See any lies? I don’t. Even if you don’t agree with my choice, chances are you still agree with the title. That’s because the shit is true. The greatest lyricist breathing air and bleeding red is from the Motor City. And it’s not who you think it is.
You see, I come from the Boom Bap era.
And in that era, Rap was all about lyricism. It was the era of backpackers. It was the era of ciphers. At any given moment in any given place, a freestyle session could go down. And not a session where you read off your phone (phones weren’t even around then), I’m talking real sessions where the verses were actually made up the second they flew out of your mouth.
Rap, in its essence…is lyricism.
So knowing all of this, you can appreciate that I’m not going to ramble off names like Jay-Z or Drake or Kendrick Lamar or anyone else with a ridiculously large commercial following that can generate enormous sales numbers and therefore skew a truthful perspective on their actual skills. Not that they aren’t great lyricists, but hey, let’s be real: they’re not the greatest – and it’s not even close.
And while you are quite possibly still picking your mouth up off of the floor after realizing that I didn’t get on my knees and suck Kendrick Lamar’s balls like most people do these days, allow me to add further shock to your system by announcing that the greatest lyricist alive isn’t Eminem either.
Yeah. I know.
With that revelation, you probably want to tie up each of my limbs with microphone cords, then draw & quarter me with runaway crackheads. But listen, Eminem’s popularity regarding lyricism is based largely on reputation rather than actual content. And to be clear, Em does have the wordplay, but he is no longer in his prime (and yes, Rap has a prime. See LL Cool J’s steep drop off). Sometimes, Em is confusing the hell out of us with his infatuation Indian accents.
Lyricism is more than just rhyming a bunch of damn syllables together. Lyricism is a science. It’s a delicate combination of extremely creative wordplay as well as complex rhyme structures that are still somehow simple enough to not fly over the audience’s head.
For example, Canibus has amazingly complex rhyme structures, but half the time, you don’t know what the fuck he is talking about. You actually need a thesarus to follow along with a Canibus song. On the contrary, Snoop’s rhyme structure is super simple as hell, but he still manages to keep the audience’s attention and not confuse the living shit out of them with scientific terminology nobody’s ever heard of.
A great lyricist, on the other hand, can do both. And the greatest alive now to strike that delicate balance is…
…Royce Da 5’9″
But what more can be said about dude that hasn’t already been talked about a thousand times? The dude is sick. His rhymes never sound old or used. He’s constantly coming with something different. While at the same time, he keeps us engaged without making us feel as stupid as a short-sleeved sweater. He’s mastered the combo. And Big Sean is not far behind. While Eminem once was that dude.
Which brings up a totally valid question: what is it about Detroit? Why is Motown a lyrical hotbed?
Well, to be completely honest with you, I don’t have the answers to that. Not now anyway. All I know is the greatest lyricist alive has a Detroit address. And if you’re looking for bars on bars on bars, look no further than Royce. WERD.