Some say that music is a disposable art. While that may be true in regards to content that is thoughtless, unoriginal, or void of any emotion or feeling, GOOD MUSIC is timeless and indispensable. And thus the artist that makes good music, deserve to be heard. With that said I reintroduce to some and introduce to others, The Last Emperor – who in my humble opinion is one of the most underrated Emcees to have debuted at the turn of the century.
I know some of you are scratching your head right now and saying “WHO!?! Who the f#@k is this guy talking about? Is he some local dude that just passed out his mixtape? Is this your sister’s cousin’s uncle’s brother?” Though he was my next door neighbor in college (Lincoln University), The Last Emperor has a much higher hip-hop pedigree than Bobby Boom box droppin’ a mixtape on the block.
Once upon a time the Last Emperor was actually signed to Aftermath Records during its infancy stage. This is a time when Dr. Dre was looking to work with ill emcees from the east coast. Hence the signing of Eve (who was a fierce battle emcee in the Philadelphia underground at the time) and his subsequent work with Nas and the rest of The Firm. Though no music was released by the Last Emperor during this period, I mention this only as my first exhibit to the potential greatness that should have been. (If Dr. Dre one of the greatest producers, ever, recognized it, then we should too).
For those of you that are in the KNOW, you know that the Last Emperor made his commercial debut in 1998 on the critically acclaimed Lyricist Lounge Volume 1. On disc #2, track #11, on a song called C.I.A. (criminals in action) that also featured KRS-One and Zack De La Rocha from Rage Against the Machine.
Zack de la Rocha & Krs-One & Last Emperor – C.I.A. (Criminals In Action)
The Last Emperor went on to perform material as part of the Lyricist Lounge tour alongside dead prez, Eminem, Talib Qweli, Mos Def and others. He was subsequently signed to Rawkus Records and recorded an album titled “The Legend of Bigfoot”.
At Rawkus he was part of a roster that included Blackstar, Pharoahe Monch, Shabam Sadeeq, The High & Mighty, Company Flow, The Cocoa Brovas (Smif & Wessun), Skillz, and other underground luminaries. Due to troubles with the label, THAT album ended up getting shelved, but eventually made its way to the public as a bootlegged bonus disc to an album he would release independently in 2003 called Music, Magic, Myth.
The Last Emperor is an emcee’s emcee plain and simple. His flow and delivery is immaculate, he is a supreme story teller, an inspiring wordsmith, and extremely gifted vocally as he is able to impersonate some of your favorite emcees. (more on that later). Some of you may be saying it’s a stretch to call the Last Emperor an underrated emcee with only one official release. My reply to that argument is if you would have only listened the 1rst time.
Last Emperor – Single Mother
Listen to the song Single Mother and tell me you don’t think this song should be played on every single Mother’s Day right after Tupac’s Dear Momma. Breakdown Meditation and tell me the concentrated self-consciousness of his rhymes doesn’t make you believe he’s one of hip hops last Jedi’s. Preview The Block Party and tell me you can’t see yourself in the midst of a cypher at a park jam with Smif & Wessun.
The song Animalistics is an intelligent display of lyricism rarely put on by the elementary school dropout rappers of the day (tell me again why is everybody lil & young?) Check out the Great Pretender and tell me you can’t easily fall into his flow and feel like you can’t root for his success. The Last Emperor is the kind of emcee you want to succeed. He is the kind we need to succeed. Now after that, if you’re still not convinced, listen to Secret Wars I and Secret Wars II.
With all of the hype surrounding the Marvel Cinematic Universe these days, now is precisely the time to give the Last Emperor a second look (and for some a first look). In these two songs he goes full blerd and has battles with your favorite emcees and comic book characters impersonating the likes of Redman, Common, Biggie, Tupac, Rza, Ghostface, DMX, Ludacris, and plenty of others with ease.
Secret Wars pt I (prod by Madsol-Desar)
If only you would have listened the first time, the potential greatness that is the Last Emperor could have been fully realized. Part of stardom is timing. Part of it is luck. I don’t know if it was bad luck or bad timing that kept the world from experiencing what could have been, but it’s not too late. Like I said earlier, GOOD MUSIC is timeless and indispensable and artists that make good music deserve to be heard and appreciated.
How do you feel about Last Emperor now? Is he the Most Underrated MC? If not, who is? What’s your criteria for being “The Most Underrated?”