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24 Feb Introducing The King of Rap – Fact or New Controversy

Now more than three decades old as a recorded medium, hip-hop is deeply embedded in popular culture – to the point where its stars seem not only larger than life but also, as Rick Ross once put it, “deeper than rap.” But even as they sell out arenas and top the pop charts, rappers still court the respect and esteem of their hip-hop peers. The title King of Hip-Hop still means something.

In that spirit, just as we did in June with the Queen of Pop, we’ve crunched a pile of data to try to determine who is the current King of Hip-Hop.

 We’re not looking for the all-time greatest, although many of our contenders would vie for that crown. Some of them have only been recording a couple of years; others have been in the game since the 1990s. But that’s what makes hip-hop exciting – it’s plausible for someone who was watching cartoons when Jay-Z dropped his debut album to emerge as a contender for the title.

As with our Queen of Pop tally, in naming the King of Hip-Hop we focused on the very recent past: from 2009 eminemthrough the first seven months of 2011. We ranked 20 solo rappers (no groups – sorry, Beasties) who have dropped an album during that time. We looked at album sales, rankings on the R&B/hip-hop and rap charts, YouTube views, social media, concert grosses, industry awards and critics’ ratings. In alphabetical order, our contenders are: Big Boi, B.o.B, Diddy, Drake, Eminem, Fabolous, Lupe Fiasco, Gucci Mane, Jay-Z, Kid Cudi, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, Nicki Minaj, Pitbull, Rick Ross, Snoop Dogg, T.I., Waka Flocka Flame, Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa.

All of our contenders are men except for Minaj, who reappears from our Queen of Pop survey. We like to think of “King” as a gender-neutral term, and the fact is that Minaj has earned the right to compete in this arena. It would feel strange to leave her out – as a rapper, she’s had a world-beating couple of years, with a chart-topping album, block-rocking singles and a slew of killer guest appearances. Frankly, she deserves to be called a hip-hop king just for her giant-killing appearance on West’s hit “Monster,” in which she crushed West and fellow guests Rick Ross and Jay-Z with one blow.

Fans of the rappers, and the acts themselves, take these sorts of rankings pretty seriously. (We learned that firsthand in the comments section of Queens of Pop.) We stand by our data, but of course we know that no King of Hip-Hop index can capture swagger or flow – if it could, the all-time title might go to Q-Tip or Rakim. As you’ll see, it turned out to be a fairly exciting contest. Our top overall contenders were pretty evenly matched, with five different rappers leading at least one tally each.

Let’s start with the tally that comes with the biggest bragging rights: album sales.

23 Feb Universal Hip Hop Museum Finally Opens – At Least Virtually

Afrika Bambaataa: one of the hip-hop pioneers being honoured at the museum Photograph:

Afrika Bambaataa: one of the hip-hop pioneers being honoured at the museum Photograph:

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame finally chose NWA for its 2016 class. They’d been eligible since 2012, and one suspects it took the huge success of the group’s Hollywood biopic – Straight Outta Compton, which grossed $200m – to get voters to pay attention.

But perhaps it’s time for rap fans to stop hoping for validation from the out-of-touch Cleveland institution. Hip-hop clearly needs its own hall of fame. And that’s exactly the idea behind something called the Universal Hip-Hop Museum, which counts among its backers many important hip-hop pioneers, including Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Melle Mel and Kurtis Blow.

But though the spot was announced with fanfare about two years ago, it still lacks a physical home. Its organizers would prefer a location in the Bronx – where hip-hop began – and the museum was originally slated for the Kingsbridge Armory, a historical site that has remained vacant for decades. But its renovation has stalled, and the museum’s chairman Rocky Bucano says they now have their eyes on another location, called the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse.

In the meantime the museum is focused on its virtual space. They’ve teamed up with a visual effects company called Framestore, which is helping them develop virtual reality projects. Their first offering? A tour of the Rawlston Recording Studio in Brooklyn, where early New York artists like Whodini, the Fat Boys, and Doug E Fresh laid down tracks.

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11 Jan New YouTube Channel Launches With Diverse Video Programming

The UHHM launched a new YouTube Channel with diverse programming with content partners from around the world.  The Universal Hip Hop Museum YouTube Channel features documentaries, taped performances, music videos, short films, interviews, and educational programming. Subscribers of the YouTube Channel are the first to see the...

11 Jan A Tribe Called Quest “People’s Instinctive…25 Years

A Tribe Called Quest’s “People’s Instinctive Travels…” at 25

Vinyl doctor Oliver Wang examines a celebratory box set and expanded reissues of the band’s seminal debut

Michael Rapport’s 2011 documentary, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, laid bare some of the long-simmering tensions within the group, especially between Q-Tip and Phife. One came away from it with the glum thought that Tribe would only exist as a memory — despite all its members being alive — but then a few weeks ago, Jimmy Fallon announced that the crew was getting back together to perform on The Tonight Show.

What occasioned the brief reunion is the 25th anniversary of Tribe’s magnum opus, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. There’s at least two releases commemorating the album: a remastered CD with three new remixes and a boxset which splits the LP into eight different 7-inch singles, complete with a custom carrying case wrapped by the original artwork. By hip-hop standards, it’s a lavish treatment (though one that’s increasingly common) and this isn’t even for the group’s best or second-best album. However, whilePeople’s Instinctive Travels (PIT) may not be as sublimely conceived or executed as the Low End Theory or Midnight Marauders, it remains one the group’s most influential albums in how it defined the sound of the Native Tongues Family.


The Jungle Brothers introduced the Native Tongues concept with 1988’sStraight Out the Jungle while a year later, De La Soul’s dizzying 3 Ft. High and Rising lofted the Family’s creative ceiling. However, it wasn’t until PIT that a recognizable sonic signature for Native Tongues began to cohere around a jazz and soul-sourced vibe that felt like the birth of a new sonic era. Tribe, after all, opened the album with a baby’s cry.

By 1990, artists like Stetsasonic and Gang Starr were already experimenting with jazz interpolations and samples buttribe the “jazz and hip-hop” trend was still primordial. That’s why PIT felt so surprising, even revelatory. Their aesthetic, assisted by engineer Bob Power, found an ideal balance between cafe boho languor but corner cipher vigor. A song like “Push It Along,” offered punchy drums lifted from a Junior Mance cover of Sly Stone but then slipped on a mellow Grover Washington Jr. groove (itself a cover of an Idris Muhammed song). Or take the album’s most enduring hit, “Bonita Applebum.” The Roy Ayers melody is obviously central but try imagining the song without theLittle Feat drums. It might still sound the same but it wouldn’t remotely feel the same.

It was all about finding the right blend of hard/soft elements. Too much of the former and it would have sounded like everyone else sampling James Brown. Too much of the latter and you got acid jazz. Maybe that’s why all the bonus remixes on the 25th anniversary album feel so anemic; they’re all lightness with not enough heft.

28 Nov Buy Back Hip Hop

I think it's time to put the pressure back on all those politicians who said they were going to help when we went to City Hall trying to get the armory in West Bronx. As well to all these record labels who made so much money off...

02 Nov Masters of Ceremony Concert @ NJPAC

The Masters of Ceremony Concert Returns November 27th at the New Jersey Performance Arts Center Featuring KRS 1, Rakim, The LOX, Ja Rule, Mad Lion, Lords of the Underground and Black Moon.  A Golden Era Classic Show produced by Adam Torrez Marketing Group. Back and better than ever!...

05 Aug Straight Outta Compton

'Straight Outta Compton’ a perfect blend of hip-hop relevance and history [caption id="attachment_10983" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, F. Gary Gray, Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell in Straight Outta Compton (Photo Credit: Todd MacMillan – 2014 – Universal Pictures)[/caption] Watching N.W.A. navigate through the music business...