Rappers: Best Lyrics, Worst Flow
For the most part, rappers who write good lyrics also know how to deliver them well, which makes this list tricky. But some artists just can’t manage turn their written word into something that pops in the studio. They can compensate with good beats and collaborations, but for whatever reason, their flow just sounds a little off. These artists still absolutely deserve the reputation they’ve earned, though.
5. Talib Kweli
Talib sometimes falls into the shadow of contemporaries like Mos Def and Common. He’s a master of the uplifting conscious hip-hop song and writes incredibly clever rhymes, but his flow falls short when he tries to rap too quickly.
Wale is one of the most innovative artists in hip-hop’s mainstream today, but he’s often criticized for making songs that sound kind of flat. There are so many times when I listen to a Wale verse and think that it would sound much cleaner if a J. Cole or a Kendrick was rapping the same lyrics. There are plenty of exceptions (mostly from earlier mixtapes), but Wale can’t quite get a grasp on his flow – most noteably over MMG-style production.
3. Immortal Technique
Immortal Technique is known for taking on thorny political issues that higher profile rappers ignore. He writes with more passion than anyone, but he comes on a little too strong when he raps. His flow is messy and sounds like he’s trying to say too much in each bar.
It’s hard to criticize someone who has to live up to the expectations set by Kendrick Lamar, who practically wrote the book on flow. But it seems like on every Black Hippy song, Ab’s verse is the one that lags behind. He’s really good at rhyming three and four syllables on each bar, but like Wale, it often comes out sounding kind of flat.
It’s always been a mystery to me why the Wu-Tang Clan ever let the RZA rap on their songs. He’s a god when it comes to making beats. But when he raps, it sounds like the lyrics belong on a different song. He’s almost always off beat and can’t control his breath well at all, even though he’s plenty talented on paper.
Who else’s flow just doesn’t hack it? Let us know what you think @HipHopsGuru!