Hip-hop is now a global culture, touching down on every continent on the planet.
Arguably the driving force in youth culture for about four decades now, coming to any kind of consensus is virtually impossible.
So the BBC's new poll charting the best hip-hop tracks of all time has a lot to be applauded for, a sign that the broadcaster is willing to engage firmly with the full scope of the culture.
Hitting up 100 journalists, critics, broadcasters, academics, and more, the BBC compiled the 25 best hip-hop songs of all time.
The results were... pretty disappointing. Notorious B.I.G. stole the crown, but the full list felt hopelessly flawed.
Here's a few key points.
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For a group as revolutionary as Odd Future who reinforced the era of collectives when there was a floodgate of groups entering the scene, for example Pro Era and A$AP Mob, it’s incredibly disrespectful to not include a song from any of the members on the list.
Whether it be leader Tyler, The Creator ('Yonkers') or Earl Sweatshirt ('Drop'), these young men changed the dynamic of hip-hop and the lengths you could go to regarding creation.
With that being said, it was also rather disappointing to not see any other artists that have pushed 21st century rap. Although she may not be the most likeable individual, Nicki Minaj paved a way for female rappers especially with her underground anthem ‘Itty Bitty Piggy’. Despite the fact that it didn’t chart, the song is recited word for word whenever it is played at a function reinstating the longevity and classic essence of the song.
With artists such as Drake, as well as previous Clash cover stars Mac Miller, Travis Scott and Pusha T not being included in this list clearly shows a clear skewed view of 21st century rap and how it’s not appreciated in helping continue the hip-hop scene.
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It shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us, but the lack of female representation in this list (as in the separate critics’ choices) seriously underplays the contribution - and skill - of women to hip-hop over the decades.
Despite Queen Latifah’s rightful spot with ‘U.N.I.T.Y’ it would be refreshing to see acknowledgment of some of the fierce females from the harder end of the rap spectrum in hip-hop’s golden age - Lil Kim, say, with pretty much anything from ‘Hard Core’, or Rah Digga who broke out from Busta Rhymes’ Flipmode Squad spitting lyrical excellence. And it’s frankly a crime that Missy Elliot - a gifted producer as well as an MC - doesn’t make the final list.
Then there’s the absence of any huge contemporary female US MCs on both the list and the critics’ choices - Nikki Minaj? Cardi B? - not to mention UK rappers like Little Simz.
To see what we’re missing maybe check out Jean Grae and her ‘The Bootleg of The Bootleg EP’, and Digga’s ‘Dirty Harriet’ - an especially underrated record and East Coast classic. ‘Tight’, ‘Harriet Thugman’, and ‘What They Call Me’ could all easily sit on this Top 20 list and hold their own.
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The Golden Age of Hip-Hop is a little like the Baby Boomers in broader society: they soaked up the money, made the most of the opportunity, and didn’t leave a hell of a lot for the people to follow.
As a result, it’s perhaps not surprising that this BBC poll is the latest to re-emphasise that age-old truism, namely that the Golden Age is the only era in hip-hop to matter – indeed, it accounts for 14 out of 25 entries.
Now, we’ve nothing against Golden Age Hip-Hop – certainly, many of our own choices for a similar list would come from this era – but equally, it has this perverse effect of pushing equally-deserving eras to the side-lines.
Perhaps it’s best left to Vince Staples – another rapper who seemingly wasn’t deserving of the cut – to state our thoughts most clearly: “The ‘90s get a lot of credit,” he said. “I don’t really know why… early 2000s is where its at.”
“Whatever you were watching or listening to when you were young is always going to be your favourite thing because it made you what you are today. That’s always going to be something that you appreciate the most, so that’s everyone’s favourite era.”
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One of the side effects of framing so much of this list towards the Golden Age is that it reflects the broader geography of hip-hop at the time.
OutKast excepted, Southern hip-hop is sorely excluded, with not one track from crunk as a whole being deemed good enough to make the countdown. It’s enough to make Lil Jon weep (well, almost).
Equally, it’s curiously ironic that a poll pitched towards an international viewpoint – the list of 100 curators moves from the United States to Nigeria and Japan in its global span – is so resolute in its North American references.
The past 40 years has seen hip-hop culture ascend to become a truly global community – but this list is essentially a closed border viewpoint of what they deem to be an exclusively American artform.
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Indeed, the full list of those who voted – and who they voted for – reveals a continual bugbear for British fans. Simply put: grime and hip-hop are not inter-changeable terms, the two have separate identities, and despite influencing one another they remain distinct.
Which is why it’s a little surprising to see some classic grimes cuts make the individual votes for this list. Mike Sunda opts for Wiley’s ‘Wot Do U Call It?’ a song that explicitly references the emergence of grime, while American critic Larry Fitzmaurice opts for Dizzee Rascal’s ‘I Luv U’ – Dylan Mills’ debut single proper, it’s a certifiable grime classic.
No doubt some would see this point as being pedantic, but with grime now almost 20 years old it’s a little disheartening to see it continually being misrepresented on a global scale.
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