Black Thought Unveils His Top 5 MCs: Navigating The Palette Of Hip-Hop Greatness

By Edem Latsu Nukafu

Philadelphia’s lyrical virtuoso, Black Thought, co-founder of the iconic hip-hop band The Roots, recently delved into the annals of rap history to reveal his top five MCs. Known for his profound storytelling and impeccable wordplay, Black Thought shared insights into the foundational figures who have influenced and shaped his illustrious career.

In a conversation with HipHopDX during a promotional run for his memoir, “The Upcycled Self: A Memoir on the Art of Becoming Who We Are,” Black Thought emphasized that his top five MCs represent his “primary colors,” reflecting the essence of his artistic foundation.

1. Kool G Rap:

The Technical Maestro Black Thought’s first pick on his rap Mount Rushmore is Kool G Rap, a legend from the Juice Crew. Praising G Rap’s technical prowess and expansive vocabulary, Black Thought commended the enduring quality of G Rap’s rhymes, citing classics like “Poison,” “Men at Work,” and “Road to Riches.”

2. Big Daddy Kane:

The Stylistic Smooth Operator Staying within the Juice Crew’s orbit, Black Thought selected Big Daddy Kane as his second choice. Contrasting Kane with G Rap, he highlighted Kane’s stylistic flair, describing him as the “antithesis to a G Rap.” Kane’s smoothness and distinctive style left an indelible mark on hip-hop, influencing the genre in ways that extended beyond mere technical proficiency.

3. Rakim:

The Fearless Trailblazer Rakim claimed the third spot on Black Thought’s list, hailed as the trailblazer who fearlessly deviated from established rap norms. Black Thought underscored Rakim’s refusal to conform to prevailing styles, emphasizing his unique cadence and groundbreaking approach to lyricism. Rakim’s influence resonates in the way he treated his voice as a musical instrument, ushering in a new era for MCs.

4. Chuck D:

The Activist and Voice for the Voiceless Chuck D, the frontman of Public Enemy, secured the fourth position for his socially and politically charged commentary. Black Thought praised Chuck D’s activism, highlighting his ability to deliver powerful messages while maintaining a strong beat. Chuck D’s courageous decision to be a voice for the voiceless during a time when hip-hop was undergoing pivotal changes left an indelible mark on the genre.


The Regal Chief Rocker Rounding out the top five is LL COOL J, described by Black Thought as hip-hop’s first legitimate solo superstar. Black Thought reminisced about LL COOL J’s influence during his formative years, noting LL’s regal grace and royal stature even at a young age. Having toured with LL COOL J in 2023, Black Thought attested to LL’s enduring authenticity and legendary status.

In honoring these MCs, Black Thought showcased the diverse elements that contribute to the rich tapestry of hip-hop. From technical mastery to stylistic innovation, fearless trailblazing, political activism, and regal charisma, each artist on Black Thought’s list represents a unique hue in the vibrant palette of rap greatness. As Black Thought continues to make his mark on the hip-hop landscape, his top five MCs serve as guiding lights, inspiring a new generation of storytellers and lyricists.


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