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NCFOM - Rappers that refused to fall off

The ever changing landscape of rap music has always dictated that most artists have a four to five year window where they are considered to be on the cutting edge. Back when record labels held all the cards, having your album delayed by a year (or worse yet, having them not release anything while refusing to let you record elsewhere) had dire consequences for groups like Run-DMC who went from kings of the hill to also-rans within the space of two years. The rapper dude who’s been able to weather the storms of changing trends, tastes and styles for more than two decades without a major decline in the quality of their work is truly a rare breed. Here are some of the more notable examples of people who had records out in the nineties who are still worth listening to in 2015:

DOOM – From the his idealistic beginnings with KMD to the masked villain that re-emerged in 1997, Zev Love X went on the create the modern classic Operation: Doomsday, before unleashing a series of concept albums in a period of productivity that rivalled post-jail Tupac. 2014’s ‘Caskets’ proved that he hasn’t lost his step.

M.O.P – Sure, their last two albums have been duds, but Lil’ Fame can still light-up a guest spot and the ‘187’ single from last year was one of my personal highlights. M.O.P. is the one part of Brooklyn that artisanal muffins and gentrification can’t touch.

Nas – For every questionable move that Nas has made, he has an uncanny knack for drip-feeding us the likes of ‘Nasty’ and ‘Reach Out’ to keep us hooked like fiends so that you just know every album is going to have three or four songs so good that you can bare skipping through the Swizz Beatz track.

Large Professor – Forever on the humble, Large doesn’t try to do anything fancy (except for the poorly received 1st Class album) and continues to deliver his own brand of Queens Lounge funk year after year. His latest LP Re: Living is a short but sweet trip through Flushing with one of hip-hop’s most revered elder statesmen.

Grand Daddy I.U – Joining the Cold Chillin’ label on the tail-end of the Juice Crew glory days, I.U. is not only one of rap’s most memorable characters but hasn’t lost a step in terms of keeping his rhyme style sharp and effective, maintaining his world-weary observations about life on Long Island, as demonstrated by his newest single above.

Devin The Dude – You can keep Snoop, Cypress Hill and Wiz Khalifa – Devin will always be the king of stoner rap. With nine solo albums under his belt since his debut as a member of the Odd Squad in 1993, The Dude has continued to serve up his unique brand of self-deprecating humor and tales of brews, broads and blunts. His portrayal of a drunken redneck on 2002’s ‘R&B’ is one of the finest moments in modern music.

Slick Rick – Don’t let the fact that The Ruler hasn’t made an album since 1999 fool you into thinking he can’t still kill a guest spot with his trademark melodic flow, as he did when he appeared on Dynas’ ‘Who U?’ last month. Not sure why people are still calling Busta Rhymes for cameos when Ricky D is available. Go figure.

Method Man – As the first break-out star of the Wu-Tang Clan, Meth had a lot to live up to. Tical was a little patchy and his subsequent three solo albums passed me by but as a rapper, he seems to have nurtured a renewed hunger if his contributions to the latest Wu LP and the verse he did for an A$AP Mob song (here’s my handy ‘No ASAP’ edit of the video) are anything to go by. I’m sure his next album, The Meth Lab, will be underwhelming, but at least Method Man can be relied upon to flourish on stuff like this.

Kool G Rap – James Todd Smith may be the GOAT rapper, but the Kool Genius of Rap is the greatest MC to ever do it. Having made his name with street-level narratives and complex wordplay, G Rap currently shines brightest on guest spots but as recently as 2011 dropped the incredible ‘American Nightmare’ with Havoc and Alchemist.

LL Cool J – I haven’t enjoyed an LL Cool J album since 1990, but as he demonstrated on Action Bronson’s ‘Strictly 4 My Jeeps’ remix and his own single from last year, Uncle L can still hold his own after thirty one years of making records, which makes him the greatest rapper of all time in my book.

Keep up with Robbie’s weekly ‘No Country for Old (Rap) Men’ here.