It is nearly impossible to get a bunch of passionate hip hop fans to agree on anything. But I tried anyhow, starting with a series of polls on Facebook that aimed to figure out which emcee or group was the best in the game as driven by the letters of the alphabet. No specific rubric or criteria was given; just a simple request for answers to the question, "Who is the best emcee or hip hop group beginning with the letter 'A'?; 'B'?; 'C'?; 'D'?..." and so on. The responses were immediate and spurred some pretty spirited discussions. A general consensus was ultimately reached for each and per the request of Music Editor Leilani Polk, I'm bringing the poll results to Ear Buds. Each week, I'll reveal a letter and its "winning" artist, and then I'll re-open the question for further debate. Once we finish the first 26, we'll start it all over again fresh.
The letter L is a prime example of democracy proving its worth. If left to my own devices, I would have chosen Big L. I understand that technically his rap name starts with a 'B.' His real name is Lamont Coleman, though, so I could get him by on that. I know his career doesn’t at all match up to that of our actual winner, which might've been different if Big L wasn't tragically taken from us too soon because of a cowardly drive-by shooting. If nowhere else, he lives on in my music collection where his Lifestyles of the Poor & Dangerous still gets heavy rotation.
Big L is my MVP but this isn’t about me or my personal favorites. This is the Hip Hop ABCs and another New York legend lays claim to the Letter L.
Shoutout to Lords of the Underground and Ludacris. Thanks for coming — but more than just the ladies love Cool James. Yes LL Cool J's “I Need Love” is widely regarded as the first hip hop love ballad. Unlike Drake, the current hip hop lady killer, LL adeptly coupled his softer side with alpha male anthems like “Mama Said Knock You Out” and “I’m Bad” while famously battling Kool Moe Dee and later Canibus.
LL Cool J is a true renaissance man. As an emcee, actor, author, fitness guru and yes, worldwide pantie dropper, James Todd Smith has been a beast. He was the headliner on the Legends of the Mic tour that featured a few other Hip Hop ABCs alumni. He owns multiple Grammys and MTV Awards on top of receiving accolades from BET, MTV, the NAACP and Billboard. He can now add leader of the Hip Hop ABCs 'Letter L' to his mantle.
Infinite Skillz is a hip hop fan and emcee. Click here to find out more about his music.