In part one of HipHopDX’s interview with ESPN’s Scoop Jackson, Scoop spoke about his beginnings in the literary Rap world, the importance of Allen Iverson, and his affinity for Diggin’ in the Crates.
In part two of our discussion Scoop breaks down his favorite rap albums, discloses his favorite emcee, and explains why respecting the craft of Hip Hop may be a thing of the past.
HipHopDX: I saw a video on YouTube a couple of years ago where you were giving your best pro teams, best college team, best player, etc. So I have to ask you some of those questions. Who is the greatest emcee of all time?
Scoop Jackson: Rakim.
Scoop Jackson: I’m trying to simplify this answer and not make it personal. Because for what he did, not from a sales standpoint, but from a skill set, I don’t think anybody has seen anybody… from a craft stand point. There you go! A craft stand point. I don’t think we’ve seen anybody reach that level of craftsmanship of their game. Its equivalent to listening to Miles [Davis] play the trumpet, Oscar Peterson playing the piano, listening to Dr. King speak, watching [Robert] De Niro act, or reading [William] Shakespeare. For that craft I don’t think we’ve seen anybody reach that zenith before.
DX: And we never will.
Scoop Jackson: I don’t think we ever will. I really don’t think we ever will. From that stand point that’s why I think he’s the best emcee ever. There are a lot of variables that go into making the best emcee but from strictly a craft stand point I don’t think there will ever be anyone that will come close to reaching that level of craftsmanship. I just happen to be a person that’s huge on respecting those that maximize their craft—Michael Jackson is a classic example. Do you think we’ll ever see that again?
Scoop Jackson: Never. There will probably be others that sing and dance better than Michael but what he did with his craft; I don’t think anybody can reach that. That’s the shortest answer I can give you as to why I think Rakim is the greatest emcee.
DX: Who is the best live rap performer you’ve ever seen?
Scoop Jackson: Probably Public Enemy. Their shows were strictly about the energy of Hip-Hop. You just put Chuck [D] on stage with the mic and the energy that was created between the S1W’s and Terminator [X]… Man I saw Run [DMC] a lot and those Fresh Fest tours were ridiculous but from a live stand point I would really have to say Public Enemy. If I could only see one Hip Hop group in concert that I had to take to my deathbed with me, it would have to be Public Enemy—they were unbelievable.
DX: They still are!
Scoop Jackson: Still are! It’s an amazing experience. Musically, I don’t think they could be matched by anybody. The things that the Bomb Squad did with sampling were unmatched and Chuck D is still one of the best lyricists in the game. Will Smith even said that Chuck D was the guy that said stuff that nobody had the nerve to say. He said he was the one that we all want to be like but we can’t find a way to put what he said in words and make it that intricate. Chuck wasn’t just spitting some black power shit. Listen to him lyrically and you’re like, “Damn!” A close second is KRS-One and I have to give LL some love too—LL was bananas.
DX: LL is bananas. My list would be the same as yours. I would probably put Run-DMC in there but on the low without the record power… Doug E Fresh!
Scoop Jackson: Thank you my man! Doug E Fresh is the world’s greatest entertainer, he deserves that title. I will give it to him.
DX: I’ve seen Doug rock shows for 30 minutes and only do two songs.
Scoop Jackson: Thank you, exactly. I saw him perform in New York when Slick Rick got out of jail. They did a 15 minute version of “The Show.” I was calling people losing my mind like we’re at the Hammerstein Ballroom, you will not believe this! Doug and Rick are easily top five.
DX: There are a lot of athletes that think they can rhyme, who is the best ball player that you ever heard rhyme?
Scoop Jackson: Dana Barros.
DX: Dana Barros? Really? He released music?
Scoop Jackson: Dana Barros was ridiculous. He was sick. There was an album called The Best Kept Secret that the NBA did and he was on there. Dana was no joke. Behind the tables, Jalen Rose is the truth! He is the basketball version of Biz Markie. If you’ve ever heard Biz spin…
DX: Oh my God. I’m not trying to diss nobody but I’ve seen Funkmaster Flex and Clue and some other big name guys, but they don’t compare to Biz Markie. Biz is ridiculous. And ?uestlove from the Roots is live.
Scoop Jackson: Just from a party aspect. Biz came and spun in Chicago about six years ago and I could have sworn I was listening to Frankie [Knuckles]. He went so deep into House music, I was like, “He ain’t supposed to know this!” He was like, “You think I don’t know Chicago?” He went deep. I’m not talking about that commercial Hot Mix 5 on the radio House. He went deep and he is for real.
DX: What’s the best Hip Hop album of all time?
Scoop Jackson: It’s going to seem like I’m riding their jock but I’m going to say [Public Enemy’s] It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back. I still haven’t heard anything as phenomenal as that. Fear [of a Black Planet] [also by Public Enemy] may be right behind it. Nation is the one Hip Hop album that could be an instrumental album. My God, if you think about how sampling was done back then it’s crazy—it’s unbelievable. Number two would be tough behind that one. There are some classics. To me I still have not heard anything like Nation of Millions.
DX: I want to go back and touch on the influence of Hip Hop. When I was about 12 years old, the first episode of Yo! MTV Raps came on. One of the videos they showed was “My Philosophy” from Boogie Down Productions. Back then they didn’t really show Rap videos, so this was huge. I was watching it with my whole family. I don’t know if you remember but in the background of the video they flashed photos of Malcolm X. You know what I asked my mother? “Who is that?” She said, “You don’t know who Malcolm X is?” I ran to the library and got the Autobiography of Malcolm X...
Scoop Jackson: Greatest book ever written.
DX: It changed my life. KRS-One, Public Enemy, Ice Cube, I’m heavily influenced by these guys…
Scoop Jackson: That goes to my original point. That’s the reason I did my master’s thesis on it. When everybody looked at it as noise I knew the impact that this thing could have. There were so many things going on inside of Rap that was changing people’s lives. They were doing it from an art form, I’ll ask you right now, what’s being done like that now?
DX: That’s my point, there are artists like that but they don’t get the shine to be able to affect people’s lives. Like you mentioned Lupe earlier..
Scoop Jackson: Lyrically, they may be doing it but from a musical stand point are they doing anything different?
Scoop Jackson: That’s part of the problem. It has to go hand in hand. It’s not that KRS-One was spitting something lyrically that we hadn’t heard before. Look at the change in music. Look at the Hip Hop from then and how they were trying to advance it musically. Gucci, Drake, Wayne, none of them are trying to advance the music or the culture. Like I said, turn off Chuck’s voice and listen to Nation of Millions musically!
DX: Great point because in a couple of year’s span you notice a drastic difference in Run-DMC records to BDP records. They were advancing the culture.
Scoop Jackson: That’s what I’m saying! That’s where the impact is. We have to keep pushing and that’s what’s being missed in the greatness. What are you doing to advance the culture? Nothing whatsoever and we’re not just talking lyrically. Trust me; it wasn’t just the Malcolm X poster in that “My Philosophy” video that got you. You listened to what he was saying and the music. You listened to what he was saying and that forced you to change your life. There was a message there.
A couple of years ago my oldest son was in sixth grade and the teacher asked the kids who their favorite emcee was. My son said Rakim Allah, and the teacher said, “I have to know who your dad is.” He said he had to meet me and he had been teaching for years and never heard that come out of a kid’s mouth. My thing is this, he can like whoever is out right now but he’s going to have a foundation. The foundation has to be based in knowledge and education. Now just because Rakim is my favorite I didn’t tell him to say that. But in listening to Rakim he understands how to judge certain things. So when he hears what is wack he understands wack shit—he gets it.
DX: Yeah you can’t accept trash after listening to Rakim.
Scoop Jackson: That’s my exact point. That’s our responsibility. Part of the reason the game is the way it is now is because we didn’t do that. We thought the game was so strong that people were going to do it by themselves.
DX: I know you remember the story of KRS-One pushing Prince Be of PM Dawn off the stage in New York in ‘92. If that happened today he would be looked at like a hater or a bully. Back then it was only right.
Scoop Jackson: Yeah, of course. This is no disrespect to PM Dawn because there’s enough room for everybody in the game but, nah, we can’t honor you like that. More cats needed to do that type of stuff. The watershed moment in Hip Hop came in 1993 when Midnight Marauders [by A Tribe Called Quest] and Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle dropped on the same day. Snoop, I think sold 4.3 million and Tribe sold like 3 million. This is without the Rolling Stone cover, marketing, and Jimmy Iovine behind them; Tribe sold 3 million just on being the shit. But what had the most impact? Snoop’s shit did but from a sales standpoint we’re only looking at about a 1.3 million difference. What I’m saying is that’s a huge difference in impact. From a respect standpoint in Hip Hop circles, yeah, we understand that Midnight Marauders was ridiculous—we got that. But to a general audience look at the legacy of fucking Snoop now compared to anybody from Tribe.
DX: He’s an American Institution.
Scoop Jackson: Yeah! You’re telling me that, that much impact has been had off of a difference of 1.3 million albums sold? There was not enough of us to fight that. At some point we’re dancing our asses off listening to Snoop but the cats that were falling into that were not pushing Tribe on these cats.
DX: People are passionate about Hip Hop though. It’s hard to push music on people but I do have one success story. The cat that I mentioned earlier hated Common—can’t stand him. He saw Common as self-righteous, condescending, and only raps over soft neo-soul beats. Then he heard a joint off the Be album, “Faithful.” The second verse of “Faithful” where Common says, “Baby you’re a blessing and my best friend,” that touched that dude for some reason and now he fucks with Common. But before that he never really listened.
Scoop Jackson: It got him.
DX: I think it’s about relating to rappers. This era is about being hard and tough and having money and credibility. Compared to some of these cats Common looks gay right? Forget about his rhymes he doesn’t look as hard as 50 Cent.
Scoop Jackson: I got you, but my thing is we have to look past what we relate to and listen to the craft. Listen to this! I’m not into Opera at all! I will fuck with some Classical music, but I’m not listening to Opera at all. But you can’t tell me that because I can’t relate to it or understand the language that I can’t respect what Luciano Pavarotti did. Listen to his voice. I shouldn’t be so mentally stuck in a box that I can’t fuck with that—look at the craft, dude. Look at what this dude is doing, you don’t have to understand the words or buy that shit—but look at the craft. I don’t listen to slow songs or none of that soft shit, but you can’t respect Luther Vandross? What? For real? You get them hard cats out there who can’t even respect what Michael Jackson did as an entertainer. You can not tell me that you can’t respect his craft because you can’t relate to him. There are a lot of cats who can’t relate to Michael Jackson dude you know that.
DX: [Laughs] Most people can’t relate to Michael Jackson.
Scoop Jackson: Right. To me that’s a cop out. You have to go beyond that. With Common, I ain’t really gotta connect with what he’s saying but listen to how he puts his shit together. Listen to his craft.
DX: It’s as simple as listening.
Scoop Jackson: That’s it. All you gotta do is listen. Some of the hardest cats don’t fuck with Rock & Roll at all. Throw on some Led Zeppelin! Listen to Jimmy Paige, these is some bad motherfuckers.
DX: It can’t be denied.
Scoop Jackson: That’s what I’m talking about. There are certain elements of Hip Hop that can’t be denied but unless somebody takes the time out of respect for not losing this culture and have it become obsolete, take the time to put that shit in front of them and let them motherfuckers make their own judgment. But it ain’t gonna happen unless you put it in front of them.