Hey everyone. So I’ve been working on a couple of projects over the last few weeks and one of them is finally complete. My Top 20 picks for best Hip Hop artists!!!! Now, I understand that some may disagree with my choices so let me say this; the artists I selected were based on several factors. Not just how many albums were sold or number of awards won, no, its about which artists inspires me in one way or another. Whether is style, flow, sound, beats, fashion, creativity, writing, content, videos, something about each of these artists moves me. That is why they are TIFF’S Picks…This was a difficult list because I couldn’t get all of the artists on here, I mean, I only have 20 spots…So here goes! 20) Heavy D. BABY! “The overweight lover in the house”, YAS, YAS, YAS!!! Heavy burst on to the scene in the 80s and took the hip hop industry by STORM. He made it cool to be yourself, he wrote timeless classic songs like “Now that we found love”, (you KNOW that’s the jam) and the boy could DANCE!! Rest in peace Heav, you are truly missed. 19) Nelly. “I’m going down down baby your street in a range rover…” you know the rest LOL…I know he hasn’t released anything in a minute BUT you cannot deny that the band-aid wearing, Real Husbands of Hollywood star and St. Louis native definitely knows how to keep the party hype. With tracks like “E.I.”, “Grillz”, “Air Force Ones” and “Hot in Herre”, Nelly left his mark on hip hop. He even had the ladies swoonin’ with his collab with Kelly Rowland for “Dilemma”. Every girl was out here like “Nelly I..love you and I…need you” especially when he got SWOLE (insert Wanda voice “Heyyy Word up”). Let’s not forget the wildly successful collabs he did with country artists Tim McGraw and Florida-Georgia Line. Nelly you will always have a place on my list! 18) Common. I’m sorry I mean ACADEMY AWARD WINNER Common. YOOOOO!!! Why ya’ll sleeping on Common doe…In my opinion he was a super star after releasing “I Used To Love H.E.R” back in 1994. How DOPE was that record and how sexy is HE! The hits kept coming like my favorites “Drivin’ Me Wild” feat British singer Lily Allen, “Blue Skies” and my JAM “Testify” YASSSS!!! Sang it wit me “Before you lock my love away…” Hahahaaaa!!! YES! For your dedication to equality and justice and reminding us that “Glory” will come, I thank you. 17) Eve. “Shake your tambourine go and get yourself a whistle and…” This is my J-A-M! First lady of Ruff Ryders, actress, writer, fashionista. Eve has always been a favorite of mine. Her funky style always kept us guessing and her writing skills are so dope to me. She has such a distinctive tone in her voice so you know its E-V-E when you hear her. With hits like “Love is blind”, Who’s that girl” and her Grammy winning “Let me blow your mind” feat Gwen Stefani, being a part of the Barbershop franchise and married to billionaire Maximillion Cooper, Eve is definitely THAT GIRL!! Love ya sis! 16) Ludacris. Aside from being part of one of the biggest movie franchises on the planet ‘Fast and Furious’, Luda has been shutting it down like only Luda can. He is one of the most creative rappers in the game, just watch his videos. They are so animated I love it! He can spit fast or slow, talk about being “Lovers and Friends” or making some “Waterfalls” (you know that’s the cut). He is also known for his anthems like “Move B@#*h”, “Stand Up”, and “Get Back”. Every time he jumps on a track he kills it. Luda, for just being you, I “Stand Up”. OK this one is a tie. I know, I know but I had to. 15) Busta Rhymes & Sean Paul. Busta-Bus! That’s what I call him. One of the SICKEST rappers on the planet, Busta came out in the 90s as a member of ‘Leaders of the New School’ and hasn’t stopped since. This eleven time Grammy nominated artist always brought a weird, creative style to his videos and his signature fast rate flow literally leaves you gasping for breath. This man is a hit-maker, I’m talking “Dangerous”, “Break Your Neck”, “I Know What You Want”, “What’s It Gonna Be” (in my mind I was TOTALLY Janet Jackson in this video) and my SUPER FAVE “Pass The Courvoisier Part II”. “Don’t this hit make my people wanna…JUMP JUMP!!” Awww snap I’m already hype over here! My second SUPER FAVE “Make it Clap Remix” feat Sean Paul. This Jamaican born rapper burst on to the American music scene and had us tearin’ up some dance floors o-kah. I can’t understand half of what he is saying but doggone it, I LOVE it! “Just gimme the light…”, every time you hear that it’s time to jam. I learned how to dutty whine because of that song, don’t play! I love different and he is different. He brought a dope Jamaican sound back that we haven’t heard in a while. I just love his music, “Get Busy”, “We Be Burnin”, “Temperature”, not to mention a slew of collaborations with some of the biggest names in music. Beyonce, Busta Rhymes, Keyshia Cole, Rihanna, Blu Cantrell, Little Mix, Beenie Man, Major Lazer and most recently Sia. Sean Paul for being so freakin’ awesome, you rock!! 14) DMX. Where my Bulldogz at? Lol…I love me some DMX ya’ll, no lie. Say it wit me one time “Ya’ll gon make me lose my mind, UP IN HERE, UP IN HERE!” Lol!! Yes, DMX is the troof. It’s no secret that he struggled deeply in his personal life and had several run-ins with the law, but it didn’t stop him from appearing in some dope movies and making some serious hits. You can’t produce this type of music without having some vulnerability. I’m talking “X Gon Give It To Ya”, “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem”, “What’s My Name”, “What These B@#*hes Want” and MY personal anthem “Who We Be”. C’mon now, do I need to go there, do I need to go there, YUP, I’m going there…”DANIT-DANIT-DANIT-DANIT-DANIT-DANIT…”, Bwahahaaaa!! I can’t with me. DMX, brotha, you’re in my prayers, stay great. God bless. 13) Drake. Of course he had to be on my list…lol. His Canadian persuasion has been DOMINATING the charts since 2010 with the release of “Thank Me Later”. Now, I know you may find this hard to believe, but I was NOT a Drake fan for a long time. I wasn’t impressed at all until one day, as I was driving, I heard “Find Your Love” on the radio. I thought who is that? This song is A-MAZING. My friend enlightened me and I gasped in horror. It couldn’t be Drake because I didn’t like him. Welp, dang it I like him now. That is still my FAVORITE song by Drake. You’re probably wondering why he isn’t in the top 10. Well it’s like this, I really like Drake. I think he has a very cool style, I think he flows well, I enjoy his singing voice, he blends well with other artists in different genres of music. He’s cute (minus the beard), he is funny, he can rock a Cosby sweater like no other and he seems to be charming. BUT, I feel like he is missing something. He had it for “Thank Me Later” and “Take Care” but after that, I don’t know. Maybe the fame took over. One radio personality said that Drake isn’t trying to be a rapper, he’s trying to be a superstar, and I get what he’s saying. Not that his other albums aren’t good, I mean “Views” sold over 1.2 million copies in its first week, it has already been certified Double Platinum and “One Dance” has tied with Michael Jackson for the longest single to stay at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. So, clearly Drake ain’t doin’ too bad and my two cents doesn’t matter, but I felt a genuineness from his first two albums, an excitement that I didn’t feel from his others, it’s hard to explain. That doesn’t change the fact that he is STILL my BOO though…Drake, can I get “One Dance” so I can feel your “Energy” and you can “Find Your Love”. I’ll make your “Hotline Bling” so you can “Thank Me Later”…BAM!! 12) Snoop Dogg. D-O-DOUBLE G!!! When you talk about Legends, you are talking about Snoop. This Ol’ G has been in the game for over 30 years people, since 1993 when his debut album “Doggystyle” came out. He has been an force to be reckoned with ever since. His slow and steady style of flow, his unpredictable style, unapologetic beliefs and the FLIEST hairstyles EVER!! (He had me with the Shirley Temple curls for real). Snoop stands alone, with monster hits like “Gin and Juice”, “Beautiful” feat Pharrell, “”Who Am I”, and MY fave “Drop It Like It’s Hot” feat Pharrell. Please don’t act brand new. You hear the click sound right now don’t you? I DO!!! LOL!!!! Snoop Dogg, Snoop Lion, Doggfather, for your incredible contributions to music, stay dope! (no pun intended lol). 11) Tupac. Could I have a list without THIS man? Uh, no. Tupac literally exploded on to the music in 1991 with his debut album “2Pacalypse Now” which spawned the hits “Brenda’s Got a Baby” and “Keep Ya Head Up”. The New York native was a poetic hurricane. He reflected the environment and state of society at that time. Times were rough, things were ugly and Tupac kept it ALL THE WAY real about the anger and frustration people were feeling. He was ‘The People’s’ rapper. Despite his run-ins with the law, Tupac, at such a young age solidified his place in music. Be it socially conscious songs like “Changes”, reflective songs like “Dear Mama” and “Life Goes On” or straight party anthems like “California Love”, “Gangsta Party”, and “How Do You Want It?”; Tupac always said what was on his mind. There are very few artists that can relate to the people the way he did. His smooth voice, controversial lyrics and dope urban style (show of hands, how many of ya”ll wore your bandannas tied to the front cuz Pac did it…uh-huh), he was definitely gone too soon. Tupac, actor, writer, poet, musician, for your honesty and truth, “You are appreciated”…Rest in eternal peace. 10) Lil’ Kim. Yes she is in my top 10! The first Queen Bee, the original ‘Black Barbie’. Since her debut solo album ‘Hard Core’ in 1996, Lil’ Kim proved that she could hold her own among the male dominated industry. Now we all know that Lil’ Kim is a little, um, how do I say…spirited with her looks and sexually charged lyrics. HOWEVER, I am all about giving credit where it’s due baby and I HAVE to give Lil’ Kim her credit…Girlfriend can spit! End of story. Love her or hate her, she is talented. She was the first one to come up with the funky, overly sexy looks with crazy outfits and wigs. She loved fashion and fashion loved her. She repped her hometown New York to the fullest, she emphasized how important it is to stay loyal, she was very open with her femininity and sexuality and no one could do it like her. She has worked with the best artists and producers in the industry and has an incredible body of work. I’m talkin’ “No Matter What They Say”, “How Many Licks?”, “Crush On You” and my ABSOLUTE fave “The Jump Off”!!! Timbaland KILLED that beat and with Lil’ Kim’s flows, c’mon now. So, while everyone deserves to have “their time to shine” (insert blank stare), let’s not forget the people, excuse me, the Legends who paved the way FOR you to shine (and copy, oops, shade but no shade). Pay your respects. Lil’ Kim, for being raw and holding your own, I got my “Lighters Up” for you mama. 9) Q-Tip. After A Tribe Called Quest went their separate ways in 1998, my man Q-Tip began his solo career and OMG am I glad he did. This brotha has been creating some of the DOPEST music of our generation. I mean monster jams, ummm “Vivrant Thing”, “Electric Relaxation”, “Breathe and Stop” and MY JIZZAM, “Bonita Applebum”. Ladies, I don’t know about you, but I was definitely ‘Bonita Applebum’ in my mind…LOL!! He produced tracks for artists like Kanye West, Mark Ronson and Jay-Z, not to mention his sick collaborations with music royalty like Janet Jackson. Q-Tip, you are definitely one of most important and influential rappers and I’ll be your ‘Bonita’ any day! 8) T.I. OK, I can’t even describe how awesome this man is so I am going to make up a word right now…Swaggaliciousness. There! This Atlanta native brought the dertty south vibe to the scene the way only a ‘Rubberband Man’ can. Since he signed with Arista Records in 1999, T.I. has been blazin’ up the charts. This man is a HITMAKER. His style of flow is so original, his word play on top of that ATL accent; and can we talk about how adorable he is, that smile (insert dramatic southern belle faint). T.I. is another one of the few rappers that can vibe in multiple genres of music. His collaborations are always on point whether it’s with Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Keri Hilson, Iggy Azalea, Jay-Z, Nicole Scherzinger, it doesn’t matter. T.I. BRINGS IT! I have so many favorite songs from this man, seriously, not even joking, “Bring Em Out”, “What You Know”, “Big S@#t Poppin'”, “Top Back”, “Ball”, and my ULTIMATE fave, “You Know What It Is”. Can you hear the beat? Heck yeah you can! Heyyyyy…T.I. for being so original and having so much Swaggaliciousness…well done sir, well done. 7) Lil’ Wayne. I know he’s a little eccentric and all BUT once again, I gotta give credit where it’s due people. Under the hats, dreadlocks and tattoos is a brilliant mind that can really flow. He has such a distinctive voice along with his diamond teeth smile. Something about him is, dare I say, charming…EGADS! Lol. For real though, he is on his way to becoming a legend; I mean since he was a teenager he’s been in the industry with ‘Cash Money’, recently branching out to his own ‘Young Money’ which introduced Drake, Tyga, Nicki Minaj, Kevin Rudolf and Chanel West Coast to name a few. He really stretched his boundaries collaborating with artists all across the board from Pop to Rock not to mention his own illustrious career. You talk about a hit making machine…”Fireman”, “A Milli”, “6 Foot 7 Foot”, “Lollipop”, “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy”, and MY FAVE “Got Money” feat T-Pain. YASSS WEEZY F. BABY!! Let’s go ya’ll, “Dis a-way, uh-huh, dat a-way, uh-huh, dis a-way, uh-huh, dat a-waaayyyy”..Hahaha, I’m too hype right now. Lil’ Wayne, for being so unique and giving so much to music, I honor you skaterboi. This is another tie. I know, but I had to do it. 6) J. Cole and Chanel West Coast. Yes, even though they are polar opposites on the hip-hop spectrum, I feel that they are extremely under-rated as artists. Why? Because they are SUPER dope and don’t get the mainstream recognition they deserve. J. Cole was the first artist to sign with Jay-z’s Roc Nation label and has found his niche. Being himself and being humble. I mean this guy still takes the bus, as in public transportation…He’s already cool just for that reason. I admit I wasn’t a fan in the beginning. Did NOT like “Work Out” because I don’t like people messing with my classics and he sampled Paula Abdul, petty I know but whatever. Then I heard “Cant’ Get Enough” and I was on the fence. But “Crooked Smile” happened and I’ve been on board the Cole train every since. Despite not having huge PR pushes and all that jazz, J. Cole has still sold 3.5 million albums to date and has a net worth of $15 million dollars. Now if you compare that to more mainstream young rappers, it doesn’t seem like a lot. But for keeping it so real and genuine and making it all about the music not the dollars, J. Cole, you have my vote! So does Chanel West Coast. I was introduced to her as co-host of MTV’s ‘Ridiculousness’. I had NO idea that she was a rapper let alone signed to ‘Young Money’. I YouTubed her and boooiiieeeee, was I in for a shock! This chile can FLOW!! I’m so serious. Granted, her content is definitely not what most would consider mainstream like many of her label mates. She’s all about the money, sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll type of lifestyle, but it works for her. She is definitely more aggressive but a force to watch when it comes to women in hip-hop. I wish she got more recognition because she is pretty awesome. Chanel West Coast, girl for being so dope and unapologetic, you betta git it girl! 5) Kendrick Lamar. I am still trying to figure out where this kid came from, I mean he just came out of thin air. The first song I ever heard was “Swimming Pools (Drank)”, I didn’t love it, but I thought hmm he’s got something. I heard poetry from his soul. I feel like in an industry where everyone is trying to be a superstar, Kendrick is just trying to BE. That’s power right there, when you can take your truth and tell a story so vividly and honestly…You have arrived. Kendrick isn’t about the status-quo, he is using his fame to shed light on things that mean something to him. I can appreciate that, “Poetic Justice”, “The Recipe”, “Sing About Me/I’m Dying of Thirst”, “B@#$h Don’t Kill My Vibe” and of course “Alright”. Definitely one of the greatest MCs to come out of the new generation of hip-hop. Kendrick, for being vocal, genuine and standing in YOUR truth, you are indeed a pioneer. 4) Eminem. “Hi, my name is, what? My name is, who? My name is, ficka-ficka, Slim Shady”…Took ya’ll back with that one. How crazy was that video? So good right. There’s honestly nothing I can say about this Detroit rapper who came from nothing and went on to become one of the most EPIC rappers in history. His no holds bar, controversially filled lyrics, his comedy in his videos, his flow, his style, everything about him is incredible. He takes you on journeys to darkness, to light, to anger, to hope. Who is doing that right now? Em took a lot of heat and backlash in the beginning, but with songs like “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”, “Not Afraid”, “The Way I Am”, “Stan”, “Without Me”, “Guilty Conscience”, Academy Award Winning “Lose Yourself”, and MY ABSOLUTE FAVE “Sing For The Moment”; how could anyone have doubted him. He has always marched to the beat of his own drummer, not caring about sales, criticisms, publicity or being politically correct. Eminem, for saying all the things others would’t have the guts to say, for being bold, outspoken and one of the DOPEST rappers alive and literally annihilating every artist on THEIR own song (ya’ll remember ‘Renegade’…let me clear my throat..IJS), you are my “Superman”. 3) Missy Elliot. M-I-S-S-Y!!!!!! Can I tell you how much I absolutely LOVE her? Can I tell you? Ok, good. She is ERREYYTHANG!!!! Let me tell you why. Because for the first time in a super long time, there was a female rapper who looked like me. Short, black and chunky. I know it sounds cliche but remember, no one looked like Missy. Majority of the female MCs had “sex appeal”. They could rock bikinis to get people to watch their video and buy their albums, Missy had to rely on her talent. And BABY, please tell me that she isn’t the most creative, futuristic, way ahead of her time, multifaceted female MC on the planet. She writes, she produces, she sings, she raps, she dances, she has the hottest Adidas track suit collection in LIFE and she is respected by everyone who is anyone in the music industry. Missy, with Timbaland as her beat man, is unstoppable force of music nature, “The Rain”, I mean girlfriend was in a trash-bag…if that’s not a middle finger to society I don’t know what is. Let’s continue, “All N My Grill”, “Hot Boyz”, “Get Ur Freak On”, “Work It”, “One Minute Man”, “She’s A B@#$h”, for real, my girl was bald headed in the video and made it look SUPA DUPA FLYYYYY!!! And most recently, my new ANTHEM, “WTF” feat Pharrell. What I love about Missy is that she wasn’t competing with the other female rappers, she embraced them. She put practically every female rapper out in her videos and songs; everyone from Trina, Lil’ Kim, Left Eye, Da Brat, Eve, Angie Martinez, it was all about love and support. Missy, for being a rule breaker, innovator, team player and a powerful inspiration to me as an aspiring artist, I salute you. 2) Lauryn Hill. Actress, singer, rapper, songwriter, advocate, Queen…what else can I say about this goddess. Let me explain something to ya’ll about Ms. Hill. While we loved her with ‘The Fugees’, as a solo artist Lauryn only released ONE studio album. ONE! ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ is arguably, one of the most important albums in music history. This woman bared her soul and connected to yours through rap and song. Her lyrics were so intoxicating and real, a rapper with soul. “How you gonna win when you ain’t right within…”, those words pierce your spirit in the most miraculous way. This album shattered all MTV records for selling almost half a million copies in one week back in 1998. That was unheard of and had never been done by ANY female solo ARTIST not just rapper, in history. She won Grammys and a slew of other accolades for that album. To date ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ has sold over 19 million copies worldwide and is still on the list for one of the greatest albums of all time and it was released in 1998. That is what happens when you walk in your purpose, you drop one album, you say what your truth is and people will connect to it and rewards will come like a river. Doors open, you earn respect and appreciation while still maintaining your dignity. No gimmicks, no hype. So when some newer artists want to claim that they were inspired by Lauryn Hill, I raise my left eyebrow, press my fingertips together and say in my best Dr. Evil voice “Riiigggghhhhhttttttt”…no shade. Lauryn, my Queen, my sista, for sharing your voice, your truth, your soul, you are truly loved. Whew, not the top spot, drum roll please….1) Nas. Yes NAS IS DA TRROOOOFFFFFF!!!! Intelligent, powerful, insighful, spiritual, enlightened, dope lyricist, activist, actor, writer, need I go on? No not really but I’m going to…”Ether”, “I Can”, “Hate Me Now”, “If I Ruled The World”, “Hip Hop Is Dead” and MY FAVE “One Mic”. He knows so much about his own history, he knows we come from kings and queens, he didn’t drink the ‘kool-aid’, and he is all about self-realization. Knowing who you are, knowing your power, standing in your truth, seeing life through the eyes of the divine. Hit after hit, 167 MILLION albums sold to date! You betta get it boiieee!! Nas comes and he comes HARD. Nas, for your sick, ill, dope, fresh lyrical style, for reminding me that I am a queen, and that I can be whatever I want to be; I honor you, I thank you…And I’m done. Stay tuned for my top 20 R&B artists coming soon. Thank you all for reading. God bless.
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