Home Entertainment LEADER OF THE PACK: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING NUMBER1 IN HIP HOP

LEADER OF THE PACK: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING NUMBER1 IN HIP HOP

Drake and Kanye WestWhen Yeezus speaks, the people and the press take notice.

Having remained relatively quiet since his nuptials to Kim Kardashian, Kanye West has broken his silence in a recent GQ Magazine interview on everything from the reception of 2013’s Yeezus album to his desire to be a top designer in the fashion world to the tabloid wedding of the decade. But for Hip-Hop fans, the most important piece of information divulged by Yeezy probably had to be him seemingly conceding the top spot in Hip Hop to none other than October’s Very Own, Drake. Interviewed for the July issue of GQ by Zach Baron, said exchange reportedly went as follows:

Kanye: Currently that spot is taken. Let’s be honest—he got last summer.
Baron: Who?
Kanye: You know. There’s only one person.
Baron: Drake?
Kanye: Yeah. He got last summer. And I’d never given it up till last summer. It’s a real question for me. Do I want to [take it back]?

Kanye’s admission immediately raises a few questions: If he does want his spot back as the most popular and influential man in Hip-Hop, at least mainstream Hip-Hop, how easy or difficult is it for Kanye to get it back? How important is it for an artist to have that Number 1 Spot at the top of the charts and in the hearts and minds of fans and/or haters? What actually constitutes someone having the Number 1 spot in Hip-Hop? What criteria must we go by to make this determination? Who has the power, clout or sway to make this consideration?

In response to this news from Kanye, DJBooth.net’s Managing Editor Nathan S. took it upon himself to come up with specific criteria and, therefore, make a Hip-Hop Power Rankings Index of the top 5 emcees in the game right now. The stipulations include cultural influence, commercial success, respect from artistic peers and the ability to put your crew on. From these criteria, here is Nathan’s current Hip Hop Power Rankings Top 5 list:

Lil Wayne, jay z, Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Kanye West1. Drake
2. Jay Z
3. Kanye West
4. Lil Wayne
5. Kendrick Lamar

No doubt, Kanye’s admission and the subsequent list on DJBooth.net care of Nathan S. will spark the debate once again of who is at the top, who fell off and who’s scraping the bottom of the barrel. And honestly, that’s something that might be a very good thing for Hip-Hop. The competitive nature and macho bravado of Hip-Hop is something that honestly has kept it fueled and moving for years now. Sure, we all want to see more unity, more community and more collective togetherness, but without the competitive spirit that’s been part of Hip-Hop since its inception, the genre would suffer even more greatly than it already is. Let’s face facts: the relevance and the influence of Hip-Hop culture has been waning in recent years. For Kanye to concede that Drake is now the most popular and influential man in the genre is not only honest, but it’s telling of where both he as an artist and Hip-Hop are headed.

Beyond this, Hip-Hop heads still love a good challenge. No matter whether we’d like to admit it or not, we pay attention to who is in the Number 1 spot because it gives us reason to discuss, debate and dissect not only the top artists and how they’re influencing the game, but the game itself. We love Hip-Hop not merely for its creativity, its boldness and its ability to incite passionate dialog, but also for its foundation in rivalry and emcees that go for the jugular at all costs for the sheer purpose of the win.

In the end, it’s not clear whether Ye will be able to get his spot back. With Drake announcing the title of his new album, Views From the 6, Kendrick Lamar yet to release his follow up to good kid, m.A.A.d. city and more than a few emcees waiting in the wings, Chi towns’ finest looks like he’ll have an uphill battle. And that’s if he even wants to be involved in Hip-Hop anymore. But it’s the thrill of the competition and the potential battle that will keep us interested. Let the games begin.

Ron Grant is a freelance journalist and blogger originally from Detroit and currently residing in Orlando. He is a contributor at HipHopDX.com, is the lead writer for Orlando-based indie music label Conscious Mind Records and runs his own independent music blog, The Music Nerdvocate. Follow him on Twitter @RonGreezy.