The best Hip Hop lyricists of all time is a never-ending debate based on subjective opinions and personal preference. Still, people can’t stop trying to rank the greats — even when they are one of the greats. On Saturday (January 8), two “Rapper Report Cards” created by Hip Hop pioneer Kool Moe Dee in the 1980s and at the end of the 1990s started making the Twitter rounds.
On the first iteration of the report card, the Beastie Boys got the lowest overall grade by far with a 70 percent or “C” (although Mike D, Ad-Rock and MCA did get a perfect “10” for sticking to themes). Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz and, of course, Kool Moe Dee were the only three MCs to get a perfect grade. Meanwhile, LL COOL J, T. La Rock, Rakim and KRS-One all received “As” based on vocabulary, articulation, creativity, originality, versatility, voice, records, stage presence, sticking to themes and innovating rhymes.
Spoonie Gee, M.C. Shan, Doug E. Fresh, the late Biz Markie, Kurtis Blow, Juice Ice, Run-DMC, Fat Boys, U.T.F.O., Public Enemy, Heavy D & The Boyz, Stetsasonic, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Ultramagnetic MCs and Whodini all received a “B” or “B+.” The only other artist to get a “C+” was the Boogie Boys.
Back in the 80s, Kool Moe Dee did a report card with grades for rappers on the inner sleeve of the ‘How You Like Me Now’ LP. Ego Trip got him to do another one at the end of the 90s. Fun reading. pic.twitter.com/CQL2zyv4h0
— aka Jimbo Jones (@jimbojonestown) January 8, 2022
As the Golden Era came to a close in the mid-90s, the Hip Hop landscape looked different. For the second iteration of the report card, commissioned by Ego Trip at the time, Kool Moe Dee ranked JAY-Z, DMX, Big Pun, Diddy, Snoop Dogg, Nas, Ice Cube and The Roots’ Black Thought at a “B” or “B+.” Those in the “A” or “A+” category included The Fugees’ Lauryn Hill, Busta Rhymes, Naughty By Nature’s Treach, Method Man, Biggie, 2Pac and Mystikal. The lowest rankings were Too $hort, Master P and Mase who all landed in the “C” category.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times in 1987, Kool Moe Dee explained how he came up with the grades and suggested he did a decent job of critiquing each artist.
“I listen to everything that comes out–and I mean everything– so I figured that I’d make a pretty good critic,” he said. “It’s all a matter of knowing your competition. The idea of a report card wasn’t meant to be insulting. I try to have good relations with all my rivals.”
Kool Moe Dee also shined a little light on to why he gave Beastie Boys such a low score, saying, “They’re pretty awful. I gave them a lot of 6’s. They don’t have any vocabulary and they try to make up for their lack of originality by screaming and yelling. Besides, our tour followed theirs and wherever we went, we couldn’t get into hotels or restaurants ‘cause the Beasties had been there two weeks before and gotten into trouble.”