The Great Debates: The 7 Biggest Rap Arguments That Will Never Be Settled

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Last week, my homeboy and I were locked in some senseless back and forth regarding an artist’s greatness and accolades. We spent the better part of 20 minutes going back and forth before I realized that it really didn’t matter. I knew I was going to walk away feeling just as strongly about my point as he would his. But what the convo did was remind me that Hip-Hop music and culture are full of the types of arguments based on more opinion than fact but treated as if their the gospel.

After we finished our spat, we started talking about debates in rap that will forever live on because most people were like us: in the absence of facts, they believe what they believe as the truth. Here are six of said debates and we encourage you to weigh in via the comments and enter in your own arguments that you share with friends.

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1. Kanye’s Best/Worst Album

If there’s one thing the Internet can disagree on, it’s Kanye’s discography. Kanye’s creative swings have led to diverse albums. For example, The College Dropout doesn’t mirror Yeezus in any way whatsoever…but each project has diehards who stand behind it fiercely annnddd they think the other side’s choice is trash.

Jay’s name can swapped in for Kanye’s and, even though he ranked his own albums, people still will disagree. There’s no real argument for Nas since Illmatic was his peak and everything else behind that is just mediocre at best. Also, do not mention Outkast because every Outkast album is peak excellence.

2. Atlanta/The South Ruined Rap

Rap’s version of the Civil War. A battle that left deep scars and divided many still to this day. Purely geographical preferences here but people will still argue it. Rap went through so many seismic shifts in the 2000s – money and popularity increased, beats changed once sampling decreased, etc. – and snap-trap-ringtone rap contributed to the erosion. Still, it’s hard to pin the blame on one city or region for causing the decline that was already in the process of happening.

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3. New York Fell Off

Friend: How could NY fall off when Jay’s one of the top artists in the game and he hails from Brooklyn. He’s a global phenomenon.

Me: Yeah, Jay stills reps BK but he’s doing it from afar, in like Cuba somewhere while lampin’ in a beach chair.

Another regional squabble that made the rounds in a big way last year when Kendrick Lamar came through and kicked over the buildings, sending the game into a tizzy for months during the latter half of 2013. It didn’t help that Trinidad Jame$ pulled the scab off right as the wounds were finally starting to heal initially. Do chart position and sales equate to dominance? Can NYC still be rap’s most influential trendsetter even if the city’s no longer setting the trends?

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4. Jay Z vs. Nas

Sometimes, you can look at a person and tell their religious or political affiliations. You can never identify a Jay or Nas fan on a surface label observation. But ask a person “‘Takeover’ or ‘Ether’?” and it can get heated quick. Friends shun friends, family members disown each other and more. The problem is that both MCs are now friends, bygones being bygones, but they have fans who questions their peer’s musical tastes because of this battle.

5. A Tribe Called Quest (>, < , =) De La Soul

A lot of in-fighting involved here among Native Tongue friends and family. While many will say De La came first, thus paving the way for Tribe, others contend that ATCQ’s massive success overshadowed their predecessors. Rap’s version of “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”? Honestly, it’s a win-win situation since both groups have strong catalogs.


6. “He’s Alright But He’s Not Real”

The quest for authenticity. Rap’s one of the only genres that downright demands that musicians actually live what they speak about in songs. For everyone who says authenticity is important, there’s a Rick Ross fan who guffaws at the notion.

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7. Numbers Don’t Lie

We all know this debate began with 50 and Kanye’s showdown at the registers in 2007 with their respective albums, Curtis and Graduation. Boo Boo drummed up the hype, Kanye crushed him 957,000 to 691,000 sold but the argument still persists today, even though the industry as a whole has seen a slump in sales and artists have shifted away from relying on the old retail model.

Still, let a friend’s favorite artist release an album that hits on the charts and they’ll yell “I told you so” until the end of time. Now, should that same artist flop, the same friend will speak the inverse, staunchly standing by the idea that sales don’t reflect quality of the work or greatness.

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