Eminem is often regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time, but not everyone agrees with his top spot on best rappers’ lists. Fans often debate the talents of other legendary rappers such as Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Biggie, Tupac Shakur, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Nas. While Eminem is a staple name in these conversations, some believe that his success is due to his race rather than his talent.
Recently, the Top 50 Greatest Rappers of All Time list by Billboard and Vibe caused controversy, and rap icon Melle Mel shared his thoughts on Eminem’s placement. The Detroit rapper landed in the fifth spot, a position that Mel believes he received only because he is white. While he acknowledged that Eminem is a capable rapper who has achieved great sales and has a unique rhyme style, Mel argued that his race played a significant role in his legacy.
“Obviously, he’s a capable rapper. If we was talkin’ about sales, he sold more than everybody, if you talkin’ about rhyme style, okay, he got a rhyme style. But he’s white! He’s white! So now, if Eminem was just another n*gga like all the rest of us, would he be Top 5 on that list? When a n*gga that can rhyme just as good as him is [No.] 35? That had records and all that. He’s 35. He’s white.”
Mel pointed out that if Eminem were just another Black rapper, he would not be in the top five of the list. Instead, he believes that Eminem’s race has given him an unfair advantage over Black rappers who are just as talented.
Mel argued that race is an essential factor in how great Eminem is perceived to be. He also pointed out that if he were white and had contributed to the same culture as he had as a Black rapper, people would regard him as the greatest white man who had ever lived.
“And the point is this: if I was white, ngga, I’d be greater than [Elvis Presley]. Ngga be like, ‘Melle Mel is greater than Elvis. Melle Mel is the greatest white man that has ever lived. He came up with a culture, he was a part of a culture that changed the whole world. That is a great ass white man right there.’ But I’m not white. I’m one of the n*ggas.”
“So, you know, anybody can be as mad as they want. They can feel how they wanna feel. If you don’t think that race plays a part in the equation in how great he is—I heard one of the dudes that’s down with him, [Royce Da 5’9”], I heard he’s just as good as Eminem. Why ain’t he as big as Eminem? Because he’s Black! None of that sh*t [is] hard to figure out!”
While Mel could not say for certain whether a hypothetical Black Eminem would rank higher or lower, he emphasized that race is an important consideration in the music industry. He cited the example of Royce Da 5’9″, who is just as talented as Eminem but has not achieved the same level of success because he is Black.
In conclusion, while Eminem is undoubtedly a talented rapper who has achieved a great deal of success in the music industry, some believe that his race has given him an unfair advantage over equally talented Black rappers. Melle Mel’s comments highlight the ongoing debate around the role of race in music and its impact on how we perceive and value artists.