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.

Drake drew laughs, Stuart Scott caused tears, at 2014 ESPY Awards

Music artist Drake (c) was the host for the 2014 ESPY Awards. He was joined on stage  at this moment by the Seattle Seahawks in attendance that won the award for  Best Team.

2014 ESPY Awards host is surrounded by members of the Super Bowl Champions Seattle Seahawks, who won the for Best Team award.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

On July 16, 2014, ESPN aired the ESPYs, the network’s award show for the world of sports. Hosted by musician and former child actor Drake, the award show drew laughter and tears. The host performed numerous sketches, monologues, and presentations that are standard for current award ceremonies but Drake stood out by creating a special song for those who didn’t win an award.

Drake  had skits with a few different people including Tulsa Shock guard Skylar Diggins.

Drake had skits with a few different people including Tulsa Shock guard Skylar Diggins.

The well-dressed crowd was entertained all night by Drake and other stars like Brian McKnight, Blake Griffin, Chris Brown, and Skylar Diggins, who teamed up to perform skits.

Drake made jokes on some audience members including Richard Sherman (l) and Russell Westbrook (r). Both won awards that night as well.

Drake made jokes on some audience members including Richard Sherman (l) and Russell Westbrook (r). Both won awards that night as well.

Drake also poked fun at a number of athletes who were in attendance, such as Lance Stephenson, Russell Westbrook, and Richard Sherman. All those who were mentioned as part of jokes and skits seemed to take everything in stride in what was mostly a light-hearted event.

Michael Sam (r) was presented the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (l).

Michael Sam (r) was presented the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (l).

There were serious moments in the show as well. Michael Sam was presented with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Sam expressed his appreciation for the award and shared a touching story of how he was able to make a difference in the life of a young woman who gained courage to admit that she is also gay after conversing with Sam.

Stuart Scott (l) gave an emotional speech after receiving the Jimmy V Award for  Perseverance. He is pictured with his daughter Sydni (m) and Peyton Manning (r).

Stuart Scott (l) gave an emotional speech after receiving the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. He is pictured with his daughter Sydni (m) and Peyton Manning (r).

The emotional highlight of the night might was ESPN’s Stuart Scott’s acceptance speech for the Jimmy V[alvano] Perseverance Award. Scott was presented the award by the star of Scott’s favorite television show, Kiefer Sutherland, from “24”. Scott’s moving speech touched on all the challenges he currently faces while fighting cancer and continuing to persevere for the sake of his family, his daughters in particular. Scott was joined on stage at the end of the speech by the youngest of his daughters, Sydni, 14. Scott concluded his speech stating:

Scott (m) and his daugher Sydni (r) were congratulated on stage by the presenter for the  award, Kiefer Sutherland (l).

Scott (m) and his daugher Sydni (r) were congratulated on stage by the presenter for the award, Kiefer Sutherland (l).

“When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you lived, why you lived and in the manner in which you lived. So live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, then lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you.”

Danica Patrick (l) and Taye Diggs (m) were the presenters for the Male Athlete  of the Year Award that was won by Kevin Durant (r).

Danica Patrick (l) and Taye Diggs (m) were the presenters for the Male Athlete of the Year Award that was won by Kevin Durant (r).

The awards presented to the different winners gave viewers an opportunity to see entertainers from numerous fields in the same setting. The most noticeable awards handed out that night include the Seattle Seahawks winning “Best Team,” Ronda Rousey winning Female Athlete of the Year, and Kevin Durant winning Male Athlete of the Year.

Blake  Griffin (l) and Chris Brown (m) were a part of one of the skits that kept the audience laughing at Drake's (r) expense.

Blake Griffin (l) and Chris Brown (m) were a part of one of the skits that kept the audience laughing at Drake’s (r) expense.

Overall, the ESPYs were entertaining from beginning to end. There was a good blend of levity and solemnity from host Drake and the other stars who graced the stage. If you were unable to catch the show, check your local listings for replays on the ESPN family of networks.–OnPointPress.net–

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

Hip Hop shows creativity, business acumen born from struggle (Part II)

Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and Puffy are 3 of the most successful Hip Hop artists and have used savvy business sense to amass considerable wealth.

Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and Sean “Puffy” Combs are 3 of the most successful Hip Hop artists and have used savvy business sense to amass considerable wealth.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Hip Hop is a global phenomenon that has become profitable in a myriad of ways to give an example of how monumental the culture really is. While Hip Hop music continues to be dissected and scrutinized for its content and imagery, remnants of Hip Hop can be recognized in more places than ever. Moguls like Puffy, 50 Cent, and Jay-Z deserve praise for the business mode and financial growth they show. As Hip Hop celebrates 40 years of existence, it is clear that the momentum generated by the genre’s pioneers is sustained by those who continue to embrace and expand on their vision.

Russell Simmons was ahead of his time and helped fuel the spread of Hip Hop culture on the big and small screen.

Russell Simmons was ahead of his time and helped fuel the spread of Hip Hop culture on the big and small screen.

In terms of Hip Hop pioneers, Russell Simmons stands out because his vision to spread Hip Hop to multiple audiences established a model that is still in use today. Simmons had the foresight to create the movie Krush Groove which showed what he went through in establishing his record label, Def Jam while developing opportunities for his brother, Rev Run of Run DMC. Simmons also helped with the explosion of black comedy on television with his Def Comedy Jam series.

Simmons’ exploits became a blueprint for others within Hip Hop to recognize that the music was just the beginning of the connection Hip Hop would make to audiences around the world. Simmons started his own clothing line, Phat Farm, as he continued to grow his empire. Simmons, who is also an author, said n a recent interview, “When you have a voice, you use it, if you can…So, as a person who runs a company, I’ve been to the Congress to promote a law, you know?”

Hip Hop artists learned early that they could use their talents in more than music. (Clockwise from top left) Rza, Method Man, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, and Ice Cube.

Hip Hop artists learned early that they could use their talents in more than music. (Clockwise from top left) Rza, Method Man, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, and Ice Cube.

As Hip Hop culture spread to the big and small screen, so did its artists. LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Ice Cube, MC Lyte, Busta Rhymes, Lauryn Hill, Eminem, Rza, Method Man and Redman were among some of the many Hip Hop artists that had acting roles throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s. With varying levels of excellence, they showed that the ability to connect to an audience extended beyond having a microphone in their hands. In fact, Ice-T and Will Smith became so accomplished as actors that some forget about their contributions to Hip Hop music.

Will Smith  (top) and Ice-T (bottom) have been so successful as actors that some forget about their music careers.

Will Smith (top) and Ice-T (bottom) have been so successful as actors that some forget about their music careers.

The growth of Hip Hop culture has been beneficial to many within the music industry throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s. As the music began to be accepted in more places, the producers of the music began to rise to prominence. There were a number of producers who started music labels and grew their own brand. The appreciation for the music created opportunities for many associated with Hip Hop to develop a better business sense to protect their work, names, and brand.

Missy (top), Pharrell Williams (left) and Kanye West (right) initially earned success as producers, then became successful artists.

Missy Elliott (top), Pharrell Williams (left) and Kanye West (right) initially earned success as producers, then became successful artists.

Puffy formed Bad Boy Records, Jermaine Dupri formed So-So Def, Master P formed No Limit Records, and Birdman formed Cash Money Records. These were just a few of the lucrative labels that were responsible for some of the biggest Hip Hop hits in the 90’s and 2000’s. The success these entrepreneurs had allowed for them to have more control of their rights within the music industry and have control over who would work with them. The aforementioned label owners signed and promote local artists who might not have been accepted at other record labels.

(Clockwise from lop left) Master P, Birdman, and Jermaine Dupri were producers who started their own labels.

(Clockwise from top left) Master P, Birdman, and Jermaine Dupri are producers who started their own labels.

In addition to starting labels, it also became common for producers to become recording artists. Pharrell Williams, Missy Elliott, and Kanye West are three of the most successful producers to make the transition to artist. They acknowledge the challenge that comes with their success. Their success laid the ground work for current artists to recognize the broad range a person can have within the music industry. Current artists have adapted and used current technology to produce music and videos as they have learned the value of having as much control over their careers as possible.

“When I create something, it’s gotta be special and it can’t just be to throw something out there because I feel like I’m Missy…I gotta feel like what I’m giving the fans is 100 percent and that it’s game-changing,”  Elliott said in an interview.

TLC (top), Mariah Carey (left), and Mary J. Blige (right) will forever be associated with Hip Hop though they weren't rappers.

TLC (top), Mariah Carey (left), and Mary J. Blige (right) will forever be associated with Hip Hop though they weren’t rappers.

With Hip Hop becoming such a profitable brand, other genres of music were willing to blend with it. R&B became the most frequent collaborator with Hip Hop as producers like Teddy Riley and Dr. Dre helped lead a R&B/Hip Hop blend of music that ascended to the top of the charts throughout the 90’s and 00’s. Some of the top-selling R&B artists of the 90’s like Brandy, Monica, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, R. Kelly, Usher and TLC, openly embraced Hip Hop and became forever associated with the genre.

Today's Hip Hop stars are visible in many different platforms. (l - r) Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne are part of the Young Money group are among the top  selling artists of the past few years.

Today’s Hip Hop stars are visible in many different platforms. (l – r) Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne are part of the Young Money group and they are among the top selling artists of the past few years.

Today, Hip Hop stars have learned from their predecessors and are recognized for multiple achievements. Hip Hop moguls created clothing lines such as Sean “Puffy” Combs’ Sean John’, Jay-Z’s Roc-a-wear, Wu-Tang Clan’s Wu-Wear, and 50 Cent’s G-Unit Clothing. Drake was known as an actor before becoming a top-selling artist. Nicki Minaj became a judge on the popular music talent show, American Idol, while continuing her music career. Other artists have used YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms to grow their audiences and maintain viability in a complicated music industry.

“All we’re really doing is continuing to sell the idea that you [fans] can liberate yourself. You don’t have to follow someone else’s blueprint to be successful,” Williams said.

Dr. Dre has continued to evolve, starting as a producer and artist and is now recognized as a businessman.

Dr. Dre has continued to evolve, starting as a producer and artist and is now recognized as a very successful businessman who has partnered with other entrepreneurs to broaden his brand.

Dr. Dre’s recent $3.2 billion deal with Apple to sell his Beats By Dre brand of headphones and speakers is a sign of the continued influence of Hip Hop. The music will always be scrutinized as it continues to be the prevailing vehicle for musicians to express their thoughts about observations that are not always fun to deal with. Positive and negative images and messages within the music are no different in this genre than what is seen on television or in the movies. However, Hip Hop culture has grown in immeasurable ways, making multi-millionaires out of numerous young men and women who were just trying to find a way to express themselves.

Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Puffy, and Simmons are among the biggest names in American History because of their influence on business and entertainment, not just Hip Hop. They have set an example for others to learn from in terms of building on artistic talent to expand into business ventures. As President Barack Obama eloquently stated, “Hip Hop is not just a mirror of what is, it should also be a reflection of what can be.”  –OnPointPress.net–

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