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POP SMOKE AND RAP'S MOST ICONIC VOICES

By By Kiani Belgrave

The second posthumous album by Brooklyn rapper, Pop Smoke, was released Friday, July 16. Faith includes some features from Kanye West, Rick Ross, Pusha T, and Pharell. Pop Smoke broke into notoriety in 2019 with his singles “Welcome to the Party” and “Dior” that will set New York City on fire, becoming the leader of the New York drill scene that would take over the city that summer.

In hip-hop, having a distinctive voice and delivery is just as important as the lyrics and instrumentals performed. The Brooklyn rapper was blessed with a voice that made him an extremely special force in the culture.

Pop Smoke’s voice is like thunder. It’s deep, plummy, husky, and suave. There is no question that Pop Smoke is one of the leading voices of the new generation. His voice is one of the most distinctive to come out in recent hip-hop history and will definitely go on to be a notable and legendary one. The rapper’s voice is iconic and will be added to a long list of illustrious rappers who also have undeniable distinguishable voices in our culture.

10. MF Doom

The Long Island rapper, MF Doom, is a weirdo, to say the least. His solo debut,Doomsday, is the perfect introduction to the rapper, as he raps over his cartoon-inspired beats with his unconventional flow. The late rapper’s influence on the underground is apparent, credited as one of the biggest influences of artists like Joey Bada$$ and Earl Sweatshirt for his extensive vocabulary, beat selection, and flow.

9. E-40

Yay areaaaa! E-40 is simply one of a kind. There is absolutely no question that the Bay Area rapper is in a class of his own between; his flamboyant style and use of Bay area slang E-40 has made a name for himself as an Oakland juggernaut. 

The rapper’s unique style has made him a fan favorite, from the local Oakland underground to the mainstream. The rapper is ¼ of the hip-hop supergroup, Mount Westmore, along with fellow Oakland rapper, Too Short, Snoop Dogg, and Ice Cube. The originator of countless Bay area slang and phrases, E-40 will forever be a legend. 

8. Ghostface

“I don’t want niggas soundin’ like me on no album/keep it real, get your own shit, man, and be original.” Ghostface says to Raekwon on their “Shark Niggas” skit on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.

The skit obviously did not age well. With the release of albums, IronmanSupreme Clientele, and Cuban Linx, Ghostface and Raekwon introduced a new sub-genre of hip-hop, mafioso rap. Years later, there would be a litany of Ghostface clones, being emulated by artists like Action Bronson and Westside Gunn, one of which he would start a mini- beef with and the latter going as far as naming his debut album after his. 

7. Busta Rhymes 

The Long Island rapper burst onto the scene with his animated vocal inflections and eccentric style as a member of the group, Leaders of the New School. One of his first notable performances comes from the closing track off of A Tribe Called Quest’s Scenario, from their 1991 album, Low End Theory. Busta creeps on the closing verse of the track as the breakbeat cuts out, leaving room for Busta to assert his distinguishable poise as he does on every track. 

The MC’s double-time flow was a staple of his artistry, especially in the latter half of his career, contributing vocals to many hits in the late 2000s like Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now” and DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win,” ushering him into a new generation of rap fans. 

6. Slick Rick

The UK-born hip-hop pioneer is a mastercraftsman wordsmith and a storyteller. Slick Rick’s laid-back delivery and comical tone made his music sound like he was speaking directly to us on songs like “Children’s Story.”

Rick was one of the first rappers to utilize his voice in different ways to tell stories and change character making him a standout MC in the 80's. Slick Rick has been credited as a major influence on rappers like Eminem and Nas. 

5. Q-Tip 

Q-Tip’s love affair with jazz music is evident throughout his discography with Tribe, solo projects, and production credits. Tip’s vocal performances are akin to Louis Armstrong, using his voice as an instrument riding the instrumental along with the bass as opposed to Armstrong’s trumpet on songs like “Electric Relaxation,” where Tip flaunts his flow vocal ability effortlessly.

Q-Tip set the tone for his class of MCs. With the popularity of Native tongues in the early 90s, Q-tip leads the new group of young, socially conscious, black kids that married jazz and Afrocentretric culture, introducing a new era of hip-hop. 

Q-tips flair for production and creating a laid-back ambiance in his music resonated with his predecessors Kanye West and Pharell Williams, who both regard Q-Tip as their biggest influences both as producers and MCs. 

4. Notorious B.I.G

 Bad Boy records introduced their secret weapon with the 1994 classic album, Ready to Die, with a young rapper from Brooklyn that would forever change the pace of rap music. Biggie came out as one of the biggest rap superstars of his era with the release of his debut album with his deep chest heavy voice, blunt delivery, and lyrics glorifying his rags to riches story. 

In his short but prosperous career, Biggie Smalls solidified himself as a rap phenomenon. His style and vibrato have influenced an entire generation that followed him, making him one of the most essential rappers from New York and not only from New York but of all time.

3. Lil Wayne 

 It is no mistake that Mr. Carter dominated the culture for the better part of the 2000s, releasing some of the most timeless albums and mixtapes of his respective era. Starting with his days with the Hot Boys, contributing to early tracks with his New Orleans twang and raspy voice, Weezy’s voice was a standout from the beginning.

 

There is no question that Wayne’s influence is eminent in hip-hop culture. Tunechi’s lazy, leaned-out flow, villain-like voice, wordplay, and subject matter launched him to become one of the most recognizable artists of all time while he ushered in an entire generation of rappers who state him as their most significant influence. 

2. DMX

The late and great rapper DMX made his critically acclaimed debut with his 1998 album, It’s Dark, and Hell Is Hot. The album’s first single, “Get at Me Dog,” featured the Yonkers rapper with his aggressive delivery, spitting on the track as if he is scolding the listener as he barked and growled on the track. 

In the same year, Dark Man X dropped his sophomore effort, Flesh of My Flesh Blood of My Blood. The album features one of X’s most passionate and moving songs, “Slippin’,” where the rapper pours his heart out, spitting verses about self-motivation despite hitting rock bottom. X delivers the track with the same aggressive delivery, conveying an honest and heartfelt side of the controversial rapper, showing incredible range and versatility. 

1. Snoop Dogg

 The LBC rapper Snoop Dogg kicked down the doors as Dr. Dre’s 17-year-old protege in 1992 when he featured on Dre’s debut solo effort and the theme song to the crime thriller, Deep Cover. The single was a great introduction to the rapper, where Snoop gives us his signature laid-back flow, effortlessly sliding on the hook, refraining the classic phrase, “1-8-7 on a undercover cop.”

The following year, Snoop would put out his debut album, Doggystyle. The album would solidify him as a superstar. His undeniable swagger and west-coast drawl made every song on the album an earworm, making Doggystyle one the most replayble hip-hop albums of all time. 

To this day, Snoop is one of the most recognizable names and faces in the history of rap music. His voice, swag, and style have solidified him as one of the faces of “Mount Westmore.”