This one’s been marinating for a minute. Monday, February 21st, 2022 has been marked on The Encyclopedia’s calendar for a few months. The Super Bowl is over, baseball can’t get out it’s own way, and we’re in a mid-season lull in the NHL and NBA.
My post has pivoted to hip-hop before, but not quite like this. Whether it’s been bbq’s, barbershops, or locker rooms, I’ve never interjected myself into the Top 5 conversation. But that ends today. And much like the modern day internet writer, the majority of people’s Top 5's are uninteresting, and bland.
Your Top 5 says a lot about who you are as a person. No. It says everything about who you are, and what you stand for. Spewing out Jay, Nas, Big, Pac, & Em, without a second thought highlights a guy’s inability to think different, and be unique…In case you’re unaware up to this point, I am not that guy.
“The sky is falling, nobody balling, they done gave back they guns. For some tickets to the playoffs, but the Hornets, they won.”
Twelve years before The Encyclopedia, a fellow Aquarius was born in West Savannah, Georgia. Antwan Patton is one half of the dynamic duo that is OutKast.
Big Boi’s sound came out of a dungeon, and transcended what we now know as southern rap. An underrated story teller, Daddy Fat Sax’s Art of Storytellin’ has two parts. The first being a member of an iconic hip-hop group, the second, coming to the realization he’s not only the best rapper in the twosome, but one of the greatest emcee’s of all-time.
Best Album: Aquemini (1998)/Speakerboxxx (2003)
The only non-east coast rapper on my list. Forget about a polar bear’s toenail, Big Boi’s cooler than Freddie Jackson sippin’ a milkshake in a snow storm. As he proclaims on 94’s Myintrotoletuknow, Sir Lucious Left Foot was always thinking about the future.
This is showcased on Speakerboxxx, as the majority of OutKast fans don’t acknowledge The Love Below, Big Boi reinvented himself, without abandoning his roots. Holding it down for 'Kast’s pre-Stankonia listeners, General Patton never slights André, paying homage to his creative decisions in Flop Flop Rock, "All my brothers from my mama, but André is just the same."
Five Favorites: West Savannah (98'), Two Dope Boyz (In a Cadillac) (96'), Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (94'), Bowtie (03'), Daddy Fat Sax (10').
“Yo, I'm the Jerry Rice to this, much too nice to quit. And just so you know, we never liked you, kid.”
Hip-hop in it’s purest form, the DJ’s name is Premier, and he was the Guru. The lyricist from Roxbury, who went to college in Atlanta, and came to represent the essence of New York City rap.
The Gang Starr Foundation was laid by a guy who’s skills and wordplay were Gifted. Unlimited. Rhymes. Universal. A lot of people say they listen to rap music, but it’s shocking how so many aren’t educated on it’s heritage.
Best Album: The Ownerz (2003)
He was the owner of his style, owner of his talk, owner of his art. Bald Head Slick paved the way for what the culture is today, even if the current crop of rappers aren’t aware of which emcee had the clout.
I shouldn’t be surprised by the lack of knowledge, as Guru said, “real emcee’s and DJ’s are a minority.” The original formulator of the boom bap sound will live on forever, just like family and loyalty. In 2019 Gang Starr released their last album with posthumous lyrics from Guru. Before 2019 though, he said it first in 1998. “On the microphone you know that I’m one of the best yet.”
Five Favorites: Who Got Gunz (03)’, Manifest (89’), Mass Appeal (94’), Full Clip (99’), Work (98’).
“Are there any more imitators in the house? There are no, bust like NBA Jams, and you can have Chicago. Catch the combo, funky like a bag of Bravos.”
The Funk Doctor kicks the grammar straight from New Jers’. Being a fan of Reggie Noble isn’t a mindset, it’s a lifestyle. Dr. Trevis emerged from 6 feet under to bury unoriginal rappers.
Redman took you into his world, from hell and beyond. Managing to slay any of those who overlooked him with a carefree and fun authenticity that’s never been replicated since.
I’ve always felt a connection with Reggie and the knotty-head era , like he says, “ever since I was an infant I was different.” Not everyone can relate, or embrace a grimey lifestyle unless you’ve lived it yourself at one point…and I may or may not have been Da Mascot for Halloween a couple years ago.
Wearing hip-hop’s crown for greatest skits on albums, Brick City’s finest also holds the title for best features out of any rapper in the 90’s. You don’t need “the planets, the stars, and the moon to collapse,” to believe me, just listen for yourself.
Best Album: Muddy Waters (1996)
Five Favorites: Bobyahed2dis (94’), Rated “R” (92’), Iz He 4 Real (96’), Creepin’ (96’), Keep On ‘99 (98’).
Five 90’s Posse Cuts: Got My Mind Made Up (96’), Beasts From The East (97’), Symphony 2000 (99’), Rap Phenomenon (99’), 4,3,2,1 (97’).
“The King’s fabric, linen and silk. From the land of the solid gold, honey & milk.”
Tariq Trotter is the most skilled emcee on this list, and I’d argue of all-time. He’s also the only one amongst his peers that’s still spitting real bars comparable to, if not better than his work in the late 90’s, 00’s, and 10's.
Leaving most dumbfounded by his repartee, Black Thought used to rap for sport, coming up with the one and only live hip-hop band. The Legendary Roots Crew’s iconoclast style was on display in their 1996 music video for What They Do.
It wouldn’t be the first or last time Thought would blaze his own trail. As he states, “I roll with Heat like I’m Dwayne Wade, LeBron, and Bosh.” A double entendre referencing Rolling With Heat, one of the better tracks on The Roots 5th studio album, Phrenology.
Best Album: The Roots Come Alive (1999)/Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cane & Able (2020)
All the way live from two-one-five to Switzerland. In 99’ The Roots recorded a live album in Zurich, without one of their key members, Malik B., Black Thought didn’t skip M-illitant’s verses though, he rapped them. Changing his cadence, sound, and delivery, it is a highlight reel of Thought @ Work.
Even if you see him joking around with Jimmy Fallon, Trotter is always somewhere between Jersey and Delaware. From Do You Want More?!!!??! To what you want now? Black Thought is “The Unsung. Underrated. Underappreciated. The one that the underachievers underestimated.”
Five Favorites: Step Into The Realm (99’), The Fire (10’), State Prisoner (20’), The OtherSide (11’), Water (02’).
“You know how we do, I skate on your crew, like Mario Lemieux.”
The Five Foot Assassin came with more hits than the Braves and the Yankees. All roads have always led back to Linden Boulevard, the shorty Phife Dawg is my favorite emcee.
Often imitated, never duplicated, the fly emcee that’s 5 foot 3 is the originator of the sports oriented punch-line. The Funky Diabetic’s stature in hip-hop is more than his off the cuff rhymes about his height and appearance.
For all of Q-Tip’s creativity and musical ingenuity, The Five Foot Freak kept A Tribe Called Quest Rollin’. A proper wordsmith and sports fan, listening to my favorite rapper as a kid talk about our Knicks was, for a lack of a better word, awesome.
“And to top if off, Starks got ejected.”
From Scott Skiles to Shaq, and all of those in-between, the Phifer controlled the mic like Denzel on the girls. The personification of smooth, Malik Taylor’s lyrics were full of energy and life, and he had no problem with letting you know what the worst thing in this world was…a sucker emcee.
Best Album: Midnight Marauders (1993)
The idea that someone would say The Low End Theory is ATCQ’s best album is foolish for a few reasons, but the simplest being, Phife isn’t on it enough. In his prime, no one could touch him. If you don’t know, sit back and learn, because your styles are incomplete same as Vinny Testaverde.
Five Favorites: Butter (91’), 8 Million Stories (93’), Check The Rhyme (91’), Keep It Rollin’ (93’), The Chase, Part II (93’).
This is dedicated to Keith Elam and Malik Taylor. Thank you, and Rest In Peace.