Reggie Noble might be the greatest rapper of all time.
Think about it...
A. Classic Albums: 2 (What Thee Album, Dare Iz A Darkside. 3, depending on how you feel about Muddy Waters.)
B. Longevity: 21 years, 7 solo albums, 3 collaborative albums (1990 debut on EPMD's Business As Usual. Releases classic debut solo album, What Thee Album, in 1992)
C. Lyrical Skill: Unquestionably chillaxing amongst rap’s all time top spitters. If Hip Hop’s hall of fame was the cast of Hangover, then Redman is rap’s Zack Galifinakis: Eccentric in the best possible way, will steal a scene in a millisecond, insanely quotable, and when it’s all over, was the best part of the whole show. Funk Doc is in the Top Tier of emcees who consistently shut down every song, cypher or posse cut on lyrical skill alone -- right along with Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z, Ludacris, Eminem, KRS-One, Andre 3000, pre-It-Was-Written-Nas, Ghostface, Black Thought, Pharoahe Monch, Biggie and Big Pun.
Second Tier: Lil Wayne, Jadakiss, crack-hiatus-DMX, Lupe, Kanye, Mos Def, hadn’t-yet-fallen-for-That-Thing-Lauryn-Hill, Big Boi, post-Illmatic-Nas, Phonte, Joell Ortiz, Method Man, Doggystyle-era-Snoop-Dogg
D. Commercial Success: Doc’s Da Name, El Nino and Blackout!, are all certified platinum (according to the always accurate Wikipedia). What Thee Album, Dare Iz A Darkside, Muddy Waters, Malpractice all went gold.
E. Impact On The Culture: While representing Newark, New Jersey, Red’s rhyme style is plastered all over Detroit Hip Hop. Eminem always names Reggie Noble as his favorite rapper. Royce Da 5’9’’ credits Redman as one of two major influences (right next to Ras Kas). The entire rap-as-an-alter-ego style goes straight back to What Thee Album’s, “Redman Meets Reggie Noble”. Toss in his movies, TV spots, his appearance in Christina Aguilera's puberty-inducing "Dirty" video and, clearly his name recognition extends outside of rap only circles.
F. Intagibles: Realest MTV cribs appearance in history. From jump street, Red always seemed like your boy, your ish talking homie who -- good news or bad -- keeps it one-hunnid one hundred percent of the time. And one look into his house confirmed it. “Dollar box” on top of the fridge. Dreamcast, cords and games scattered on the floor like a college dorm room. A front door bell that requires rubbing two wires together to work. Classic. He always sounds hungry on the track; like it still matters to him to win; like, after 21 years, he’s still having fun. And after watching that episode, it makes sense. Despite the platinum albums and longevity and the critical acclaim and the major label deal and movies -- by choice -- he literally lives like he’s still trying to come up. He’s still reppin‘ like that guy standing outside the 42nd Street N train stop in Times Square trying to sell you his mixtape that you’ve never heard of. It’s what makes him great.
When the math is done, Reggie Noble’s #GOAT qualities are in the same cypher as other oft mentioned "all time great" candidates. His catalog is longer than Biggie’s and Big Pun’s. He’s a technically better rapper than Pac. He’s got the solo rapping classics that Three Stack’s lacks. He never went through lethargic phases like Nas. His career span is longer than Hov’s with the same number of seminal offerings (depending on how you feel about The Black Album). Cultural impact. Critical acclaim. Lyrical skill. Check. Check. Check.
Now, the knock against Redman is that his catalog isn’t necessarily the picture of conceptual range. Despite being one of the realest emcees ever, he often comes across as more of a character than a person. Tracks as visceral as “Suicidal Thoughts” and “Song Cry” and “Cleaning Out My Closet” and “Ms. Jackson” and “Second Childhood” don’t exactly litter Red’s catalog. Does the fact that he’s crafted arguably the best collection of pioneering weed songs (“How To Roll A Blunt”, “Green Island”, "How High"), arguably the best reoccurring character series (Soopaman Luva), was half of arguably rap’s best song ever (“Da Rockwilder”) and arguably out-G-Funked Dr. Dre on his largely self-produced debut album three months before The Chronic dropped make up for not appearing as rap-world-vulnerable as other all time greats?
I don’t know.
It depends on how you feel.
It depends on what’s personally more valuable to the individual listener. Hip Hop is the most competitive musical art form, where skills are the foundation of greatness, greatest-ness. FACT. But, unfortunately, there is no official measure. There’s no score board. There’s no universal way to calculate officially who’s winning. So the personal experience inevitably becomes the
But when the conversation comes up; when “Til I Collapse” marches in on my iPod shuffle; when someone in some comments section somewhere types Reggie Noble into that number 1 spot -- it's not left field. It makes sense.
I’m not saying Redman’s the greatest...but I understand.
Follow The Company Man on Twitter @TheCompanyMan