Y’all know we love lists around here, usually because there is so much room for argument. Clearly we’re all not always gonna agree. So we’ve gotta give it to our compadres over at VIBE for taking on the task of RANKING the top 20 musical geniuses since 1993.
The detailed list includes co-signs and testimonials from celebs and industry insiders — a hefty undertaking for sure. Here we cut to the chase and share the top 10. Make sure you tell us if you agree or disagree and feel free to check out the full list HERE.
Hit the flip for #10
10. Missy Elliott
M.I.A., rapper, says:
“Missy changed the way we thought about female musicians. She was refreshing because she was confident in her music. Listening to her music made you feel sex-y, but she didn’t sell sex in a bikini. And she was the only female producer/rapper/visionary doing that. Obviously, to me the Missy-Timbaland era was the most progressive and positive in terms of what you got out of it. When they made music, it just felt good. It made people happy, and cool sh*t happened. It didn’t seem forced or calculated; it just came from the right place. She is an icon, because there is no one like her. Even now.”
GZA, Wu-Tang Clan recording artist, says:
“RZA’s capacity for learning and his broad range of knowledge on many subjects make him rare. His ability to apply that knowledge to music is a beautiful thing. On 36 Chambers, he rewrote the scripture by combining kung fu, mathematics, Eastern philosophy, science, soul music, chess, love, peace, happiness, and struggle on one album. On [my 1995 solo debut] Liquid Swords, his production was like a tailor-made suit specifically designed for the lyrics. While mastering the album, RZA sent an engineer to get a VHS tape of the movie Shogun Assassin, which became the album’s theme. He brings more to the table than just music.”
8. Thom Yorke
Bilal, soul singer, says:
“Thom is just a soulful cat. Radiohead has no boundaries in their music. You can tell that they really come with a soulful edge, not just completely rock. Especially that In Rainbows album… It really created a cold vibe. I remember putting it on and [it] making me feel a certain way, like the start of a movie kind of feeling. Amnesiac, the way they flipped the beats, there was a bit of everything in there—hip-hop, soul, jazz, definitely wild future, Squarepusher, all of that. The way Thom Yorke thinks outside of the box and his approach… I just think he’s the f**kin’ dude, top to bottom.”
Marcella Araica, Timbaland’s recording and mixing engineer, says:
“One thing I always found amazing was how Timbaland could hear anything from the water dripping in the faucet to someone’s foot pounding the floor and immediately run with it. There would be times when he’d run into the studio from the car and just jump on his keyboard to start mimicking whatever he heard. He has no fear in his approach. He doesn’t go in with a kind of thought like, I need 16 bars here or this here. He just goes with it; and that’s what makes it fresh. I’ve never seen a producer that does it like him.”
Mike Shinoda, Linkin Park rapper/guitarist and Jay-z collaborator, says:
“Jay has a sensibility about him [ beyond] rap music. It’s probably from age—you use the tools you pick up along the way, and he has experience from working with Linkin Park, Coldplay, Rick Rubin. While we were recording Collision Course, Jay rolled the beat for ‘Numb/Encore’ and spit for eight minutes, all album-quality material. When most people freestyle, there’s an obvious moment when they leave the written and jump into stuff off the top; with Jay there was no telling where that began and ended. It was f**king crazy. I haven’t heard anybody do anything like that.”
5. Notorious B.I.G.
Jadakiss, rapper and former Bad Boy label mate says:
“Big’s work ethic was crazy but he never made it look like work. Ninety percent of his studio sessions were like parties, and after the party’s over, when everybody’s wasted, he would go in and lay some magical, historical sh*t at like 6-7 in the morning. That was incredible to me. What’s even crazier is he did most of Life After Death sitting down, cause his leg was broke. I never even came up with a whole verse sitting down, ’cause you want to keep a certain energy when recording. Can you imagine coming up with those kinds of bars, those types of flows sitting in a chair?”
Mark Pitts; President, RCA Urban Music and Diddy’s first assistant says:
“The most important thing I got from him was my hustle, because he never slept. Being with him all the time… He got in at 4 a.m.—I can’t go to sleep after him—and got up at 8 a.m. So I can’t get up after him. I lived through that: that hustle and that drive. It made me understand lifestyle and he sold lifestyle. He had his own rules and vision and he stayed true to it. There wasn’t a blueprint for how the next man did it. He was the first in his time.”
3. Dr. Dre
Kendrick Lamar, rapper and Aftermath artist, says:
“I watched Dre start on a beat with nothing, just drums, maybe a snare hitting and just vibe out to it, come back an hour later and sonically, it feels like it’s 3-D; you’re actually seeing the music. That’s how sonically clear it is. I’ve been in the booth with him and he heard zones that I wasn’t even aware I was capable of doing. But when we found that and went in to explore that, he pulled those things out of me—certain cadences, deliveries. And for him to hear that, that’s genius. I’ve never worked with anybody to this day that can match that ear.”
2. Kanye West
Pete Rock, producer, says:
“I think Kanye took inspiration from how to dress as a man and applied it to music: He’s dressing music in a way where it’s creative and undeniable. You never know what to expect from him; he’s displayed an ear for hip-hop, R&B and pop, then mixed all three together. That’s pure talent. He’s at the top of his MC game, as well. He actually asked me to rhyme on “The Joy,” but I knew I’d have to step my game up tremendously. What he brought to the table was something to admire. He definitely put the battery back in my back.”
We really want to comment on this but gonna let Peter Rock be. SMH.
Yep. R-uh is back on top — according to VIBE. Do you agree?