Check out #40-36 here, and let’s get right into the next five on the list.
Luda is the only emcee on this entire list that made his debut after 2000. With a booming baritone, and a knack for comedic material, Chris Bridges has been given the tag of a “pop rapper”. However, just because the man knows what it takes to get onto the radio (he was an air personality before signing to Def Jam) doesn’t mean he doesn’t have skills. First off, the man has punchlines for DAYS. It’s pretty rare to find a Ludacris song that doesn’t have at least one couplet that makes you do a spit-take. Secondly, his flow is underrated. I can’t speak for his skills as a fresstyle emcee, but he’s one hell of a songwriter. With T.I. having only tightened up his pen game over the last two or three albums, maybe Luda should be getting more “King of the South” accolades. After all, he blends skills and pop smarts better than just about anyone else out there.
Representing: Brownsville, BK
How can I quickly tie in three emcees who finished in the 41-55 range on this list and still give props to the Black Moon MC. Well, first there’s the fact that whenever I listen to Mobb Deep’s Prodigy rhyme, I hear Buckshot. Mobb Deep technically came out first, but P didn’t sound like P until The Infamous, which came out in ’95…two years after Black Moon’s Enta Da Stage set Walkmen on fire all over New York City. Prodigy was definitely listening to Buckshot’s calm, almost monotone (but still menacing) deep-voiced delivery. Secondly? The fact that Buckshot jumped on one of the Nineties’ most slept-on tracks next to two legendary emcees and murked both of them.
33. Zev Love X/MF Doom
Representing: Long Beach, Long Island
MF Doom has become sort of an underground champion over the years, winning plaudits for his unorthodox (to put it mildly) rhyme style and his occasionally obtuse lyrics. A decade before Doom became the hotness, though, he was Zev Love X, 1/3 of a group called KMD. They made their first appearance on the 3rd Bass classic “Gas Face” before recording the excellent Mr. Hood in 1990. They got caught up in label drama with their second album, Black Bastards, and then group DJ Sub Roc (Doom/Zev’s brother) was killed in a car accident, leading to Zev falling off the hip-hop radar for a while and then resurfacing as MF Doom. As this and the next artist choice should make clear, I like my emcees a little bit offbeat.
32. Kool Keith
Representing: The Bronx
As I write this, I almost wonder if I have Kool Keith placed too low on this list. After all, he’s the originator of the classically unhinged rhyme style. Everyone from the aforementioned MF Doom to various members of the Wu-Tang Clan (including the two Wu members you’ll find in future installments) borrowed from Keith. Hell, even Biggie and Eminem must have been listening to Keith in their youths, given the Ultramagnetic emcee’s predilection for offbeat, explicit, occasionally stomach-turning subject matter. He’s recorded and performed under about a million different aliases (with the most famous being Dr. Octagon) over the years, but his legend would be cemented even if the only thing he’d ever been a part of was Critical Beatdown. Oh yeah, and this.
Before OutKast became universally recognized as rhyme animals, Brad Jordan was the ONLY Southern emcee anyone checked for. Not blessed with the greatest flow in the world, he is, however, one of rap music’s all-time greatest storytellers. Easily one of the most articulate emcees of his time, his voice had an emotional heft and sadness to it that few emcees since have been able to replicate.