Kanye West, Jay-Z or Kendrick Lamar: who is the greatest male rapper alive?

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Kanye West, Jay-Z or Kendrick Lamar: who is the greatest male rapper alive?

Rap music is accelerating at an unbridled speed this millennium as social and political destruction has necessitated a conduit for transparency and opinion. The breakneck rhymes and rhythms rise listeners from their chair, while the narratives manipulate, acting as a compelling vehicle for change.

From ‘70s recreation rap to the commercial colossus it is today, hip hop has seen the likes of Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac and Easy-E influence generations of crime-stricken populations, breathing life into antagonism opposing conservatism.

Now, the likes of Kanye West, Jay-Z, Drake and Kendrick Lamar are driving a truck in a thunderstorm — the issues of racism and gun violence have never been more significant and with Donald Trump’s erraticism at the throne, the clouds are poised to remain dark and stormy for some time.

Comparing musicians from different eras can be a daft task — society isn’t frozen and relevancy is volatile. Putting Bruno Mars on the same pedestal as Michael Jackson just isn’t right — Jackson was a trailblazer in an era where rock music had a stranglehold, he pioneered new genres and brought old genres back to the fore. Mars is similarly gifted on the stage but has had all the groundwork done before him. Times have changed.

However, when we contrast the influence of current musicians, it can be easier to draw a line. Each artist is afloat in the same lake — when the rainfall hits, everyone gets wet. They are faced with the same industry scoundrels, the same clientele, the same political climate. 

So, when we ask who is the best male rapper alive, today, in 2018, it’s important not just to consider their social awareness and congruency, but also their musical ingenuity. How are they changing the game? How are they influencing the next generation of musicians?

Jay-Z took ‘90s and ‘00s hip hop by storm behind a string of hit albums, with Reasonable Doubt (1996), The Blueprint (2001), and The Black Album (2003) at the fore. He ignited the career of Kanye West, Rihanna and Pharrell Williams, to name a few, yet is he as influential today as the pillars that stand around him? He’s only released two albums since 2009.

West emerged from Jay-Z’s wake and has been riding a monsoon to the top of the world. A party-starter who engineered some of the most memorable pop hits of our generation, ‘Touch the Sky’, ‘Stronger’ and ‘Homecoming’, West has certainly receded from his jovial podium and is more introspective than ever.

West has proven to be far more aloof and capricious in his 40s. In an interview with TMZ radio host, Charlamagne Tha God, West unlocked his grievances. “When you hear about slavery for 400 years … For 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” West said. “You were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.”

West also returned to Twitter in April, after deactivating his account in May 2017, and has been pedaling the medium disclosing future music and unearthing his philosophical musings. However, some of it, such as his polarising advocation for Donald Trump, has rendered him an influential voice losing grip with society.

Other dominant rappers of today include Drake, J Cole, Chance the Rapper, Logic and Tyler, the Creator, yet, when we talk about changing the game, is anyone matching the transcendental power of Kendrick Lamar?

Lamar is as prolific as he is wise, he’s as intellectual as he is accurate, and he’s as adventurous as he is frivolous. Since 2011, Lamar has released four studio albums and a compilation album and each record has taken on a different guise.

2011’s Section.80 followed a string of EP’s and mixtapes and presented an energetic beatmaker at the doorstep of his mountainous potential. The album is idiosyncratic and honest and consolidated a rapper who was content on spilling his mind.

Then came 2012’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, which established Lamar’s repute. It jumped up the charts uncovering a concise storyteller capable of exhibiting his thoughts with lyrical whimsy and succinctness. Shining a light on his childhood and the childhood we all face, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City exhumes our uncontrollable impulsive tendencies omnipresent in our junior years and beyond. A stunning capsule.

To Pimp a Butterfly followed and a represents a truly black album. The channel of his heritage propels an infectious examination into its history, from the first American black president to Wesley Snipes, Nelson Mandela, gun violence victim Trayvon Martin and beyond.

Enlisting the likes of George Clinton, Snoop Dogg, Thundercat and Anna Wise, To Pimp a Butterfly excites Lamar’s jazz and funk imaginations and fostered a new understanding of rap’s malleability.

After To Pimp a Butterfly companion, untitled unmastered,caught everyone off guard upon its release in 2016, Lamar would go onto release one of the most anticipated rap albums of the 21st century, 2017’s DAMN.

With the 14-track thematic behemoth, Lamar had staked his American flag on the summit of Mt Everest. Rap was his, to own and to pilot. Not least did DAMN. mirror an exultant foray into the capability of sound, it ripped the trapdoor off prominent crises pestering him and society today.

“The feeling of an apocalypse happening, but nothing feels awkward,” Lamar raps on ‘FEEL.’ The state of the world summed up in ten words — as we barrel towards Armageddon, we sustain momentum unflinching.

The lucidity of Lamar’s conscience and his fidelity to Christianity awakens a beast inside him. Every lyric could have several different faces which renders DAMN. almost impossible to review. Lamar isn’t arrogant but he’s confident, he knows he’s right and it’s the conviction underlining his perceptions which gives listeners trust.

Lamar isn’t wrong, he won’t make mistakes and he certainly won’t gallivant his fame. As self-absorbance shackles the likes of West and Drake, Lamar’s got loyalty, got royalty, inside his DNA. And it won’t be succumbing any time soon.