HNL’s Most Slept-On MC’s in the Game: 2008 List by HNLHipHop.com
MTV just came out with their 2008 list of the Hottest MC’s in the Game. Although it was a much improved list from the last year, its basis still lies on what the public is eating up at the moment and the public usually eats up whatever MTV or Clear Channel throw their way in the first place. Because of this method of bringing music to the masses, there’s always a pool of incredibly talented artists who have been banging away at what they do best just as long, but more often longer, than the artists who make these lists. These artists truly deserve to rank on lists, big and small, but never seem to. The public has had the chance to latch on, but has chosen not to for whatever reason.
Before we get into our list we want to define for you the deciding factors we used in coming up with our list. What do we consider to define “slept-on”? Our panel’s defining factors were hustle, relevance, material, and timeliness. We asked ourselves:
Who has been on their hustle, producing solid material up to this moment? Who has a wide enough reach that has given enough people a chance to be exposed to this solid material? You can’t sleep on something you were never exposed to! Are they a relevant artist who is doing something notable? Do they get the credit they deserve for that notability? Are they still making moves today, in 2008? Basically, is credit being paid where it’s due? We looked up and studied countless “best ever” and “hottest MC” lists from the last twenty years, we looked at awards given and album sales. It is one thing to be talked about on message boards and in blogs, it is another to be talked about in magazines and on television. The list is as follows…
First of all, J-Live is an incredible artist in every realm he touches. He is a true triple threat where none of his talents suffer for the other. He is equally a great MC, a great producer, and a great DJ, which is a true rarity (I.E. check Madlib’s rhyming skills as compared to his producing skills). J-Live has consistently been releasing stellar work since 2001, and although J-Live has an underground buzz and is always talked about with the utmost respect he never seems to be able to break through to the next level of popularity to garner the acclaim he should be receiving for what he puts out.
9. Kardinal Offishall
Kardinal has had huge exposure. He’s collaborated with huge names including Busta Rhymes, Method Man, Sean Paul, Spragga Benz, Bounty Killer, Little Brother, Stat Quo, Pharoahe Monch, Rihanna, Pete Rock, T-Pain, Akon, Chali2na, Lil Wayne, and The Neptunes on their “Grindin” remix with The Clipse. Plus, he’s a beast on the mic with an incredibly memorable and commanding style all his own. So, you would think all of this is the recipe for success. For some reason Kardinal’s been slept on by A&Rs and labels as well as those who have heard his collaborations. Kardinal’s been trying to find a home label since 1996, and we can only hope that his recent signing with Konvict Music will finally do him right.
We debated as to whether Murs belonged on this list because one of our panel didn’t think he had a large enough reach. I interjected to inform him that Murs was all over MySpace’s front page and music section just last year. This is a website with a one hundred million plus user reach. This is also a website that is responsible for the fame and popularity of Soulja Boy who found his popularity through his MySpace profile, and not the entire front page of MySpace’s music section which gets much more exposure. If Soulja Boy could have the number one song all from a MySpace profile, why can’t an artist like Murs who is 11 albums deep since 1997 get the popularity he deserves? Murs connects with his audience through the use of topics that are far more common to the listener rather than telling stories from a reality they will never experience. In a world that makes sense this would translate to appealing towards a broader audience, however in a world of slept on MC’s we’re left to wonder if an incredible artist like Murs will ever get his break.
AZ is the classic case of a slept on artist, and we’re of the opinion that his collaboration with Nas on Illmatic both launched and doomed his career. The reasons for this opinion are not fully explainable as is the case here for most slept on MC’s, but even though he showed himself on “Life’s a Bitch” to be equal to Nas and continued to show that throughout his career, somewhere in our subconscious we could never find room to uphold both AZ and Nas, so from that point it was Nas and AZ became the classic case of a slept on MC.
6. Phonte (of Little Brother)
Much like Murs, Phonte has a wide ranging spectrum of topics covered in his music that are familiar to all of us. However, in Phonte’s case he gives a much more introspective look into these “every day” topics and always emerges with a fresh, entertaining perspective. Phonte is like an artful comedian with his ability to make us laugh, think, second guess ourselves, and create discussion amongst our friends without being preachy or condescending. Little Brother’s fans range from young to old, rich to poor, and frat to hood rat. They cross boundaries both social and musical. So why is it we rarely see one of the most relevant voices in hip hop today on more than his own MySpace page? The worst part of that is, we don’t have an answer.
5. Royce Da 5’9″
Royce’s first album, Rock City, went gold owing to the strength of “Boom” and features with The Clipse, Pharrell, Twista, and Eminem. Royce’s later work with Dilla further solidified him as another Detroit MC whose battle-tested sound commanded attention. Taken under the wing of DJ Premier Royce seemed to be destined for big things. There’s a brutal honesty to Royce 5’9″. He comes across with lyrically crafted lines that embolden hip hop music lovers making them want rock with him, not to him. And in that sense Royce has become a people’s champ in the culture of hip hop.
Freeway has both benefitted and suffered from his relationship with Roc-A-Fella. Through Roc-A-Fella he has been given the spotlight he deserves to shine as the incredible talent that he is, but he has also had to play second fiddle first to Jay-Z and more recently to Kanye. Never stepping back from the presence of these giants, Freeway has released two LP’s which are both solid from start to finish in both their production and content. He has had singles that have successfully ridden the line of being radio friendly all the while keeping their street credibility at the same time. Freeway spits like a man whose got everything to lose. He spits like if his next verse isn’t the best verse he can possibly deliver he is out of a job and back onto the streets. Fully committed from start to finish in everything he puts out Freeway is a giant on the shoulders of giants that never took off.
At first glance it almost seems like Jadakiss doesn’t belong on the list. Doesn’t everyone already regard him as one of the best? And didn’t he go from Bad Boy to Ruff Ryders to Roc-A-Fella? Isn’t he one of the members of the legendary LOX? In fact, in 2004 Jada’s album Kiss of Death reached number one status on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Album charts. So why are we talking about Jadakiss as a “slept on MC”? For these very reasons. Jada has huge reach to a massive audience but he never finds himself as a contender for an MTV “Hottest” list or any similar kind. Jadakiss is never put on the same level of reverence as Jay-Z, Biggie, or Nas although he has gone bar for bar with each MC showing himself to be more than a worthy contender for consideration as one of the greats.
So now you know where we’re going with our top three most slept on MC’s for 2008. The bigger the reach, the higher the placement, because the more open the opportunity to be regarded as one of the greats. Tony has a style that is in a class of its own and he is the only person in class. Tony made his way as one of the members of hip hop’s arguably best group ever, The Wu-Tang Clan and has steady been putting in work for 15 plus years with at least two classic solo albums under his belt. Don’t get it twisted, Tony doesn’t need to lean on Wu-Tang because he is a beast all on his own. However, because of his association with the Wu-Tang Clan, he finds himself in this list. Why? Because even though he is great in his own right and doesn’t need to lean on the Wu-Tang Clan, he still finds himself in the shadow of the Wu regardless of how incredible the work he puts out is.
1. Busta Rhymes
Everyone knows the name Busta Rhymes, from fans way back to the fans of right now. Busta has a longevity unlike any other MC in hip hop. He is the only MC to have stayed consistently commercially relevant for as long as he has, since 1992, and he never lost his true image for it. From the lead member of Leaders of the New School up to the present day Busta Rhymes is a dominating force in every track that bears his name. His remixes and his spots on other artists’ remixes inspire entire mixtapes and turn songs you never liked into songs you love. We feel like we’ve been overusing the phrase “complete original” here lately, but damn does it ever apply to him. Busta’s originality is unparalleled in both music and music videos. He has taken us places in hip hop that we never thought we could go.
We are personally guilty of sleeping on Busta. How many albums did we let slip by us when we knew there was great content on them that we enjoyed. We have taken Busta Rhymes for granted. He is like the neglected mother who gave everything she had to her ungrateful children while they grew up, only for them to later realize just what it was she had done for them, and how unthankful they had been the whole time. Busta, we’re sorry, we know we’ve neglected you and we’ve never given you the props you deserve for all the great moments you’ve given us. The times we listened to Scenario anticipating your last verse so we could jump up and sing along. You are that same person today who is delivering solid gems like “Don’t Touch Me”. All this time, you’ve kept producing fire with an unmatched momentum. Busta’s fans range from people who only listen to the radio to people who never listen to the radio but when it comes to listing all time favorites Busta hardly if ever seems to be considered. That is why Busta Rhymes is the most slept on, under rated MC of all time. We won’t leave you out of the greatest of all time again Busta!