SHIAVON’S JAWN: The greatest genre on Earth — hip-hop

My top 5 and how I got there


Robbie Pierce

Photo Illustration

Shiavon Chatman, Opinion Editor

A jawn. Pronounced jôn. Noun. A person, place, thing, or event that doesn’t need a specific name. An indescribable, but memorable entity.

I’m Shiavon and this is Shiavon’s Jawn. (If these two words don’t rhyme, then you’re saying my name wrong.)

Hip-hop is the greatest genre to ever flood an eardrum. 

I’m protective of it like I raised it. It has the grittiness of street life and the mellow aura of the ‘burbs.

The metaphors. The hooks. The electric beats. The energy. The freestyles. The features. The culture. 

It’s phenomenal. It’s timeless. It’s misunderstood. 

But it is flawed. 

I have vivid memories of riding shotgun in my dad’s Nissan Altima through the streets of Harlem with Biggie Smalls’ posthumous album “Life After Death” blasting as we rapped every word. 

Aside from being the best hip-hop album of all time (it also houses the best rap song of all time), it tells a story of love, loss, tragedy and acceptance. 

The 17th song on the album, “Ten Crack Commandments,” has helped me navigate romantic and platonic relationships, school and work, and the ongoing battle of trusting myself and others. 

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Essentially, Biggie Smalls wrote a “step-by-step” list of how to successfully sell drugs.

Though I am not a drug dealer (you’re welcome mom and dad), I’ve used the song for most major decisions in my life: becoming a journalism major, breaking up with a boyfriend, cutting off my oldest friendship and getting over the death of a friend. 

Hip-hop has always been there for me. 

Rules No. 1-3 in the song are iconic on their own. But the entire album solidified him as my favorite rapper of all time at such a young age and placed him at the very beginning of my top five. My ranking changes over time, but he’s always my No. 1. 

Your top five is important and you have to have it on hand at all times. It changes as you get older. You become wiser and hopefully, more selective. 

I’ve got a lot of favorites, but some stand out more than others. 

Eric B. and Rakim’s “Paid in Full” was rightfully credited as one of the best albums of all time by Rolling Stone. Rakim was so important to me because he sounded so different than every other rapper in the ‘80s. Rap during that decade was simplistic but his rhymes were anything but, and he perfected his craft with freestyles. 

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He invented an effortless flow that several upcoming rappers for the next following decades would try to imitate. He’s most likely your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. 

There are talented rappers. And then, there’s Lil’ Kim. 

Lil’ Kim in her prime is unmatched. She out rapped Biggie on every song they did together, something no other rapper has ever achieved. 

She proved that longevity in the hip-hop world is a great accomplishment. She is a true lyricist and acted as a wrecking ball to hip-hop’s overwhelming misogynistic atmosphere for over a decade. 

It’s not just men that perpetuate black misogyny (misogynoir). Lauryn Hill’s “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” is one of the greatest albums of all time, but it blamed Black women for hating themselves through unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

The album was supposed to be in response to hip-hop’s ongoing problem of hating and objectifying women. But it didn’t help the cause. She might have hurt it. 

“Look at where you be in, weaves like Europeans. Fake nails by Koreans.” 

First of all, white girls get weaves too. A lot of them do. Secondly, nobody is buying stringy “European” hair. 

Lastly, these things were always considered ghetto and Black girls were vilified for partaking in them. But once a white girl joins in, it’s fashion. 

This is my problem with Eminem. 

Besides the fact that he has an obsession with picking on women and using gay slurs, he hasn’t put out any solid albums since I was in elementary school. 

But somehow he’s considered the “greatest.” He lacks consistency and versatility. He profits off of Black art while achieving the absolute bare minimum.

When Miley Cyrus’ career hit the lowest plateau, she put on a grill and started rapping.

Hannah Montana would never. 

After putting out an album, twerking for America on the VMA’s stage and disrespecting Queen Nicki Minaj, she turned her back on hip-hop. 


She said she didn’t like the genre anymore because of its lyrics. 

“It’s all ‘I got my Rolex…come sit on my cock.’ I can’t listen to that anymore.”

Nobody says cock besides white pornstars so I have no clue what song she’s referencing. Abandoning a culture when you’re done profiting it off of for personal gain and then stereotyping it is racist. 

Maybe Hannah Montana would. 

This disappointed me because I was rooting for Miley Cyrus for years. I was always a big fan. Her cover of Jolene? Iconic. Hannah Montana’s “Ordinary Girl”? A bop and a half. 

Hip-hop is often imitated but never duplicated. 

People were confused as to why Nicki Minaj called out Cardi B for disrespecting hip-hop.

Minaj studied and perfected the art at a young age to become the best rapper of the last 10 years. (Yes. I know Jay-Z and Kanye West exist. Go argue with your mama, not me). 

Her “Monster” verse was so good Kanye wanted to cut it from the album. 

Cardi B may be fun but she’s not a rapper. She’s a music celebrity. 

Belcalis doesn’t want to see Onika in a cypher. 

It is possible to like them both and they should be able to coexist in the same genre. But being critical of either one of them is not pitting women against each other. 

While hip-hop has contributed to misogyny for the majority of its life, it is forgiving and welcoming. Even to those who don’t belong. 

Post Malone did an interview two years ago where he criticized hip-hop. Hip-hop was my very first love, so I took it personally. 

Post told a Poland-based news outlet “If you’re looking to think about life, don’t listen to hip-hop.” He warned his fans in search of “real shit” to stay away from hip-hop. 

If only he’d take his own advice. 

I don’t think you should be able to profit off of a culture in which you don’t respect or know anything about. 

I go to hip-hop for everything. “Suicidal Thoughts” by Biggie Smalls, “All I Got Is You” by Ghostface Killah, to “Renee” by Lost Boyz, to “T.R.O.Y.” by Pete Rock and CL Smooth. Just in case you were looking for real shit. 

It’s not that white people shouldn’t be allowed to rap, but when you have no problem making money off of Black art while simultaneously saying it has no depth, that is cultural appropriation.

Hip-hop has never disappointed me. It comes in many different shapes and sizes. It unites two sides of a beefing nation like Craig Mack (a gift to 90s rap who was never given his flowers) did with “Flava in Your Ear” or it’s more mysterious and celebratory of Black women and Black hair like Leikeli47

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Oh, and my top five are: Biggie Smalls, Rakim, Lil’ Kim, Nas and Jay-Z. Honorable mentions: DMX, Ice Cube, Nicki Minaj, Method Man and Lauryn Hill. 

This is my weekly column where I’ll keep you updated on my straight-to-DVD life, my hip-hop snob opinions, being uncomfortable in this political climate and being a black woman in predominantly white spaces.