Meechy Darko talks new album, Biggie Smalls, Spike Lee's bad attitude & tripping off Kubrick films
Will Lavin

18:49 27th March 2016

"I’m gonna need a lighter, some weed, and some Backwoods. Anything else I’ll be able to find. I’ll run up in a police station to get a gun if I have to,” says Meechy Darko when asked what three things he'd take if he needed to escape a zombie apocalypse. The reason for asking such a question? With a name like Flatbush Zombies you'd expect Meechy and his fellow group members, Zombie Juice and Erick Arc Elliott, to be an expert in such a thing. 

Endorsing the zombie lifestyle before it was even cool to do so, during their teenage years the Zombies began experimenting with psychedelic drugs. It was after a trip on mushrooms Meechy says his ego died resulting in a rebirth of conscience which lead him to the zombie lifestyle - and ultimately inspired the group's name. 

Releasing a couple of mixtapes and the EP Clockwork Indigo - inspired after having a trip whilst watching Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange - they've earned themselves quite a following. Now with a studio album, 3001: A Laced Odyssey, and the opportunity to reach even more fans, zombie season is officially back in session.

Talking to Gigwise about the new album, Meechy Darko also discusses a variety of other topics, including getting out smoked by Mike Dean, the anniversary of the Notorious B.I.G.'s death, a bad experience with Spike Lee, and why if you don't like LL Cool J you don't like Hip Hop.


Are you excited to finally have the album out there?

“Oh hell yeah man. It’s way overdue. Get that monkey off my back. I’m ready to hit the road. Sell music for the first time, but it ain’t about the money it’s just good to feel official and have an actual physical copy of our album, and I know Juice and Erick feel the same way. It’s beautiful to see what you had in your mind in physical form, and be able to touch it.”


So to you, it’s still important to release an album in a physical format, even in this day and age?

“I think our fans are very hands on, they like merchandise, they like novelty things, and I’m that type of person also. We have a song on the album called 'R.I.P.C.D.' where we talk about the death of the CD, how it’s died, or is dead pretty much. You have to do really, really cool and crazy things to get people excited enough to actually go and buy a physical copy of an album. I grew up buying actual copies of CDs so I could flick through the book and see who helped write a song. I used to have all the Ruff Ryders albums where you’d flick to the back, fill out the form and post it out and then you’d get a hoodie back. I come from those days so having an actual physical copy is very important to me.”


Do you remember the No Limit Records albums where you’d flick through and see adverts for all the upcoming albums and their covers?

“Yo! I was just telling Erick and Juice about that the other day. They’d be advertising like 10 albums with covers in them. Master P would be have his next three album covers already planned out and printed in the albums of his other artists. That shit was crazy!”


And they would never come out…

“Never! But that was still genius marketing because it made you excited like, ‘Oh shit! C-Murder and Silkk The Shocker are doing a joint album together?’ It would never come out but it got you excited nonetheless.”
 


Now obviously you guys are from Flatbush, Brooklyn. Why the zombie part of the group's name?

“A lot of reasons, man. Outside of the fact that we loved the zombie culture way before there was even something called the zombie culture, one time I had a trip off of a psychedelic and I told Juice that I had died. He was like, ‘What do you mean?’ I didn’t mean died as in physically, it was more like the death of my ego. I had a real wake up call and sometimes it takes a really groundbreaking trip to do that. So that’s when the zombie shit came into play. It was a lifestyle and it made perfect sense. We were zombies at that point in our lives while we were trying to figure out the next step.”


So let’s talk about the album. How come it took so long for you guys to release a debut studio album?

“We were just trying to figure out what we wanted to do and how we were going to do it. The difference between us and other people is we’re not on a label so we don’t have that pressure of a man on our shoulder telling us we need to drop something. You also have to remember that we’re hands on with everything. We do everything. I’m not complaining, I like to work. But you have to understand that as an artist we don’t want to rush our shit, so we don't. I don’t give a fuck if someone says they want something right now.

"If I don’t want to give it to you now I’m not going to. I’d rather release something and feel comfortable. There must be no worse feeling than releasing music - and luckily I haven’t had this experience yet - and and not liking it. Even if the people like it but you don’t, surely that's not a good feeling. If you step out in something you don’t feel good in but everyone else thinks otherwise, you’re not going to feel comfortable. That’s not good. And it’s the same thing for music. So we gave them the Clockwork Indigo EP with the Underachievers in the meantime. And we did BetterOffDead, so it’s not like we didn’t give the people songs. We wanted to get our shit together, you know?”


Word is you were meant to work with Mike Dean on the album, is that true?

“We were meant to do some shit with him but we didn’t have enough time because [the fans] really wanted to hear the album. He heard bits of the album before it came out. That was our first time meeting him too. He’s a very cool guy. That nigga smoke a lot of weed! And the crazy thing about it is I was just getting back on my smoking weed tip. I took a break from smoking whilst making this project because I wanted to try something and see if I could make music… well, I know I can make music without weed, but this time I really wanted to challenge myself. And it was a challenge because I’d been smoking weed since I was 17 - I’m now 26. Three or four months was the longest break I’ve ever taken from smoking weed, and it’ll probably be the longest break I ever take again. 

"I just remember going back to Mike’s crib, we broke out the wax blunts - remember, I had just started smoking again - and this is two times this happened to me - the other time was when I did an interview with B-Real in the Smoke Box - do you know how high I was? I know I was high as fuck at Mike Dean’s house. I was stoned! This nigga’s system was booming. I was feeling the vibrations from the bass. I was fucking stoned! Shout out to Mike Dean for that man.”


You have a song on the album called ‘A Spike Lee Joint’. What was the reasoning behind the title?

“It’s a funny story. I’m a really big fan of Spike Lee’s films - Jungle Fever and Do the Right Thing are two of my favourite movies, I watch them all the fucking time. So, I was walking my dog around Brooklyn one day, it was a hot summer day. There’s a street called Do the Right Thing Boulevard and I happened to see Spike Lee on Do the Right Thing Boulevard - the irony, huh? So I greeted him with the most respect possible - I come from a Caribbean background, so I have manners and shit. I said, ‘Spike, blessings. I respect you my brother.’ Man! He looked right through me. He instead looked at his man behind me and started talking to him and totally ignored everything I said. I looked at him, I laughed and just kept on walking. Ironically when I walked around the block and came back around he was stood talking to a lady, they were talking about me because I was walking around with no shirt on. I was hot. It’s my neighbourhood, I don’t give a fuck. So I was laughing because he was discussing me while I wasn’t present yet when I was present and I gave him my presence he said nothing. It’s funny. It’s like when they say you should never meet your heroes, don't meet the people you admire. It was kinda like that, like, ‘Oh shit! This nigga’s really an asshole.’

“When I got back to the crib I decided I wanted to vent, the shit had me feeling a type of way. It was funny to me. I wasn’t in my feelings, it was just hilarious. So I started writing. I was mad a lil’ bit because I felt like he’s supposed to be a part of the community, an important part. He doesn’t know what I have, who I am, you don't know if I’m about to be the next Mekhi Phifer. I didn’t ask him for anything, I just wanted to give him the respect for giving me beautiful art.

“Anyway, to make a long story short I went back to the crib, wrote a little song dissing Spike Lee but instead of releasing that version I put those bars to the side and figured, ‘Hey, let’s just name the song ‘A Spike Lee Joint’ because it is what it is. It’s a song that was made at that time and every time I see that title now I’ll remember the time Spike Lee played me.”


Will the bars you put to the side dissing Spike ever see the light of day?

“I don’t know. People keep on asking why the song is called that and if I keep saying why then maybe eventually I will release them, who knows? I’m gonna see Spike again one day - I plan on getting court side [New York] Knicks tickets for the rest of my life soon enough. If I ever run in to him… I don’t know man, probably not. It just depends on how I’m feeling, I get crazy sometimes.”


You’ve mentioned previously that a drug trip whilst watching A Clockwork Orange inspired your Clockwork Indigo EP. Was it another trip whilst watching 2001: A Space Odyssey that inspired the album?

“Nah, it actually wasn’t a trip. I’ve never tripped to that movie because the movie is a trip in itself. If you didn’t know when that movie was made you’d never be able to guess. It has iPad’s and Facetime in it, the type of shit we have now. It’s a journey. We’ve been in the game three years, four years - I don’t know as time flies - and that’s a journey, and that’s an odyssey. It was our odyssey so it was just perfect, you know?

“I always like to find a way to incorporate our influences into our music, into our art, even if it’s a movie title, we’ll flip it and turn it into something to do with our lifestyle. I’m running out of Stanley Kubrick movies to flip though.”


You’ll have to find a new director whose movies you can flip…

“Yeah, [Quentin] Tarantino is next.”


What are some of your guys musical influences?

“Jadakiss, Raekwon, Ghostface [Killah], the whole Wu-Tang Clan. Nas, Notorious B.I.G. - I actually have a Notorious B.I.G. tattoo on my chest - 2Pac, LL Cool J. In fact something my mother always tells me is that some of the first words I ever said were the lyrics to LL Cool J’s ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’. DMX, maybe Sticky Fingaz - who is someone I admire as far as the way he uses his voice and the way he makes you see what he is saying.

“Those are the guys I really listen to, and listen to the science behind the music they make. Eminem is another one, I love exploring the science behind how they make the music they make and try and incorporate that shit into my shit, like syllable counts and all that. That’s how I see rap sometimes. Sometimes I don’t want to be scientific, I want to be a free spirit but you can’t help it when you listen to say, Eminem and you’re like, ‘What the fuck?’ You listen to the syllable count and you’re just amazed.”


Too many people are quick to write off LL Cool J…

“People are crazy if they don’t think he’s one of the best ever! At 19-years-old he put Def Jam on his back. He is that label. That label was built from his blood, it’s the house that LL built. All these rappers making music for women, he opened that door for you to even be able to do it, and he was a tough guy, and he was an actor. LL Cool J is one of the best man!

“Whenever people don’t respect LL Cool J I play two songs for them. I play them ‘The Ripper Strikes Back’ and ‘Ill Bomb’. I let those joints ride and if they don’t like them then they don’t like Hip Hop… period.”


March 9th marked the 19th anniversary of Biggie’s death. You’ve already stated you have a Biggie tattoo on your chest, so you’re obviously a big fan. Can you remember the first time you heard Biggie’s music?

“I wanna say the first time I heard Big… I mean, it had to be ‘Juicy’ because my mother, and everyone in my family in fact, they were loving it, they played it all the time. But for some reason my most distinct memory is hearing ‘Warning’ as a kid and thinking ‘What the fuck?’ and then hearing his voice - I had never heard a presence like that before, it was like a drug to me. This nigga’s voice was intoxicating, it really was. And that’s one of the most distant memories I have of Big growing up.”


So who was better, Biggie or 2Pac?

“Ahhh, this question. This question really does hurt my soul. On the anniversary I posted a picture of Biggie and wrote that he was my biggest influence. Then underneath kids were commenting saying ‘Pac was better or fuck this dude, or whatever it may have been, and I was just like, damn, these two men were born having totally separate lives. It sucks that some people feel like they can’t like both, it’s always a Biggie or ‘Pac scenario. It’s like, ‘No! I like Biggie and ‘Pac.’ I love them both so much.

“They both do something different for me, that’s really what it is. 2Pac was a special human being. He succeeded at anything he did. That man was a blessing, we all know that, and everyone can see that. Biggie, he did something totally different for me. I got into 2Pac later on in my life. The people around me didn’t listen to ‘Pac as much as they did Biggie, I was from Brooklyn, and this is the 90s we’re talking about here. So I didn’t get to hear much else, I only got to see those key west coast artists when I watched music videos, you know? So yeah, I got into him later on, but I got a tattoo on my stomach not because it looks cool but because of 2Pac. So, I love them both man, I don’t wanna pick sides.”


As a friend of Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era, what’s your opinion on the whole Joey vs. Troy Ave recent situation?

“First of all I want to say R.I.P. to Capital Steez. Secondly I want to say that as an artist you have the right to say what you wanna say, but you also have to understand that people are going to take what you say however they wanna take it. You can’t be mad at anyone for how they feel after you say what you say. I’m a big, big, big fan of freedom of speech and shit like that but you have to be selective about what you say and what you do. At the end of the day Joey said nothing but the facts [on ‘Ready’].

“Since we’re talking about facts let’s talk about the facts. You can’t get mad if someone sells more records than you. If they sold more records than you then they sold more records than you. It’s like when your record comes out and someone says, ‘Well, you know Michael Jackson shattered your numbers.’ Hell yeah he did. That’s just facts, you have to swallow that pill. The best thing you can do is work harder. I feel like we shouldn’t even be giving [Troy Ave] shine, we’ve given him enough shine. We’re giving him energy now by talking about him. He sees what we’re doing. No one here wants to just be a local artist. None of us here are doing this just for us, we’re pushing the culture forward. I’m not associating myself with selfish artists.

“I was just with Kirk Knight, [A$AP] Twelvy, and [A$AP] Ferg. We were talking about how we just need to come together more, we don’t get together enough, we don’t chill enough and just talk about life and what the future is for each other, and how we can help each other. So we’re not associating with guys like [Troy Ave] because we’re all trying to be millionaires. I want everyone’s family around me to be good. I don’t want anyone around me to starve. It’s a blessing to even be a part of this culture, some people take that for granted. I’m blessed to be a part of Hip Hop culture. I’m blessed to be someone’s favourite artist, you know? That’s very important to me. Some people don’t realise that because they’re in it for the wrong reasons.”


So you’re not a fan of Troy Ave’s music?

“I don’t listen to him. It’s not about not being a fan it’s just not my thing. I’m a weirdo…”


How does it make you feel that he calls guys like you and Joey ‘weirdo rappers’?

“Let me name all the ill weird niggas on the planet earth. Rick James was a weird nigga. Marvin Gaye was a weird nigga. Michael Jackson was a weird nigga. Kanye West is a weird nigga. Flatbush Zombies are weird niggas. A$AP Rocky is a weird nigga. Jimi Hendrix was a weird nigga. The Beatles are weird niggas. Kurt Cobain was a weird nigga. You wanna be average? Be average then.”


Troy Ave-rage?

“You said it, I didn’t say it. I like that my friends are weird. I’m fine with that. [Troy Ave] is weird to somebody. Wanting to be average is weird to me, just remember that. I’m a weirdo, I don’t wanna listen to that. I would rather listen to somebody who is better at rapping and raps about those same things than listen to that, personally.”


So what’s your stance on the opinion that when it comes to lyrical beef you should be able to say whatever you want?

“I’m with it man. I hope nobody’s gonna be mad at me because it’s just how I feel. My friends know I love Steez, that was my man. I’ve got 47 tattooed on my body - I cried for 47 nights when he died, dead ass. That’s my brother. But I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I believe in freedom of speech. You battle me, there’s no limit. And everybody needs to know that. You come at me then I’m going to go really deep, but I will be smart about it. You understand? That’s what it is, [Troy Ave] wasn’t smart about it. That’s all I’m going to say. There’s no limit. You diss me just understand nothing’s off limits. But I’m a different kind of guy. I’m a weirdo."
 


3001: A Laced Odyssey by Flatbush Zombies is out now

  • Click or swipe ahead to see the definitive list of the 50 best rappers of all time - ranked in order of greatness

  • 50. Drake: There would probably have been a wave of hate set to crash us into shore if we didn't include Drizzy in the list. Champagne Papi took over the rap game in 2010 with Thank Me Later and has remained firmly at the top ever since. He is seriously creepy, though. Essentials: 'Underground Kings', 'Back To Back' and 'Poetic Justice'.

  • 49. Schoolboy Q: Gangsta, Gangsta, Gangsta - that's right, Schoolboy Q is a gangsta. As the second best rapper out of the Black Hippy crew, while Kendrick brings the cognitive, Q is fully immersed in the gangsta persona. His rap technique switches every song, making it a diverse but often alienating experience, much like the gangsta life. Essentials: 'Man Of The Year' 'Blessed', 'Gangsta'.

  • 48. Pusha T: Rising to larger prominence after signing to Kanye's Good Music in 2011, Push already had a loyal following as half of hip-hop duo, Clipse. T raps with an unusual, off-kilter style that blends the bizarre with harrowing tales of the life of a successful drug dealer. Essentials: 'Nosetalgia' featuring Kendrick Lamar, 'Exodus 23:1' and 'New God Flow' featuring Kanye West

  • 47. Mick Jenkins: Another fresh injection in this legendary list, this rapidly rising Chicago rapper makes the cut due to his jaw-dropping talent for lyricism and word play. Check out 'Ps and Qs' for a ridiculous journey through the power of alliteration, the track putting any of your GCSE poetry lessons to new levels of shame. Essentials: 'Vibe', 'Jazz' and 'Drink More Water'.

  • 46. Chuck D: It takes a nation of music journalists to fully encapsulate Chuck D's impact on the hip-hop world. While he isn't the most complex or proficient rapper, his delivery has the velocity and blast radius to take down even the most nefarious political agenda. Essentials: 'Fight The Power', '911 Is a Joke', 'Don't Believe The Hype'

  • 45. Method Man: Em Ee Tee Hach Oh Dee Maaaaaan. If ODB was completely off the rails, Method Man was the group's designated loose cannon. For Christ's sake, who else would rhyme "rubber band" with "green eggs and ham". Genius. Essentials: 'The What', 'Method Man'.

  • 44. Joey Bada$$: Wholeheartedly embracing hip-hop with an important injection of freshness and diversity, Joey sits comfortably among some of the greatest lyricists of our time. Since blasting the rap world wide open with his 1999 mixtape, the rapper has gone from strength to strength. Essentials: 'Hardknock', 'Hilary Swank' and 'Paper Trails'.

  • 43. Kool G Rap: It can be argued that without Kool G Rap, there would be no 'Gigwise Top 50 Rappers'. His multi-syllable rhyming style is a hallmark of Kool G Rap and became a style adopted by Jay-Z, Nas and basically every greatest of all time. For New York, Kool G was the counter-offence against the rising dominance of the West Coast. Essentials: 'Fast Life', 'Take 'Em To War', 'Ill Street Blues'.

  • 42. Roots Manuva: Since everyone believes grime is the UK's sole rap export (it's not), it's good to shake things up a bit and play the Roots Manuva-card. Roots is the UK's lifeline to cult rap. His impact is global, but has never achieved commercial success - despite him being one of the most creative minds in the game. His dedication to big beats and observational verses is second-to-none. Essentials: 'Witness', 'Let The Spirit', 'Movements'.

  • 41. Prodigy: On 'The Infamous Prelude', Prodigy predicted the future and rawly attacked hip-hop artists that saturate the genre with over indulgence and glorification . "All them rap-ass n*ggas with your half-assed rhymes talking about how much you get high, how much weed you smoke, and that crazy space shit that don't even make no sense, Don't ever speak to me when you see me." Prodigy is the real article for gangster rap, spitting vividly about the troubles of growing up in a fiercely unbalanced world.

  • 40. Danny Brown: Definitely the most unique voice of the millennial rappers, Danny Brown's nasal stylings often distract from the fact he's a fucking great rapper. Tales of a ghetto upbringing mixed with hedonistic ventures, this toothless wonder is the star of alternative hip-hop right now and is constantly pushing boundaries with every release. Essentials: 'Dope Song', 'Radio Song', 'Kush Coma'.

  • 39. Del Tha Funkee Homosapien: More than just that voice off those Gorillaz tracks and Tony Hawk Pro Skater, Del was one of the innovators of alternative rappers who threw tradition to the wind and fully embraced their personalities. His flows and cadences were heavily inspired by roots music, making Del the perfect entry-level rapper for anyone looking to get into hip hop outside of 'Mistadobalina'. Essentials: 'Preservation', '30 30', 'Mastermind'.

  • 38. Posdnuos: The main voice of De La Soul - and therefore the voice of the golden age of hip-hop. The 80s was hip-hop's most prolific time but no groups were doing what Native Tongues were striving for. Excluding Tip, Pos was the forerunner for direct, child-friendly, fun-loving, adjective-inspiring rap that was simultaneously engaging and simple - a hard balance to manage. Essentials: 'Potholes In My Lane', 'Ring Ring Ring', 'Ghetto Thang'.

  • 37. Big Pun: Described as one of the Latin Kings of hip-hop, he's a pundamental (sorry) figure in the rap world and is renowned for his ridiculously rapid flow and slight obsession with alliteration. Essentials: 'Still Not A Player', 'It's So Hard', 'Beware'.

  • 36. Black Milk: Curtis Cross is a rapper/producer and an underrated veteran in the world of rap. Coming up with likes of J Dilla and Pharoahe Monch, Black Milk rapidly developed his producing and rapping skills, applying intricacy and a fresh approach to both. For production alone, his latest album, If There's A Hell Below, is a sonic feat for the ears. Essentials: 'Everyday Was Me'

  • 35. Earl Sweatshirt: Some new blood deserves a place in this list, and who better than one of the most creative rappers out there at the moment. Earl could have comfortably stuck to the rape and pillage trajectory of Odd Future's rise, but on his mysterious return, chose to break away from that aesthetic, enhancing his production chops and embracing a range of different flows that are practically untouchable. Essentials - 'Luper', 'Hive', 'Quest/Power'.

  • 34. Missy Elliott: Back in February of this year, Missy tweeted, "The new kids think I'm a new artist and I'm bout 2 blow up." How wrong they are. Missy has affirmed herself as one of hip hop's greats and is the only female rapper with six platinum albums. Essentials: 'Get Ur Freak One', 'Work It'.

  • 33. Ol' Dirty Bastard: He lived life raw, what more can we say? Essentials: 'Shimmy Shimmy Ya', 'Brooklyn Zoo', 'I Like It Raw'.

  • 32. Pharoahe Monch: This NYC is renowned for his complexity. While he doesn't have the mass success of Jay-Z or the everlasting hype of Jay Electronica, Monch holds his own by pure proficiency. With only four albums across a 15 year span, Monch is an artist that savours and obsesses over every rhyme. The least you can do for the man is listen. Essentials: 'D.R.E.A.M', 'Welcome To The Terradome', 'Simon Says'.

  • 31. Snoop Dogg: Dre's first protege in the wake of N.W.A's fallout, Dee Oh Double Gee is most notable for his supporting role as Huggy Bear in Starsky and Hutch. Essentials: 'Still Dre', 'Gin And Juice' and 'Nuthin' But A G Thang'.

  • 30. Xzibit: Before X to the Z was pimping rides and then selling them for parts, he was actually an incredibly accomplished rapper, touring with Eminem while harnessing a direct and poignant flow which left little to no room for strange rap genius interpretations; "Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, I might leave in a body bag but never in cuffs." Essentials: 'What's The Difference featuring Eminem and Dr. Dre', 'Don't Approach Me'.

  • 29. Big Boi: While Andre 3000 was the consistent pop voice in the duo, Big Boi's obtuse and more aggressive lyricism was a flavour of the south that Andre couldn't provide single-handedly. With a flow rhythm that can U-turn at any second, Big Boi may stand in the shadow of Andre in Outkast's more upbeat cuts but he's an artist that is never predictable and pulls out much needed introspection when tracks veer too far into the realm of indulgent. Essentials: 'Snappin' & Trappin'', 'The Train', 'ATliens'.

  • 28. Ice Cube: The main mastermind lyricist behind Eazy E and Dr. Dre's verses throughout N.W.A's discography, Cube forged his own path after the group's inevitable breakdown. He spits with so much energy and power that we can even forgive him for the Are We There Yet family franchise. Essentials: 'Straight Outta Compton', 'No Vaseline', 'It Was A Good Day'.

  • 27. Common: A member of Kanye's Good Music and one of the rappers at the forefront of conscious hip-hop, Common has a silky smooth way with words and often wears his heart on his sleeve in a genre where saving face has become a stale pattern. Essentials: 'I Used To Love H.E.R', 'So Far To Go'

  • 26. Lauryn Hill: The glue that held the Fugees together, with her solo work Lauryn Hill seamlessly blended funk, soul and hip hop on gloriously hard tracks like 'Lost Ones' and 'Final Hour'. 1998's The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill is still her only solo album, and we're all holding our breath for some new music very soon. Essentials: 'Lost Ones', 'Ex Factor' and 'Killing Me Softly With His Song'.

  • 25. Aesop Rock: A mathematical study showed last year that Aesop Rock has the largest vocabulary in hip-hop by a substantial lead, beating even Shakespeare. A mythical figure in the early noughties underground circles, Aesop's referential and sentimental raps resonate with the nerd culture of hip-hop and those that have a penchant for mental instability and verbosity. Essentials: 'ZZZ Top', 'Battery', 'Citronella'.

  • 24. Slick Rick: The master of storytelling, we forget that proficient MCing is about reflecting reality. While Rick's personal life wasn't often the centrepiece for his rhymes, this rapper's ability to draw an audience and spin a tale with wordplay was is still unmatched to the day. There's a reason Rick is the most sampled rapper in history. Essentials: 'Children's Story', 'La Di Da Di', 'I Shouldn't Have Done It'.

  • 23. Rakim: For better or worse, Rakim monetised hip-hop. While this did lead to some of the culture's most abhorrent instances, as fans of the music we have to believe that the 5'6" wonder's skilful lyricism and ability to weave a story within a bar was for the greater good. Despite Rakim transforming the Golden Age into an age about gold chains and stacks, the competition and hunger behind his lines will always be his legacy. Essentials: 'Paid In Full', 'Follow The Leader', 'Addictive'.

  • 22. RZA: The Abbot, Bobby Digital, The Rzarector, The leader of the Wu-Tang Clan, the RZA is solely responsible for the curation and inception of hip-hop's most creative and musically transcending group. The amount of verses and production knowledge that stemmed from that first exploration of the 36 Chambers is immeasurable. 10 members of the Wu-Tang who lived by the sword for the RZA and his stupendous talent as both rapper, producer and Shaolin master. Essentials: 'Show U Love', '4th Chamber', 'Impossible'.

  • 21. Q-Tip: AKA The Abstract, Tip is a warming and golden aged voice in the world of hip-hop. While trap and pop-rap have taken control of the public eye, there's no music fan alive that can resist the lightning fast flow and nasal tones of Tip. His work with Tribe is unparalleled and his solo career has, while spotty, provided some gems that cross-pollinate the now with the then. Essentials: 'Award Tour', 'Excursions', 'Feelin'.

  • 20. Busta Rhymes: Public Enemy's very own Chuck D named Busta after NFL player George 'Buster' Rhymes. The iconic rapper is a true Leader of the New School who spits with a ridiculously fast flow rife in strong wordplay and playful imagery, questionably sexist but still a staple in the hip-hop world. Essentials: 'Thankyou', 'Gimme Some More'.

  • 19. Killer Mike: The inherited chief of Atlanta, Michael Render spent too long edging the borders of the greats before he became widely appreciated via the success of Run The Jewels. Killer set out to become one of the all-time greats and is getting closer and closer every verse, his delivery has the pushing-power to floor a rhino and his interest in politics and injustice will keep him spitting true for years to come. Essentials: 'Ghetto Gospel', 'Burn', 'Early'.

  • 18. MF DOOM: The champion of alternative rap, Doom pours every part of himself into his music - except his identity. As reflective as the mask on his face, Daniel Dumile's impressive collaborations and wide discography is unique in thematics and has more lyrical depth than any other rapper in history. For all his weirdness and cartoon aesthetics, DOOM is an irreplaceable part of hip-hop culture. Essentials: 'Accordion', 'Rhymin Slang', 'DOOMsday'.

  • 17. GZA: Regarded as the 'cerebral' member of the Wu-Tang, GZA's wordplay and expansive grasp on the world order makes him the third strongest and verbose member of the rap Shaolin. Liquid Swords is evidence enough - GZA spits with a matching viscera of an fresh rapper on the scene right now embedded in a profundity that can only be achieved by years of excelling in the chambers. Essentials: 'Cold World', 'Duel of the Iron Mic', 'Protect Ya Neck'.

  • 16. Raekwon: 'The Chef' of Wu-Tang, Raekwon is arguably the best rapper in the group (after Ghostface... and RZA... and, damn it they're all too good.) He raps with a fierce assonance and every syllable he spits is soaked in punch and purpose. Essentials: 'Eye For a Eye featuring Mobb Deep'

  • 15. Talib Kweli - Rising to prominence and putting east coast rap back on the map with Mos Def and Blackstar, Kewli has solidified himself as a rap veteran who still spits with strength and resilience to this day. He's also another stupidly talented freestyler, combining sentences effortlessly that simply don't belong together. Essentials: 'Get By' and 'Black Girl Pain'

  • 14. Lupe Fiasco: Hailed for his socially aware approach and crazily dense lyricism, Lupe walks the fine line between conscious and super accessible. His freestyling skills are out of hand as well - the true mark of a talented rapper. Essentials: 'Kick Push', 'Jonlyah Forever' and 'American Terrorist'.

  • 13) Black Thought: Often cited for being the bloke off of Jimmy Fallon's show rather than the most consistently show-stopping voice in hip-hop, Black Thought's work with The Roots is an unmistakable piece of history. Thought's lyrical flexibility gathers momentum and can blow any feature performance out of the water with its pure majesty. There is no rapper alive who can turn or stack a phrase like Thought, he understands the craft better than most. Essentials: 'Dynamite', 'The Imperial', 'Thought @ Work'.

  • 12. Mos Def: Simply one of the coolest cats in the rap game, Mos Def sits firmly amongst the greats, due to his vivid rhyming style, as well as the tracks he set in motion after joining forces with the mighty Talib Kwali for Blackstar. He's also got some great acting chops, too. Essentials: 'Hurricane' and 'Mathematics'

  • 11. Big L: After fierce debate, L slips just out of our top 10, but his influence on a sea of huge rappers is pretty undeniable. Renowned for his effortless flow and storytelling prowess, L bounces on every track with accessible intricacy and crisply cool assonance. He also has flashes of brilliance when he raps absolutely relentlessly. Maybe the guy has gills. Essentials: 'Street Struck', 'MVP' and 'Fed Up With That Bullshit'.

  • 10. Ghostface Killah: If not the most talented, definitely the most prolific of the Wu-Tang Clan, Ghostface Killah doesn't seem to have slacked any year since he left the 36 chambers. His scorching flow is instantly recognisable, and while the days of the Wu or his first solo releases were Ghost's peak, check out his work with DOOMSTARKS or with Adrian Younge to see Ghost out of his comfort zone and the best he's spat in recent years. Essentials: 'Apollo Kids', 'All That I Got Is You', 'Run'.

  • 9) Andre 3000: Outkast reinvented Southern rap for the mainstream, and a big part of this phenomenon is Andre 3000's idiosyncratic verses. They stretch across the spectrum of disgusting, informative, catchy and hilarious, are packed to the brim with heart - and are timeless. It's a bold claim, sure, but Andre 3000 is the Jimi Hendrix of rap. Essentials: 'B.O.B', 'Aquemini', 'Elevators'.

  • 8. Eminem: Mr Mathers, Slim Shady, B-Rabbit; whatever you want to call him and whatever you may think of his more recent output, he's responsible for three of the most seminal hip-hop albums of all time. The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show all shine brightly in uniquely different ways, from the warped and deranged alter ego of Slim Shady on 'Brain Damage' to the ferociously precise spitting of Eminem on 'Till I Collapse'. Essentials: 'If I Had', 'Criminal' and 'Say What You Say'.

  • 7. Kanye West: A true artist through and through, Kanye West is a genius and there's no denying that. For every young kid in Chicago over the last decade that decided to embrace their personality and use it to create, whether it's music or pottery or game design, Kanye is the figure that stands for this progression. Forget celebrity status, forget Zane Lowe interviews, forget Glastonbury, as a rapper and an artist, Kanye West is this generation's creative idol. Essentials: 'Power', 'Through The Wire', 'Last Call'.

  • 6. Jay Electronica: Jay is the true backpacker's artist, adored by any die hard fans of hip-hop music. Despite a lack of consistent content and his refusal to drop that debut album everybody's longing for, the elusive New Orleans rapper makes our top 10 because he's simply one of the most interesting rappers out there. Essentials: 'Exhibit C', 'Eternal Sunshine' and 'Better In Tune With The Infinite'.

  • 5. Jay Z: 'I'm not a business man, I'm a business, man.' Jay has evolved into more than just a rapper, dipping his toe in every possible business venture imaginable, from fine art to music streaming with his shaky Tidal venture. Take these aspects out of the equation, though, and you have one of the sharpest lyricists and charismatic artists of our time, with Jay painting stark and unforgettable images of life as a hustler on the streets of New York. Essentials: 'What More Can I say', 'December 4th' and 'D.O.A'.

  • 4. Tupac: As far as anyone embedded in the music world, Tupac is the poster-boy for hip-hop and ideals of peace. What Tupac should really be revered for is his unhinged personality and the writing products that stemmed from this walking paradox. An endorser of music above all things, Tupac was simultaneously manoeuvring in shadier territories giving a duality to his music, a genuine facet of genius that is often swept under the carpet in order to promote some half-baked figure of 'peace'. Essentials: 'Untouchable', 'Ghetto Gospel', 'California Love'.

  • 3. The Notorious B.I.G: It's all 'business instead of games' (B.I.G) as the late Biggie Smalls leapfrogs (probably with great difficulty) over Tupac for the No.3 spot. Regardless of the arguably negative impact he created by bringing 'money rap' to the forefront of hip-hop culture, nobody can deny his lyrical talents and infectious flare for colourful story-telling. Essentials: 'Hypnotize', 'The Wickedest Freestyle' and 'Warning'.

  • 2. Kendrick Lamar: An artist that has dragged West Coast rap out of the dirge of hedonism and excess, Kendrick is an intellectualist voice of a people who are subjected to a treatment unbefitting of them. There is no wiser artistic voice in the music world. While Kanye inspires and Drake entertains, Kendrick strives, and always will strive, to inform the unformed and stimulate the minds of those that believe they are mindless. Essentials: 'A.D.H.D', 'm.A.A.d City', 'Wesley's Theory'.

  • 1. Nas: The best rapper of all time, Nas represents the bridge between the genesis and progression of the culture of hip-hop. He is deeply invested in music - but something ultimately much greater than the scope of loops, breaks and verses. Originally, Nas was a prodigious voice in a culture that is programmed to try and stifle him. Hip hop, at its core, is a reactionary art form, and no one is more emblematic of that fact than Nas. Essentials: 'Memory Lane', 'NY State of Mind', 'Ether'.


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