Top 5 Dead Or Alive: "What Fresh Prince Did Is Something A Lot Of People Don't Recognize"
Wednesday, Nov 16, 2011 12:15AM
Each week, SOHH asks two entertainment personalities to name their Top 5 rappers of all-time. To make things tricky, we've created a "Hall of Fame" of emcees (see right) who are universally respected and therefore may not be mentioned. After Boston's R.E.K.S. served up his own 5 fave emcees, veteran music journalist Adam Bernard scribbles out his own Top 5 rhyme spitters.
Fresh Prince. Let's start off with Fresh Prince. I think what he did for hip-hop is something a lot of people don't recognize. When he came out with the [television show] "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," I think he really broke a lot of doors down in terms of showing, with that sitcom, the suburbs can adjust and learn from hip-hop. And at the same time, hip-hop could maybe learn some things from the 'burbs. I think because of that, a lot of rappers sold a lot of millions of albums. Before that show, sales numbers were not what they were after that show. I think a large portion of that was showing hip-hop and the suburbs can go together.
LL Cool J. It's hard to ever "not" put LL Cool J on a list like this. For one, it's LL Cool J's longevity. To be doing "I Can't Live Without My Radio" back then and later on doing "4, 3, 2, 1" in the late 1990's. It's just incredible. I really wish he had played the whole thing with Canibus differently. I'm betting if you spoke to him today, he would say the same thing. Regardless, would Def Jam have been Def Jam without LL Cool J?
Tech N9ne. Let's go a little bit obscure with Tech N9ne. Tech N9ne's unbelievable style, he's sold over a million copies independently, and I know sales aren't an indication of greatness but to do it independently is definitely an indication of hustle. When you put on an album like Tech N9ne's Absolute Power, if you're not inspired then you're dead.
Ice Cube. I'm going even more out there. Even though some of his stuf, today, hasn't been gigantically huge, I have to name Ice Cube, [considering everything from] N.W.A. to his solo work. Yeah, he's doing family movies now but in his prime, he was one tough dude you didn't want to meet in an alley. He created a great persona and he really brought that style of hip-hop to the forefront. He definitely belongs on a lot of Top 10 lists.
Treach. It's really a draw between Redman and Treach but I'll give it to Treach. In terms of Treach, if you ever tried to rap along to a Treach verse, it's really difficult. And to think that he creates those verses to every single song and Naughty By Nature was out for so long, and has done very well, it's amazing. They were also like that second generation of rap that was from the inner-city that actually made it into the suburbs. I remember being a surburban kid and they were one of those groups that really broke through that door, like, "Oh, this 'is' reality." It really opened a lot of eyes. Much like Will Smith opened up a lot of doors as Fresh Prince, Treach and Naughty By Nature opened a lot of doors as well.