Cormega, who recently spoke to us about his forthcoming album “Mega Philosophy," is one of a seemingly endless list of superstar lyricists to emerge from the Queensbridge housing development in New York. But Cormega was actually born in another one of rap's most fertile grounds, Bedford-Stuyvesant. For us, that was reason enough to drop our all-time top five Bed-Stuy rappers not named Corey McKay.
5. Lil’ Kim
Lil’ Kim changed the way females rapped. Before Biggie’s protégé emerged in 1995 on Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s “Player’s Anthem,” women who rapped were typically ladies on the mic. Sure, Salt ‘N Pepa, MC Lyte and Queen Latifah wove sexuality into their lyrics, but Lil’ Kim shoved it down listener’s throats – literally and figuratively.
Kim was over the top in virtually every way, whether rapping about her fixation on designer wares (“Get Money”), her bedroom abilities (“Dreams”) or her mic skills (“No Time”).
She was the sexy hood chick that every guy wanted to be with and that every girl wanted to be like (whether overtly or secretly). The Notorious K.I.M. became more brazen throughout her career, influencing a generation of female rappers to be forceful on the mic and put it all out on the table.
4. Mos Def
From his early work in the late 1990s with Talib Kweli as one-half of Black Star to his eclectic solo work, Mos Def has often delivered top-tier material.
With a penchant for political commentary and analyzing the lingering effects of social and political oppression in the United States, Mos makes pulling back the veil of perception to reveal reality a hallmark of his lyrics. He’s railed against the music industry, America’s societal shortcomings and injustices throughout the world, endearing Mos to rap fans clamoring for substance.
Due to his robust acting career and his work as the frontman of rock group Black Jack Johnson, Mos Def’s rap output has been limited at times, but when Mos Def rocks the mic, the results are typically potent.
3. The Notorious B.I.G.
Some consider the late Biggie Smalls to be the best rapper of all time, but he only released one album while he was alive – his second album, “Life After Death,” in 1997, dropped soon after Big was killed in a still-unsolved murder in Los Angeles.
It would have been interesting to see B.I.G.’s work evolve had he lived. The Black Frank White showed that he was supremely gifted, masterfully blending the gangster rap ethos synonymous with Southern California at the time with the type of mind-bending lyricism that was long a staple of New York’s premier rappers.
Big Poppa was a tremendous storyteller (“Things Done Changed”), player (“One More Chance”), wordsmith (“Unbelievable”) and hitmaker “Hypnotize”).
2. Big Daddy Kane
Throughout the late 1980s, Big Daddy Kane was possibly the best, most well-rounded rapper in the game.
His remarkable braggadocio songs (“Ain’t No Half-Steppin’,” “Warm It Up, Kane”), ruggedly sexual cuts (“Smooth Operator,” “I Get The Job Done”), political commentary selections (“I’ll Take you There,” “Children R The Future”) and platforms for his ahead-of-his-time tongue-twisting flow (“Raw (Remix),” “Set It Off”) made BDK one of the few rappers able to deliver songs of the highest caliber that ran the creative gamut and appealed to both male and female fans.
Kane’s scorching appearance on the landmark Marley Marl posse cut “The Symphony” and the title track to the “Lean On Me” soundtrack, among others, showed that Kane, when at his best, was almost unparalleled.
On “What More Can I Say,” Jigga pretty much summed it up. There’s never been anyone this good for this long (other than arguably LL Cool J, among others).
Regardless, Hova has consistently released potent albums beginning with his first, 1996’s highly acclaimed “Reasonable Doubt.”
Since then, the Brooklynite has delivered dozens of hit singles that highlight his lyrical wizardry as well as his uncanny ability to pick impeccable production to flow over. Jay-Z has also been able to seamlessly adapt to changes in sounds and styles during his reign on the top of the rap game, a virtually unmatched feat. He’s done Bedford-Stuyvesant proud, indeed.