Melle Mel made the comments on a recent episode of The Art Of Dialogue podcast, where he criticized Eminem’s No. 5 placement on Billboard’s recent list of the Top 50 Rappers of All Time.
“Obviously he’s a capable rapper. If you was talking about sales, he’s sold more than everybody. If you were talking about rhyme style, okay he got a rhyme style. But he’s white. He’s white!” Melle Mel, who’s No. 48 on the list, said “So now if Eminem was another n***a like all the rest of us, would he be Top 5 on that list when a n***a that could rhyme just as good as him is 35? That had records and all that? He’s 35. He’s white.”
He continued: “And anybody could be as mad … They could feel how they wanna feel. If you don’t think that race plays a part in the equation of how great he is — I heard one of the dudes that’s down with him, Royce Da 6’9″ or one of those – I heard he’s just as good as Eminem. Why he ain’t as big as Eminem? Because he’s Black! Ain’t none of that shit hard to figure out. Eminem gets a top spot because he’s white.”
The comments ultimately divided rappers on either side, with Chuck D coming to Melle’s defense and saying his status as one of the Fabulous Five meant people should just leave him be. However, 50 Cent, Fat Joe, and most recently Kevin Gates came out in support of Em, with the latter telling TMZ that Em was one of the best just for writing “Stan.”
“He in my top 5,” Gates said. “He’s the truth. Who can make a song like ‘Stan?’ Who has made a song like ‘Stan’? The artistry of it...listen I don’t get into all that [white privilege]. There’s only two type of people, real people and fake people. Real people do real things. Fake people do fake things. I don’t go off all that.”
As for Fat Joe, he agreed that no one was contesting Melle Mel’s influence, but added that with all that being said, Eminem remains one of the greatest technical rappers of all time.
“And so as much as I love and worship Melle Mel, I think he’s wrong with this one,” Joe said.
Meanwhile, 50 Cent had a particularly visceral reaction on social media, defending the man who he feels is partially responsible for him becoming one of the biggest artists in the genre’s history.
“There was more money selling dope than being in Hip Hop when Melly [misspelling Melle] Mel was popping, the culture has grown so much.” 50 cent said on Instagram. “I am not sure if it would be what it is today with out artist like Eminem. Shit I am not sure I would be who I am with out him but you know it is competitive so n-ggas gonna hate. LOL fuck outta here ! We sucker free.”
Melle Mel is far from the only rapper divided on who deserves what placement on Billboard’s list. In a recent interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, Lil Wayne claimed he was the best rapper ever, scoffing at his No. 7 placement on the list.