Who’s the Greatest Punchline Rapper of All-Time?
While I might throw out the occasional question throughout the week, like "Who's the Worst YouTube Rapper of All-Time?", I try to save my most profound and debatable queries for the Wednesday Question of the Week. So with that in mind, there's something that's been on my mind lately, and I need RefinedHype Nation's help. Who's the Best Punchline Rapper of All-Time?
As always, we need to start by defining the parameters. Or to put it less fancily, what the fuck, exactly, is a punchline? After all, we can't possibly figure out who the best punchline rapper is if we haven't figured out what a punchline is. Like porn,iIt's one of those things that you know you know, until someone asks you to type out a definition, and then you realize you don't really know. I'll have to turn to the dictionary:
"A punchline is the final part of a joke or profound statement...which is intended to be funny or to provoke laughter or thought from listeners. Few punchlines are inherently funny out of context, but when a comedian [or rapper] sets up the premise and builds up the audience's expectations, the punch line can function as the climactic part of the act. Punch lines generally derive their humor from being unexpected."
Well what do you know, that was actually really helpful. Two things jumped out at me there. One, a punchline is a joke OR profound statement. While there will obviously be some overlap, best punchline rapper is NOT necessarily the funniest rapper. Second, the unexpected part is crucial. The gap between where you thought a line was going, and where it ends up, is the definition of a great punchline rapper.
For example, Kanye's "She got a light skinned friend look like Michael Jackson, got a dark skinned friend look like Michael Jackson" is a punchline, the first half sets up the second, and I guarantee the first time you heard it, you had no idea where Kanye was going with it after the "light skinned friend" portion. Similarly, I would argue that 2 Chainz (in)famous "she got a big booty, so I call her big booty" is also technically a punchline; he's playing off your expectation that no one would be ignorant to call a big booty girl Big Booty.
Obviously a lot of grey area here, but hopefully we're all at least generally on the same page. Now let's get to the nominees. "Carter III' era Lil Wayne deserves a mention, of course Chino XL, no one's name is more synonymous with punchlines than Fabolous, Ludacris in his prime was almost untouchable, Mos Def's punchlines are under-rated, I hear Los' name brought up a lot amongst younger dudes, Royce da 5' 9" has to be brought up, although for me as dope as he is, too often he sounds like he's so determined to spit punchlines he forces them in even when they don't really fit.
But ultimately for me, it comes down to Big L and Eminem. Really, you can't go wrong picking either one, and I can probably be swayed with a good argument for Big L. But I won't cop out and say both, so I've got to go with Eminem. Case in point:
"You might see me jogging / You might see me walking
You might see me walking a dead rottweiler dog
With its head chopped off in the park with a spiked collar / Hollering at him cause the son of a bitch won't quit barking
Or leaning out a window with a cocked shotgun / Driving up the block in the car that they shot Pac in
Looking for Big's killers / Dressing ridiculous
Blue-and-red / Like I don't see what the big deal is
Double barrel 12-gauge bigger than Chris Wallace / Pissed off cause Biggie and Pac just missed all this
Watching all these cheap imitations get rich off them / And get dollars that should've been theirs like they switched wallets."
If we go back to the original definition of a dope punchline, this has it all. It's unexpected - you can follow his train of thought, but just barely - and it's both funny and profound. This is punchline-driven rap as commentary on the state of hip-hop. So all praise due to Big L, but I'm going with the shady one from Detroit.
Alright, you're up RefinedHype Nation. Have at it - who's your pick for the greatest punchline rapper of all-time?
This article originally appeared on RefinedHype.com, which has now merged with The DJBooth. For more info, click here.
Written by Nathan S. on Aug 21, 2013
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