So you should know by now that I try to write articles that either:
Can be read five years from now
Or is a snapshot of where we're at now in Hip-Hop culture.
With that said... I think I'll hold this opinion for a while, I have only recently just realised it but in the short amount of time I've realised it, it makes complete sense in my eyes.
Before I continue, let's get the definition of "OBJECTIVELY" crystal clear.
"(of a person or their judgement) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts."
Objectivity is something that is considered an easy thing to do. But many a time, a statement, thought or stance is tainted by objectivity's annoying little brother 'subjectivity'. (It is kind of ironic that I'm categorising this article in the "Opinions & Critiques" section of my site, huh.)
I can't convince you that I'm being impartial here. But to help you believe I'm being 100% real here, I don't have the subject of this article in my personal Top 5. He's not MY "Greatest of All-Time". But if we're looking at everything that we value as Hip-Hop fans. It's undeniable now.
Shawn Corey "Jay-Z" Carter, is the Greatest of All-Time.
I said in the beginning that this was realised only recently, but before I give the reason that enlightened me, let's look at it broadly.
There are a lot of parameters and criterion in which we decide for ourselves who is the GOAT. Notice how I didn't put "Artist", "Rapper", "Lyricist", "Performer" next to GOAT. Because putting those are parameters in themselves. I'm being very blunt when I call Jay-Z the GOAT simply because he's elite in every parameter we could possibly put next to the word GOAT.
From the perspective of a Hip-Hop artist, his discography is one of the best with three consensus "classics" and many more with high quality deep cuts. His works pleases the everyday Hip-Hop fan and the die hard Jay fan since Marcy.
His career has spanned decades & his longevity being at the top of the food chain, I don't think has been matched. From an age standpoint, nobody has done what he has done. Peep my article comparing his album "4:44" to Chris Rock's "Tamborine". He's going to be 50 in December. In every other genre, age is better. In Hip-Hop, people stop messing with you after you turn 40, for some it's even younger. Jay could drop and album at 60 and people would listen.
I could name all the accolades, get specific with his lyrics, the hits, all that stuff that can be argued. But here's the thing that made me realise.
There are only a few artists that seek actual change to their environment and succeed with genuine visibility on their contribution. In the past year, Jay has helped Meek Mill & 21 Savage with their individual legal battles. He's producing documentaries. He has one of the biggest platforms in music (streaming & as a personal brand). He doesn't have to do all this. But he has visibly put in the effort to help artists younger than him, hold a mirror up to US society and make a legacy that is not just beats and bars. (Although, artists that are just about the music is fine too. Just want to be clear on that.)
That is what Hip-Hop is all about. Raising everybody up, giving knowledge. Going through hell and making sure that others don't go through the same hell. Hip-Hop may (unfortunately) be a business, but it's also a culture, a lifestyle. He's dominated all facets of Hip-Hop and I don't think that can be argued.
There have been artists that have done things Jay has done, as an artist, as a businessman, as a creative mind. But nobody has done all facets, all on an elite level where you could objectively put him Top 5 in every possible parameter.
He's not my GOAT. But objectively... He's the GOAT.