Every time an upper echelon artist releases an album, people become prisoners of the moment and start putting said artist in their “Top Five”. It is not the this least bit surprising that in the aftermath of another fantastic release from Kendrick Lamar (read the DAMN. review here), people are naming him one of the GOATs of Hip-Hop. Wale pandered to the fans by saying K. Dot is one of the five best rappers of all-time, while Joe Budden pushed back against the argument. Let’s take a deep breath. Kendrick is not a Top Five artist...yet.
What makes a Top Five artist?
Ask that question to ten different people and you are likely to get ten different answers. A few of the criteria that many will name is lyrics, charisma, commercial success, impact and how well the music ages over time. People will argue over an artist’s lyricism for days, as they reach into their memory banks and recite every great line they can think of. On the flip side, one of the most underrated pieces of criterion that fans seem to forget, especially the ones who put The Notorious B.I.G. in their Top Five, is longevity.
The circumstances in which Christopher Wallace left is unfortunate, but let’s call a spade a spade and a circle a circle. He only released two albums. That would be like putting Jameis Winston in the Hall of Fame after two NFL seasons. Likewise, we cannot put Kendrick in the Top Five discussion after only four albums, and his debut, Section.80, was a mere blip on the radar. Another one, possibly two, quality albums from Kung Fu Kenny and he can enter the discussion of being a Top Five artist. Considering most artists have a two year layover between albums, five albums leads to about a ten year stint in the game. Once again, ten years correlates to longevity. How many musicians have we seen that make one good song, or one good album, or two good albums and disappear like food at a Thanksgiving dinner table. 50 Cent should be in people’s Top Five discussion with five album releases, two of which went Diamond. Jadakiss, with four releases and not a great deal of critical acclaim, might fall short.
Kendrick is on the fast track to being one of Hip-Hop’s greats, but he is not there yet.
Photo from The Source