Started Off Good, Ended-Up Great – Rap’s Most Improved
Monday August 10th 2009,
Filed under: Face Off,Features,Not Your Average,The Unkut Opinion
Written by:

It’s one thing to shit on all these over-the-hill MC’s that need to put down the mic, but what about the flipside of the equation? The fact is, there are a rare breed of rapper dudes who didn’t peak on their debut and have actually developed into better lyricists over the years. Crazy talk, right? Not at all….

Rap’s Most Improved:

Sean Price – P was solid in his Heltah Skeltah days when he was just Ruck, but let’s be honest – he didn’t really stand-out amongst the crowded Boot Camp Click roster back then compared to the way that Jesus Price demands your attention ever since he returned as a show-stealing soloist.

Edo G. - As much as ‘I Got Ta Have It’ is a certified classic, Edo has evolved throughout his long career from a promising freshman into a seasoned veteran without missing a step, and has continued to prove that he’s currently capable of recording far superior verses to his early output.

Phife - The 5 Footer was fuckin’ awful on the first Tribe record, apparently due to the fact that he spent too much time running around in the streets while Tip was hard at work in the studio. I guess he realized that his rhyme game was lacking when he listened to People’s Instinctive Travels and hit the pen and pad hard in an attempt to get his verbal weight up. Low End Theory is proof that he stepped up to the plate and knocked it out the cot-damn park.

Masta Ace - His first album with Marley Marl was pretty good, but when he dropped Slaughterhouse he managed to combine parody with lyrics of fury to produce something that’s virtually impossible – a rap concept album that actually knocks! He also laid down the blueprint for some guy called Marshall Mathers to develop his flow technique.

Jay-Z - Went from tongue-twisting nonsense to the most influential of our time. Some say he’s lost his focus but BP3 will decide that.

Kanye West - I do my best to ignore this character, but word on the internets is that he’ll murder you on your own shit if you let him do a guest spot. I’ll admit that he sounds slightly less retarded than he used to though.

Cormega - From a slightly awkward delivery in his early days, Mega now commands your ear whenever he steps into the booth with a mixture of brutal honesty, impressive vocabulary and an air of QB nonchalance.

Ghostface - As great as Ironman is, something happened between then and Supreme Clientele that elevated Starks from Raekwon‘s partner in crime to certified genius, as evidenced on ‘Nutmeg’ and ‘Mighty Healthy’.

Who did I miss?

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78 Comments so far
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Sean Price >

Comment by nation 08.10.09 @

Big Pooh has improved since “The Listening”

Comment by Jay 08.10.09 @

Solid list, Robbie.
I think Lil Fame and Danze (Fame especially) improved a lot as emcees in the time between “To The Death” and “Warriorz”. They got a little better at rapping each album.
In terms of newer emcees, Black Milk was a much better emcee by the time he put out “Tronic.

Comment by AaronM 08.10.09 @

P!

kimbo price mixtape,
mic tyson album 2010 !

P!

Comment by R 08.10.09 @

good post. kanye is still not the top notch rapper people make him out to be, but he has shown progress. kurupt got much iller over the years. havoc got better though he’s been slackin lately. fat joe is funny cause he got better in the late 90s and then spiraled down way lower after loyalty. styles p was dope in the bad boy days and got crazy dope on the solo tip but again, hardly any hot verses in the last 2 or 3 years. it’s like he forgot how to spit, his delivery supersloppy right now.

Comment by spotrusherz 08.10.09 @

Freeway – He defintely got 100x better.

Comment by Soufjerzz 08.10.09 @

Lil Wayne? From the 90’s till now he’s changed his style, everything.

Comment by Mike 08.10.09 @

hate him or love him: lil wayne

Comment by 456 08.10.09 @

Terrible post, i can tell ur not a real hip hop fan.

Comment by villz 08.10.09 @

I know this isnt the blog to say this, but Rick Ross improved a lot from Port Of Miami over Trilla to Deeper Than Rap.

Comment by Eastern_Digital 08.10.09 @

Lil Wayne improved his ability to pick ghostwriters a lot….so yeah you missed Lil Wayne

Comment by Who Dat 08.10.09 @

i dont think Cormega’s improved to me he sounds more repetitive then ever….remember when

“ayo guns and roses, sons and soldiers drug game cocaine ac’s and range rovers snakes plan a way to set they own man up for grams when they bag up cristal white at night pistols might lift you like heat seeking missles”

Nah man dont get it twisted now every rhyme out is mouth is “Illest, Realness, Feel This” etc.. I’m tired of that shit man. Back in the 90’s he was killin it I had the bootleg, and his new shit is good im not sayin he’s wack, but he’s gotten more repetitive then anything else, and the basketball player comparisons been goin on for years he need to come up with a concept album or something

Comment by Mobeezy 08.10.09 @

and you make Jay Z sound wack back in the day….Reasonable Doubt is his best album, nothing he’s done since can compete, although he’s still got it he dont do it justice these days, he knows he’s better, but he writes clever to get more cheddar…thats that bullshit rhyme

i fuck wit jay a little bit but knowing he’s better then what he’s spitting and saying it in his rhymes is wack

“Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common sense, but I did 5 Mill, I aint been rhymin like Common since”

Comment by Mobeezy 08.10.09 @

I fully agree with Sean P but kanye is not a nice mc and mega has always been nice in my opinion :)

Comment by RowanB 08.10.09 @

2pac..

Comment by nessnice 08.10.09 @

Common….can i borrow a dollar he was talking nonsense

Comment by MaPa 08.10.09 @

Andre 3000 – whether you start with the TLC “What About Your Friends” remix, or Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, he went from good to one of the best out there.

I agree with Lil’ Fame. Sounded a lot like a Kool G Rap biter until Firing Squad and then kept getting better.

Comment by Bastid 08.10.09 @

young chris has really stepped up his game since state prop existed.

to a degree, so has u-god. “dopium” was actually listenable. his imrovement probably isn’t enough to warrant a spot on this list, butit’s still considerable

Comment by WallySean 08.10.09 @

12 O’clock from Brooklyn ZU

Comment by dockevoc 08.10.09 @

T.I. – I’m Serious – Paper Trail-Crazy

Bun B – Sideline to Pimp C – Rap legend

Busta Rhymes

Comment by R.E.D. Inc. 08.10.09 @

I would say Busta Rhymes and Pharoahe Monch. They both came out lyrically dope but have impressed over time.

Also, Eminem and M.F. Doom have made some astonishing comebacks after inventing an alter ego.

Comment by Context 08.10.09 @

Big L was getting better by leaps and bounds before he died. My friend and I used to talk about how wicked he was getting and then RIP. The whole style that Lord Finesse and him were coming with back then was butter, straight butter…Like if Premo did rhymes instead of beats thats the vibe Finesse had on the mic. Sorry for the OT but yeah L went from good to grrrrreat! and it was awesome!

Comment by haze3 08.10.09 @

ED O G???? WHAT?? What song has he even put out since the early 90’s?? Jesus.

I’d have to say Jeezy. From those early mixtapes to now he’s grown by leaps and bounds. The early tapes were all about his adlibs and now, while he still uses the adlibs, he doesn’t hide behind them and he has a lot more shit to say.

Wayne needs mentioning as well. Also Gucci is becoming much better.

Comment by HIGH SNOB 08.10.09 @

What? Kanye was at his best on College Dropout, his first record. If anything, he is on a decline. And Reasonable Doubt is easily Jay’s best record. That “tongue-twisting nonsense” contained his best verses lyrically.. Guess you’re part of the audience he decided to dumb it down for.

Comment by Steez 08.10.09 @

I think kweli has actually tightened up alot since his rawkus days. Writing isnt much different, but his flow definitely seems less rushed and he stopped the 20 syllable lines

Comment by con 08.10.09 @

Rick Ross. Dude sounds like ’96 Nas is his ghostwiter.After he single hadedly destroyed G Unit in a weeklong war of wordz, he is a feared man on the M-I-C! Check one of his mixtapes , he can go outside of the coke aisle too.

Comment by chronwell 08.10.09 @

can’t believe no one mentioned Fat Joe, the improvement from Flow Joe to now is crazy

Comment by Foshiggadale 08.10.09 @

At the risk of incurring your scorn and hatred, the most obvious example is Lil Wayne. Hate him or love him you have to admit he’s evolved incredibly since his “wobbly wobbly” days.

Also T.I. Gets better with every album.

And E-40. Say what you will about his recent albums, but lyrically he gets better with every passing year. And when he first came out he was on some pretty corny shit. Now he sounds as hungry as any freshman out there, and he’s really picked his punchline game up.

Comment by hook 08.10.09 @

Royce gets my vote. He has always been nice but in recent years has really stepped it up. That ‘blackout flow’ that he does on the Bar Exam mixtapes is incredible, one of the best flows out there now I think.

Comment by Patrick 08.10.09 @

Yeah, Edo and Ace are the ones I have been saying this about for years. I can’t wait for their A & E album, it’s going to be a classic.

Comment by HipHopHistorian 08.10.09 @

I think you hit the nail on the head with Tony Starks. His verses on Enter the 36 are sort of so, so. Think about that record, he doesn’t really stand out… then Ironman was pretty good (maybe great?) and Supreme Clientele is really pretty great.

Anyway. I agree.

Comment by Frank 08.10.09 @

i would have to completely disagree with Sean Price and Ghostface. if you didn’t know that he was ridiculous with it back before he changed his name you have no clue. only thing he does differently now is say “P!” so it’s like he has his own little trademark thing like jadakiss’ corny baby cry/laugh thing he does.
and ghost? you like his ravioli-ziti-nutriment-strawberry-kiwi nonsense lines better than his OB4CL raps????????? you serious????
Prodigy sucked in Juvenile Hell then turned into a rap god and has regressed since.
kanye has always been good but he has improved.
fat joe was the worst ever on his first album (although the beats were crazy) and he improved a lot but whether it was a result of his own pen has obviously been debated.

Comment by D-DAY 08.10.09 @

I don’t know if this list extends to west coast new schoolers, but I’d put Thes One from People Under the Stairs on my “most improved” list. He’s been nice for a while, but the incredible leap he made from their first album to their sophomore one was just amazing. Oh and by the way, much love to the Extra P but Thes hooked up that loop from “Queens Lounge” on their joint “Earth Travellers” waaaaay better than Large Pro did.

Comment by Trakball 08.10.09 @

“Kanye West – I do my best to ignore this character, but word on the internets is that his ghostwriters will murder you on your own shit if you let him do a guest spot. I’ll admit that he still sounds afflicted by down syndrome.”

Fixed that for you.

Comment by haroon 08.10.09 @

Rick Ross fucking sucks. Always has, always will. I will agree overall Jay-Z has gotten better over the years, just by changing his delivery. Fat Joe had sharpened his shit from flow joe to don cartagena, but I don’t know about recently. I also think that Black Thought made that leap from good to great. But Rick Ross still sucks.

Comment by BIGSPICE 08.10.09 @

mf doom got better than his KMD days, i like tame-one better than when he was in the artifacts, not many have gotten better than they used to be and i agree with your list robbie aside from jay-z, who kinda peaked 4 or 5 years back imo

Comment by gstatty 08.10.09 @

Devin the Dude went from “that guy that does hooks” to one of the most individual rappers out there. Jay went straight from “Big Pimpin” to The Blueprint, so he deserves it, even if he’s not coming back.

Comment by E-Squared 08.10.09 @

Elzhi: Seriously carved his own niche and stepped outside of the shadow of SV. I didn’t anticipate him reaching these heights when if first heard him on Trinity.

Hell Razah: Another dude who’s come from a group setting and made a name for himself.

Comment by Sam 08.10.09 @

MJG: On Comin’ Out Hard he was pretty much 8ball’s sidekick, by In Our Lifetime Vol. 1 he was clearly the better half of the duo.

Comment by Jordan 08.10.09 @

I meant pre-RD Jay obviously.
Agreed about Royce, Talib and Common (who improved but later fell off).

Comment by Robbie 08.10.09 @

Fat Joe. His lyrics in the Flow Joe- era to now. Even thought now I wouldnt call him NICE. He is a lot better

Comment by Da Gooch 08.10.09 @

RIP, but anyways, Scientifik- His first album he was okay for the times. But by the time he dropped ‘Lawtown’ off the ‘Criminal’ album, he had his own off and on flow down. Damn shame how he went out. If you ever heard ‘Lawtown 96′, you’d see he tightened up even more with the style and was ready to drop a classic, IMO.

Comment by verge 08.10.09 @

“Prodigy sucked in Juvenile Hell then turned into a rap god and has regressed since.”

whoah there cowboy… rap god?

Posdnous sounds more amazing with each album.
AZ comes better each time.
Spice 1 went from talented to fuckin talented.
Wise Intelligent was dope from day one, now he’s pure bolivian.

Comment by cenzi 08.10.09 @

I missed Busta… who got MUCH better with time, just like Wine. But then he vinegar’ed and now sucks worse than ever.

Comment by cenzi 08.10.09 @

Jeezy. The Recession was super dope.
Rick Ross. From his first album to now, he’s been really good.
and Big Boi was slightly hit or miss early. Now he’s batting 100

Comment by David D. 08.10.09 @

I agree with Andre 3000, Common, T.I.

Comment by Silo 08.11.09 @

Kool Keith! When he was with ultra, he was pretty good, but he really took it to another level 10 years later with Dr. Octagon and Dr. Dooom.

Comment by Doc Samson 08.11.09 @

rapwise Fat Joe, unfortunately his beat selection suffered since “Jealous Ones Envy”…

Comment by Krisch 08.11.09 @

U God! he went from sucking horribly to just sucking!

And RZA went from awkward to dope flow with amazing lyrics.

Comment by CENZI 08.11.09 @

Tech N9NE – gets no respect but a fantastic rapper.

Juicy J and DJ Paul – they used to SUCK but now are listenable.

Devin the Dude

Comment by Dave 08.11.09 @

i would def have to say T.I.

notable mention: The Alchemist

Comment by Legend 08.11.09 @

Kweli got better then got worse.

Comment by keatso 08.11.09 @

For all the heads that don’t recognize, the reference to Jay-Z’s “tounge-twisting nonsense” were the verses he dropped pre-Reasonable Doubt. Go dig up some Mic Gerinomo or some Big Daddy Kane or Jaz LPs and u will understand what he’s talking about. Jay-Z has been around a long time before Reasonable.

Comment by C 08.11.09 @

I’d have to add Royce the 5’9!!! He went from being Eminem’s hypeman who I never took too seriously to one of my all time favorites!!! ‘Malcom’ is when I started to notice that he was in no way a mediocre emcee … and he’s just improved with age like fine wine!

Comment by Brock 08.11.09 @

i was bumping some heltah skeltah a while ago and i dont think sean p actually got much nicer lyrics/flow wise i just think his voice sounds a lot nicer now hes older.

Comment by RowanB 08.12.09 @

nice topic n good list.
i go for rugged man. r.a.’s ‘new and improved’
flow is insane.his delivery and live appearance
is outta this world.and tall sean is killin it.

Comment by swordfish 08.12.09 @

Black Thought from the Roots. First album he was a little out of control. But by their third album Thought stepped up his rap game and kills it on BOOM!where he spits some ol’ Daddy Kane, Kool G rap flow.

Comment by kO sTyLe 08.12.09 @

are you forgetting ghost’s opening verse on enter the wu tang…that is classic…the mere fact its ingrained in ya memory means its classic…and can it all be so simple-hes always been smashing it…he just went more abstract and did story telling-but hes always been ill just switched up styles…

possibly frukwan…smashed it with stet but really shone on gravediggaz…beatnuts kept improving lyrically every release too i reckon.

Comment by dialect 08.12.09 @

For the guy getting upset about the perceived dis towards Jigga re: the “tongue twisting shit” This is the pre-Reasonable Doubt Jay-Z, whose whole style was like Das EFX on speed and although he was good at it Reasonable Doubt is the point where he stepped it up and became a notable emcee…

Comment by don king 08.12.09 @

I’d like to put forward the case for Mobb Deep on this one here. Juvenile hell >>>steaming turd of an album, The Infamous>>> certified classic.

Comment by DOUGHBOY 08.13.09 @

You heard the new sean joint on the honda album? easily the best joint on there… :)

Comment by RowanB 08.13.09 @

Freeway by a lot … i never cared much for him, Free At Last album was top 3 of 07/08 …just raw hugry rhymes

Comment by alphascrewomega 08.13.09 @

Lil’ Dap. He had to chance to have Primo to produce all of the first Group Home album but the rhymes were elementary. Now I dont’ know ’bout Melachi but Dap improved a lot on the mic after that.

Comment by ceedub 08.14.09 @

Jay-Z most definitely. Kanye has been good throughout his entire career and album wise, I prefer his older material.

Comment by undressingHER 08.14.09 @

Gotta go with Royce, Brock, and Patrick and say Royce. The guy goes to jail and when he comes out he sounds straight SADISTIC!

Comment by J. Pitts 08.14.09 @

Hmmm… Joe Budden comes to mind. T.I. and Big Pooh also improved greatly.

Comment by The Ajay Ram Project 08.15.09 @

Yeah Sean P and Ace were the first 2 that came to mind for me.

Comment by wrighty 08.16.09 @

Royce
Reks
Evidence
Phonte
Elzhi
Buff1
Kam Moye (aka Supastition)
One Be Lo
Joe Budden
Lil Wayne (I hate to admit it but it is true)
Copywrite
Black Milk
Geologic (from Blue Scholars)
Knonam
and many more…

are artists who have evolved over the years…

Comment by Praverb 08.16.09 @

T.I. has never been wack but he keeps getting better.

Dres of Black Sheep has always been great but he’s even better now than he used to be.

I used to find Royce Da 5’9″ almost unlistenable, now he’s one of the kings.

Elzhi was all right in Slum Village, then went solo and started crushing everybody.

P!

Comment by Supreme Neck Protector 08.21.09 @

Kanye? Are you fucking kidding me? On the College Dropout he was technically unskilled, but at least had something to say and a decent had with a rhyme. He’s gone steadily downhill. He’s only able to murder anyone on their own shit because he seems to keep jumping on songs where nobody else involved is bringing any heat whatsoever. Mostly he just raps about his poop and makes horrible jokes that aren’t funny. “This is bad, real bad, Michael Jackson” Abject fucking failure. I cannot understand how anyone who knows anything about rap can think he’s anything but shit at this point – he doesn’t even bring it behind the boards any more, going by “Run This Town.”

808s and Heartbreak has some of the most uniformly embarrassing lyrics in the history of rap.

And calling Jay-Z’s verses on Reasonable Doubt “tongue-twisting nonsense” is goddamn ignorant.

The definite winner in the most-improved category is Weezy, going from basically insignificant Cash Money gremlin to free-associating madman on Da Drought 3.

Comment by AK 08.21.09 @

Supastition!

Comment by t-bone 08.23.09 @

Although, I don’t know if he can ever top Revolutionary Vol. 2 on an album level, Immortal Technique has consistently developed in terms of the component skills of a rapper.

I think Royce actually took a step backward before taking a step forward. Most of Detroit Rock City and his work in that era was inferior to his early shit with Em, IMO. Since that, he’s gotten really good again though.

Comment by digglahhh 08.23.09 @

A.G.

Comment by Stylez 08.25.09 @

how can you all not get it, except for don king. he is talking about jay-z stepping his rap game up so he was great on RD.

Comment by philthy 08.27.09 @

Elzi took it higher. Prince po shined on his own. Price and the two Ghosts carved their own thing out. I think Roc Marciano can do the same. Everlast never fell out of grace with me personally…diamond is dope.

Comment by BIN GRIM 09.03.09 @

Well here`s my list:
Del
Ghostface
Method Man
M.F Doom
Tribe
Beatnuts
Sage
Eminem
Ice Cube…I`m sure theres lots of others but thats all I got right now…

Comment by Johnny Hardcore 10.28.09 @

definitely Sean Price…now some names left off the list that have evolved Royce, Kam Moye, Hell Razah, Wordsworth, Elzhi, Ro Spit (formerly Octane), Big Pooh, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and more

Comment by Praverb 02.20.10 @

Ghost had much better rhymes and tracks on Ironman than Supreme Clientele… not even close. Ghost went too far to the left on Supreme and even admitted that some of his lines were pretty much meaningless jibberish that he used to see how far he could push the envelope. He has better verses and tracks on Bulletproof Wallets and Fishscale too.

Comment by young_ 10.17.10 @



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