Throne Watch 2014: Who is the best rapper alive?

Desert NY/LAnd’s unofficial GOATimeline:

2010-?? Kanye West

2008-09 Lil Wayne

2003-07 Jay Z

2001-02 Eminem

1998-00 Andre 3000

1994-97 Notorious B.I.G.

1991-93 Ice Cube

1988-90 Chuck D

1985-87 LL Cool J

1982-84 Grandmaster Flash

It’s pretty clear that when Kanye dropped Yeezus last year, he also dropped any chance of retaining the title of “Best Rapper Alive” he attained in 2010 after he released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. As far as the GOATimeline (above) is concerned, his three-going-on-four year run is among the most impressive streaks of the aforementioned rappers, but barring some Beyonce-like miracle secret release from Yeezy, we’re due for a new occupant on the throne. It’s time to play the odds.

Drake (even odds)

The throne was made for Aubrey Drake Graham. Its caretakers are already measuring Drake’s fanny size and crown circumference, and all that is left to do is for Kanye to run out the clock and let Canada’s first big rap star step into a rightly-deserved spotlight. There is one concern that doesn’t make this an inevitability: Drake’s 2013, which was arguably the artist’s best year yet, but one that didn’t make as much noise as the one posted by his Chi-town contemporary. Last year’s Nothing Was The Same is a great album, and it would have easily propelled Drake into his royal highness had Yeezus not been the polarizing monster that it was. Drizzy just may be too nice to step on throats on the path to immortality. Luckily for him, he doesn’t need to.

Kendrick Lamar (3 to 2)

Kendrick has a pretty decent shot to eventually take the throne and an outside chance to grab it right now. The one advantage he has over the renaissance man Drake is a slightly superior gift with words; he otherwise lacks the total package-y-ness that his biggest rival can floss. His much talked about verse on Big Sean’s “Control” sent a loud warning shot to anyone even trying to step on the same stage as Los Angeles’s hometown hero, and though it wasn’t nearly as good as the attention it got, Good Kid M.A.A.D. City certainly was. A repeat performance of his classic debut album may vault him into the spot.

J. Cole (4 to 1)

I don’t particularly like J. Cole, but I’ve been informed that on the East Coast, he’s the number one “I don’t like rap except for…” rapper. Considering he’s a watered down Kanye reboot, his chances to follow his inspiration on the throne is pretty slim, but with two number 1 albums already and a legion of fans east of the Mississippi (seriously, no one cares about J. Cole out here), he’s formed a pretty solid regal path.

Nicki Minaj (5 to 1)

Minaj’s lackluster solo albums and bad American Idol press shouldn’t distract from her incredible talent and showmanship, which is probably the best in the game after Lady Gaga’s. Right now it feels that she’s going to have to make a decision to focus on either singing or rapping, because she would be successful doing both but she can’t possibly fulfill either potential with split attention, and my hope is that she’ll stick with rapping. There are plenty of female pop stars holding the fort down right now, but Minaj is probably the best chance we’ve seen so far for a female best rapper alive.

Macklemore (6 to 1)

Macklemore proved that he wasn’t a flash in the pan by releasing successful #1 singles after “Thrift Shop,” and though those songs were more empowered by Ryan Lewis’s playful production than Mack’s marginal abilities, he’s nonetheless throttled himself as a viable force in the rap game. His popularity, especially in suburbia, is unquestionable, though let’s not kid ourselves: he needs to get better at rapping if he wants a legitimate shot at the throne.

Azealia Banks (10 to 1)

They’re two different people, but it’s fair to say that Azealia Banks has the same skillset as her rival Nicki, although it’d also be fair to argue that Banks is better than Nicki at everything. What puts her below her main competition is her lack of material. Yes, “212” is one of the best rap songs ever released, but Banks hasn’t exactly made an impact beyond Twitter since her mindblowing first single was released. I would love to see her succeed and feel she would be a better fit for the throne than almost anyone on this list, but until she puts out anything of consequence it’s tough to forecast any realization of the boundless potential she has.

Chance the Rapper (12 to 1)

It’s not going to happen this year, and chances are that it’s probably not going to happen at all, but anyone who listens to Chance and his druggy brilliance understands that he certainly has the talent to make it all the way to the top. My biggest fear is that 2013’s most infectious rapper might trip up somewhere along the road before releasing his first proper LP, and it certainly wouldn’t be an unprecedented fall (Lupe Fiasco, Twista, if we want to keep it in the city). But come on, no one can listen to “Good Ass Intro” and not think that this guy is going to be the biggest thing pretty soon.

A$AP Rocky (20 to 1)

A$AP benefits from he and Nicki being Rap Mecca’s only major players, but other than that, he doesn’t have much going for him. He’s a perfectly capable rapper, there’s just nothing that interesting about him beyond some of the best production in the game supporting his enjoyable music. He’s certainly capable of attaining the title, I just don’t see it as remotely possible.

Kanye West (50 to 1)

Two separate ascensions to the throne would be unprecedented and highly unlikely, but if anyone could do it, it would be Kanye, no?


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