The favorite rapper discussion is cool and all, but the coveted distinction in hip-hop is still being named the GOAT (Greatest of All Time). The GOAT discussion is reserved for the chosen few; no rookies or new jacks qualify. It’s strictly for the catalog artists, people who have shifted the culture in previously unmovable ways, artists whose music has permeated and resonated over an extended period of time. It’s rap’s imaginaryHall of Fame, existing only within the abstract conversations we have about it. Since it has to consider the entire canon of hip-hop, the discussion ought to be reserved for more refined debate among only the most informed parties.
But there is one debate that every rap fan not only loves to have but ought to have. A debate that considers both the short-term and long-term implications of an artist’s impact. A debate that pits a rapper in their prime against any and all competitors. A debate that gawks at the cultural landscape and plucks out the one who stands alone: the debate about who is the Best Rapper Alive. Being the BRA is sort of like being the MVP—even though rap doesn’t follow a rigid cultural calendar quite like major sports seasons—because it only requires looking at the current crop of active artists and picking a winner. You can confidently declare the Best Rapper Alive in any given year without having to consider previous decades, the same way you can say LeBron is an MVP even though you’ve never seen Jerry West play.
Here’s a look at a few who made the list:
1985: LL Cool J
1990: Ice Cube
1997: Notorious B.I.G
2003: 50 Cent
2008: Lil Wayne
2010: Kanye West
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