I’ve been thinking about this lately:
For September 2009, we got the latest hyped, star-studded lineup from the only man in hip hop that seems to matter (at this moment anyway): Jay-Z. *insert applause*
Jay-Z’s won on the record sales, even though opinions differ on which was the best of the two.
I want you to remember this phrase as you read on: Jay-Z is a networker, Lil’ Wayne is a hardworker. Got it? Read on.
My vote for rap album of the year so far still lies with Cuban Linx, but even more importantly, this year had me thinking about the state of two hip hop giants: Lil’ Wayne and Jay-Z. Why?
Well, Hip Hop music has taught us so many things about how to go from nothing to something, how to stake your claim in the game, and how to spread your wealth from not only music, but sports, real estate, endorsements from any company you can think of, and that the sky is the limit. Here’s my two cents:
“I never cried when ‘Pac died, but I probably will when Hov does”– Drake, “Fear” (from the So far gone EP)
It’s words like this that are indicative of the generation gap in hip hop from precisely when Tupac died, to now. So much has happened since what seems like such a short time ago: Diddy gave hip hop crossover appeal topped with a glossy finish, DMX was marking his territory in hip hop with a snarling growl and the posse that were the Ruff Riders (who are making a comeback of sorts), and it wasn’t hard to tune in to the Southern funk of Outkast or the angelic/futuristic bump-and-grind Aaliyah and Timbaland put out. But guess who else was there right after ‘Pac died?
Birth name Shawn Carter, Jay-Z made it known on his song “December 4th” from The Black Album (2003) that he’s no newcomer to Hip Hop music. His mother speaks on the track of a young Jay-Z who would bang on the kitchen table creating drum patterns and waking his siblings up. Few know how long it took for young Jigga to make a break into the mainstream. Enter year 1996, June 25: “Reasonable Doubt” releases.
Though not a blockbuster in terms of sales (it took 6 years to go platinum), it was critically acclaimed by countless music publications. It’s on this album Jay-Z gave the world a CNN presentation of sorts: the day-to-day play-by-play of selling crack, backstabbing affiliates, crew loyalty, and sparring battle rhymes with none other than the Notorious B.I.G. Jay-Z had to really prove himself on this album in order to get the chance of making another one.
Little did anyone know that only 2 months and 12 days later, he would unexpectedly move to the forefront of the hip hop game when Tupac Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas.
From then on Jay-Z’s career was on a straight up trajectory. His songs became more accepted by a mainstream audience and he expanded his empire: The New Jersey Nets. 40/40 club. Collaborations with some of the biggest names in music, period. A spot in our President’s iPod playlist. What else is there to accomplish?
Jay-Z’s (real name: Sean Carter) undeniable skill in rhyming and putting together songs in such a short time is anything but simple. Through the years, he has taught himself to not have to write anything down, since long trips home on the subway didn’t always provide him with the luxury of pen and paper.
Though he doesn’t do too many mixtapes, after the Jay-Z freestyle sessions he’s recorded, does he need to?
Maybe. Even so, he’s battled the best such as my favorite freestyle rapper of all time, Big L (R.I.P):
And now, besides being arguably the biggest name in hip hop, Jay-Z also makes the most money as well. A lot of Jay-Z fans will say his lyrics stand the test of time (no matter what it is he’s rapping about). I personally think talentwise he’s so far ahead of everyone else ever since he released “American Gangster” he didn’t need to even try anymore. This is the reason his current album “The Blueprint 3” was just sub-par to me.
Yes, Jay-Z raps about how he has it all, but this inspires some folks. And if any of us went through what he went through, I’m sure we’d wanna rap about the same thing. And yes, he raps about how he owns “the game” and is the best rapper alive, but…I don’t think so.
Of course I could bring up the longstanding influences and accomplishments of Rakim, Eminem, Nas, and a multitude of others right now (and trust me I’m knowin’), but we’re talking only hip hop heavyweights right now. And my choice for that lies with this man below:
2. Lil Wayne
Weezy, you are a crazy drugged out nut job, but damn if you don’t give some of the illest punchlines/internal rhymes/concept songs this day and age!
I personally consider Lil Wayne as the hardest working man in hip hop right now. Recently, Lil’ Wayne had a VH1 special done on him. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here! It will explain his background a lot better than I probably would.
A popular opinion amongst the hip hop heads that Wayne is not a lyricist, and is ruining hip hop. I understand where this frustration might come from, but in my opinion, we have a lot of other people in hip hop today that are making us look worse. You can imagine some names I’d bring up here, but I’ll refrain.
‘Lil Wayne and Jay-Z are similar in a lot of ways:
- Both do collabos with high profile artists
- Both hit #1 when their respective albums drop
But that’s pretty much where it ends. Think on this:
- ‘Lil Wayne has a studio on his bus! His hardwork doesn’t stop after he’s done with one song or a show. What’s interesting is, when Jay-Z collaborates on a song with someone, everyone knows about it. But when Wayne collabs on a song, you hear it when it comes out (or leaks) usually, not before.
And yet Wayne creates time to collab with names as diverse as the labels they come from. In 2008, after his release of The Carter 3, Lil Wayne appeared on R&B singles “Girls Around the World” by Lloyd, “Love In This Club, Part II” by Usher, “Official Girl” by Cassie, “I’m So Paid” by Akon, “Turnin’ Me On” by Keri Hilson, and “Can’t Believe It” by T-Pain; and rap singles “My Life” by The Game, “Shawty Say” by David Banner, “Swagga Like Us” by T.I., “Cutty Buddy” by Mike Jones, and “Haterz” and the remix to “Certified” by Glasses Malone; and pop single “Let It Rock” by new Cash Money artist Kevin Rudolf.
- ‘Lil Wayne is the king of the mixtapes. A reason why each of his albums seems better than the last?
This probably isn’t too hard to argue, but Lil Wayne knows that hip hop started from the mixtape and the 12 inch record. The mixtape for Wayne is a chance to sharpen his skills as an emcee, and it pays off! Plus it builds up anticipation for his albums. Carter 3 would not have sold as many copies as it did if it weren’t for all the hard work put into those mixtapes.
Here’s a song from his mixtape “Wayne’s World Pt. 5; with Gucci Mane (who rips it on this track as well). Song is called “We Be Steady Mobbin”:
Jay-Z hardly ever does mixtapes, just concept albums about how he’s #1; not knocking the hustle, just saying that at the end of the day, the result of the hard work both these rappers put in is obvious.
But I am but one opinion, so let’s hear yours!
I want this to be the final resting place for your “hottest/best in hip hop” argument. Let’s hear your top 5 rappers of all time, top 10, 20, what rapper you’d love to battle, what rapper you’d love to see do a better album, and more!
Aaaaaand remember, Jay-z is a networker, Lil wayne is a hardworker. ;)