the most accomplished rapper ever, and is easily the most respected MC today. But how long has Jay-Z’s name been in the consistent conversation. In my opinion, I would say around 2004-2006. Now I find that funny because thats after The Black Album was released (Nov. 2003) which was believed to be his retirement album. I truly believe that Jay-Z’s resume even before the Black Album was released was good enough to warrant “GOAT” talk. I mean 2Pac only really had five albums, with none being as acclaimed to Jay’s Reasonable Doubt and The Blueprint, and Biggie only had two albums to Jay’s seven albums before The Black Album came out (Jay-Z today has twelve solo albums released). Was it Jay-Z’s believed retirement at the time that finally prompted his “GOAT” talk. Who knows, but it was uncharted waters for Jay-Z being in “GOAT” talk before the release of The Black Album. It makes me wonder if Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac would have been considered the greatest of all-time if they wouldn’t have been tragically taken from us. Don’t get me wrong, they were great rappers (two of my favorites) and were probably the two most impactful rappers ever, but like many people who argue about other rappers and their “GOAT”, “do they have a big enough body of work?” But people were scared to touch legends from our past that did great things for us. It took Jay-Z going into “retirement” and becoming the past, for us to finally put him in the conversation.
Example Two: The “Classic” Album
When you think of classic rap albums, some ones that come to your head probably are: Illmatic, The Chronic, Life After Death, Reasonable Doubt, College Dropout, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, good kid M.A.A.D. city, and….. Hold on,
good kid M.A.A.D. city? “But that was only released two years ago?” And here’s the dilemma, why does years given have to affect whether a album is classic or not. The definition of classic, from dictionary.com, is ‘of the first or highest quality, class or rank; serving as a standard, model, or guide.’ Now that means that adding the word classic to an album, is based solely on it’s quality. If a album is good, it’s good. It doesn’t matter what was released before, because the quality speaks for itself. And that’s what good kid M.A.A.D. city (GKMC) is. GKMC is critically acclaimed, loved by most, and respected by almost every godfather of rap. It’s original, filled with substance, and simply great. So why can’t it be seen as a classic. Now if I was to compare GKMC to an album like Life After Death, hip hop fans would crucify me. But GKMC has the professional reviews, the quality beats, lyrics, awards and originality to compete with Life After Death. But we as hip hop fans are scared to touch something from the past that was so great.
We as hip hop fans need to stop living in the past. I’m tired of hearing about how the nineties had the best sounds and that you only listen to old school hip hop. LISTEN! People change and progress has the years go by, and so does life and in this case, music. With the technological advances in music, we see more artists that we may have never got to hear actually make it. Beats and instruments that weren’t able to be put together back in the day, now are able to be made at home. If you don’t think the past can’t be touched, then you’re not being fair to today’s innovators.