It all started with a simple question…
“Notice how one gave a shit about being the ‘best rapper alive’ before God started to cull the herd like between 96-02?”
I started to leave it as one of my darkly humorous tweets, but then I stopped and thought about it for a second. I know I will miss some…
- * Tupac
• Big L
• Freaky Tah
• Big Pun
• Jam Master Jay
• Souljah Slim
The one thing they have in common are notarized death certificates and cashed-in insurance policies. Of those seven names, three – perhaps as few as two or maybe up to four – of them made claims while alive to be (or want to be) the best. Two for sure are not up for debate in most circles. I do not belong to any of those circles, as I recently conducted a debate about it and would surely invite anyone to more. One was held as a legend of sorts in an area that at a time tended to have a hip hop life and scene of its own.
Anyway, while alive, none could be seen actively stating or driving debate on whether or not they were the “best rapper alive,” yet the moment that rappers started having funerals and shit, those lucky enough to remain among the realm of us who can still breath and blink and what have you decided that they should stake their claims on the crown.
Jay-Z was among the first on more than one occasion over the course of 3 albums. Also Lil Wayne was famous in making this claim. Taking a turn for the strange, Kanye West claimed it at least once. Taking a turn for the insulting, every young rapper with a friend who had a laptop with Ableton Live! installed on it started making mixtapes. From there, the onus of actually BEING – or at least selling records like – the best rapper alive was a dead soldier.
At risk of violating my “You are what is wrong with hip hop” post, I am going to go ahead and say it. One would think that 5-7ish year period where people were dropping the fuck dead might leave it where those who remained would go in the booth and spit EVERY 16 like it was their last Will & Testament. On the whole, we could expect that to mean we would be getting better product, what with every rapper actually COMPETING to be the “best rapper alive,” but no… The product itself has been no better. No one is rapping any better than they were, and even those who once staked reasonably valid claims to that spot just stopped trying since no one else seemed to be.
Here’s a little factoid: there IS no “best rapper alive.” Rap is what you make it. Rap is also what the end user makes it.
Somewhere, there is a 15 year-old girl who thinks Chief Keef is the best rapper alive. There is another still claiming Big Sean, others still who somehow cling to the hope that Soulja Boy is making a comeback. Old heads among us wait for a harkening back to big Levis and rugbies. The fact happens to remain that we’re ALL right. The warring factions over who exactly owns hip hop would do best to simply understand that we ALL own hip hop, whether we like that fact or not.
And in that world, there IS – and never has been – any such thing as a “best rapper alive.”