Number one is KRS-1. It may not even be that close.
(Overall – 94, Flow 8, Lyrics 11, Distinctiveness/Originality 10, Charisma 8.5, Consistency 8, Longevity 10, Punchlines 8.5, Subject Matter 11, Quality 9, Influence/Popularity 10)
KRS-One is at the front of so many things in hip-hop it becomes a little odd to add them all up. Hardcore imagery, dancehall vocals, battle raps, conscious rap, political rap, pop/rock crossovers and it goes on. His voice is sometimes a roar unmatched in hip-hop, his flow undeniably clear no matter which style he chooses.
It’s hard to keep up with KRS-One. Being utterly brilliant, he is easily capable of contradicting himself over the years, but it is usually a sign of intelligence to change one’s position when presented with new information.
In this day and age, mostly everyone in hip-hop is trying to be something. They have an image to maintain, something that was created with effort and money are marketing. Our artists now are a product, presented to us in the same impersonal fashion that any other product is. But KRS-One is simply being himself. Everything that he’s done that became a part of the hip-hop culture was just something he naturally did as a citizen of the South Bronx. Hanging out in the park, breakdancing, graffiti, the street life, Saturday afternoon kung fu, it was Larry Parker being real.
Why is KRS so great?
Aside from his obvious genius, maybe it’s because he believes that hip-hop is a culture, not a disposable product pitched to a non-discriminating community. More recently, he has forwarded the idea of hip-hop and spirituality. If you believe that you are just making something for people to buy that really doesn’t matter much, and won’t hold up long, then you don’t put the effort in. There is a recipe that works, which you can clearly see with the career of 50 Cent. He learned to structure his songs better for his albums, put a couple dance songs, a couple love songs, a joke song or two make sure you know what your singles are and then some filler. It works.
But when you get away from the formula, you are able to make magic. And KRS One has.