The Greatest MC of All Time


A few months ago I took a good hard look at the Cutting Edge blog.  As far as a DJ blog goes, I couldn’t be more pleased, but I must admit my favorite part of it is the ‘Musicology’ category.  I’ve had great fun reading and sharing the things I know and learn about music, as well as the articles that have been contributed by my staff.  As a DJ, music is a passion, and an obsession – all kinds, all genres and all styles.

But there was something missing… Not a single mention of Hip Hop.

Naturally, as a DJ and dance company, a lot of our staff are well versed in Hip Hop, both the music and the culture. I thought who better to reach out to and offer the opportunity to contribute than our two resident Hip Hop aficionados… or at least I thought they were aficionados, but after months went by with no submissions, I thought that perhaps they didn’t know as much as I had thought they did.  Maybe they could just talk the talk, but didn’t have what it took to actually put it to paper.

As the saying goes, sometimes, if you want something done right, you’ve just got to do it yourself. So Nate, Joey, pull up a chair because school is now in session.

I guess I could start at the beginning with DJ Kool Herc who started the movement in New York by “toasting”, or rhyming over instrumental tracks in the mid 1970s.  Or maybe I could touch on Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five who coined the term “Hip Hop”.  I might even delve into Africa Bambaataa and the evolution of “Electro-Funk’.  But sadly, I think I would merely confuse the young lads with references that were too foreign to them.

Instead, I’ll make a bigger and bolder claim as to the greatest MC of all time.  Not these little wannabe rappers like Kanye, Eminem or Lil Wayne, but a real MC with skill and talent… Mr. William Griffin, a.k.a. “Rakim”, the true pioneer.  This isn’t opinion, it’s fact.  There isn’t another MC (or rapper) that can touch him.  Rakim is the undisputed, and is a master craftsman in the complexities of the lyrical arts.

Rakim’s golden age was in his early formative years with DJ Eric B, and the first three records they cut together set the bar so high that I’m surprised anyone else ever stepped up to the microphone. Just listen to “I Know You Got Soul” or “Follow The Leader” and his uncontested claim to Hip Hop’s throne becomes clearly apparent.  The rhymes are clear, concise, articulate and so devastating that to this day nothing even comes close.

I suppose there were others, but most had gimmicks or niches they had to create in order to carve out a place for themselves, and were only faint shadows of the true greatness that was Rakim.

Maybe that’s why Nate and Joey never tried to write blogs about hip Hop… because that’s all there really was to say.

Class dismissed.

-MC Craig

Illustration courtesy of Rick Cortes –

4 Responses

  1. Rakim? Not even close..

    What about Dr Dre?

    Here’s a bold statement, my friend:

    sorry, Kanye…I’m a letcha finish…but..

    THE CHRONIC is one of the best Rap cd’s of all time!!!

    This guy is a true master of the art.

    *can rap with a killer delivery,
    *writes KILLER rhymes
    *is a MASTER producer

    Dr Dre is the one Snoop credits for helping develop the signature rhyming style that Snoop Dogg is known for..

    Dre is everything Diddy WISHES he was….
    Diddy ain’t nothing but a glorified talent scout compared to Dre.

    Diddy tries to rap but can’t, has to put himself on other’s cd’s just to be heard…

    Anything Dre raps on is made BETTER by his contribution…

    Rakim was a great rapper, but that’s all he had…
    DRE is hip-hop’s MASTER CRAFTSMAN.

  2. Jason,

    Thanks for the comment, and due props to Dre. Music is funny like that… there is really no right or wrong, merely opinion.

    That said, I acknowledge Dre is good. Very good. But his rhyming style – like Snoop – is slow. I happen to be a huge Snoop fan, but being that both Dre and Snoop rhyme in such a slow and smooth style, it really pales in comparison to Rakim. Essentially, it’s easier to rhyme slow than fast, and Rakim’s pace, and tempo is often double that of Dre and Snoop.

    As far as a master producer, I’ll give you that, but a producer does not an MC make.

    I’ll also agree that Diddy tries, but can’t.

  3. Rick.

    I’d bet that if I asked 20 hardcore hip hop heads to list their top 5 mc’s of all time, not one of them will have Dre on it. Doctor Dre is an amazing producer. And he brings the best out of rappers. And he certainly can recite some rhymes. But he doesn’t write any of his rhymes. In the NWA days, hid rhymes were clearly written by Ren and Ice Cube. When The Chronic came out, Snoop and the D.O.C. filled in. And when Eminem came around, it was his turn to write Dre’s rhymes.

    Rakim, however, would make all those lists. Ra ushered in the modern style of rhyming and any rapper after him with even a little bit of skill owes it all to him…whether they know it or not.

  4. Rakim is a master lyricist, and without a doubt deserves to be mentioned in any discussion of the greatest MCs.

    The only problem I have with Rakim is that he didn’t really know how to tailor his music to be enjoyable to the general public. Yes, his rhyme schemes, metaphors etc. are all technically genius, but unless one is trained and trying to listen for those specific elements, he will very quickly become bored with “Paid in Full” or any other of Rakim’s tracks.

    Eminem is an example of an artist who has gone the completely opposite direction with this. Is he a skilled MC? Sure. Are most of his songs vapid pieces of pop culture garbage? Yeah, and that’s why he has 46 million Facebook fans.

    When Jay-Z and Kanye West were recording Watch the Throne, they said that the first set of songs they produced were technically fantastic, but they were concerned that the tracks were not actually enjoyable to listen to, so they re-recorded the entire album.

    That’s why Jay is my favorite MC. When you listen to Reasonable Doubt, you know that he has the skill and intelligence to rhyme on the level of Rakim, but he makes a choice to dumb down his lyrics.

    Every once in a while though a bit of the old Jay shines through and I hear a line that just makes me go “woah, he’s still the king.”

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