5 Mics: Who Got Next?

TheSource.Com

Everyone thinks they’ve got a classic, but The Source examines whether or not they actually do…

Opinions are like assholes, right? Isn’t everybody supposed to have one? But for some reason, when it comes to a 5 Mic rating in The Source magazine, the opinion of this so-called Bible seems to be subject to, well, everyone else’s opinion. Actually, I’m proud of that. To say that the opinion of The Source still holds enough weight to shake up a rapper’s emotion is quite impressive.

Okay, okay, admittedly, the Source hasn’t always been on point when it comes to Mic ratings. But one thing we can say is that when it comes to giving out 5 Mics, we’ve got a pretty good track record. Notwithstanding the OBVIOUS mistakes that have been made (please don’t use a DELETED argument here…you know what it was), the Mics have more times than not been a meter to judge good and bad hip-hop. Despite the changing of the guards over the years, all editors have held the coveted 5 Mics to an extremely high standard. A “Classic” rating has never really been easy to come by.

In the late 90s, I wrote a review for the Source on Mase’s sophomore album, Double Up. Without getting into too much of the review, let’s just say I liked half of it. Wrote what I considered a fair and balanced review, submitted it and then left it in the hands of the music staff. Guess what? Most of them no likey it. As a freelancer back then, I got to cast a vote. By the time the magazine came out, Mase had announced his retirement. So what did it matter? Apparently, a lot. The review came out with a 2.5 Mic rating. It meant “average.” Mase, Bad Boy and Harlem was furious. I wrote all about this before (in the book) so I won’t go there. But my point? In Mase’s opinion, he deserved more.

But they always do. Fast forward a few years and Kanye West submits an early copy of his College Dropout debut to me for review, with the words “5 Mics” written in black marker on the CD (I wish it hadn’t accidentally cracked in my garage, could probably get a lot $$$ for it on eBay!!). After one listen, we all knew it was an album that was musically superior than anything else out at the time, and subject-matter-wise taking the genre in a different direction. We argued about it at the mag. There was much to consider. Content, production, timing, rap skill, etc Ultimately, from what I can remember, it came down to rap skill. Pretty much everyone felt as though, lyrically, Kanye still needed work. The music staff wanted him to aspire to be a better rapper. And that he became–and then some.

This is why I’m always proud to address the ratings in The Source Magazine. Because, whether or not your Twitter Avi wants to admit it, the MICS STILL MATTER. They always have. In the recently released issue featuring Wiz Khalifa on the cover, two artists have expressed frustration with their album rating. They are using their veto card. They both feel they deserve more, and some of their fans do too. Mind you, neither artist received a bad rating. 3.5 out of 5 is actually “good.” (WE LIKE IT!!) It’s just never enough. Of course, everyone thinks his or her album is better than the rating it gets.

That’s the wonderful spirited confidence of hip-hop. That’s the game. If you don’t think you are better than everyone else, how can you even call yourself a rapper?  Just ask yourself this. Track for track, does my work measure up to Paid In Full, Strictly Business, Illmatic, The Blueprint, Life After Death, Aquemini, or It Takes A Nation Of Millions, (you know the rest)? Does my message?

You may think it does. That’s your opinion. 

And the Mics? Well, that is just ours. 

–Kim O.

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