In 2013 Eminem claimed to be a ‘Rap God‘ due to the songs intricate verses and dizzying lyricism. The style was unlike anything seen in mainstream hip hop for a long time, until Lupe Fiasco’s recent 8 minute track ‘Mural‘. Lupe Fiasco is one of the few rappers who can match Eminem’s technical ability and flow and with Eminem’s latest effort being the disappointing ‘Shady XV‘ and Lupe delivering one of his best albums in years, Tetsuo & Youth, who really is the true Rap God?
The two rappers have as much in common as they have differences. One gained notoriety through controversy and catchy songs. The other through counter culture conscious hip hop and being politically minded. Both share intricate and dizzying flows. Both share a moment in their careers where they became disillusioned and struggled to maintain relevance to their fan base.
November 2014 saw the release of Eminem’s last project Shady XV. The album saw Eminem’s apparent increased skill level take precedent over actual song writing. ‘Rap God‘ made a very strong argument that Eminem is the best lyricist on the plant and in 2014 he somehow managed to improve. He has graduated to a new level of rhyming where his previous love of compound syllables has been upgraded to a dense form of rambling with so many rhymes and metaphors that there’s no time to comprehend. It seems at times he is in competition with himself as we listen to the endless number of ways Em can wrap himself up intricate flows for what feels like a year just for the sake of a minor punchline which is impressive any way you cut it.
Lupe’s answer to ‘Rap God‘ was his 8 minute hit ‘Mural‘ where he manages to place all of his stream of consciousness energy into one track. ‘Mural‘ is what website Rap Genius was invented for with some of the metaphors almost impossible to decipher, but fun to try. The style used here doesn’t appear anywhere else on his latest album – Tetsuo & Youth – where the 8 minute run time is a satisfying exploration of Lupe at his most free. The flow bounces words off each other meaning a lot of his message will go overhead until the 100th listen and the styles sole appearance on the album makes ‘Mural‘ all the more special.
Instead of just attacking every track on the album, Lupe adjusts his style to suit each song. Firstly, he changes his flow throughout the album while still ensuring the style feels like his own. ‘Adoration Of The Magni‘ has a saxophone swoon that sees Lupe break down into a statacco which suits the track perfectly and allows the message to hit home successfully. Lupe is always aware when to hold back and the best way to deliver his message. ‘Prisoner 1 & 2‘ is a epic 8+ minute song where he tones down the metaphors and uses a more straightforward flow. Even on posse cut ‘Chopper‘ Lupe doesn’t try to outrap anyone or take condescending look at everyone’s else’s lyrical content, but instead he tries to match the feeling of all the other verses whilst remaining true to his style. The album manages to feel cohesive whilst also allowing each track to have its own feel.
However, Eminem did claim to be a “Rap God” and the man difference between the two tracks is ‘Rap God is a song, where as Lupe is rapping over a freestyle instrumental in ‘Mutal’. In ‘Rap God’ the instrumental changes, it has peaks where Em changes his style and flow to suit it. It stops the song from being a little too “rappity rap” and when he charges up his “sama lamaa duma lamaa” it isn’t just impressive, it’s entertaining as hell.
The one thing that separates the two rappers, is caring about their reputations. Lupe doesn’t care about being relevant where as Eminem cares too much. For Eminem to be truly great again he needs to stop people pleasing and produce music he wants to make, just like Lupe.
Both rappers have flaws in their discographies and have moments that make them “God like“. Eminem can get back to greatness, whereas Lupe may have made his last album with the threats of retirement. The only way to truly know who the rap god is to get these two legends on one track.