Welcome to the latest edition of TOP 5 DEAD OR ALIVE, where individuals of all walks of life reveal their opinions on their personal greatest emcees of all time. CNNs N.O.R.E. has had much success in the music industry throughout his twelve year career.
But even as he preps a new 2009 CNN album alongside his codefendant Capone and chips away at his next solo effort, at heart Raps first super thug is still just a die-hard fan with his own personal favorites. For the first time he creates his own official top five list, and not without some surprising choices.
5. Grand Daddy I.U.
N.O.R.E.: You dont even know who this is, do you (laughs)? Hes always been one of the top emcees that Ive loved from that late 80s / early 90s period. If you look at Jay-Zs Reasonable Doubt cover it sort of resembles that I.U.s album cover (Smooth Assassin) where he had the same outfit on. Grand Daddy I.U. was one of the most lyrical, wordplay having emcees. Young artists like Murda Mook, Reed Dollars; they dont understand a lot of their style was fathered by Grand Daddy I.U.
A lot of people think it came from Big Daddy Kane and Jay-Z. I.U. was one of the originators of punchlines. He had this one line I knew a girl named Kenya / From West Virginia / Boy would I like to stick something in her. He had so many lines I could go on for days. Another reason I relate to I.U. is because he got no credit for anything that he did. As an artist and person, I also dont get credit for a lot of things that Ive done.
4. Biz Markie
N.O.R.E.: I know I shocked you again with this one! People made comedy records before him, but he was the first that really had fun with it. I remember hearing Pickin Boogers when he was talking about diggin up his nose, putting it on a basketball and passing it back; that record was funny every time you listened. I can remember the Vapors, Make The Music With Your Mouth, and Just A Friend. He was the first rapper where I could visualize, feel, and understand where he was coming from. And I laughed.
I always felt I was a mixture of Grand Daddy I.U., Biz Markie, and Kool G. Rap. Anytime you hear me on a record having fun or saying something funny, the credit always goes back to Biz Markie. I have a lot of respect for him.
I like all his sh*t, so I cant boil it down to one album. He was so refreshing. For example, look at the movie Belly. The reason I felt that movie didnt work was because there were only one or two scenes of comedy in the movie, and the hood is not that serious. I mean dont get me wrong it can be serious, but theres always something funny that happens, like the crackhead that calls you a wanksta or tries to buy a nickelbag for three dollars. Biz brought that comedy, and I like the vast majority of his work.
3. Early Nas 1991-1994
N.O.R.E.: With the Untitled album, once I found out that the corporate companies let him not use the n word, it took away from the actual material. The Hip-Hop Is Dead album was phenomenal. But if in the middle of the promotion he had changed it to Hip-Hop Aint Dead No More, it would have killed the material.We were all going crazy on the internet about the album. We all understood the corporate reasons, but it did take away. But Im definitely still a Nas fan.
I havent spoken to Nas in a long time. But for the rest of my life Ill always look at him as a big brother. Weve had our ups and downs. Ive never had hate for him and it was just a misunderstanding. I was young at the time, and so was he when he threw me under the bus that one time. We were both at the Rock The Bells concert but I performed with Redman and Method Man and kept it moving. I didnt know if it was a good time for us to see each other and talk. But I would love to put it behind us.
2. Big Pun
N.O.R.E.: Hands down with no equivocation is my brother Big Pun at #2. His first album meant so much to me as someone that is Black and Puerto Rican. I never tried to be more of one than the other, but he made me proud on the Latin side. Before him, people would say oh hes dope for a Puerto Rican. Pun eliminated that factor. He was a dope emcee, period. When I heard that packin a mac in the back of the Ac, I was like what?
I knew him personally, and he breathed hard even for a big guy. So for him to go in the booth and rhyme on Twinz Dead in the middle of Little Italy little did we know that we riddled some middleman who didnt do diddily, and not punch in? As a Hip-Hop artist I can hear the exact spot when someone punches in. But with Pun I listened hundreds of times and couldnt find it simply because he didnt punch in. For yall that dont know, its one of the hardest things to do when youre spitting a hard or fast flow. Pun was the best at that.
Very seldom do you meet someone and say theyre a legend. I didnt know Pun would be a legend, he was just my friend. But for him to pass in 2000, were almost going on ten years of no Pun. Im honored to have known him and Im going to rep him until the day I die.
1. Lil Wayne
N.O.R.E.: People are going to choke the sh*t out of me (laughs)! You know what though, I have to be honest. Look at the emcees Ive put him with. Lil Wayne has been rapping since he was fifteen or sixteen. I can recall songs of his that I did not like.
I was one of the first artists from New York to work with Wayne. Check Melvin Flynt and the track Play That Sh*t. I can honestly tell you that before working with him all his material I did not like. He got on my record in my studio and went straight in! I dont think he even asked to be on the record [laughs]. From then on I liked the words he kicked and I told Baby yo this dude is a beast. I didnt see him write sh*t. I heard B.I.G. and Jay did that, but it was the first time Ive seen it.
But for an emcee to go from me not liking them to actually loving their music is a big thing for me as a fan. This is not Noreaga the rapper, this is Victor Santiago the fan of Hip-Hop music speaking. You very rarely switch opinions in this game. When you dont like someone you dont like their music forever! How often do you say oh sh*t, I like this guys music now.
Before I wasnt running to get a Wayne album; I liked Juvenile, B.G., and Turk but never Waynes stuff. Look at the way he worked before this album came out. He got out everybodys f*cking record, bodied them, and then dropped a classic album. That is unheard of! He is definitely deserves a Most Improved award like they do in baseball. As of right now I give him the #1 spot.
I know the comments are going to go crazy from people who feel they are real Hip-Hop fans. But if you love real Hip-Hop, Tha Carter 3 was a classic album. See a lot of times previously the person that bodied everyone on records came out and dropped a completely wack album. That’s because they wasted everything doing classic mixtapes and features. Waynes an emcee youve got to respect.
[Look at Canibus] He blew everyone up on their records and by the time we got to his album it wasnt garbage, but it wasnt what we wanted to hear from Canibus. Nature, one of my best friends in Hip-Hop, was doing the same thing. He was bodying n****s records but by the time we got to Natures album (For All Seasons), it wasnt fully what we wanted and everyone turned their backs on him.
And in this day and age its very hard to do what Waynes done. Youre under a microscope every single second. Every record you do is going to be on youtube and AllHipHop and be overanalyzed. You cant recycle anything. This man Wayne did not do that.
N.O.R.E.: This man is beyond honorable mention or a number ranking, KRS-One. Hes my number zero [laughs]. Hands down hes my favorite emcee, especially early KRS-One.
Me being born and raised in Queens for eighteen years, I can remember when he said I didnt hear a peep from a place called Queens! I can remember living the South Bronx, Criminal Minded, My Philosophy and Loves Gonna Getcha.
I had always wanted to beat up KRS for dissing Queens [laughs], but at the same time I looked up to him. So the first time I met him I told him one part of me wants to hug you, and the other part wants to snuff you for Queens! And he just bust out laughing. I loved what him and MC Shan had. Without Shan, there may not have been a KRS because Shan made him relevant.
You cant limit KRS to any one album. He had so many classics from Return Of The Boom Bap to tracks like Mad Izm. I recall being on tour with him and in the middle of his show he stopped and began giving a lecture. Everybody would listen. You could hear a pin drop or a mouse pissing on a piece of cotton. To this day Ive never seen another emcee have the clout to be able to do something like that, to have the whole crowd in a therapy position.
KRS-One is Hip-Hop. We should always show this man respect and roll out the red carpet for him. He is the alpha and omega.
N.O.R.E. is vacating his drinking championship, currently in the gym, on satelitte radio, getting his blog in with his own www.57thave.com, and is bringing back the ceaser fade.[EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out N.O.R.E.’s video response to all the comments from his TOP 5 DEAD OR ALIVE here]