There is no king of Hip-Hop. In my humble opinion there can’t be a king of Hip-Hop.
“Why can’t there be a king of Hip-Hop…?” because music is a matter of opinion, it’s a subjective thing. Nothing determines the king. The best selling artist might be trash – Vanilla Ice sold ALOT of music in the 90s. The Spice Girls sold alot of records. Record sales don’t make you the king. So who decides?
J Cole said it best…
“Ain’t gonna be no more kings
Be wary of any man that claims
Because deep down he clings onto the need for power
The reality, he’s a coward
Ultimately he’s scared to die
And sometimes so am I
But when I’m in tune with the most high
I realize, the fear lies in my lack of awareness of the other side
Today I know that we are the same, are the same, you and I
Different kind of skin, different set of eyes
Two different minds, but only one God
(It’s only one God nigga)
It’s for all the kings
Cause I know deep down every poet just wanna be loved” – J Cole, Fire Squad
The problem is, and no offence intended to any age or race, but if teenage hipsters who know nothing about Hip-Hop culture or history buy more records than “real Hip-Hop heads” (of any age or race) who analyse flows, lyrics and production does that mean Justin Bieber can be the King of Hip-Hop next year if he sells the most records? (It’s got to be about more than record sales or it leaves the culture open to culture vultures and cheesy pop stars. So who decides who is king? If not record sales?
Was Michael Jackson the King of Pop? Because it was drummed into your head by pop culture or because he sold the most records? Or because he was objectively the best? Who decides who is king?
Is Eminem the king of Hip-Hop? He sold the most records in the end. I can’t call it, because he is one of the best ever if not the best but the fact that more white people listen to the white rapper gives him an unfair advantage which then turns into an unfair handicap. Cos he may well be the best, but few people are gonna give it to him when we know there are lots of white people who will only buy a rap album if it’s Eminem, people who know nothing about the rest of Hip-Hop culture.
What decides who is king? Is it their influence on culture, or on the industry?
There is no king. Because as I said, it’s subjective opinion, some would say that the Beatles were more of a pop group than a rock group and put the Rolling Stones in the rock category, some would say Rock n Roll is part of the Rock category so Elvis takes the rock spot, some would say pop music is just “popular music” so Elvis and the Beatles are both bigger pop stars than Michael Jackson (I checked, the Beatles sold the most records of all time, followed by Elvis, followed by Michael Jackson) so if we’re going on sales AND if we’re calling all popular music ‘Pop Music’ then the Beatles and Elvis are fighting for the king of rock AND the kings of pop. Classical? Many people would argue Mozart. But clearly there is an argument for Eminem and truth is he’s the biggest selling rap artist but not the most influential, hardly anyone tries to sound like Em, he’s too unique and original. You say the most influential but the truth is most rappers try to be like Jay Z and the rest try to be like 2Pac, Eminem is so unique most people would sound weird if they rapped about killing their baby mommas, their moms doing drugs or dissing pop stars. Most rappers either rap about money and hoes like Jay Z or rap about being a thug like 2Pac or try to say something conscious like 2Pac so they’re currently the most influential. If you’d said Eminem was king cos he sold the most you would have a better argument but then I’d refer back to my previous comment, some terrible rappers have sold alot of records in the past cos idiots buy music – Vanilla Ice sold ALOT of records. So sales doesn’t really mean anything. Sales indicates good marketing more than it indicates good music.
I’m not trying to say Vanilla Ice compares to Eminem, Eminem has got skills but he also appeals to people that don’t even like rap music unless it’s Em. I only mention Vanilla Ice because in the 90s he was one of the biggest artists but nobody would call him king. I think Eminem is a good candidate for king because he’s talented AND he’s sold alot of records but I still say there can be no king because everybody is using different criteria.
Personally I’m old skool with it. KRS-One would be a good candidate for me, also Afrika Bambaata, the Amen Ra of Hip-Hop. If you love Hip-Hop culture you should find out as much as you can about Afrika Bambaata and the Zulu Nation and what they did to organise Hip-Hop culture at the start, and redirect gang culture in New York towards breakdancing, graffiti, and rapping. Just for influence on the culture.
If I were to talk about sheer skill on the mic Rakim has to get mentioned and the man everybody saw as heir to his throne – Nas. None of these people sold as many records as Jay-Z or Eminem but their dedication to the true spirit of Hip-Hop is an unquantifiable feature of legendary status.
But when it comes to skill that is another subjective opinion and there are plenty of new potential heirs to the throne. I wonder what people will say in ten years about Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, King Los, J Cole, Jay Electronica, Ab-Soul and Hopsin?
There is no king. Just opinions.