The current Young Money roster might possibly be the most polarizing artists in Hip Hop today. That’s not a ringing endorsement or slight at their skills (or lack thereof if you prefer). YMCMB collectively sell a ton of albums, but a lot of HipHopDX’s core readers either laugh at them as pound-for-pound lyricists, or see them as crossover/Pop acts.
Tyga represents the next potential big seller of the crew. We know for a fact he brings in page-views, but he still carries the aforementioned crossover/Pop stigma with him. His presence on the site creates an interesting dynamic. Tyga has gone to great lengths to create a theme of royalty via calling himself “the last king,” but his biggest-selling single is about layering different denominations of bills on strippers breasts.
As it turns out, Hip Hop has a long history of royally themed albums—some of which brought subject matter that was not quite stately. As the release date of Tyga’s proper debut approaches, (ironically the debut was nearly pushed back due to an uncleared Martin Luther King, Jr. sample), we compiled a list to see if Tyga has a rightful claim in the Valley of the Kings.
Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne
The most talked-about Hip Hop album of 2011. Despite not the king of sales (Lil Wayne claims that with Tha Carter IV), few can argue that collectively, Jay-Z and Kanye West are not the biggest one-two punch in Hip Hop today. We are still watching the throne, and Tyga is a hopeful “Mr. Me Too.”
T.I. – King
In the year that Nas declared Hip Hop’s death, and Jay-Z returned with his own claims of crowns, Atlanta’s T.I. went with the old adage of “fake it till you make it.” After calling himself a “King of the South” previously (kindle to a largely forgotten war with Lil Flip) for years, T.I. went out and proved it. 2006’s King did just that, on charts, on airwaves and in perception. A year later, Tip would have to leave his crown at prison gates for a bid – not his first, or his last.
Run-DMC – Down With The King
The original “three kings” of Hip Hop felt as though they had lost their court by 1993. Run (not yet a reverend), DMC and Jam Master Jay acknowledged their recent fate with Down With The King. The sixth effort from the Queens, New York mainstream pioneers featured disciples like EPMD, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth and Q-Tip, along with some hardcore stylings that matched the black denim replacements to Adidas track-pants and leather jackets. Next up, Crown Royal.
Kool G. Rap – Riches, Royalty, Respect
Another 2011 statement. Lyricist extraordinaire Kool G. Rap profiled three of his favorite things on this Fat Beats sleeper album. The lisped storyteller certainly has two of the three things in Hip Hop, but just as this album’s inability to chart proved that respect and Rap royalty hardly equates to riches in recent years. However, we wholeheartedly believe that just as he once rhymed, G Rap’s got “diamonds in jelly-jars.”
Jay-Z – Kingdom Come
Jigga’s obsession with royalty began five years before WTT. Three years removed from a perceived retirement, Jay returned at the top – just as he left. With assistance from Dr. Dre, Coldplay’s Chris Martin and a white-hot Kanye West, the album may have not have matched T.I.’s artistry that same 2006 (in some eyes), but it was an irrefutable statement album from the ’80s Hip Hop alum.
Queen Latifah – Order In The Court
At the mainstream peak of the Flavor Unit, Queen Latifah released Black Reign. The 1993 album was not a case of Queen Lah bigging herself up as much as a case of racial, social and gender awareness, which drove the album to a gold plaque. However, four years later, with Latifah’s Order In The Court, the artwork alone proved that Queen is queen. Although the big budget video to “Paper” wasn’t enough to make the album an enduring part of her catalog, the sentiment was true, as she parlayed her rapping and television personality to Hollywood and a vocal Jazz career soon after.
Big Daddy Kane – Long Live The Kane
Like Tyga, Big Daddy Kane was making this bold statement in large part to his associations. After an invaluable Juice Crew co-sign (joining G Rap), the Brooklyn, New Yorker’s first solo album boldly proclaimed that Kane was king, in its clever title and daring artwork. Containing 10 tracks of golden-era greatness no one could argue, that Kane ruled his borough and perhaps ruffled a few feathers in the industry. In any case, nearly 25 years later, B.D.K. remains one of the undisputed kings of the craft, even 14 years removed from an album.
Nas – I Am
Nas‘ first of two albums released in 1999 was made during the early tensions of the Queensbridge rapper and Brooklyn’s Jay-Z. Just like Big Daddy Kane and Rakim a decade earlier, the pair subliminally teased each other with kingly proclamations. But it was with Nasir’s third album that the transition was cemented in imagery. Progressing from the young boy on the cover of 1994’s Illmatic to the Egyptian king of I Am…, Nasty Nas asserted his dominance over the Rap game by declaring himself a literal lord of the Hip Hop realm – which only fueled one of the culture’s greatest battles.
2 Kings In A Cypher – From Pyramids To Projects
In the late ‘80s, Deric “D Dot” Angelettie set off his career in Hip Hop by joining forces with Ron “Amen-Ra” Lawrence as Two Kings In A Cipher. Like Nas, the pair channeled king-like imagery for their debut album From Pyramids to Projects, saturated in Afrocentric themes (check the skyscraping fez and colorful threads that Amen-Ra rocked in the clip for “Movin’ On Em”). The duo didn’t end up making it past the first album (although both provided Bad Boy Records with a gang of hits later), but not without leaving a regal mark on the game.