As a Black person, are you afraid to call Eminem the greatest rapper of all time?
Or perhaps just unwilling.
Me? I’m not so sure.
I don’t think I’m opposed to Slim Shady being the GOAT; he’s just not my choice. Despite what many might assume from some of my prior articles (like this one or that one), Jay-Z has always gotten my vote as the greatest rapper of all time.
But I would never exclude Eminem from the conversation entirely.
Others…not so much.
Now I think Jay-Z is the GOAT for three primary reasons.
For one thing, Jay-Z is a master of flow, and he’s a supremely gifted lyricist. Not only are his rhymes deceptively complex and flawlessly conceived, but they are composed in his fucking head. Nuff said.
Secondly, Jay-Z is smart enough and talented enough to straddle the line between a variety of styles and themes. To me, this is why Jay-Z will always be better than Nas. You see, unlike Nas, Jigga can do it all. “Meet The Parents” is just as powerful and “conscious” a musical statement as almost anything Nas has made. He can also tell a great story; check out my personal favorite “A Week Ago” for proof of that. And Jay can handle something like “Big Pimpin’” or “I Just Wanna Love You” too. Nas just doesn’t have the ability to support this kind of stylistic variety. Some don’t think that matters; I do.
Thirdly, and most significantly, Jay-Z deserves a lions share of the credit for the massive audience Hip Hop reached in the 2000’s. He keenly followed the blueprint Diddy and Biggie set back in the late 90’s of melding legitimately Hardcore Hip Hop themes and lyricism with overt Pop sensibilities. Biggie’s “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems,” is one of the most influential Hip Hop singles ever, because it’s a great Pop song. It had mass appeal, but it sacrificed nothing lyrically.
Hov mastered this with songs like “Hard Knock Life,” “Can I Get A…,” and “H to the Izzo,” setting the template that everyone from Nelly to 50 Cent would follow. But Jay-Z did it better and more convincingly than anyone else. And that’s why he commands so much respect.
Now that is my honest opinion. I genuinely think Jay-Z is better than Eminem (and everybody else, for that matter), and it’s for the reasons I’ve listed above.
But Eminem is incredible. Really, really amazing at what he does. Easily in my top 5 of all time, and probably a credible choice for GOAT status.
I’m not asking whether or not he’s worthy of being a contender.
I’m wondering if any self-respecting black person would ever cosign bestowing that title upon the one super talented, entirely legit white rapper at the expense of countless black ones.
Hip Hop has crossed racial and cultural boundaries in ways few could have anticipated, and it goes without saying that that’s a great thing.
But there’s no denying that Eminem is the Elvis of Hip Hop. And that’s not even a diss.
Was Elvis talented? Absolutely. Did he have a genuine respect and appreciation for Black music? By all accounts, yes. Did he introduce early Rock n’ Roll to a wider (i.e. whiter) audience? Definitely.
But the greatest of all time? GTFOH. I just can’t do it. And I’d bet money that you can’t, either.
Regardless of whether or not he’s worthy of such a distinction, we just don’t exalt Elvis to that level; we do this in solidarity with the hundreds of Black rock n’ rollers who died penniless and obscure after white record labels used and abused them. They stole their music and their royalties, and basically left them to rot.
No one wants that to happen with Hip Hop.
And that’s precisely the conundrum facing Eminem. A freakishly-gifted emcee with credibility and respect from his peers, but only to a certain extent. As he and peers like Nas and Jay slide gracefully into elder statesman-status, this is going to get very frustrating. Only white magazines like Rolling Stone and Spin would have the audacity to list Eminem as the greatest rapper of all time. I’m sure those kinds of accolades feel good, but that can’t be what Shady wants.
I mean, c’mon. Race and privilege aside….Dude can really fucking rhyme
What do you think? Everyone is entitled to their opinion regarding which emcee they believe to be the greatest rapper of all time. Mine is Jay-Z. Yours might be 2pac. Fair enough.
But is it OK for it to be Eminem?
Sound off below.