In a letter to MTV News, Jay-Z reacts to being this year’s ” Hottest MC in the Game”, as recognized by MTV, which according to the comments from Black Planet has no credibility in the Hip- Hop community (but apparently BET does). That list is fickle. It doesn’t rank who’s the best ever or the best lyricist, simply the “hottest”, a very relative term in itself. Like a Grammy awarding “Artist of the Year” the list changes from year to year. Regardless of your thoughts of that list there is no denying that Jay-Z is the most accomplished rap artist. Ever. Look at his consistency. He’s been among the best- in different eras. Rakim can’t say that. “The Mike Jordan of the mic recordin'” has not only held his own on songs with the best of the era that spawned him (Biggie and Big L) but he also held it down in the era where he was in his prime (Eminem and DMX) and then in the era that followed (Kanye and Lil Wayne).
Does that make him the best dead or alive? I say it does. He mentions in his letter than he used to refer to himself as “the best rapper alive” out of respect to Biggie and 2Pac but that grace period has run it’s course. I agree.
Because of our martyring of the late, great emcees the closest any other rapper was able to get on any “greatest rapper” list was #3. You can’t be the best ever without going past those two icons yet their early departures made that almost impossible unless an artist faced a similar fate.
Chris Wallace and Tupac Shakur were never able to have full careers. Their deaths granted them the benefit of not having to deal with the challenge of staying consistent over an extended period of time, as Jay-Z has been able to do with 11 number one albums and countless classics. They never had to endure “falling off”. Jay-Z has. And he has risen to new heights taking the game, the art and the culture with him every time.
What if Jay-Z didn’t exist beyond the Blueprint? Or even Hard Knock Life? or Reasonable Doubt? Would he have enjoyed the same bump in legacy as his deceased peers or as other artists typically get when they pass before their careers could fully unfold? People rank Biggie and ‘Pac on the basis of the career they could’ve had–well, Jay-Z actually had that career, and then some. It’s time to give the man his due. Shawn Carter needs to be included on the Biggie and Tupac tier in the argument of the greatest who ever did it.
Jay-Z makes the same case in his letter to MTV:
“MTV, Thanx for this nod of appreciation. Although I don’t strive to be ‘hot’ for any particular year, I thank you for the acknowledgment. My whole goal is to be recognized as the best ever. I created the term ‘best rapper alive’ as a sign of respect to my fallen comrades (Biggie and Tupac). I believe I’ve allowed a significant grace period, and I believe I would not be respecting myself if being the absolute best was not my goal, and that’s why I continue to push myself until exhaustion … salute.
“Sidebar: Kanye moment if I may … Eminem?!?! I think you do the credibility of this list a disservice if you don’t thoroughly explain his omission. As of this second he has the highest selling rap album of the year and a scene stealing verse on the best ‘posse’ cut of the year . (*Hands mic back to Taylor Swift … and nobody was harmed, I apologize in advance.)”
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