So, I’ve dragged you through 39 of my favorite rappers over the past month or so, methodically going step by step through descriptions of what makes them my favorite rappers, YouTube videos, and recaps. So, before we get to the final emcee on this list, let’s make a quick run through the emcees that this person had to surpass before getting to the top. Drumroll, please…

40. Big L
39. Twista
38. Posdnuos
37. Guru
36. Pharoahe Monch
35. Ludacris
34. Buckshot
33. MF Doom
32. Kool Keith
31. Scarface
30. Treach
29. 2Pac
28. Big Boi
27. Common
26. Mos Def
25. Del Tha Funkee Homosapien
24. Ol’ Dirty Bastard
23. Lauryn Hill
22. Kool Moe Dee
21. Big Pun
20. Talib Kweli
19. Busta Rhymes
18. Sadat X
17. Ice Cube
16. Chuck D.
15. Ghostface Killah
14. Cee-Lo
13. Redman
12. Black Thought
11. Eminem
10. Kool G. Rap
9. Nas
8. Andre 3000
7. Jay-Z
6. Slick Rick
5. LL Cool J
4. KRS-ONE
3. The Notorious B.I.G.
2. Big Daddy Kane

…now, who on earth, could be #1?…

1) Rakim

Representing: Long Island

Don’t act surprised. William Griffin tops just about every and any reputable list of great emcees, and there’s a reason. Because he’s the best fucking rapper that ever lived. You know how you can remember certain musical landmarks? I remember where I was when Michael Jackson performed on “Motown 25”. I remember the first time I saw The Beatles on TV. I remember the first time I heard Rakim’s voice, and even though I was only 11 and can’t say I remember it that well, I remember having a reaction to it. Like, damn. What is this Run-DMC/LL Cool J/Beastie Boys/Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince stuff I’ve been listening to, compared to THIS? It sounded-different, almost scary. It sounded like New York (and within a few weeks of hearing Rakim’s voice on WJLB in Detroit, I would be on a plane headed back to the city of my birth, where I would stay for the next 21 years.)

Rakim was lightyears ahead of rappers then-he was the first emcee who didn’t need to raise his voice to make a point. Hyperarticulate and intelligent, he took hip-hop out of the schoolyard and into AP Physics. Paid in Full is probably the earliest hip-hop album that (at least from a lyrical standpoint-some of the production is antiquated) stands up to today’s hip-hop (hell, lyrically speaking it’s better than most modern-day hip-hop). Although Ra has lost a step with aging, hearing him rap from 1986 to, say, sometime in the last five or six years was like watching Jordan in his prime. No defense (and no emcee) was coming close.

There’s not really much more I can write without sounding like a damn fool, so let’s go to the videotape. I urge you to listen to the last verse of “Follow the Leader” (the second vide0). That shit turns me into a fucking babbling purist hip-hop geek. It should do the same to you, too.

There’s a reason they call him the God MC.

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