Monday, August 4, 2008

Ya heard?

Nothing gets a 30-ish (or 30) black man like myself going like a good, earnest discussion about the all-time underrated or overrated MCs of our time.

Avery at the Stereo Describes My Scenario blog puts together an Elite Eight of underrated emcees. It's a very thoughtful and thorough list, including a few I had never really given much consideration to before - guys like Heavy D, Grand Puba and Masta Ace.

It got me to thinking about a handful other emcees that never really got their deserved props, in no particular order:

Beanie Sigel: I first heard of Beans on The Roots' raucous cipher "Adrenaline" on the Things Fall Apart album. He absolutely stole the show, which was no small feat on a cut that included Black Thought. Beanie really isn't built to be a pop artist, lacking neither the look nor the sort of material to reach mainstream audiences. And he spits a lot of the same street tales-type stuff (crack, chicks and prison stints) as other weaker emcees. But there's much more to him than just machismo - Beans simply has a fantastic handle on his flow.

Black Rob: There's no telling how much he's held back his career by, uh, repeated arrests and jail bids. Even now, I believe Black Rob is in jail on a grand larceny charge - going out of his way to live up to his moniker, I suppose. But his debut album Life Story is a classic of sorts. "Jasmine" is a terrific piece of storytelling.

Prodigy of Mobb Deep: Another emcee who has battled legal troubles, Prodigy is in prison on gun possession charges at the moment and should be in the Booty Farm (a Jimi Izrael phrase, not mine) until 2011. But his work with Mobb Deep partner Havoc in the mid-90s painted vivid pictures of New York street life for this Texas-raised kid. He matched Nas verse-for-verse in his heyday, and "Shook Ones Pt. 2" holds up even today. I think his stature was diminished in recent years after Jay-Z embarrassed him on "The Takeover."

Joe Budden: Quite possibly, Joe will forever remain an underappreciated emcee. His second album has been held up for more than five years because of record company beef (supposedly involving Jay-Z). Either way, Joe has plenty of freestyle chops but I've been more impressed with his introspection on that self-titled first album. "10 Mins" is one of the more revealing, raw cuts I've ever heard from a hip-hop artist - Joe goes over his depression, relationship issues and lingering resentment toward his father. Give it a listen.


avery said...

i got you on beanie. prodigy...i've never felt that dude. i bought the infamous and all that, and kinda liked it, but i've just never been a fan.

blackink said...

Hey, Beans has been slept on for way too long. He definitely gets busy in freestyles, too.

As for Prodigy, I get what you're saying. It's really easy to be just, sorta blah, on his actual flow.

But I thought he sort of set a template for that dark NY street rap(for lack of a better phrase) in the mid-90s. There's been so many imitators that have followed, I have to give Prodigy for being one of the originals. And for being more articulate than most others in that genre.