Alexis Assadi: My Top-5 Favourite Rappers

It was surprisingly difficult to assemble a list of my favourite rap artists. There is so much talent, so many good songs — how does one narrow it down to an artificial group? Moreover, how can one compare cultural gods, like 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. to a group like the Rascalz? The latter had just a couple of minor hits. But they’re from my hometown and their music reminds me of my childhood. To me, their songs are great, but are also incomparable to The Greats.

Ultimately, I concocted my list by using the following metrics:

  • How often I listen to the artist’s music
  • How much I love their songs that I listen to

I avoided consideration for commercial success, career longevity and cultural significance, etc. It was solely done based on personal preference. Here’s what I came up with.

5. Bone Thugs ~N~ Harmony

I’ve listened to Bone Thugs since I was 15 years old. I was immediately drawn to their speedy lyrics, good singing and creative melodies. They were different from anyone I had heard before. My favourite album from Bone is E. 1999 Eternal, which features tracks like Down ’71, Land of Tha Heartless and Crept & We Came. I also enjoyed Thug World Order, especially songs like Pump Pump and If I Fall.

The rest of Bone Thugs’ albums were disappointing to me. They each had a couple of astounding songs, but were otherwise sub-par in my view. For example, Thug Luv and Handle the Vibe from the Art of War were great jams. I also love tracks from Bizzy Bone’s solo album, Alpha and Omega, such as Murdah, Better Run, Better Hide and Not Afraid.

Note: does anyone know where I can buy Alpha and Omega from? I used to have the album back in high school, but have lost it. I’ve been listening via YouTube ever since!

While Bone Thugs ~N~ Harmony lacked any sort of consistency, they have a catalogue of about 50 songs that I cherish. For that reason, I’m grateful to have them in my top-five list of rappers.

4. DMX

DMX is clearly not the best lyricist and did not have longevity. But the following songs are absolute bangers.

  • Ruff Ryders’ Anthem
  • Get at Me Dog
  • Party Up
  • We Right Here
  • Where the Hood At
  • What’s My Name?

In my opinion, they, alone, make him one of the best rappers ever.

3. 50 Cent

50 Cent achieved extreme commercial success when I was in the ninth grade. To this day, I have never seen anything like it. Kids from around the world were hooked by songs like Wanksta and In Da Club. 50 Cent, infamously, had also been shot nine times.

Unlike today’s megastar rappers like Drake, people weren’t just drawn to 50 Cent’s music. They believed his story. They were sucked in by his aura. He was a tough, heavyweight gangster who was backed by powerhouses like Eminem and Dr. Dre. Nothing like it existed at the time. You know all the rappers who try to get famous through violence or by dissing other rappers? That was all prompted by 50 Cent.

While waiting for his first smash album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, I picked up a 50 Cent CD called Guess Who’s Back. It’s got a couple of the best rap songs I’ve ever heard, including Doo Wop Freestlye. When Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was eventually released, I listened to it non-stop for years (and still do). Each and every track on that album is incredible.

Similar to Bone Thugs, 50 Cent’s musical discography afterwards is a bit hit-or-miss to me. But, damn, he has some really good songs!

Note: do yourself a favour and listen to How to Rob, which 50 Cent released in 1999 way before he became internationally famous.

2. Big Pun

If I could only listen to one album for the rest of my life, it would be Capital Punishment by Big Pun. His ridiculous sense of humour, intricate rhymes and sweet beat selection makes it a classic. The song, Boomerang, has to be one of the best ever produced.

I was introduced to Big Pun in grade eight by a classmate. The first track I heard was Twinz, featuring Fat Joe. I was blown away by the following wordplay:

Hop in your Hummer, the Punisher’s ready
Meet me at Vito’s with Noodles, we’ll do this dude while he’s slurping spaghetti
Everybody kiss the fucking floor, Joey Crack
Buck em all if they move, Noodles shoot that fucking whore
Dead in the middle of Little Italy little did we know
That we riddled some middlemen who didn’t do diddly

Sadly, Big Pun died before he could leave us with an extensive catalogue. His second album, Yeeeah Baby, was pretty good, but incomparable to the first. However, Capital Punishment has been on heavy rotation in my household for 15 years.

1. Eminem

Eminem is the greatest rapper ever. Unless you don’t like his music all that much, it’s difficult to argue otherwise. In addition to loving his songs, Eminem:

  • is one of the best-selling musicians in history
  • has four incredible albums (The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP, The Eminem Show and Kamikaze)
  • has career longevity
  • is a great lyricist
  • had a successful movie, 8 Mile
  • is a cultural icon who drew the ire of both parents and politicians, alike
  • opened the rap genre to billions of new listeners. He helped expand commercial rap beyond the borders of the USA. Basically, the promulgation of rap music can be broken down into two eras: Before Eminem and After Eminem.
  • is so influential in rap that it became “uncool” to like Eminem

Honorable Mentions

Jay-Z, Biggie Smalls, 2Pac and Nas are all great artists to me. I just couldn’t squeeze them into my top-five.