I know, I know, I’m drawing this out. But #1 is within striking distance!

Check out #5 and #6 here, and let’s keep it moving!!

4) KRS-ONE

Representing: The South Bronx! South South Bronx!

There’s no question that Kris Parker was one of the men who changed the game in 1987-1988 when hip-hop went out of the Adidas/brag rhyming era into something a little more lyrically complex. Truth be told, there were some compelling reasons to place him at #1. Ultimately, what did him in is that, as much as his rhyme style has been uniformly solid (when it’s not excellent), you don’t hear too many emcees that appear to be obviously influenced by him, whereas with acts like Kool G. Rap or Chuck D., who came out in the same era, their influence is more apparent in the more recent crop of rappers. Nevertheless, this man is a beast, as a songwriter and as a freestyle emcee. You know how no one really patterns their basketball-playing style after Tim Duncan but he’s still one of the best players in the NBA year after year and will remain a legend long after he’s retired? Consider KRS-ONE the Tim Duncan of hip-hop. Check this very underrated record out. Spitting complete fire for four minutes.

3) The Notorious B.I.G.

Representing: Brooklyn

Will I get flack for listing an emcee with only two albums to his credit as the third best emcee of all time? Probably. Do I care? Not much. Call me a dickrider, call me a homer, but the fact of the matter is that Christopher Wallace was unstoppable as a rapper. Even when given the occasionally drippy production (“Miss U”, “Sky’s the Limit”) that would’ve sunk other artists, he was still worth listening to. When paired with a producer that was sympathetic to his rhyme style? Fuck that. B.I.G. was a B.E.A.S.T. Whether high-voiced and amped, or low and conversational, whether rocking with R.A. the Rugged Man or Da Brat, whether rhyming over shiny pop hooks or gutter, basement production, whether rhyming about sex, crime or how dope an MC he was-B.I.G. was capable of giving you at least one “oh shit” rhyme per song, and usually more. Check the last few bars of “Hypnotize”. Check his Slick Rick-esque eye for fiction on “I Got a Story to Tell”. Check his double-time rhyming (something that emcees from the East just did not do) on “Notorious Thugs”. What’s sad and amazing is that, if he hadn’t been murdered, it’s almost a definite that he’d be #1 on this list.

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