The Science Behind The “Top 5 Dead or Alive”: Breaking Down the DNA of Your D.O.A.


“Top 5, dead or alive, and that’s just off one LP.” – Jadakiss

Everywhere we turn these days, there’s a list. David Letterman is famous for his Top 10 list, as Johnny Carson made famous before him. It would seem that so more lists are being pumped out, than articles. Whether it’s a top 10 of Lebron James dunks, or the top 10 times Hex Murda said “No” on Twitter, there’s no doubt this trend isn’t going anywhere.

But ultimately, if you’re Hip-Hop, there’s only one list that matter. And that is your “Top 5 Dead or Alive”. The “Top 5 Dead or Alive” comprises of a group of MCs who made the deepest impact on our lives. Our Top 5 DOA is our Hip-Hop DNA. It is our passion, our reference point. One thing it is NOT is who you believe are the five, best MCs ever. Especially if your favorite MC is left off your list.

Here are some of the unspoken jewels surrounding the list: Only ‘5’ matters. Don’t tell us a thing about your #8 MC. Nobody cares. Your credibility is on the line through your ‘5’. So yes, friendships begin and end on your ‘5’. Because the MCs on your list say everything about you.

The science behind your list reflects your influences, talking points, lyrical region of choice, decade of choice, age bracket (depending on your favorite artist and when their last high point was), and in some cases, which version of an artist you prefer. For example, you have the Backpack version of Kanye West and the Luxury Rap version. You could miss me with the Luxury Rap version, but hey, he’s not in my Top 5 anyway.

I’ll use my Top 5 as an example to breakdown.

  1. Chuck D
  2. Eminem
  3. DMX
  4. Nas
  5. Redman

Below are the three categories we’ll breakdown our ‘5’ into: the type of list, the region, and the era.

The Science behind my list is: Technicians List > Northeast > ’90s

First of all, when I told Chuck D that he was still in my Top 5, #1 to be exact, he went on a 15-minute spiel about why he shouldn’t be after 20 years. He made an excellent argument about how eras change, environments change, movements change, and how all those things should lead to change in my ‘5’. He was right. But when it was all said and done, Chuck D’s lyrics and presence made the largest impact on the person I am today. Read my work, and tell me that it doesn’t defy the status quo just as Chuck D has.

My Top 5 DOA is a “Technicians List”. From top to bottom, minus what some would call “Pause Worthy” lyrics from DMX, it’s built on the pen. Any one of my picks could step into a cipher and stop everything. Excluding Eminem, my list is “Northeast” heavy; 3 from NYC (two from Queens), and who I feel is Jersey’s greatest MC to date, Redman (a slot I feel Joe Budden will someday take). Eminem is on record for owing a lot to Redman as a lyrical inspiration (Ludacris as well). No one on my list entered the industry after 2000. Four on my list entered in the ’90s (Chuck D, the Golden Era). I’m analytical, passionate, and very direct about my message.

Become familiar with our AHH staff through their Top 5 lists. And in the comments, share your ‘5’, and what the MCs on your list mean to you:

AHH Contributor Octavia Bostick, Top 5 DOA:

  1. Big L
  2. Ice Cube
  3. DMX
  4. Tupac Shakur
  5. Nas

The Science behind Octavia’s list is: Influential List > Northeast > ’90s

AHH Senior Staff Writer Tim Sanchez, Top 5 DOA:

  1. Eminem
  2. Ice Cube
  3. Rakim
  4. Big Daddy Kane
  5. KRS-ONE

The Science behind Tim’s list is: Founders List > Northeast > Golden Era

AHH Reviews Editor Leon Sullen, Top 5 DOA:

  1. Scarface
  2. Eminem
  3. The Notorious B.I.G.
  4. Andre 3000
  5. Jay-Z

The Science behind Leon’s list is: Storytellers List > Hybrid Region > ’90s

AHH Contributor Jocelyn Chavis, Top 5 DOA:

  1. The Notorious B.I.G.
  2. Ghostface Killah
  3. Nas
  4. Tupac Shakur
  5. Beanie Siegel

The Science behind Jocelyn’s list is: Storytellers List > Northeast > ’90s

AHH Video Correspondent Gina Torres, Top 5 DOA:

  1. Jay-Z
  2. Nas
  3. The Notorious B.I.G.
  4. Kanye West
  5. Drake

The Science behind Gina’s list is: Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas List > Northeast > Hybrid Era

AHH Contributor Shad Reed, Top 5 DOA:

  1. Ice Cube
  2. Nas
  3. DMC
  4. Eminem
  5. Tupac Shakur

The Science behind Shad’s list is: Storytellers List > Coast to Coast > Hybrid Era

AHH Co-Founder and CEO Chuck Creekmur, Top 5 DOA:

  1. Jay-Z
  2. Nas
  3. Kool G. Rap
  4. DMC
  5. Chuck D

The Science behind Chuck’s list is: Technicians List > Northeast > Golden Era

AHH Contributor Tawni Fears, Top 5 DOA:

  1. Tupac Shakur
  2. The Notorious B.I.G.
  3. Andre 3000
  4. Jay-Z
  5. Lupe Fiasco

The Science behind Tawni’s List is: StoryTellers List > Hybrid Region > ’90s

AHH Contributor Paul Meara, Top 5 DOA:

  1. Big L
  2. KRS-ONE
  3. Rakim
  4. Nas
  5. The Notorious B.I.G.

The Science behind Paul’s List is: Conscious List > New York > Hybrid Era

AHH Editor-At-Large Seandra Sims, Top 5 DOA:

  1. Rakim
  2. The Notorious B.I.G.
  3. Kool G. Rap
  4. Black Thought
  5. Jay-Z

The Science behind Seandra’s list is: Conscious List > New York > Hybrid Era

Drop your Science below in the comment section!

Scroll to Top