Peace and blessings.
It's been a grip, init? I'd like to thank all of you for supporting me and staying interested in both of my career endeavors, my music and my writing. It means a lot. For my first post, I wanna ease into it and give y'all something basic but it's in response to me running into the same question a lot. As I become more popular, I'm getting more press, doing more interviews and the question comes up both on and off the record, "Jaxx, who is in your top 5 or top 10?" Most people actually gotta take time to contemplate that. Not me. My list has been etched in stone since around 2006. So for all those curious I'ma break it down for you. The who and the why. The Ayatollah's top 10.
*DISCLAIMER* These are my favourites, mind you. I'm not necessarily saying they are the greatest of all time, but they hold firm to me.
1. Big Moon Dawg. You may know him by another name, Big Punisher. To me, Pun was the definition of an MC. There wasn't a style he couldn't deliver. From Beware, to You Came Up, to 100%, to the iconic single Still Not A Player to the legendary remake of Dre&Snoop's Deep Cover, Twinz 98. Twinz set the bar so high for MCs from then on out, with one infamous, spectacular lyrically insane line: "Dead in the middle of little Italy/ little did we know that we riddled some middle man who didn't do diddly/" - nigga please. You aint nicer than that on your best day. Pun was the MC that made me make up my mind and say "yeh, this is what I wanna do with my life".
2. Ghostface Killah. Ghost is actually my favourite rapper of all time. I'm an aggressive, very forward type of person with a very vivid vernacular. If that doesn't sum up GFK, I dunno what will. Initially the most enigmatic of the Wu, Ghost made his way in no time flat to be the most consistent and arguably the face of the Wu. Pretty Tony paints the most opulent pictures with words, he literally takes you right there in his songs. Boundaries are non existent to Ghost. The same man who did the classic Supreme Clientele also dropped one of the illest albums of the 2000s, Wizard Of Poetry In Emerald City. I love rap records with R&B hooks. Ghost recognized that ladies love hip hop as well. He went hard for the ladies and the fellas, always. Ghost always kept it gully no matter what the theme was.
3. Nas. Nasty Nas to Esco to Escobar even to Nastradamus. "Streets disciple, my raps are trifel/ I shoot slugs out my brain just like a rifle/..." that line will for ever mark the moment hip hop witnessed a living legend emerge. Nas' catalouge to me represents the true definition of a man. Nas came under fire for being a hypocrite and doing a lot of "wack" shit. But bottom line is, he kept it funky to himself and that's what counts. I remember when Nas "rip the Freeway, shoot through Memphis and Money Bags/ stop in Philly order cheese stake and eat Beans fast/". Nas went toe to toe with every one worth mentioning. Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, 50 Cent and B.I.G. No matter what, Nas will forever and always be King of New York. Until he willingly vacates the throne, niggas just gotta be patient. Bottom line. Pun made me wanna rap, Ghostface made me learn how to rap, Nas taught me the importance of being a fan.
4. Kardinal Offishall. Huh, what? Toronto stand up? What? Yeh, hoe. NO ONE in the history of hip hop can or has done what Kardi has brought to the game. Kardinal is the EPITOME of versatility and the antithesis of boring. I've been a concrete fan and supporter of Kardi since 00. I was in grade 8. Kardi conveyed to me, battle rhymes, radio hits, party anthems, all topped with socially conscious commentary that never came across as preachy. This was all infused with the raggae, dancehall sound now synonymous with Toronto. Lyrically, in my opinion there are few on par with Kardi. Off wax his live show is just phenomenal. He delivers a concert like no other. Hip Hop's diamond in the rough is Kardinal Offishall.
5. Black Thought. Honestly, Riq and The next MC always switch places but I think I've locked this position in, pause. Black Thought in my opinion is the most underrated MC ever. He's so much more than the front man of The Legedary Roots Crew. He's so much more than the celebrated underground champion. Thought is hip hop's tour guide and walking example of talent. "You wanna be a man, then stand your own/ To MC requires skill, I demand some shone/". I feel Thought has the best delivery in hip hop, it's so comfortable, he's always in the pocket no matter the beat. Your favourite MC wants to be him. I promise you.
6. Mos Def. Four words. The Mighty Mos Def. What more do you really have to say? Black On Both Sides, Black Star, The New Danger, The Ecstatic. Damn. Mos is one of the most prominent voices in and out of hip hop and it's been that way for the better part of a decade. Mos Def represents the other side of Brooklyn. Mos aint a gun man, but he can take you there if you want. Black Dante conveys the emotion, truth and realism that few have been able to. Mos Def crafted the legendary status and made a footprint in conscious/underground hip hop that every MC will forever live in the shadow of.
7. Common. The boney homie from stoney is easily hip hop underground's cinderella man. Just when you counted him out, he smashed you in the mouth, took the title, gotta SAG card and went to become a house hold name. Com is easily hip hops most insightful lover. A lover of the culture, lover of the music, lover of the knowledge and lover of the women who love the art. Common built classic records before Kanye and pioneered the Mid West movement when no one else was around or able to do it. Like Water For Chocolate solidified Com's presence in my life. From an MCs perspective, Com made me hate my delivery and my flow so much. I learned so much about the art of rhyme just by listening to Common's catalouge.
8. Rakim. Rakim is the godfather of modern rap. Aint nothing else to say about it. Ra laid the ground work for every nigga on this list. The only reason I don't have him higher, is because I didn't grow up with Ra like I did with these other MCs. Ra's legacy was all but finalized in hip hop history by the time I made it my true love. However, I overstand his prowess and recognize the impact he left on the culture and the game. Rakim's name demands respect and as a serious MC you are obligated to pay homage to him. In all truthfulness the first song that made me entertain the thought of MCing was "Microphone Fiend" and is my favourite song of all time. Ra's rhymes from the 80s still rock harder than 80% of the shit that's out now. Fact.
9. Lupe Fiasco. Lupe Fiasco immediately caught my attention as being the most gifted lyricist of my generation from the first time I heard him. His lyricism, wordplay just everything blew me away. I knew he was on a sure fire path to greatness after he dropped the CLASSIC Lupe Fiasco's Food&Liquor. A lot of people consider him a nerdcore rapper, I say they're mad. A lot of people consider Lupe a hipster, I don't agree, however, he pioneered that lane for both of those sub-genres of hip hop to exist. With out Lu, there'd be no Wale's no Kidz In The Hall, no Ayatollah Jaxx'! Not only does Lu step up to the plate on lyrics but his image is impeccable. A Muslim kid from the hood who showcases his religious beliefs, his upbringing and most importantly, self respect.
10. Kanye West. Kanye West. Mr. West is easily the most prolific voice in hip hop since Chuck D. Kanye has the most complete album catalouge as any one on this list and from where I stand, in all of hip hop. Kanye says some of the realist shit in life, ever. All Falls Down, Jesus Walks, Crack Music, Gold Digger, Through The Wire, Heartless, I mean, if that isn't what hip hop's about, I dunno what is. Kanye symbolizes the hip hop icon, the hip hop superstar, the hip hop legend. His production game inspired hundreds of thousands of carbon copies and the only thing to outshine Kanye is his own ego. That's what rap is. Rap is a contact sport. I've said that for years, rap is about at face value who can appear bigger and more important. Kanye takes the cake easily.
The Ayatollah Has Spoken.