Kool Mo Dee’s New Book Ranks the 50 Greatest MCs

Let the greatest MC argument begin anew. Kool Mo Dee was on Tavis Smiley’s show last night promoting his new book, There’s a God on the Mic: The True 50 Greatest MCs. It seems that Mo Dee, like many of us, was moved to make his own list after seeing the list that MTV put together last year. ( Here’s my list if you haven’t seen it yet. ) Here’s the description of his book:

Rapper Kool Mo Dee thrived during hip-hop’s nascent years as a vocalist whose tongue-twisting rhymes and speedy delivery put his counterparts to shame. On his 1987 album, How Ya Like Me Now, Kool came up with a ‘hip-hop report card’: a method of rating MCs (Emcees, Masters of Ceremonies, Master Communicators, or rap vocalists) as a way of separating the premier MCs from their often one-dimensional, overrated counterparts (“Sucka MCs”). Building on this original list, Kool has put together an extensive rating system to compile the definitive list of the greatest MCs of all time. Kool rates each MC based on seventeen different categories, ranging from the artist’s lyricism, vocabulary, and freestyling ability to his longevity, body of work, and social impact. Each artist is given a numerical score from one to ten in each of the seventeen categories, as well as an explanation for how this rating was determined. The book includes a complete discography and full-color photograph for each MC, and will also have supplemental lists, such as the top ten storytellers and top ten rhymers.

It definitely seems worth a read and the categorical ranking is a nice touch. There’s so much to consider when judging such a subjective thing, so no doubt his list will prove to be just as controversial as every other list. He did reveal his top 5 on Tavis’ show (Update: I now know his top 10 thanks to Trent):

  1. Melle Mel

  2. Rakim

  3. KRS-ONE

  4. Big Daddy Kane

  5. Kool Mo Dee

  6. Grandmaster Caz

  7. LL Cool J

  8. Chuck D

  9. Notorious B.I.G.

  10. Lauryn Hill

He also let it slip that he ranked Biggie at #9 and Tupac at #13. In what I consider an odd step, he left Eminem, DMX and Canibus off of the list because their body of work isn’t large enough. Well if Biggie’s body of work is large enough for a ranking surely DMX and Eminem qualify to be ranked. Anyway, I had to crack a smile at Tupac’s ranking. I have Tupac ranked #12 on my list and I’ve been fighting with Tupac fans over that ever since I posted my list back in June. (See the comments on the copy of my list that I posted over at BlogCritics) Mo Dee can now have the joy of dealing with those Pac fanatics. 🙂

Hopefully somebody will post his entire list so we can proceed to critique it.


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  4. Yo I had to crack a smile at Tupac’s ranking. I have Tupac ranked #13 on my list and I’ve been fighting with Tupac fans over that ever since I posted my list back in April.

    call me on +25677981904 for expln about this ight

    Melle Mel
    Big Daddy Kane
    Kool Mo Dee
    Grandmaster Caz
    LL Cool J
    Chuck D
    Notorious B.I.G.
    Lauryn Hill

  5. this list is rediculus…..am i the only person who realizes that Kool Mo Dee’s top 5 mc’s are all from the eighties. Who is Kool Mo Dee to judge the top 50 mc’s and insult tupac by placing himself seven spots in front of tupac.

  6. Don’t get me rong, Kool Moe Dee is a pioneer of Hip Hop, but I have never seen him ranked on any poll as a top 10 nominee. I am not a huge Pac fan but Pac should be along with Rakim and Biggie as the greatest of all time around the 1-5 region of my own personal poll. Got love for ya Kool, but you lost some “Kool” points for that one.

  7. #1. Rakim
    #2. Big Daddy Kane
    #3. Jay Z.
    #4. KRS 1
    #5. Melle Mel
    #6. Kool Moe Dee
    #7. Nas
    #8. Notorious B.I.G.
    #9. Chuck D
    #10.EST – from 3X Dope
    #11. Grandmaster Caz
    #12. Tupac
    #13. LL Cool J
    #14. Slick Rick
    #15. Keith Cowboy
    #16. Greg Nice

  8. Yo Kool Moe Dee was my mutha—ker,but his list is kinda crazy(some of it),I don’t know if I can pick a top 10 or 50 in order but –
    1. 2 Pac
    2. Melle Mel
    3. KRS1
    4. Chuck D.
    5. Scarface
    6. Nas
    7. Ice Cube
    8. LL CooL J
    9. Notorious Big
    10. Ice T.
    11. Big Daddy Kane
    12. Rakim
    13. MC Lyte
    14. Mia X
    15.Jay Z
    Thats my list,then I don’t know mighta left somebody off Moe Dee mighta been coming up soon,I mean Grandmaster Caz is cold ,so is Kool G Rap and Eminem comes wit it but they ain’t top 10 DMX comes wit it too and Lauryn Hill is definately one of the greats too so its a ? but I will definately say no ones coming close to 2 Pac – no one.

  9. Oh hey I forgot Andre 3000 from Out Kast put him at #7 so you can scratch Jay Z out the top 15 and I don’t think or did’nt think we was including groups cuz Rin DMS & The Beastie Boys & Whodini would have to come into consideration then – I’m Out

  10. I think this is ma op wach that oik?

    1. 2 Pac
    2. Melle Mel
    3. KRS1
    4. Chuck D.
    5. Scarface
    6. Nas
    7. Ice Cube
    8. LL CooL J
    9. Notorious Big
    10. Ice T.
    11. Big Daddy Kane
    12. Rakim
    13. MC Lyte
    14. Mia X
    15.Jay Z

  11. All you ‘kids’ are crazy. When someone of Kool Moe Dee’s stature speaks, you shut and listen. it is my personal opinion that nobody after ’92 should be in the top 10 anyway. People like Melle Mel and Moe Dee created styles, while people like Biggie and Pac just reinvented them. If we’re talking 50 of ALL TIME, in no way should JayZ, Nas, 2pac, Eminem or any other new flash in the pan kid be in the top 10. Period.

  12. 1. Jay Z
    2. Biggie
    3. Nas
    4. Raekwon / Ghostface (wu tang)
    5. Big L
    6. Rakim
    7. Common
    8. Tupac
    9. Talib Kweli/Mos Def (black star)
    10. Andre 3000

  13. I don’t like to parse out the individuals, since the whole crew counts. With that caveat, here’s the failed emcee’s list.

    #1. Eric B & rakim
    #2. P.E.
    #3. Pac
    #4. Brand Nubian
    #5. NWA
    #6. Canibus
    #7. Mos Def
    #8. Alkaholics
    #9. Big Daddy Kane
    #10. Freestyle Fellowship/Aceyalone

    and bringing up the rear at #1,743,012: MC Fleshy.

    (But with a little more work, I think I can overtake Jamie Kennedy for #1,743,011)

  14. Here is my Top #10
    1. KRS-ONE
    2. Rakim
    3. Scarface
    4. Biggie
    5. Pac
    6. Todd Smith (LL)
    7. Slick Rick
    8. Ice Cube
    9. Chuck D
    10. Lauryn Hill- The most lyrical female ever. Ya Dig!
    I almost gave Kool G Rap # 10.

  15. My Top 10 Favorite MCs (which, let us note, is very, VERY different from the Top 10 Best MCs, about which I would not presume):

    1) Shock G/Humpty Hump
    2) Mr. Lif
    3) Eminem
    4) Sir Mix-a-Lot
    5) Chuck D
    6) Roxanne Shante
    7) That Limey Guy From The Streets
    8) Rakim
    9) MC Hawking
    10) Tigra and/or Bunny

    It’s not my fault, it’s my ears’. Incidentally, I greatly enjoy and recommend KMD’s book, although his refusal to acknowledge the supremacy of Humpty is disheartening. I’m sure future civilizations will forgive him, though.


    1. MF DOOM
    2. J-LIVE
    3. MASTA ACE
    4. L-BOOGIE
    5. COMMON
    6. BLAQ *
    7. MF GRIMM

  17. 1. Rakim
    2. KRS-One
    3. Big Daddy Kane
    4. Nas
    5. GZA
    6. Notorious B.I.G
    7. Big L
    8. Kool G Rap
    9. Jay-Z
    10. MF DOOM

    Licka mah nutz
    But really, no one cares about anyone else’s list, and it’s all about taste. Except for mine, i’m completely right. My list is the fact. =P

  18. The Real top 10:

    6.Big L
    9.Snoop Dogg
    10.Notorius B.I.G.

    How can 2pac not be the greatest? People knock him an say ohh he didn’t say enough metaphores or punchlines those are fun an all but he spit truths that last forever u can’t listen to a punchline or metaphore from 10 years ago an be intrigued still. Plus people so used to Pac spitting the trut his punchline an metaphores go un-noticed Cocaine is ah product of the devil../Am I selling my soul? Keep in mind his delivery an timing was unmatched so me quoating ain’t nothing but actually hear it an your blown away. There’s many more I ain’t even gon qoute Pac is the nicest dude to visit the studio.

  19. If you kids, which most of you have, have forgotten, first and foremost G Rap, you are insane. Why? Because he started the whole Mafioso vibe that still exists in this game today, but secondly, he made sure his version of it was inimitable and unstoppable, and none of you stupid rappers with an education before sixth grade could ever begin to even try to grasp the vocabulary and cultural allusions in his rhymes. The only mahfucka betta than him, and just barely, because unlike any other emcee he admits to sweating G rap as a kid, is Big L, strictly because he took his shit two steps further with the polysyllabic rhymes and the rhymes in the middle of bars to boot. One Love, Sugglife from D.C. the new truth coming soon.

  20. So many truly great rappers and choose 10? It changes daily for me but the No ONE is always Big Daddy Kane. It’s my first time using the Internet & I’ve already found it frustrating to find some update on BDK. Can somebody help me please and recommend where to go?

  21. Here is my TOP 20 MC Ranks:

    1. 2Pac
    2. Notorious B.I.G
    3. Dr. Dre
    4. Eminem
    5. Nas
    6. Jay-Z
    7. Snoop Dogg
    8. IceCube
    9. Run DMC
    10. Rakim
    11. DMX
    12. R.Kelly
    13. Busta Rhymes
    14. Will Smith
    15. LL Cool J
    16. 50Cent
    17. Ludacris
    18. Nelly
    19. Ja rule
    20. Outkast

  22. 1.tupac(versatile)-biggie(rhymescheme)
    7.big pun
    10.lauryn hill

  23. Tupac Shakur is by far the greatest rapper ever. No MC will ever reach Pac’s level. He was and will always be in a class of his own. Cant’ list him together with other MCs coz he is too good for any of them.

  24. 1)Nasty Nas
    2)Mobb Deep
    4)Black star Mos def and Talib Kwalie
    5)MC Shan
    6)Roxanne Shante
    7)Crown city rockers (Mission)
    8)Wu-tand clan
    9)A tribe called quest
    10)Big Noyd

    Queensbridge mc’s are the shit!!!

  25. Here is my personal 10 favorite MCs:
    01. Kool Moe Dee
    03. Estacy (from Whodini)
    03. Chuck D
    04. Talib Kweli
    05. Canibus
    06. Smoke (from Field Mob)
    07. Cee-lo
    08. Mac (from No Limit Records)
    09. Joe Budden
    I know I’m going to get crap for this…
    10. Macho Man Randy Savage (he is a kick to listen to)

    1 TUPAC
    2 SHAKUR

  27. 1.Mac (If you never hear him, you’ll never know)

    The rest are up for grabs, have fun!!!

  28. The Top 10 MC’s????? Wow,…. what a a loaded question. Thats like trying to list the top 10 vacation spots of all time. What is your style? Do you look at the Comic MC, or the Cause MC? Are they in the main stream? Are they underground? There are plenty of MCs out there that could put any one of the known MCs to shame if they choose to go main stream. Maybe the question should be what MC has, or had the most impact on you as a listener? What MC causes you to stop, look and listen to the radio or player that they are on? My opinion of what a top MC is. Do they desirve to be called A “Master of Cerimony”? Heshe needs to grab you and hold you the intire time they are on the Mic.
    The one MC that I feel has done justice to the “MC” tittle is KRS-1. He has a way and a sound that I hang on and listen to what he has to say. And for a little white kid from AZ he did that from day ONE.


    P.S. I want to say thanks to all that listed the non-main stream MCs. I have alot of research to do.

  29. its too hard to pick in order the top 10 rappers, but its too easy to pick the single greatest, that is no other than 2pac. big, nas, cube, rakim, krs-1, jayz, easye, big l, chuckd, big pun are real good rappers but in all honestness there is no rapper now or in a billion years that would come 1/10th to being good as 2pac. If you are old enough to live 50 or 60 more years, every rapper PRESENT to this day will be forgot but 2pac’ name will still live on.

  30. 1.Nas
    10.LL COOL J

  31. 1. Rakim
    2. Pac
    3. KRS-one
    4. Nas
    5. Chuck D
    6. GZA
    7. Jay-Z
    8. Kool Mo Dee
    9. BIG
    10. Ice Cube

  32. Here’s the 10 illest I’ve heard:
    4.G Rap
    7.Ice Cube
    9.Big Daddy Kane
    10.Slick Rick

  33. Moe Dee is more qualified than any of us as he was there in the beginning stages hiphop. Here’s mine from what i’ve heard anyway

    Melle Mel
    LL Cool J
    Big Daddy Kane
    Jay Z
    Slick Rick

  34. I think it’s refreshing and long overdue that the likes of Melle Mel (The Greatest ever!), Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Caz and Chuck D are recognized for their contribution and greatness in Hip Hop!! Too often I think all-time lists don’t allow for the pioneers of Hip-Hop, only those from the 90’s onwards, but an all-time list should be just that!!

    The only changes I probably would have made to the great Kool Moe Dee’s list are that I would have placed Chuck D higher, perhaps in the top 5, and probably replaced Lauryn Hill with either Run, Ice-T or Ice Cube!! That said I think it is accurate and interesting from one of the all-time greats. Peace!!!

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