Talib Kweli – 86.5 Overall


(Flow 9.5, Lyrics 10, Distinctiveness 10, Charisma 8, Consistency 7, Longevity 8.5, Punchlines 9, Subject Matter 10, Quality 7.5, Influence 8)

The oddest thing about the reactions to Kweli being #6 on this list is that no one contested the spot or his legitimacy. They just didn’t like it, but they knew he deserved to there.

“He’s preachy,” one person said. “Always trying to show how smart he is.”
Maybe its passages like this:

“More love, less hate, more real, less fake
More grind, less wishin’
Less stuntin’, more fame, less talkin’, more change
Less rushin’, more vision
More franchisin’, less sanitizin’, more uprisin’, less down sizin’
More enterprisin’, less sympathizin’
More buildin’, less destroyin’, more jobs, less unemployment
Let’s give the Devil, less enjoyment
More originality, less bitin’ off Pac ‘n’ Big
More community activism, less pigs
More Blacksmith, Def Chucks, less Geffen then the rest
‘Cause the West suck, they got this sh*t all messed up
More marijuana, less coke, more accountability
For politicians before we shoutin’, let’s vote
More schools, less prisons, more freestyles, less written
More serious sh*t and less kiddin’
More history, less mystery, more Beyonce
Less Brittany, more happiness, less misery
More victory, less losses
More workers, we all bosses, of course it’s reflection”

Well he went to boarding school and his dad is a professor. His brother teaches at Yale. He’s smart enough not to fake the funk. But I’ll let him answer his greatest criticism:

“What’s more condescending and corny than someone telling you how much more money they have than you and telling you basically, ‘I don’t care about poor people’ which is a large part of what you hear of corporate hip-hop on the radio.”

Aside from that, Kweli is phenomenal. His flow is spectacular, and his ability to explore new subjects in my opinion exceeds even Rakim.

“Some of y’all in love with that material but
love enter my life like a miracle and
It reciprocal that’s why I’m feeling you love
We exibit our natural behavior
Like making love under the moon in Jamaica
Get you so hot you call the name of the creata
The morning we hop back into action again
Up on the wall lovin how the sun blacken your skin
Remember when we explored the beach
Swam in the ocean and saw beneith
How the colors of the coral reef looked like the illest floral peice
That’s what your beauty remind me of
It’s hard to find a love like ours, taking it high above
Them other duns try to spit game but, I dont sweat it though
Know in my heart that we connected so I let it go
Now if they call you out your name and that’s a different thing
Anything but Queen I’ll go to war like a King”

He has an advanced use of language, and yet I never felt like he was someone I couldn’t relate to. Like a lot of MCs on the list, actual chart success has eluded him, his album “Eardrum” remains his best seller, moving 129,000 units after four weeks (now compare his sales to say…Jim Jones and then put the gun slowly in your mouth). He deserves better.

Slick Rick – 86.5 Overall


(Flow 9, Lyrics 9, Distinctiveness 9, Charisma 9, Consistency 8, Longevity 9.5, Punchlines 9, Subject Matter 9, Quality 8, Influence 7)

“Slick Rick,” exclaimed an outraged co-worker. “Why don’t you just put Kool Moe Dee on the list?”

Well…Busta Rhymes puts it better than I do.

“Slick Rick is in the favorite MC category too – I mean greatest MC category too. Because, he did s**t with words and told stories at the same time. Because sometimes a mothaf**ka be a dope story teller but it would compromise how ill they were lyrically. Then it’ll be a ill lyrical mothaf**ka but wasn’t as crazy with the stories, but to have the dynamic of both. I would say [it] is Nas and Big and Slick Rick.”

The proof? Well, look at his recent collaboration with Morcheeba-
“The name of this entertainment is “Women lose weight”
Our first years of marriage everything was just great
But after two kids and the weight gain factors
Fact is now she’s completely unattractive
Look fat chicks I don’t mean to sound rude
I tell her nice “Hit the gym and don’t eat so much food”, but no
“You’re shallow, you need to run the course
Of unconditional love and so forth”
But how if desire’s is not there that’s just delayment
Divorce is, child support, alimony payments
My unhappiness I doubt discouraged
So hurry for an easier way out this marriage
Meanwhile my secretary June, well groomed
“When you gonna leave your wife?” I tell her
Soon mommy soon”
I assume or my destiny is blue
Interestingly the only thing left for me to do is to kill her
My plans against or shenanigans kinda ran thin
Knowin’ nothing ’bout poisoning and I can’t swim
Bad intentions pumpin’ might as well become numb
Cut her lungs or the obvious robbery gone wrong
But the catch is do I have the nerve to dispatch this?
Who could I get to help me murder this fat chick?
Guess I’ll have to play a dude Robbin
On Wednesday the day she usually goes food shopping
Anyway long story short hit the side of her Chrysler
Sent her clean over the divider,
“You bastard”, she said
As the wreck went tumblin’ down the hill
I thought, “She has to be dead”
Later on get a call from a Lieutenant O Rourke
Had me leapin’ like a frog “We need you at the morgue”
So I selfishly pursue, boohoo, there was nothing else
For me to do I had to kill her
Screamin’, “Who done took my heart” acting shakin’ up a lot
At the funeral though everyone was lookin’ at me odd
like I did it
Like I was the reason my mates slain
murmuring “I heard he was displeased with her weight gain”
While my secretary sort of a sexy blonde can’t cook
All she does is order from restaurants
All of the sex you want I doubt could address
Clothes not washed proper and house look a mess and
Talkin’ to detectives that was waitin’ outside
How I took a long lunch break day the wife died
I darn near turned pale and because of betrayal they indicted me
Gave me an impossible bail
Good fortune to anyone admiring the raw tent
Moral of the story is, “Desire is important”
So watch your weight it’ll keep you mate smitten it’s a given
Though looking back I realized I didn’t have to kill her”

Because Slick Rick has aged like Beverly Johnson, that’s why. Because he’s the master hip-hop storyteller, although it’s not all he can do. On top of that, he has a seamless flow where half of the time, he cleverly hides rhymes in the middle of the phrase and not instead of the end. Rick has lyrics you might not get unless you see them written down.

I always come back to the storytelling. No matter how preposterous his initial scenario (Who Rotten Them?) he is able to tell a full story without compromising his flow, and there are a lot of rhymes you don’t see coming because he doesn’t use the most obvious choices. And somehow, on top of everything else, he’s genuinely funny.

Rick has a massive influence and presence on the other artists, but not quite the success that should have come with it. Like many artists in this genre, incarceration took away the momentum of his career, but this is a man who was disfigured as an infant and made his eyepatch legendary. I think he knows how to make the best of things.