Let me start off by saying that I love and appreciate hiphop music in general. It has been an outlet for me over the years. As we all know the genre has gone through lots of changes over the years, some good and others bad depending who you ask? One of my biggest beefs with hiphop/rap music is how some of better hiphop artists in the game never get their just due? I realize that there a plenty of factors that cause these tragedies to occur, but who is really responsible? That's what I want to discuss today. I have chosen 4 emcees that are at the top of my list when it comes to lyrical fitness and creativity and they are Redman, Canibus, Ras Kass and Chino XL. These four katz would lyrically massacre 85% of the hiphop industry word for word in my opinion! Yes, these are all different MCs, but they all have one thing in common. None of them have seen the mainstream success that they deserve. Why? Lets start with Redman. I don't think any true hiphop head can deny that Redman is a beast on the mic. Give him a mic and you are definitely in for a lyrical treat. He's had one of the dopest producers in the game backing him for years...Erick Sermon, plus he's been apart of one of the dopest hiphop crews to ever touch a mic...The Hit Squad. Red definitely has street credibility, plus he's respected by other great MCs. What else do you need to be successful? The shameful part of the music industry is that your success is based on record sales only. If you are not selling millions of records you are pretty much considered a failure? Should record sales decide whether an artist is worth supporting? Redman has released several classic albums over the years, but he hardly ever mentioned amongst the list elite emcees?
When I think of lyrical gymnastics on the microphone, the first name that comes to mind is Canibus. He is what I would call a "Battle Rapper." His numerous exclusive freestyle appearances on just about every hot DJ's mixtape back in the mid 1990's shook the hiphop community like an earthquake in California. Canibus had the industry buzzin'. Everybody was wondering where this kat came from, spitting those complicated, but well thought out freestyles that were unmatched at the time. He flipped 13 letter words effortlessly as if he walked around with a Webster's dictionary in his pocket studying each page meticulously looking for new words to educate the masses. It was a beautiful thing! My finger stayed on the rewind button, trying to decypher the hidden messages in every verse he spit. This kat was changing the game before he even dropped an album, challenging other emcees to get their skillz up for the next phase of lyrical execution. It was all about breath control babie! Anticipation mounted as every hiphop head was biting their fingernails waiting for the Canibus debut album to hit the streets. Well, needless to say, the "Can-I-Bus" album was not a total disaster in my eyes and ears, but it was a dissappointment to say the least? Why? Some said production, others felt Canibus went soft on us? What happened to the beast from the East that was rippin' verses from ear to ear on the freestyles? Why was the album just luke-warm at best? Did he try to conform with the industry standards instead of remaining true to himself? Canibus never really recovered from his poor debut, and it seems like his career been in a downward spiral ever since. Canibus has had great moments over the years, but he hasn't dropped that classic album that fans are still waiting for? He's still a dope MC whether he sells any albums or not in my opinion.
Another great, but underrated MC that reps the Westcoast is my man Ras Kass. He's has ripped few mics in his time as well, but what I appreciate about him is his political and biblical wittiness. He takes topics that most rappers would avoid and seemlessly weaves them into his street gospels. Like Canibus, Ras Kass has an extensive vocabulary as well, which changed my opinion about rappers from the westcoast back in the 90's. Ras Kass released his unrecognized classic debut album entitled, "Soul On Ice" back in October of 1996. While most other westsiders at the time were content with rapping about gang violence, 6-4's & smoking chronic, Ras was educating us with tracks like "Nature of The Threat" and "The Evil That Men Do." This album is full of great punchlines and wordplay that will definitely have you hitting the rewind button several times. I believe that this album was actually ahead of it time, and that is why it went over most people's heads! As expected this album sucked in the sales department, but that was expected since it was released during the Bad Boy & Death Row era. If you weren't Snoop Dogg, Biggie or Tupac, you were pretty much a non-factor back then? Despite the obstacles, Ras Kass kept it moving and released his second album entitled, "Rassassination" in 1998. This was another solid album, but this time around he seemed a little more polished? More guest appearances from established artists helped bring more attention to the project, but it still suffered the same fate as his debut? That's confusing to me? When did quality beats and rhymes become insufficient enough to sell rap records? Ras Kass has gone the label and legal troubles over the last few years kept him invisible, which has lowered his position on the hiphop relevance meter in the new millenium? Keep your ears open though, because Ras is on the come up?
Last, but not least is Chino XL! He started out rippin' controversial freestyles on the Wake Up Show hosted by Sway and Tech back in the 90's, and he quickly made a name for himself. Not only did he have clever punchlines, but he could spit at an excelled pace to say the least. He could cram more shyt into two verses than the other rappers could squeeze into six! Talk about hitting the rewind button several times? One of the other characteristics about his rhymes are the subliminal messages and disses that he packs his verses with? Chino has dissed everybody from Bill Cosby to Mrs. Buttersworth, and he has no remorse. He's made a few enemies throughout his career because he is so opinionated, but it is what it is. Believe me when I tell you this kat is very clever with the wordplay. It seems like no matter how many times you listen to his songs, you literally hear something that you missed the first few listens. I know a few rap fans that found Chino XL a little too challenging to enjoy? They actually feel a little tired after playing one of his albums because there is so much information to digest. In the age of lazy raps and watered down content, I guess Chino would be too much for the average listener, which is ashame. For those of you that have slept on Chino, but are up for the challenge...take a listen to his "Here To Save You All" and "I Told You So" albums. These albums may just change the way you view hiphop as a whole??
All of these emcees have been great for hiphop at one point or another, but yet the masses haven't recognized them? The music industry has been caught up on this rims, timbs, jewelry, drug sellin' & booty shakin' kick for years now. That alone has tricked the minds of the younger hiphop fans into believing that if a rapper isn't talking about those things that he or she is not a factor? That's why talented rappers that I named above along with so many others suffer, and barely make a dent in the sales department. I don't believe that record sales should determine someone's worth or success, but it definitely helps get your name out there for all to see!
Okay, I am done venting now, but I am curious about what you folks think about the subject? Whether you agree or disagree with what's been stated above, please feel free to express yourself! What are some other MCs that you feel are underrated? Jean Grae is another one of my picks....