#1: KOOL KEITH
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The most underrated emcee of all time as well as the most unrecognised and underappreciated is Kool Keith. This man is, to put it simply, one of the most important individuals to the artistic progression of emceeing in hip-hop. I know this is a bold statement, but that’s how bold, innovative and original this guy was, is, and will continue to be. He is the founder of the Ultra Magnetic MCs who were known for their innovative production as well as their bizarre lyrical imagery.
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Kool Keith was at the forefront of this with extremely technical battle rhymes at the time which still hold up today, utilising techniques like hyperbole, homophones, humour, absurdity, entendre, simile and metaphor. He did this for three albums consecutively with partner in rhyme Ced G and occasional collaborator Godfather Don who are dope emcees in their own right, yet Keith generally outshone them.
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A pioneer in nerd rap, the self proclaimed (with good clout) inventor of horror-core and definitely the inventor of porno-core has been a major influence for 3 decades. He then completely stretched, distorted and deconstructed the boundaries of hip-hop with Dr Octagonecologyst, which again employed advanced writing techniques disguised in a myriad of non-sequiturs such as surrealism, complex meter, and futurism in addition to off kilter flows. He has been an instrumental influence to countless emcees such as Ghostface Killah, Pharaoh Monch, MF Doom, A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharacyde, El-P, Aesop Rock, Del the Funky Homosapien, ODB, Danny Brown and countless other acts in one way or another.
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You may ask, with all this, why is he not celebrated more? Well his obscurity is in large part due to his eccentricity and lack of good publicists. This man is a definitive legend, love or hate him.
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