Alaska's Top 10 Greatest Rappers of All Time
Alaska's top 10 greatest rappers of all time
Words / James "Tubby" Storlie
Every rap fan has their GOAT—greatest of all time—list. It’s the biggest discussion in all of rap: "Who's the GOAT?" "Who's Top 5 Dead or Alive?" "Who's the best MC, Biggie, Jay Z or Nas?" We've all had those discussions or overheard them. It's probably my favorite thing to talk about, other than weed and food.
And as time goes on and things change, music changes, artists evolve and everyone’s GOAT list changes. I know mine has over the past 15 years, and I'm sure as the years pass it will continue to change. (Was Kendrick Lamar on your GOAT list 10 years ago?)
The great, yet tricky thing about music, like all art, is it’s subjective, so everyone's going to have their individual opinions of what is considered great and who they consider to be the “greatest.”
I don't like to confuse "greatest" with "favorite" either. Some people have a hard time differentiating the two. My favorite rapper list and my list of who I consider to be the greatest rappers of all time are two completely different lists because I try to be objective and statistical when figuring out who I consider to be the best, most influential, accomplished, successful and overall most well-rounded rap artists of all time. And that same format and protocol went into creating this list, Alaska's Top 10 Greatest Rappers of All Time.
10. Joker The Bailbondsman
The originator. The first; the first in a lot of things. He was the first to get noticed outside of Alaska. He was the first one to start getting features from famous rappers. He was the first one to get his videos played on TV. Shit, he was the first one to really have a rap video, to my knowledge.
There's no denying Joker's contribution to the Alaska hip-hop scene. After leaving the scene for several years due to incarceration, the originator has returned, as driven as ever. Since his return from prison, he started the "16 Bar Bucket Challenge" on Facebook—it didn't take long for Joker to get caught up to speed with social media and technology—which still has thousands of members and participants. Although he's no longer rapping or putting out music as a solo act, his presence is still being felt, especially now that he's playing a major role in the career of Alaska rap artist AK Honest, who just recently signed a deal with Sony. Even with several years taken away from him because of his incarceration, Joker has still managed to accomplish more than most rappers out of Alaska. If I were to guess, I'd say we still have a lot more to expect from him.
9. Bishop Slice
I believe it was in 2005 that I had an album signing and release at the local Sam Goody's in Fairbanks. People came in, purchased a CD, took pictures and we made an event of it. It was a beautiful day that I'll never forget. One person I remember coming in was a young boy. He couldn't have been older than 15 or 16. His name was Bishop (the Slice part wasn't there yet) and he copped a CD and handed me his demo. I remember thinking how cool that was. I want to say that he was the first kid to ever hand me a demo. There's been many since then, but now that I'm thinking of it, Bishop was the first to do that.
Years went on and I started seeing him around Alaska Redd and The Redd Dott camp. He eventually became an active member of Redd's crew, alongside acts like King Slimm and Hastyle Reign. Bishop was the youngest and was still finding his way and place. Unfortunately, incarceration cut Bishop's initial rap run short, placing him behind bars for years. During that time, though, Bishop was polishing his craft. I actually got arrested one night and sent to Fairbanks Correctional Center for a week and I ran into Bishop at the gym. He was already known in FCC for kickin’ rhymes. I'll never forget that.
Since his release, Bishop's been on a non-stop grind to step out on his own, away from Redd Dott, starting his own movement, Savage Language. To see where he's come and the amount of love he gets from the Alaska native community, and from his hometown of Fairbanks, is just a beautiful thing to see. Known for his ungodly fast delivery (see "Let There Be Choppin"), he's been co-signed by national acts such as Ca$his, Project Pat and Tech N9ne. Within Alaska, Bishop has an entire lane to himself. Already a certified player in this local rap game, young Bishop Slice has many years ahead of him and, if he maintains the pace he's at currently, he could very well be one of, if not the biggest, rappers Alaska has ever known.
8. Bay Dilla
Bay Dilla, in my opinion, took over where Joker left off after going to prison, and took it to the next level. Never in Alaska's history had we seen anything as illustrious and flamboyant as Bay Dilla and Out Da Cutt Entertainment. Bay Dilla did everything bigger than anyone before him. There was Out Da Cutt Studios, Anchorage's premier recording studio, which housed Raw Beatzz, Alaska's greatest producer/engineer of all time, in my opinion, and Up North D-Boys (U.N.D.B), the rap super group under Out Da Cutt, which consisted of Nutcase, Lil Tee, Bay Dilla and Skitzo Scoe, not to mention damn near every other relevant rap artist at the time.
Then there were the parties.
Bay would have the funnest, biggest rap shows and parties in Anchorage. I went to a New Year’s Party of his where he had fuckin’ Three Six Mafia and Project Pat perform for us. Three Six Mafia, man! That's seriously one of many Bay Dilla/ODC party stories. I'll save the rest for the memoir.
Bay also had bangers, and videos to go with them. High quality, professionally done, rap videos. With all the obligatory items that one would see in a gangster rap video: the cars (which he owned, by the way), the jewelry (same) and the girls (a few of which, yours truly ended up playing with…Thanks Bay! Ha!).
Bay was Alaska's first big time rapper who was really living like a big time rapper. He even referred to himself as the "King of Alaska" and, for the most part, from a rap standpoint, he was. The streets loved him, all the rappers fucked with him and he was getting Alaska attention from people outside of the state. Prominent people such as Julia Beverly from Ozone Magazine. That was big for Alaska. Bay Dilla was our first, real local big time, rap star. Unfortunately, all that big time rapper shit came to a halt after what's been called, the "Largest Cocaine Bust in Alaska History." Yet, to this day, no one can take away what Bay Dilla did during his run. It was truly unforgettable.
7. Tayy Tarantino
I want to say this kid is the future of Alaska hip-hop, but the truth is Tayy Tarantino is the present. He represents what is now. He's young, but those who know the local music scene know that Tayy isn't a new jack by any means.
Since linking up with Vasco Vea and Bad Agenda Records, Tayy's rise to the top of the Alaska hip-hop ladder has accelerated and has been inspiring, to say the least. I placed him high on this list at such a young age because he’s done so much already in his young career. He’s opened for almost every major rap show in Alaska over the last two years, not to mention he's released the classic local album, Homecoming, which is still buzzing in Alaska.
I already see him influencing the youth (Tayy uses his local fame as a positive, attending events such as toy drives and children's programs, which, as a father, I find very respectable). I also see him influencing his own circle of peers and competitors as well. If you were to ask me, as of right now, if Tayy Tarantino is the artist in Alaska who is the most likely to blossom outside of Alaska, I would say, “yes.” As an emcee, I'm also a fan of his from a technical standpoint. I admire his pen and, like Bishop Slice, he still has many years ahead of him. I'm truly excited to see how his story unfolds.
The bad guy. The 50 Cent of this Alaska rap game. Some hate him, some love him, but the fact remains, Michael "Starbuks" Cofey is a force to be reckoned with and his presence is going to be felt. Take away the personality, which to many can come off as brash and overly aggressive, and you have yourself one of the most ambitious men in Alaska music.
Starbuks’ body of work stands on its own. He's been consistently releasing music since him and I teamed up a decade ago, building his name in not only Alaska, but Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. He teamed up with Bishop Slice and dropped a seminal Alaska rap album, Gold Kingz, and with it the single and accompanying video "I'm From Fairbanks." With that album, Starbuks put his stamp on the AK rap map and will forever go down as one of the biggest and baddest to ever do it in the 907.
5. Alaska Redd
I will confidently say that Joshua "Alaska Redd" Silva is the hardest working man in Alaska music. I wouldn't have been able to admit that to you ten years ago. Shit, five years ago, but here are the facts.
Redd was a part of the first rap label in Fairbanks, Alaska back in 1996. I was 15. No one in Alaska knew what went into making a rap album, let alone a rap label, but 50 Belo gave it a shot before anyone in Alaska even attempted to. They also gave Josh Silva a shot. A young white boy in a world run by black people. This was 1996, we didn't even know who Marshall Mathers was yet.
After some small success, 50 Belo eventually went under but a young, determined Alaska Redd started building his own studio and started making his own music and record label, Redd Dott Productions. In time, Redd became the first well known, local rapper in Fairbanks.
I met Redd at a rap party when I was 16. That night I entered a cypher with him and his crew in front of an audience and he immediately showed me love, when he didn't have to. From then on, he's been not only a mentor to me, but for a long time, the only man I viewed as my competitor in Fairbanks. (I could write an entire article just based off the complexity of emotions involved with that, and I intend to.)
Since then, Redd's become the face of rap music in Fairbanks and was even declared "Rapper of The Year" a few years back at an Anchorage-based hip-hop awards show. He's released several pivotal rap albums over the span of 15 years and is single-handedly the reason behind 90 percent of the rap shows you've heard about or have attended in Fairbanks. He still runs Redd Dott Productions, which has helped cultivate many known Alaska rap acts such as Bishop Slice, Hastyle Reign, King Slimm, just to name a few. He also just put out Snow Suits & Bunny Boots, his best album to date, which boasts features from some of the industry's big hitters, such as Obie Trice and Paul Wall. He has the love of an entire city and still remains humble, down to earth and always willing to help new talent. The truth is, Joshua Silva's influence in the Alaska hip-hop scene is immeasurable. If there was a Mount Rushmore for the 907 rap scene, there is no arguing that Alaska Redd's face should be front and center.
4. Tim Dawg
Hands down, the most influential person in my life, outside of my own father, was Timothy "Tim Dawg" Lewis. He impacted people in a way that I've yet to see since. Never was a man so loved within his own community by such a wide range of people from different walks of life. Tim Dawg was a car aficionado. He loved cars and knew a lot about them, and Fairbanks, being a small town filled with small town boys who love automobiles (translation: rednecks), Tim's opinion was valued. Tim was also an avid lover of hip-hop, and he knew a lot about that too. He was also an amazingly talented producer and if you were a rapper, or if you even liked rap, and were around the social scene in Fairbanks, you knew who Tim Dawg was.
He also discovered me. When I was 17, he took me under his wing and taught me how to really record rap music for the first time (on tape too, before ProTools). He taught me how to make songs, and together we started Hellrazors, aka Blade Gang, which went on to make quite an impact back home in Fairbanks.
Tim knew everybody and everybody knew Tim and everyone loved him. He was always the biggest man in the room—he was 6'4, with a big man's voice to match the size—but he had the sweetest soul. He was everything to everybody, and even though he never released a solo album, if you were making music in Fairbanks, Tim Dawg had some input or influence on your project. Everyone went to Tim. He was truly larger than life.
Tim left us way too early, and when he did the impact was felt throughout the entire state. The amount of love that poured out not only on social media, but in general, upon news of his death was that of a Biggie/2pac level here in Alaska. Fairbanks truly lost one of their brightest stars and I truly feel like we never fully recovered from that. I never fully recovered. His impact was that big. The dawg could spit too. You would've swore he was the 10th member of Wu-Tang. I think he would've swore it too, ha. God bless the dead, and God bless our beloved Tim Dawg.
My favorite Alaska emcee (remember what I said about the difference between favorite and greatest?) Duckman is the quintessential Alaska gangster rapper. He represents the dark aspect of Anchorage, the streets, but does it so well that at times you forget about the context ("Drill"). Lyrically, he’s razor sharp, but matches his street lyricism with style and melody in a way that is digestible to the broader market (translation: chicks and white people love Duckman's shit just as much as the hood does. Trust me, I know chicks and white people, haha.) I consider Duckman to be, stylistically, the most well-rounded rapper in Alaska.
Once a member of Out Da Cutt's "U.N.D.B." Duck went to prison over all of that "biggest cocaine bust in Alaska history" stuff and after serving his time like a man, came home and hit the ground running. He started "Bag Boy Nation," a group consisting of fellow Anchorage rappers Untamed Kidd and King Coo, he put out two projects, Welcome 2 Da East and the recently released Back 2 Da East, with several high quality videos to match, not to mention he dropped arguably the hottest local club track in the last year and some change with "Drill."
Duck has all the makings of a huge rap star. He's got the music, he's got the street cred, he's got the momentum and he has the fans and the streets. As long as that last part doesn't take him under, Duckman could very well be the biggest rapper in Alaska history.
Josh Boots considers this man the best rapper in and from Alaska. That, in itself, speaks volumes. The Sky Division's frontman has made an extremely huge impact on the Alaska rap scene and he's barely old enough to drink.