Rap lyrics pop into our heads at inappropriate times, end up as our yearbook quotes, and work their way into our everyday conversations. But very few bars would be as memorable if not for the music that accompanies them.
Great production can make even the most objectionable or cheesy lyrics sound great. The producers who create these beats may not be as glamorous as the rappers who spit over them (at least, most of the time), but they are equally important. Thus, they are equally subject to hip-hop’s sixth element: making lists.
Back in 2015, we chose The Best Rapper Alive, Every Year Since 1979. It was an exhaustive list inspired by a simple idea: a new way to take on the inevitable Top 5/GOAT discussions that dominate the hip-hop conversation. Instead of making the list about how someone stacks up against the entire canon of hip-hop, we narrowed in on who, in any given year, was unbeatable. From Grandmaster Caz in 1979 to Kendrick Lamar in 2017, we chose who had the alchemical combination of quality, momentum, and historical importance at every moment in the genre’s development.