Hip-Hop’s Top Five, inspired by Chris Rock’s movie of the same name

Where do the biggest stars land on this top 5 list? (l - r) Nas, Lil Kim, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z

Where do the biggest stars land on this top 5 list? (l – r) Nas, Lil Kim, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z

By Charles Glover, Jr.

After seeing Chris Rock’s movie “Top Five” it seems fitting to compose my own list of hip-hop artists. There are five different categories of top five lists: solo artist, rap duos, rap groups, rap factions, and record labels. This is a list of my top 5 for each category. What’s yours?:

(l - r clockwise) Ice Cube, KRS-One, MC Lyte, and Rakim, are some of the best hip-hop artists of all time but there is only room for 5 on the list.

(l – r clockwise) Ice Cube, KRS-One, MC Lyte, and Rakim, are some of the best hip-hop artists of all time but there is only room for 5 on the list.

Record Label:

Since the early 1980’s, hip-hop has a range of record labels dedicated to mainly to the genre. There are so many labels that narrowing the list to just 5 is very difficult but here we go:

5) Cash Money – This label makes the list because of its impact financially and cross-over appeal of main stars from the subsidiary, Young Money record label. Notable stars from the label include Juvenile, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Drake.
4) Rocafella – This label makes the list mainly because of Jay-Z. The label was also able to eventually add other stars that made hits for years. Notable stars included Jay-Z, Kanye West, Cam’ron, Beanie Sigel, and DJ Clue.
3) Bad Boy – They helped usher in a resurgence of east coast popular hip-hop music. Charismatic owner/producer Sean “Puffy” Combs, was able to assemble a talented cast that made plenty of chart toppers. Label stars included The Notorious B.I.G., The L.O.X., Ma$e, and Craig Mack.
2) Death Row – The emergence of this label as a top company in such a short time of existence is to be celebrated. Led by Suge Knight and Dr. Dre, they were major influences in spreading west coast flavor in hip-hop. Notable stars included Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg (now Lion), Tha Dogg Pound, and Tupac Shakur.
1) Def Jam – The preeminent hip-hop record label for many years, Def Jam has found a way to stand the test of time. Founded in 1983, Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin started a tradition of finding and signing some of the best artists of the genre. Notable stars include, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, EPMD, Ludacris, DMX, Method Man, and Ja Rule.

Rick Rubin (l) and Russell Simmons (r) were instrumental in the early growth of hip-hop at Def Jam.

Rick Rubin (l) and Russell Simmons (r) were instrumental in the early growth of hip-hop at Def Jam.

Hip-Hop Groups/Factions: For the purpose of this article, hip-hop factions refer to groups of artists who worked together regularly but didn’t  record together often as a group. Examples would be the Juice Crew, Hit Squad, the Boot Camp Clik, Native Tongues, and the Dungeon Family. Groups have 3 or more members. Groups that narrowly missed the cut were Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Boogie Down Productions, and Slaughterhouse.

5) N.W.A. – Their influence during the transformative years of hip-hop is undeniable. Group members included DJ Yella, Eazy-E, MC Ren, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube.
4) Public Enemy – Known for their music about black empowerment, this group made it clear that there was more to them then their music. Group members featured Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Terminator X, Sister Souljah, Professor Griff and DJ Lord.
3) Ruff Ryders – This group had a string of hits in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Not only did the group work together often, but they often collaborated with other top rap acts at the time. Featured members included producer Swizz Beats, DMX, Eve, Drag-On, and the L.O.X..
2) The Fugees – This group featured a talented trio made music with the diversity of R&B at times and hard-core hip-hop at others. Group members were Wyclef, Pras, and Lauryn Hill.
1) Wu-Tang Clan – A large group with each member having a distinctive rap style, Wu-Tang quickly rose to success with hit songs right out of the gate. Though the group has grown to have many members, the original group consisted of 9 members: RZA, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, and Method Man.

The surviving Wu-Tang Clan members (l - r) RZA, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, Method Man, GZA, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Raekwon the Chef

The surviving Wu-Tang Clan members (l – r) RZA, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, Method Man, GZA, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Raekwon the Chef

Rap Duos: For this article, rap duos are two rappers, not a dj and a rapper. The synergy that exists between a rap duo makes their music stand out. Examples are Black Star, Mos Def & Talib Kweli, Tha Dogg Pound, Salt N Pepa, and Kid N Play.

5) Mobb Deep – Havoc and Prodigy make this list slightly ahead of Black Star because they were just young teenagers when their hit “Shook Ones” came out and they continued making hits for quite some time afterwards.
4) EPMD – Erick Sermon and Parish Smith made dollars and hits. They sampled music a great deal and now they are the sampled often as well.
3) Method Man & Redman – What started as a mere collaboration on “How High” turned into a true partnership with albums, a movie, and a television show.
2) Run-DMC – True pioneers in the rap game, Run and DMC opened doors for hip-hop fans with big hits in the 80’s and also starred in the movie Krush Groove as well.
1) Outkast – Andre 3000 and Big Boi rose to hip-hop stardom as unique hit makers with complementary rap styles. They also appeared in a movie together, Idlewild, and have had success as solo stars as well.

Big Boi (l) and Andre 3000 (r) form Outkast, top rap Duo on this list.

Big Boi (l) and Andre 3000 (r) form Outkast, top rap Duo on this list.

Female Solo Artist: Women’s contribution to hip-hop should not be understated, the ladies of hip-hop have had to be creative to carve their niche in the male dominated hip-hip world. Some ladies that narrowly missed the list are MC Lyte, Rah Digga, Left Eye, and Roxanne Shante.

5) Foxy Brown – Foxy teamed up with Jay-Z for a few songs and was part of the group The Firm that included Nas. She had the respect of some of the best rappers during their prime.
4) Lil Kim – Lil Kim was a member of Junior Mafia with the Notorious B.I.G. and was able to emerge as one of the top hip-hop artists after the Notorious B.I.G.’s death.
3) Queen Latifah – The Queen had several hits before rapping the intro to her own sitcom, Living Single. Though she would transition to acting and TV host, her music career should not be forgotten.
2) Da Brat – Her lyrical style made her verses stand out on just about every track she collaborated on. Jermaine Dupri was wise enough to find a way to get his So So Def artist on numerous tracks between the few solo albums of her own.
1) Lauryn Hill – Hill’s dual threat nature as a singer and rapper helped her have one of the most successful hip-hop albums with “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”. Her rap skills are highlighted while she was working with her Fugees brethren Pras and Wyclef.

Lauryn Hill earned the top spot because of her rap lyrics, her singing ability is merely a bonus.

Lauryn Hill earned the top spot because of her rap lyrics, her singing ability is merely a bonus.

Male Solo artist: The argument for best male hip-hop artists can and will go on forever. This is a list of my favorite as I realize there’s no making everyone happy. Some artists that narrowly missed the list were Big Pun, Snoop Dogg, Rakim, LL Cool J, Nas, Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z.

(l - r) Snoop Dogg, and Tupac are two of the best to do it but only one made the top 5.

(l – r) Snoop Dogg, and Tupac are two of the best to do it but only one made the top 5.

5) Joe Budden – Budden may not have a great deal of mainstream success, but he has made quite a name for himself on mixtapes and through freestyles.
4) Busta Rhymes – Busta has been in the game since the early 90’s making hit songs. However, his music videos were influential as they broke the typical mold of hip-hop videos.
3) Tupac Shakur – Tupac’s music is wide-reaching and clearly reflected his mood when he was in the studio. In fact, there’s probably a Tupac song for every mood a hip-hop fan is experiencing.
2) DMX – DMX is entertaining to just hear speak but his flow and constant energy make it easy to listen to his music, even the barking.
1) Eminem – What makes Eminem stand out among the best is add to his repertoire as his career continues. Even if you’re listening carefully you have to go back and listen to the songs again just to catch all the metaphors and wordplay prevalent in his music, which earns him top honors on this list.

Eminem tops this list as he has topped many charts throughout his career.

Eminem tops this list as he has topped many charts throughout his career.

I’m sure there will be major disagreements about the lists so please feel free to engage me on social media.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover Jr. is a management/employee training and benefits consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com. For business inquiries contact (646)309-1938.

“The Message” depicts the music and movement of Hip Hop (Part I)

BET's The Message is a 4-part documentary series that airs Wednesday nights at 10pm. The last part airs on June 25, 2014.

BET’s The Message is a 4-part documentary series that airs Wednesday nights at 10pm. The last part airs on June 25, 2014.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

As Black Music Month nears its end, it is important to recognize the impact Hip Hop has made in society. Interestingly, it seems as if the Hip Hop movement and culture have been more accepted than Hip Hop music, itself. Speaking about the music, President Barack Obama said: “Honestly I love the art of Hip Hop but I don’t always love the message.”

The cultural impact made by those who have embraced Hip Hop can be identified through the entertainment, fashion, technology, and business worlds. Hip Hop culture has sparked creations that are worth billions of dollars, yet Hip Hop music still faces challenges in appreciation and acceptance

Public Enemy's Chuck D has used Hip Hop music to bring light to important social issues throughout the years.

Public Enemy’s Chuck D has used Hip Hop music to bring light to important social issues throughout the years, using a logo of a black man caught in the cross hairs as a message of how black men are targeted in society.

In an effort to shift the message of Hip Hop to focus on serious issues, Chuck D of Public Enemy was strategic. He addressed social issues in songs such as “Fight the Power,” which was the title song of Spike Lee’s groundbreaking movie “Do the Right Thing.” Chuck D said that his mindset during his career had been about provoking thought on the black experience so that others can see their worth and value.

“We’re trying to fuel the minds of black people to know about themselves and that’s it in a nutshell,” he said, while Russell Simmons said that “Chuck D was already a person who wanted to change the African-American culture.” That vision inspired others.

Queen Latifah has always championed social causes in her music.

Queen Latifah has always championed social causes in her music and is viewed as a trendsetter .

Rappers like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte and Sista Souljah tackled social injustices in their music and made it clear that using music as a tool to shed light on inequality was important to them. Social issues still constitute a part of Hip Hop today as shown in music by Lupe Fiasco, Common, Lauryn Hill and Mos Def. Hill has fully embraced Hip Hop music, stating: “I’m musical but I was born into Hip Hop.”

Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill has carved a niche as a conscious rapper and has reaped the rewards by snagging five Grammy Awards in 1998, prompting her to say “This is crazy because it’s Hip Hop” as she collected her awards.

The issues that inspired the social aspect of the music, such as black men and boys being targeted by police and society, still exist today. This is evident in the murders of Travyon Martin and Jordan Davis, unarmed teenagers who were gunned down by armed white men who “felt threatened.” Ice Cube voiced his displeasure with police tactics as being influential in N.W.A’s anti-police anthem “F the Police.”  Ice Cube also referenced being inspired to do the music he performed with N.W.A. by the social commentary offered by artists like KRS 1 and Schoolly D.

“To me this gangsta [rap] stuff was already in the air but a group had never did it. It is unapologetically art. Just in your face. We were not looking for acceptance,” Ice Cube said. “We only wanted acceptance from the neighborhood.’

BET President Stephen Hill is proud to be able to help bring The Message to viewers.

BET President Stephen Hill is proud to be able to help bring The Message to viewers.

BET’s 4-part documentary on Hip Hop, The Message, takes viewers on a journey of the evolution of the message in the Hip Hop music and its, social, cultural and economic impact. The Message, narrated by Hip Hop star Joe Budden, gives brief accounts about the early stages of the genre, the eventual spread of the music and many challenges that faced those who supported and/or performed the music.

Hip Hop star Joe Budden narrates The Message.

Hip Hop star Joe Budden narrates The Message.

“Hip Hop is a seed planted and nourished amongst the ‘broken glass everywhere’ of mid-70’s New York. It has grown to be a worldwide phenomenon and dominant culture of at least one generation,” explained current president of music programming and specials at BET, Stephen Hill. He used the words from the original Hip Hop song “The Message,” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to make his point.

The fourth and final installment of The Message will air on June 25, 2014.

Entrepreneur Steve Stoute (c) developed a similar series that aired on VH1 in February. He is pictured above with Hip Hop royalty Nas (l) and Jay-Z (r).

Entrepreneur Steve Stoute (c) developed a similar series that aired on VH1 in February. He is pictured above with Hip Hop royalty Nas (l) and Jay-Z (r).

Earlier this year, (February 24 – 27) VH1 aired its own 4-part documentary extolling the virtues of Hip Hop culture named “The Tanning of America: One Nation Under Hip Hop.” That series was the brainchild of entrepreneur and advertising executive Steve Stoute, who wrote a similarly titled book on the topic in 2011. Both series discuss similar topics and illustrate how Hip Hip has grown from a local form of enjoyment to a universal method of connecting.

Female Hip Hop stars and radio personalities

Female Hip Hop stars  (from top left) Salt & Pepa, Foxy Brown, MC Lyte, Lil Kim and radio personality Angie Martinez.

As viewers watch The Message, they will be reminded of the positive and negative experiences that pioneers endured. Russell Simmons, LL Cool J, Ice Cube, MC Lyte, Pharrell, Nas, Luther Campbell, Angie Martinez, Snoop Dogg, Queen Latifah, Rick Ross, Salt N Pepper, Kendrick Lamar, Danyel Smith, Lil Kim, Master P, Foxy Brown, Funkmaster Flex, Big Tigger, and Nelson George are some of the many Hip Hop related stars that are interviewed throughout this series. They share their insight and experiences between the many segments that touch on the birth, trials and tribulations experienced during of the evolution of Hip Hop.

The Message features interviews from some the biggest names in Hip Hop history  including (l - r) Kendrick Lamar, Ice Cube, Rick Ross, and Nas.

The Message features interviews from some the biggest names in Hip Hop history including (l – r) Kendrick Lamar, Ice Cube, Rick Ross, and Nas.

The Message is a worthwhile viewing experience, not to receive the total understanding of Hip Hop, but to bring back memories and spark thoughts about the current state of Hip Hop. The music has evolved, yet it continues to face scrutiny from fans and critics alike. Meanwhile the culture continues to flourish and set trends.

One thing that cannot be disputed about Hip Hop though, is it remains relevant and is still growing. The the desire for social acceptance and concern for relevance and respect that inspired the music is as relevant today as it was when the genre was introduced in the 1980s..–OnPointPress.net–

Stay tuned for Part 2 next Monday.

Charles Glover, Jr. is a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.

Legendary Singer/Activist Harry Belafonte promotes Sankofa

Singer/Activist Harry Belafonte.

Singer/Activist Harry Belafonte.

By Carmen Glover

Legendary singer and activist Harry Belafonte, whose passion for activism seems unwavering, sat comfortably perched on a chair in the MSNBC studio recently, talking eloquently about his life, philosophy and motivation for his new organization, Sankofa. Belafonte, whose career has spanned decades as a folk singer, humanitarian and civil rights activist, is now focusing his attention on social justice issues.

Inspired by the overarching goal of ending violence and oppression across the globe, Belafonte founded the Sankofa Justice and Equity Project. Sankofa is a non-profit organization that aims to harness the strength of popular culture, celebrity power and collaboration to energize a new generation towards effective activism. Sankofa, according to its social media page, “supports and encourages a new generation of artists to speak to the layered injustices that face marginalized communities.”  The organization has its genesis in a compelling speech Belafonte delivered a year ago at the NAACP Image Award function.

Harry Belafonte during his entertainment days.

Harry Belafonte during his heyday when he brought Jamaican folk songs to the consciousness of his international fan base.

“In that speech I spoke to my fellow artists about the act of social responsibility and I challenged my colleagues to step up to the plate and become more engaged in deeper social issues,” he said of his motivation to start the organization. “Several artists on the spot, led by Jamie Foxx, stepped up to the plate,” Belafonte explained. “The very next day, Jamie Foxx, without any formality, got on a plane and flew to New York and participated in Union Square in a rally putting light on the issue of what happened to Trayvon Martin.”

Martin was the unarmed teenager who was murdered by an unrepentant George Zimmerman in Florida. Zimmerman was found not guilty at trial.

Jamie Foxx responded immediately to Belafonte's call and encouraged others to do the same.

Jamie Foxx responded immediately to Belafonte’s call and encouraged others to do the same.

Belafonte said that Foxx’s immediate response had enormous implications. “His presence caught press attention and brought huge resources to the table. He also reached out and influenced other people like Chuck D and Common. We had a huge meeting here in New York and about 60 of the leading artists in rap culture showed up and said : What can we do?'”

Belafonte explained that “artists have a platform. They have a power. They have a gift and by using that gift in the service of others who are being drowned out by inequity and systems that are unjust, we begin to put a light and a new dynamic into what is going on with the poor, racially oppressed, sexually abused and by doing that we have heightened the consciousness of people who are distracted from taking a deeper look at what goes on in social issues.”

chick D

Chuck D, seen here on the Arsenio Hall Show, joined other rappers in responding to Harry Belafonte’s call to activism.

But Belafonte made it clear that his appreciation for the impact of artists is born out of his experiences from the past, particularly joining with icons such as Sidney Poitier, Paul Robeson, Mahalia Jackson, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Bob Dylan and other artists who were unafraid to take active roles in the civil rights movement to achieve positive social change.

“Paul Robeson once said artists are the gatekeepers of truth,” Belafonte said, emphasizing the importance of artists taking active roles in moving a social agenda to help others. As he reflected on the overall aim for Sankofa and the outpouring of support that the movement has received so far from the rap community, he disclosed that a specific focus has been identified as the first course of action.

Conscious rapper Common has been involved in the Sankofa initiative.

Conscious rapper Common has been involved in the Sankofa initiative.

“We decided that our first major attempt at using this power is around the issue of women and the role men play in women’s issues,” he said, while explaining that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is committed to the issue as well. “Mayor de Blasio is involved and the first warm day of summer there will be a gathering in Central Park to talk about issues affecting women.”

The focus of Sankofa is laudable and the scope of the organization seems to be broad and altruistic. As more information is shared with the public about the organization’s initiatives, it is hoped that support will grow and more groups will partner with Belafonte and the artists who have already committed to Sanfoka’s goals so that deserving communities can reap the rewards of this new wave of activism.  -OnPointPress.net.

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