Often, I ask my friends who the top 5 rappers of all time are, dead or alive. Usually before they answer they want to know "based on what?" ...on what criteria? I think when determining if a rapper is an all time great 3 things should be evaluated: delivery, content, and longevity. Delivery has changed since "old school" days so I cannot include those individuals (or groups)who fall under that catagor, unless they were able to change their flow to stay current. Current=better. Longevity (either more than one classic, or 4 or more albums). I'd guess that eliminates 75% of artists.
I can name the artists eligible off the top of my head: Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Scarface, Nas, Jadakiss, Andre 3000, Eminem, Kanye West, Ludacris, Common, Fabolous, Young Jeezy. Am I forgeting anyone?? No, I meant to omit Lil Wayne due to his lack of content.
Before I get into my top 5, let me say for the record, I think Drake, J Cole, and perhaps Big Sean (needs more content) will be in the Discussion 5-10 years from now.
OK, the TOP 5 DEAD OR ALIVE in order:
1. Easy, Jay-Z. He has the most classic debut of all time. No doubt about content. No doubt about delivery. And longevity? "10 number one albums, maybe now 11"...yea no doubt. Probably the best in each category
2. Not so easy, but Eminem. Content is heavy. Delivery is strong. Longevity is apparent. 11 Grammy's. Not to mention he hopped on a track with Jay and held his own to say the least.
3. I'll give it to Pac. Not a personaly favorite but he cannot be ignored. Content is very heavy. Delivery is aggresive. As for longevity... He recorded 5 albums while alive. And 5 while dead...thats amazing. 8 of them were platinum, 1 was almost diamond.
4. The Notorious B.I.G. He would have easily been moved up at least to #3 had he not died prematurely. His content was extremely diverse. Shit, his albums were diverse Delivery was "Jay-esque"...definately #2 on the list in this category. No he did not have the longevity factor but he delivered a cult classic debut only second to Reasonable Doubt. Besides, he's the only rapper to ever make a diamond album.
5.Houston's own, Scarface. He has a unique flow, but still always enjoyable (which is why he is on here instead of 3000). He is the only rapper on the list that was able to change his style from one era to the other successfully (Jay always had a futuristic flow). He definately had deep content in his flows (a couple even with Jay)...maybe too deep. Longevity...9 albums, 3 Platinum, 1 classic.
Honorable Mention to Kanye, Jcole, and Drake. They may shake the list up in the future. Kanye may in the very near future, like September. We'll See.