The Best Rapper Alive, Every Year Since 1979

1982: Melle Mel

Credentials: "The Message"

If you see modern-day Melle Mel out in New York City rocking a powder blue tuxedo with long tails and calling himself "Muscle Simmons," you might not suspect that this is the same dude who rhymed the immortal words "Don't push me, 'cause I'm close to the edge." Back in 1982 Mel was a member of The Furious Five along with his brother Kidd Creole (Nathaniel Glover), Scorpio (Eddie Morris), Rahiem (Guy Todd Williams), and Cowboy (Keith Wiggins).

When they weren't ripping park jams and rec centers with DJ Grandmaster Flash, they were dropping hit records like "Super Rappin,'" "The Birthday Party," and "It's Nasty (Genius of Love)" for labels like Enjoy and Sugar Hill Records. But when Melle Mel turned his attention to the realities of life in the Bronx during the Reagan era, he created a groundbreaking hip-hop classic called "The Message." 

Honorable Mentions: Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Caz, T Ski Valley

Kool Moe Dee's rhymes on The Treacherous Three's "Yes We Can Can" proved that he was still not the one to fuck with. Grandmaster Caz caught wreck on the Cold Crush Brothers joint "Weekend," and T Ski Valley took it back to his Erotic Brothers Disco days on the NSFW "Sexual Rapping." Rob Kenner (@boomshots)

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