[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 Kool G Rap named his picks, Brooklyn rap veteran Talib Kweli delivers his fave five.]
Andre 3000. Here’s the thing, when you name your top five, people always say Jay-Z, Nas, Biggie and Tupac. That’s the four right there and then there’s somebody’s pesonal preference. So I’d say Jay-Z, Nas, Biggie, Tupac and Mos Def, because I’m from Brooklyn and then somebody else might say Scarface because they’re from Houston. That fifth spot is like a revolving door spot. When you ask somebody about Andre 3000, they’ll say, “Well of course he’s in there.” The reason why people say “Of course” is because no one ever prepares to put him in there because he’s on another level. When you think about emcees, you don’t classify him as an emcee. You classify him as 3 Stacks. That’s the same thing with Lauryn Hill. Even though she only had two albums, when you mention her, people are like, “Of course she’s in my top ten,” but no one ever mentions her. Andre and her are ringers before you even start the conversation.
Big Pun. For me, it’s a New York thing. I feel like his style and the way he flowed, it was a New York style but he took it like Kool G Rap. He was like the son of Kool G Rap. He was able to take a style and flip it like it was his own.
Black Thought. He’s got to be one of the best emcees. He’s got to be in my list. Me and him were born on the same day, so I’m bias with that. We’re talking stats and numbers, right? Put the numbers up. He’s doing two hour shows with The Roots and he’s doing his verse, everybody’s verses, singing the chorus, doing his own sh*t, he’s freestyling and he’s out-rapping everybody. On every category, he’s separating himself. He’s killing it but when you think of The Roots, you think of them as a group. The mainstream casual listener does not know Black Thought’s prowess because he’s never been marketed as Black Thought the emcee.
Kanye West. I think Kanye’s success angers a lot of people because he’s arrogant about it and up front about it. Once again, when you put the numbers up and look at what he’s actually done and what he’s actually said, his beats are incredible and they never take away from his rhymes. I have seen him work. I disagree with people who feel like Kanye’s not a good rapper. I think he’s one of the best we’ve ever heard. Just from the fact that Kanye wants to be the best everything, I think he has the drive and ambition.
Mos Def. He, more than anybody, has made me step up my sh*t. When I think of inspiration, I think of what he’s told me. His style is not very complex, it’s something you can sing along with. Plus, it’s melodic. His last few projects he has done, he’s become a lot more intricate. I don’t know if it’s religion or being from Brooklyn or what it is, but Mos is super, super, super deep and its done in a very simple way.