Friday, July 2, 2010


Written By: Lamont Mann & Craig Shelton


It is one thing to debate who is the best rapper of all time or who can hold the longest note or who is the best performer. We believe those are easy arguments. However, what if we were to compile a list of the best 5-tool artists?

A 5-tool player is one that has great speed, can hit for average, hit for power, a great throwing arm, and is excellent defensively.

The HMW 5-Tool definition for Musical Talent are:

Art (Singing/Rapping)
Live Performance

We will be evaluating three music genres, Hip Hop, R&B, and Rock. One thing is for sure, when you evaluate musical arts with this criteria, your best suddenly becomes marginal at best.

Hip Hop music is a musical genre which developed as part of hip hop culture, and is defined by key stylistic elements, such as rapping, the DJ, sampling, scratching, and beatboxing. Hip hop began in the South Bronx of New York City in the 1970s. The term rap is often used synonymously with hip hop, but hip hop denotes the practices of an entire subculture. (Wikipedia)

Kanye West
Long before I even knew of Kanye West the Rapper, I used to see his name in the credits of Jay Z's earlier CDs as Producer or Co Producer.  Kanye produced many other artists' albums. However at this point he was not known as a rapper until he put out the song, "Through the Wire".  I must admit, initially I was not a Kanye fan because I felt his rap was too happy for me, but hit after hit, the  dude just grew on me.  If you have ever seen Kanye live the one thing you know is, it's going to be all out crunk.  I believe his videos are well thought out creatively and to the point.  Every now and then he can get obscure and lose the point, but he has a way of bringing it back, i.e. "Flashing Lights".

David Banner
I like to think of David Banner as a jack of all trades.  He really does not stand out in any particular criteria, but he has a grasp of each element that he is fitting for this classification.  David is like Jazzy Faye, Hype Williams, and Scarface all merged into one person.  I personally cut for this pick because he represents that dirty dirty.  I wrecked my brain trying to think of someone from the south that could be designated as a five-tool artist.  Then it hit me; Banner!

David Banner excels as the total package in a artist, because he's unafraid to show progression in his production style and his writing. It's more important "what it is you write about, than how you write about it." Banner has the talent to express himself visually along with the ability to tell a "short" story and keep it fly at the same time. When I say a short story, what I mean is, over 16 bars and not an entire project. I say that because, that's pretty much the limitation now ah days in hip hop in regards to writing. "Slick Rick The Ruler is not about to walk through that door"! 

Ice Cube
OK we may have to add like 3 or 4 more tools for this guy's resume'. How about movie director, movie producer, actor, sports analyst, etc.  Cube has set the bar so damn high, I frankly do not believe anyone will come close.  Back to Hip Hop, but this is like one of the only cats in the business that I can readily think of that initially started with a group (NWA), went solo, then created a group (WC), and then went solo again.  That's badass.  I was in the 7th or 8th grade when I first saw Ice Cube with NWA and little did I know he and McREN were the main writers as Easy E  was the front man, but it was clearly seen once he left the group for a solo career as he wrecked to consecutive CDs.  Should his videos even be included lol dude did movies and I don't mean little movies as he  had some with marginal budgets.  After he left NWA and went solo, he teamed up with Chuck D and co-produced his freshman album.  Although I do not feel his flow is up to par with the talent out now, however, in the mid to late 90s and part of this millenium, Cube was at the top of the food chain.  There is no Kanye West if Cube didn't exist.

Missy Elliot
Although she is not on the scene visibility, Misdemeanor Elliot is still cooking in the lab.  Missy came up through the Timbaland straight out of Norfolk, VA.  When you are learning how to produce under the guidance of Timbaland you can't go wrong.  She is beyond a rapper as she is true HIP HOP SHOWSTOPPER.   When Missy drops something you know for sure you are going to feel it.  I cannot think of one project by Missy that bombed.  Her videos are wild, crazy, catchy, and just plain ole fun.  Like Ice Cube, Missy also has an added talent in her arsenal because she will sing some hooks for ya, too.  She has worked with just about every major talent in the business.  I cannot wait for her to come back on the scene.

If Missy learned under Timbaland and I respect her skills, imagine a person learning from Dr. Dre.  Eminem not only belongs in this conversation, but arguably as one of the best emcees in the discussion as well.  The UP IN SMOKE Tour pretty much validates Eminem in all of the criteria.  Em is a straight up BEAST.  When Em first came out as Slim Shady, I really didn't understand Son, however, at that time period we were cleansing our ears of No Limit, so I was willing to accept anything besides No Limit.  The Up In Smoke Tour has to be one of the all time best video documentaries of a Hip Hop Tour.  Outside of Dennis Rodman, I never seen a man in show business talk so passionately about his daughter.  His daughter is his Rock and I believe she is the one that has kept him in check all of this time.  Dude displays pure Agape for her.  Eminem is from Detroit, which is not really known for their curbside battle rapping Brown Stone NYC style, but he has collaborated with the best of the best and usually ends up being the smash in a feature.


This article was suppose to be over but one of the greatest travesties occurred.  As I am looking for some HIP HOP murals, I noticed that Scarface is not included in any of them.  I really don't understand how you can put together a collection of the best Hip Hop artist and not include "FACE".  Although Scarface is not included in my 5 Tool Artist, he has just became my honorary inductee.

Lamont Mann
Blog Link: Houston Media Watch
Email: HMW
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Sha said...

u had a good list bro. Only disagreement I have with u is that you said that Cube's skills cant hold up with these modern cats...I couldnt disagree more. these cats wish they had Cubes flow and vocab. Cube started the west coast sound. he held the game down for 3 albums and 1 EP. Face deserves it no doubt. Missy was on the scene with Tim, not under him. She trained under Devante Swing of Jodeci.So did Tim. Missy was on Jodeci's second album. Mos Def and Andre 3000 deserves on the list and so does Devin The Dude. I would put Andree 3000 on there before Banner.

N.D. said...

Very good reading in regards to your list but the 5-Tool Artists needs to be Scarface, Bun B, lil Wayne, Jay Z, and Puffy (ya I said Puffy, go see him in person before you judge me!)