Any debate about the “best rapper” ever is bound to turn into a battle of contrasting opinions motivated not by reason but by loyalty and love for one’s favorite artist. After all, the “best rapper” as a term, is vague and open to debate.
Some might say it’s a rapper’s speed and flow, others will say “rhythm”, while some will point to a rapper’s lyrics, while another group will say that freestyle rap skills are the most defining characteristics of a great rapper.
They all have their valid points. Great freestyle rap skills, for instance, are a delight to listen to. But freestyle rap skills seldom translate to huge record sales, or eternal lyrics that generations listen to. Despite their superlative freestyle skills, MCs like Eyedea and Supernatural haven’t had the kind of success that the likes of Tupac or Eminem have got.
The first thing that an MC can add to his arsenal if he wants to be a great rapper is to have a very unique, trademark voice. Your audience should immediately know who the rapper is when they hear your voice without any need for visual feedback. The best selling, most popular rappers have had a unique voice – think Tupac, Jay-Z, Eminem, or Lil Wayne. You can recognize their voices from among a crowd.
A strong rapper’s voice should be able to convey a host of emotions through just words. Can you, as an MC, convey hate, anger, love, sarcasm, confidence, vulnerability and more through just your voice? An MC whose voice can rap in just one vocal/emotional range is an MC who will always remain a one trick pony.
Moreover, you must be able to convey the emotion that you are singing about with complete honesty. Think of all the angry Eminem songs. Do you believe that he was really waving a gun, cock-eyed, while singing those songs? Of course he wasn’t! He, like an actor, was able to get himself into that mode where he could rap about being angry completely convincingly. This is an essential quality of a rapper: to sound believable, no matter what you say.
While MCs can get away with poor vocal range as compared to R&B stars or classically trained musicians, you must have a resonating singing voice, nevertheless. Practice singing or talking through your chest. A poor voice comes from the throat (hence the term “throaty” to describe a weak voice), while a strong voice comes from deep within the chest. Practicing resonance will really give you the edge when it comes to becoming a great rapper, and lend your voice that unique touch that will help you stand out from a crowd of MCs.