By Michael Harriot
This might be the last time some of you visit NegusWhoRead, and I’m cool with that.
What follows is a list of hip hop’s most overrated rappers. I am sure you will disagree with some of these. You should know that we at NegusWhoRead don’t believe these are terrible rappers. We just believe that their stature in rap is too high for the quality of their actual content. Here’s the list:
10. Salt & Pepa
Salt & Pepa are pioneers for women in hip hop, but I dare you to divorce yourself from nostalgia and listen to Push It, or Whatta Man. I know they began as a novelty act reciting lyrics written for them by Hurbie “Luv Bug” (I can’t believe Disney didn’t sue him for that) so I don’t know who to blame for their trash lyrics. I’m stating this objectively, because I personally love Salt and Pepa. I remember them fondly, partly because my older sister thought she would someday, somehow become a member of the group. She dressed like them. She talked like them. I tried to convince her to change her rap name to “Oregano” just so she’d have a better chance, but she wouldn’t. After they replaced the first DJ Spinderella, but kept the name, I was through with them. Salt & Pepper is the only person on this list who is really bad, but I can’t front–if you play Push It at a party, I still want someone to grind their crotch on my thigh for four minutes and twenty-seven seconds.
9. Talib Kweli
I have a theory about Talib Kweli. I think if you’re a hip hop head, you must have Talib Kweli CDs in your collection for credibility but no one actually listens to Talib Kweli. When was the last time you heard someone say “hey, you wanna get tickets to the Talib Kweli concert?” I think it’s his voice. It’s just not rapperish enough. Whenever I hear Kweli rap, I picture my aunt asking me if I want to take a plate of macaroni home with me. I know he is a lyrical beast, but I believe the number of people who have listened to a Talib Kweli is the same number of Hoteps who have actually read “The Isis Papers.”
A Tribe called Quest is one of the dopest groups ever, but you listen to them for their grooves, not because of their rapping ability. Now that Prince is gone, in a secret ceremony last month the Executive Board in charge of Black Shit officially crowned Q-Tip as the 2nd coolest motherfucker on the planet (right behind Andre 3000). But he can’t rap, and now that Phife is gone, he’s on his own.
7. Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj is the definition of all bluster and no talent. She is entertaining as fuck–in the way that a schizophrenic Bratz doll having neck spasm in a stop-motion puppet movie is entertaining. If Nicki Minaj had a flat booty and A-cups, no one would be talking about how well she raps. And don’t you dare call me sexist and accuse me of misogyny because I spoke about her body. She has the right to do what she wants to her body, but you can’t wear a thong on national TV or wave bare breasts at cameras and then forbid me from talking about it. In fact, all discussions about Nicki should end with the sentence,
…”but dat ass, though.”
Drake raps light skinnededededed.
I’m not referring to this sensitive raps or his atonal crooning. I’m talking about his voice. When Black people try to imitate how White people sound, they do Drake’s voice. Drake’s voice is made of lukewarm herbal tea flavored with warm milk and melted snow. It is like natural gas–colorless and odorless. Aubrey is actually a relatively decent rapper, but for some reason, there’s a generation of people who paint him as the next LL. Nah, homey. I know his lyrics make women ovulate and men reminisce about their ex-girlfriends, but they are just solid. They are not faint-in-the-audience-of-a-concert-when-you-lick-your-lips-at-her, dope.
I had to stop talking to a friend because he told me he cried listening to a Drake song.
I don’t have any false ideas of masculinity, but if Drake songs make you teary-eyed, you aren’t built for the struggle.
5. Rick Ross
Maybe it’s because he’s so fake. Maybe it’s because he calls himself a “boss.” Maybe it’s because all of his verses sound like he recorded them midway through an asthma attack. Maybe it’s because he looks like Isaac Hayes and Loretta Devine had a kid and put him up for adoption. Rick Ross is garbage. He isn’t even mediocre. He is proof that the music industry can say someone is hot, and you will go buy the album.
He’s got nice titties, though.
4. 50 Cent
50 Cent invented mumble rap. 50 sounds like he just had a tooth pulled earlier this morning and still has the cotton swabs in his mouth. 50 Cent sounds like his mama told him to go clean his room and he mumbled something under his breath so she can’t hear it because he know he’ll get his ass whipped. 50 Cent sounds like he is practicing ventriloquism without a dummy. When 50 Cent enunciates, he still pronounces it “nun-she-ate.” 50 cent can’t rap.
3. Everybody in the last 10 years except Lupe, Kendrick Lamar, Big Krit and a few others
I’m still mad at you motherfuckers for convincing me to download that Earl Sweatshirt album. If I see anybody from Odd Future, y’all owe me $9.99.
The problem with today’s rappers is that if someone makes anything marginally good, everyone thinks it is dope because we are so inundated with garbage spitters that mediocrity begins to look like genius. As a matter of fact, If no one made a hip hop album again, I’d be cool with it.
I don’t pretend to be mentally stronger than anyone else, but I had a rental car yesterday and was without my music library, so I turned on the radio and heard this song:
I seriously contemplated driving off a bridge.
2. Kanye West
I believe Kanye west is a musical genius.
I also believe he is a fuckboy.
Before he met with Donald Trump, fought with Amber Rose on twitter about how many fingers she slid into his anus, or married a porn star whose chief talent is sitting still while plastic surgeons inject grape jelly into her derriere, Kanye’s fuckboy tendencies manifested themselves by insisting to the world that he was one of the greatest lyricists in hip hop.
Lyrically, Kanye is the dude at the club who tells you he’s going to take you home and give you eleven inches of hard dick all night, but when you get to his crib, all you get is six inches of semi-flaccid premature ejaculation. You can tell there’s meaning and depth behind Kanye’s braggadocio, but he always leaves you wanting more because he’d rather deliver a clever punchline than anything with meaning or substance. He’s not as smart as he thinks he is, which is still a little too smart for his own good. The worst part of it all is that the person who overrates Kanye more than anyone…
Yeah, I said it. So fight me!
Listen, Tupac was a good rapper. In fact he even made some hip hop classics.
The reason Tupac is the most overrated rapper is partly your fault. History is an imperfect lens that sometimes magnifies goodness into greatness. The problem with Pac’s legacy is that many people have conflated his undeniable charm and his rebellious brashness with lyrical genius. Tupac was ahead of his time as the rebellious voice of generation. Had he lived, I believed he could have eclipsed his status as a hip hop artist and become a leader in the vein of Fred Hampton or El Hajj Malik El Shabazz.
But he made some trash.
Tupac was never the lyrical wordsmith that some people make him out to be. His music resonated because it was powerful and chock full of raw emotion that his personal charisma translated to the average listener. He was the Maya Angelou of hip hop–a creator of broadly acceptable poetry that pales in comparison to Amiri Baraka or Gwendolyn Brooks. Dear Mama is sweet and sentimental to the masses because most of us love our mothers, but if you listen to it, or dissect it lyrically, its composition is mediocre at best. Keep Ya Head Up is the Still I Rise of hip hop.
And if you think Still I Rise is a genius-level work of poetry, then you’re part of the problem (and you need to read A Poem Some People Will Have To Understand)
Because Tupac died so young (he was only 25 when he died. Twenty five!) the world never got the chance to hear him grow into his potential (Think about this–Jay-Z was 26 when he released Reasonable Doubt). In fact, our obsession with his greatness led money-grubbing labels and greedy executives to sully his memory by releasing unfinished songs and pedestrian tracks that do not rise to the standard of his work. Again Tupac isn’t a bad rapper, but most novice listeners hoist him so high on the totem pole of hip hop, that he can’t help but be hyped up. I believe he is the greatest figure in the history of hip hop. I just believe he is overrated as a rapper.
But seriously, I was just kidding about the other thing…
Don’t fight me.