Melle Mel Explains Why Busta Rhymes Is A Greater MC Than JAY-Z

Just over one month ago, Billboard and VIBE collaborated on one of the most talked-about lists of the last year. The publications and a team of respected journalists ranked “The 50 Greatest Rappers Of All-Time.” As predicted, the feature prompted discourse among fans and artists. The criteria for these ranks were written to be: “body of work/achievements (charted singles/albums, gold/platinum certifications), cultural impact/influence (how the artist’s work fostered the genre’s evolution), longevity (years at the mic), lyrics (storytelling skills) and flow (vocal prowess).” These feats were reportedly considered in no particular order.

Grandmaster Melle Mel was included on the list at #48. The MC who gained widespread recognition for his work with Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five is a Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducteea Grammy Award winner, and a platinum-certified artist thanks to his 2010s collaborative work with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. However, the writers behind one of Rap music’s most extraordinary and timeless anthems, “The Message,” argued that the list is not a fair assessment of the culture.

Melle Mel Explains Why He Didn’t Think “The Message” Would Be Successful (Video)

In speaking with The Art Of Dialogue, Melle Mel spoke about the list’s #1 spot, JAY-Z, and why he feels a George Westinghouse High School classmate of Jay’s is more deserving. “What would you consider ‘greatness’? Obviously, [JAY-Z] has his studio game down. Obviously, he’s sold the records. But now my point is, could he go up against Busta Rhymes? ‘Could Busta take JAY-Z, yes or no?’ I don’t have no fear of getting on stage with anybody and crossing mics with anybody. Busta’s a hard draw. That would probably be the hardest draw in the game. He got all the intangibles. It’s a certain thing that Busta got that a lot of MCs don’t got. When he comin’ on that stage, if you out in the crowd, you know something is about to happen. It ain’t just the regular run of the mill ‘I can’t wait for him to do so-and-so song.’ It’s that magnetism. It’s like a different level that all MCs don’t have that he got. I’ll ride with Busta,” Melle said. Busta was at #33 in the Billboard/VIBE rankings.

Melle further expounded on why he believes that Busta Rhymes is a better MC than JAY-Z. “On an overall 360 of an MC: the pen game, the studio game, the rap game, but the stage presence, that’s got to be in the equation. And absolutely, Busta’s stage presence is better than JAY-Z. Absolutely. I mean, it’s no denying that. Did you see where Busta is on that list? #33. Now, [there] ain’t [32] guys that can take the guy. That’s my point. Now if he’s #33, it’s not [32] guys that’s gonna say, ‘I want Busta, I wanna do the Verzuz.’ Don’t nobody want him. It ain’t gon’ happen. He could call dudes out. It’s not gonna happen.” Melle likened Trevor Smith to the MCs of the 1970s and early 1980s—his class. “The type of MC that Busta is is more along the lines of what we was trying to do back in the day. You take your lunch pail to work, you go to work, and you work hard.”

Why Every Rapper Owes A Debt To Grandmaster Melle Mel (Video)

Notably, in 2002, during an interview with JayQuan’s The Foundation, Melle Mel gave JAY-Z a 9 out of 10 in a rating of MCs. The men were photographed together at last month’s Grammy Awards, where they each performed separately.

On episode #102 of the What’s The Headline podcast, the Ambrosia For Heads team examined Melle’s point as it applies to the Billboard/VIBE list. The commentary, beginning at 6:30 in the video and audio below, emphasizes that while JAY-Z at #1 is a decision that AFH could agree with, Melle Mel’s list positioning marks a disconnect—especially as Hip-Hop celebrates 50 years. The episode gives Melvin Glover his flowers and context as one of Rap’s architects and first great MCs. The discussion—which also addresses Melle’s headline-making Art Of Dialogue comments about Eminem, Tupac, Biggie, Kendrick Lamar, and Lil Wayne—analyzes whether he understood the list’s criteria based on his quotes.

Willie D Vs. Grandmaster Melle Mel Boxing Match (Video)

Beyond the 40-plus minutes of analysis of Melle Mel’s comments, there is discussion surrounding Snoop Dogg returning the Death Row Records catalog to digital streaming platforms—as well as his new partnership with former Apple executive Larry Jackson. New music by the Dreamville Records roster as well as Talib Kweli & Madlib is also highlighted.

AFH readers can catch regular discussions about the culture on our What’s The Headline. The podcast also features interviews with Rapper Big PoohCormegaMeyhem Lauren & DaringerDiamond DJoell OrtizAZBlu & Mickey FactzKuruptEvidenceSkyzooPharoahe MonchPrince Paul & Don NewkirkStatik SelektahLyric JonesThe LOXMC EihtHavocDuckwrthphotographer T. Eric Monroe, and Lord Finesse.