As told to Rob Kenner (@boomshots)
She may sing R&B, but Jhené Aiko is passionate about hip-hop. You can tell just how passionate she is by listening to her sing. No ID has spoken of the "witty rap complexities" in her music. (This is a singer who has been known to cover Tupac's "Keep Your Head Up" and who describes her own rapper alter-ego, J-Hennessy, as "not the best rapper alive yet, but she's on her way." Another surefire way to tell is by the features she lined up—Drake, Kendrick, Gucci Mane—for her 2011 mixtape, Sailing Souls. And you can tell by how seriously Jhené Aiko takes the question, Who are your top 10 rappers, dead or alive?
She plunges in fearlessly at first, rattling off her top 3 like she's thought about this a million times—because, well, maybe she has. But as the list gets longer, spaces run short and the going gets tough. "Shoot," she says around number 7 or 8. "This is going to be hard."
"I take it seriously because sometimes it changes," Jhené adds, rejuggling her picks. "The top three will pretty much remain the same. I’m so afraid to leave someone out." After stopping short, rewinding, and revising her list, she cops a plea: "First say 'in no particular order,'" she says—despite all appearances to the contrary. "And please make a note that it changes." So with all disclaimers stated in advance, here are Jhené Aiko's Top 10 MCs, as they occurred to her on this particular evening.