The Hip Hop Teachers – Part. 3

The Hip Hop Teachers – Part. 3

The masters of the lyrical and artistic technique

Now that we have talked about KRS-One, Chuck D, 2pac, Kendrick Lamar, Common, Q-Tip, GZA and Mos Def & Talib Kweli as Hip Hop teachers, we can imagine that many others can claim this title or at least come close, especially on a technical aspect. Of course, the six artists previously mentioned are also very technical, but they are rather cultural, social or ideological teachers. Here, we will discuss more about the masters in the lyric and artistic technique, although they could also be classified in the cultural or ideological teachers.

Pharoahe Monch

Pharoahe Monch is considered one of the greatest lyricists in Hip Hop. Rightfully so, Pharoahe has an ability to send out rhymes that are both complex and intelligent, making him a true teacher of linguistic. He is a contortionist of words, constantly challenging his audience to understand his clever metaphors and rhymes.

Pharo is a scriptwriter, his texts are subtle enough while leaving room for the imagination. He stages mini-movies with his lyrics while describing scenes of urban life, notably on Stray Bullet which tells the story of a bullet fired without remorse. He tackles subjects ranging from politics to religion with a perilous form of drama.

Black Thought

Like Pharoahe Monch, Black Thought is recognized as one of the most lyrically and technically skillful rappers. With a politically and socially conscious message, The Roots rapper incorporates multisyllabic rhymes and repetitive double entendres while evoking the hardships of urban life. The complexity of his lyrics make him a master of words with beautiful poems.


Known for his intricate rhymes and smooth monotone flow perfect for jazz-rap beats, Guru is one of the most street wise rappers with a sharp street sense. Guru has always been socially conscious with an education on his street smarts. On Moment Of Truth, he stands more and more as a teacher with a much wiser and smarter approach than before. Guru matures throughout his career, communicating his ethical and social beliefs with a sense of morality all his own.


Although he grew up in a tough neighborhood, Nas has always stayed more or less off the streets. He has never been involved in the shady dealings of Queens. Nas is an observer, looking at the street with wisdom and learning from what he sees, like a wise man.

His observer status allows him to analyze the street and understand it. His poetic sense allows him to describe it with great skill and poetry. On Illmatic, Nas delivers his best lyrics with multisyllabic rhymes, internal rhymes, assonance, wordplay and fine metaphors. Nas delivers a very poetic approach to the street while describing it with substance and insight. He draws a portrait of an abandoned urban dystopia, lost in delinquency and devoid of any moral value, without ever really criticizing.


Although Rakim is more of an entertainer in his lyrics, he is the inventor of modern rap technique with a methodical and precise flow. He created a style that inspired all the other rappers after him. His ability on the mic makes him an outstanding MC, he is smooth and calm, while giving off an incredible energy. Rakim is one of the first rappers to integrate complex rhyme schemes, incorporating internal rhymes and metaphors. In this sense, Rakim is the true teacher of Hip Hop emceeing for all the generations of rappers that followed him.

MF Doom

MF Doom’s ingenuity comes from his ability to criticize various aspects of society in a disguised and clever way. Beginning his career as Zev Luv X in the group KMD alongside his brother, the trio would distinguish itself with a highly engaged and Afrocentric content, yet ultimately candid. After Black Bastards was rejected for sale by his record company and the death of his brother, Daniel Dumile was disgusted by the music industry and leaves the music scene for many years before returning as the masked super-villain under the alias MF Doom.

In the early 2000s, he marks his return with a solo career. His albums will be subtly engaged and will use the metaphor of the super villain, that he incarnates himself, to dismantle different aspects of the society that repulse him. Other than his subtly engaged content, MF Doom is known for his lyrical ability with convoluted metaphors and repeated double entendres, making him one of the greatest lyricists in Hip Hop. His genius with words is worthy of a great poet.

Slick Rick

Although the content of his lyrics is sometimes trivial, Slick Rick’s storytelling is unprecedented and he is one of the pioneers of it. His ability to tell his stories in the first person makes his content both easy to listen to and fun, making him an incredible storyteller capable of communicating powerful messages while remaining entertaining.

Aside from his bluster, Slick Rick also knows how to talk about more societal issues and can be a teacher to youth with advices, especially on Hey Young World. More generally, his messages are generally addressed to the youth and dictated in a humorous tone, which makes his stories easy to approach and remember, especially for the younger generation.

Masta Ace

Despite his outstanding lyrical talent, Masta Ace is unfortunately often ignored in the list of great lyricists. His ability to describe aspects of the streets of New York while bringing a message that is both social and political makes him a true inspiration in Hip Hop, with innovative rhymes and combinations.

Masta Ace is both fine and clever in his approach, he has a sometimes bitter feeling with a certain hopelessness about different aspects of society and the music industry, especially on his two albums Disposable Arts and A Long Hot Summer. Masta Ace does not hesitate to stand as a teacher to his audience, he wants to teach him, even educate him, making him sometimes a rapper too didactic with life lessons. Masta Ace is in some ways a cynical rapper, making him almost philosophical or desperate in his reflections. However, his texts always seem to be instructive and educational with a will to push to reflection and questioning.

Even though some are more obvious than others, I still believe that, with a few exceptions, every rapper could be a teacher in Hip Hop. All the rappers have contributed to the building with their knowledge, and their style. They have all contributed to the creation and perpetuation of Hip Hop culture by transmitting and communicating their visions through their art. This article presents the most obvious and those who are probably the greatest teachers of Hip Hop. Their respective contributions being different and complementary, I preferred not to rank them, considering that each one is a source of inspiration in its own way. Many other rappers could have been included in the list, including artists like Immortal Technique or Ice Cube, to name a few.

Find the other parts of the article:

By Grégoire Zasa

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