The Jigga Man is not the only MC with the skills to spit well into his golden years. While we wait for Q-Tip, Redman, and Ghostface Killah to cross the big 4-0 in 2010, here are five vets who prove they are not ready to go gentle into that good night.
O.G. Status: The Chef and his Staten Island crew first warned the rap industry they were "nothing to fuck with" on their riveting 1993 debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Two years later, Raekwon unleashed what many critics view as the most impactful solo album from a Wu-Tang Clan member-- Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. The aftermath? Rae's cocaine-laced street lyricism took crime rhyme to daring, uncharted heights producing one of hip hop's true storied works.
Why He Shouldn't Hang Up The Mic Just Yet: Almost 15 years later, Rae proves that the long-delayed, but scarily focused and verbally relentless sequel Only Built For Cuban Linx... Pt. II was well-worth the wait. What took you so long?
Show & Prove: Raekwon keeps it grimy on "Surgical Gloves."
O.G. Status: By the time Eric B & Rakim's 1986 game-changing Paid In Full dropped, the God MC had already re-imagined the course of hip hop, creating a complex rhyme cadence, elevated verbiage and a labyrinth-like flow that would be praised, dissected and followed by MC's for the next 20 plus years. Yeah, he was that good.
Why He Shouldn't Hang Up The Mic Just Yet: Because Rakim is not resting on his legacy as rap's most influential lyricist. On his third solo effort, The Seventh Seal, the Microphone Field still aspires to greatness, crafting layered, rewind-worthy lines (over somewhat lackluster production; but that's another story) that rappers half his age could only dream of.
Show & Prove: Rakim delivers the goods on "Satisfaction Guaranteed."
O.G. Status: Blastmaster helped give birth to gangsta rap (Boogie Down Productions' Criminal Minded, 1986); penned the most celebrated diss record of all-time not named "Ether" ("The Bridge Is Over"); made social consciousness cool (KRS led the all-star "Self Destruction" charity single in 1989 in response to rising violence in urban communities); and provided the template for hip hop longevity well into the '90s.
Why He Shouldn't Hang Up The Mic Just Yet: Listen to KRS-One's defiant collaboration with legendary Brooklyn spitter Buckshot (this year's confident Survival Skill) Does he sound like a man ready for his gold watch?
Show & Prove: KRS-One shuts down the BET 2009 Cypher.
O.G. Status: After you ponder the staggering realization that De La Soul is currently celebrating the 20th Anniversary of their 1989 landmark introduction 3 Feet High And Rising (where did the time go?!!!), do yourself a favor and Google any verse from group member Posdnuos. What you will find is a criminally slept on talent who is as lyrically layered (and at times perplexing) as he is honest.
Why He Shouldn't Hang Up The Mic Just Yet: Check out De La's Nike-backed Are You In?--part of the athletic shoe giant's acclaimed Original Run series. Pos hasn't lost a step.
Show & Prove: Plug One makes you a believer on "Big Mouf."
LL Cool J
O.G. Status: His game-changing debut Radio launched hip hop's most storied label Def Jam. Twenty-five million albums later, LL is a bonafied music icon.
Why He Shouldn't Hang Up The Mic Just Yet: We can forgive him for his uneven Def Jam swan song Exit 13 (2008) after hearing a hungry LL on his mixtape The Return of the G.O.A.T. Hey, maybe he'll even find time to get back in the booth when he's not busy with his gig on CBS's NCIS: Los Angeles.
Show & Prove: LL goes in on "Laptop Gangstaz."