July 27, 2006

As hip-hop fans and critics alike try to search for the Next Houston, focusing on San Francisco (nope) and Miami (nuh uh), Chicago is quietly positioning itself to take the crown. Though one of its star rookies, Rhymefest, caught one hell of a brick with his debut, the City of Wind still has everyone’s Next Big Thing (Lupe Fiasco), the game’s best comeback story (Common) and The Real Big Thing (Kanye West). So naturally they should be ranked in order of worst to best. Without further adieu:

TWISTA
Back in the day (like when I was in 7th grade) Twista was a relatively unknown MC who rapped a hundred miles a minute and showed up on random DTP tracks like Luda’s “Freaky Thangs” with lyrics like “I’m feelin’ you Luda / Smoking my Buddha / Coochie recruit-a / Coming at the fatty in a platinum Caddy.” Then he hooked up with Kanye and started making exclusively R&B-hop like “Overnight Celebrity,” instantly turning himself into one of the most grating and annoying people in music. Twista’s career is/was really a tragedy.

RHYMEFEST
The best (only?) thing that Rhymefest had done up until Blue Collar was co-write “Jesus Walks.” “Jesus Walks” is a damn good song with damn good writing, which would indicate that ‘Fest could put together a few hit singles and a rather successful album. So far, preliminary reports on his debut Blue Collar indicate otherwise. The album’s best tracks are that in spite of ‘Fest rather than because of him. Don’t get it twisted, I still like Blue Collar, but lyrically nothing here compares to the writing on “Jesus Walks.”

LUPE FIASCO
Unless one wades the murky and dangerous waters of the mixtape game (or has snatched the leak of Food and Liquor), the only thing we have to go on regarding Lupe is his verse on Kanye’s “Touch the Sky” and one of the finest singles of the year “Kick, Push.” As a lyricist Lupe isn’t curing cancer, but on “Kick, Push” he shows a knack for not getting in the way of a great beat and the ability to tell a compelling story. His debut (the aforementioned Food and Liquor) is easily one of the most anticipated rap debuts of the past three/four years, and hopefully—for the northern half of the country—this thing ends up following through.

COMMON
Last year’s Be was one of my favorite records of the year. I don’t buy into the whole notion of “seasonal albums” but if, Be isn’t the album for breezy early fall than nothing is. Common is obviously the city’s best lyricist, but his career was in a coma until he started working with the next man on the list.

KANYE WEST
Haters will hate (myself definitely included) and Late Registration was wildly overrated, but when Kanye says that he is just important to rap as MJ was to the NBA, he is probably right. Everyone above him in this list would be either floundering or buried (not literally) without him. He gets knocked for not being a great lyricist but in a genre that is dominated by the three same themes, Kanye usually brings something new to the table, or least fresh (and usually hilarious) approaches to those same themes. As far as creative minds go, Kanye may have no equal in hip-hop right now as even a Late Registration hater like myself can admit that the album was beautifully arranged and composed (word to Jon Brion).

Jordan Sargent | 7:12 am

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