I swear I didn’t pick this picture because Grieves is holding up five fingers in it.

This was not an easy list to make. Everyone has different criteria about what it takes to be the best, and what the definition of a “real” emcee is.

I made this list based on an artist’s work ethic, talent, music catalog and live show.

We are not saying that these people will write the best 16 or crush a cypher the hardest. We are saying that they are killing it the hardest.

Would love to hear who you would include on the list.

Let the games begin!


Far and away the most popular artist in the Northwest right now. I’m a HUGE fan of his quality over quantity method of releasing tracks. The movement he has put together with Ryan Lewis and manager Zach Quillen is phenomenal. Also, his merchandise game is second to none.

Looking forward to seeing what 2012 brings for him.


This guy–along with producer Budo–tours more than anyone else in the Northwest (please tell me if I’m wrong on this one). Talent aside, he has made the most of every opportunity presented to him. Rhymesayers is really allowing him to shine right now. Following his career has been fun.

If we had to guess, Grieves and Macklemore might be the two artists in the NW making six-figures off of their music right now.


Sol caught me by surprise last year. He was featured on Grynch’s All I Wanna Do and followed up with an incredible (but simple) video for This Shit–possibly my two favorite songs released last summer.

His new album, Your’s Truly, is by far his best work.

I honestly wouldn’t consider Sol a great rapper, but he makes really good music and is building a movement in Seattle right now.

It’ll be interesting to see how he does on the road.


Sapient has been learning on the job and making a living off of hip-hop for the last 10 years. Maybe my favorite rapper on this list, Sapient does a great job marketing himself and is the Northwest’s Do-It-Yourself King. Best known for his production, he also is clever lyrically and his own engineer, graphic designer, tour manager and video editor.

Last year he released Tusks along with packages that allowed his fans to purchase more than the music. He put together packages–similar to what artists do on Kickstarter–that included clothing, custom art and more. They sold extremely well and are a great example of resourcefulness beating resources–which should be the Northwest motto.


The second member of Sandpeople on the list, Illmaculate is currently working to reestablish himself as the best battle rapper in the world right now. His album with Calvin Valentine, The Green Tape, was voted best album in Portland last year by Casey Jarman of the Willamette Weekly.

Portland is still waiting for an artist to capture it’s imagination, but if Illmaculate (or Luck One or TxE) isn’t the one to do it, we’ll probably be waiting for someone from the new generation–see Cassow, Chill Crew, Load B, Vinnie Dwayne…)