CNN blogger Elliott C. McLaughlin declared legendary Queens, N.Y.-born rapper Nas “the greatest lyricist of all time.”
A lot of people may agree with that sentiment.
McLaughlin also stated categorically that, “Those words were carefully chosen: ‘lyricist’ over ‘rapper’ or ‘hip-hop artist’; ‘greatest’ instead of ‘most successful’; ‘all time’ rather than ‘today.’ ”
While it’s great that McLaughlin made sure to clarify (since these things can tend to get very convoluted when you don’t explicitly state the criteria), the remainder of the piece undermined his point.
He went on to say that Nas has seven platinum albums; but he’d already declared that he supposedly wasn’t using commercial success as criteria. He stated that Nas had more than other famed hip-hop artists like OutKast and Eminem. But Nas has released more albums than OutKast (who have basically been a defunct group since 2006) and has been around far longer than Eminem. 2Pac only released four official studio albums in his lifetime. His career was only about 4 1/2 years.
But McLaughlin claims that “It’s why we’re arguing lyricists and not artists.” So why, then, does he go on to count longevity as a major factor? Longevity has nothing to do with lyricism, really. Longevity would seem to be more of a factor in assessing one’s artistic legacy. But Mr. McLaughlin said, quite succinctly, that this list is about lyricism.
So, if we’re only discussing lyrical ability here — and for the sake of argument, the influence a rhymer has had on the evolution of lyricism, specifically — there are a few rappers that could make a strong case against Mr. Nasir Jones.
Here are 10 other MCs who could be declared “The Greatest …”