First, they caught slack for failing to mention Michael Jackson in the top 20 of the 100 greatest artists of all time. Today, it seems that Rolling Stone may have gotten it wrong, again. But this time, while the outcome seems fair, it isn’t very practical. Based upon logistics from 2009-July 2011, they’ve crowned Eminem as Hip-Hop King, with Lil Wayne as runner-up and Drake in third, followed by Kanye West, then Jay-Z.
Excluding Eminem, it seems that the top 5 have been competing for the crown with great reason. Following the controversial release of Jay-Z and Kanye’s collaborative album, Watch the Throne, it’s been announced that Lil’ Wayne and Drake are also joining the list of multiparty efforts. While it can be argued with great extent that the top 5 is representative of current hip-hop, the remainder of the list proves otherwise.
Based upon numbers accumulated from album sales, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Billboard charts, Youtube viewings, tour profits, social networking (fans), album reviews and awards, the top ten is completed by Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Ludacris, Gucci Mane, and T.I. Adding to the extended 20, Diddy sits at #12, Pitbull at #13, and Wacka Flocka Flame at #17.
Although the list is reminiscent of BET’s Top 10 Rappers of the 21st Century, that isn’t necessarily the greatest indication of its accuracy. It all seems to be an inevitable cycle. Mainstream sales dictates radio, radio dictates television, television helps secure popularity, and popularity determines mainstream sales and so on. While hip-hop is competitive in nature, the best of the best is not determined by the individual’s wealth. Save those statistics for Forbes.
The true king of hip-hop is all based upon opinion of skill. It’s rare that one’s list will look identical to another. If we’re going to debate the current “King,” then first and foremost, at least the past 5 years should be taken into consideration. I find it difficult to understand the significance of choosing 2009 to begin with; The year that Bun B announced there was only one UGK album left to release, Lupe Fiasco stated he would be leaving the industry in the next year and a half, Tha Carter III made history, the fall of Harlem’s loved Dipset, the downward spiral of T.I.’s prison bids, and the beginning of the left-side drive of Beanie Sigel’s feud with Jigga. To say the least, it wasn’t the strongest year to begin with.
To simply state it, today the King of Hip-Hop is not Eminem. Although he definitely belongs on a few top 10 lists, declaring him King is not as easy as Rolling Stone makes it out to be. Ranking him an index score of 1169 to Lil Wayne’s 1134, it’s clear that the popularity of his last two albums, Relapse and Recovery are large contributing factors, but inaccurate.
While his two past solo albums sold out record stores, they didn’t dominate iPods. For someone who has openly compared himself to modern-day Elvis with great reason, his number one spot almost becomes null and void because of the audience he is mainly belonging to. Though he’s always been a great artist with a dynamic delivery, the masses of White America tend to run out and support any and everything he does regardless of its quality. He even stated in Recovery that “Them last two albums didn’t count/Encore I was on drugs, Relapse I was flushing them out,” but his third attempt at a return didn’t prove much better to many music critics either.
So then the question becomes ‘Who is number one?’ The spirit of hip-hop’s competition is what keeps so many people intrigued in each artist’s next move. Today it could be Drake and tomorrow it could be Kanye West. That is why the question of the “current” king or queen seems so out of place. It’s never really important. It changes within a matter of weeks, months, singles, and albums — always.
I find this year one of the most perplexing for hip-hop in quite some time due to the state of the American economical inequality and International relations. While more people are beginning to not only pay attention to, but be affected by the everyday news, the more — you would assume — we would seek something different from the modern-day radio stations. This shift in society may one day cause an unprecedented retrograde in hip-hop, though in much more creative formations.
While Nas will always be my number one hip-hop artist, he most likely will not be belonging to the number one sold album of the year. Still, I can depend on him to feed me the music I crave to hear (and the reason I’m cyber-attacked for stating Distant Relatives is better than Watch The Throne). He is my definition of king. Who is yours?