Every day in the leadup to Christmas, open the door to reveal a Spinoff writer’s short, sizzling commentary on a weighty subject. Our arbitrary and strictly enforced word limit: 365. Today: Simon Day on why Kiwi MC, Tom Scott, is the Greatest rapper Of All Time.
An essential part of hip hop culture is making your top MC list. Where Kendrick Lamar compares to Big Daddy Kane occupies endless hours of debate online and offline, into the night. The top spot, the greatest of all time – the GOAT – is a sacred decision.
Since I first heard Homebrew in 2007, Tom Scott has been on my list. This year, with the release of his new project Avantdale Bowling Club, I’ve realised he’s without a doubt the greatest rapper of all time. Why?
His flow – the measure of a rappers rhythmic skill – is sophisticated, and diverse. One minute on songs like “Pocket Lint” Tom’s vocals are sprawling jazz solos, capturing the frenzy of trying to stay afloat in poverty. (Power bill, water bill, cigarettes, internet/ 50 cent in the piggy bank/ for the picket fence). The next, he’s rapping in a traditional pattern, effortlessly squeezing in complicated multi syllable rhymes in his story about the loss of a friend to suicide.
His writing is intelligent, clever, perceptive, and stood firmly in New Zealand (very specifically, Avondale), a place he dearly loves, but is frustrated for its failure to fulfil its promise of paradise.
He’s hugely ambitious. His prolific back-catalogue ranges from street storytelling to psychedelic philosophical hip hop. Now he’s made a deeply personal album set to a backing track of jazz played by an all-star squad of local musicians.
He’s an incredible live performer. His ability to replicate incredibly complicated songs on stage is equal to any live rap I’ve seen. And he’s committed to curating a complete immersive experience, from the five-minute documentary prelude to the blending of his track “Home” into Gil Scott-Heron’s “Home is Where the Hatred Is”.
It’s hip hop I recognise. He uses his music to challenge our perspective of ourselves, tell the stories of those struggling to survive in New Zealand, of our violent colonial history and its effects. And while his nemesis John Key may be gone, he remains skeptical of the latest government: Got a new PM with a cool boyfriend/ But she never comes to my ends.
- Tom Scott
- Black Thought
- Kendrick Lamar
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