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apropos of nothing

Who Belongs on Mount Rapmore?

Photo Illustration: Everett Bogue; Photos: Getty Images, Scott Weiner / Retna (Biggie)

In the past week or so ESPN.com's Bill Simmons — "The Sports Guy," a massively popular columnist who's ostensibly a sportswriter but would better be described as the National Commissioner of Bar Arguments — has started writing about "Mount Rapmore," a hypothetical rap version of Mount...well, yes. Simmons' first proposed Rapmore lineup was Dr. Dre, Biggie, Tupac, and Jay-Z; no real argument there. But yesterday, he revised his list, picking Dr. Dre, Tupac, Russell Simmons, and Rakim — a decision that's not offensive so much for its inclusion of Simmons and Rakim as it his for its world-historically, inconceivably unfathomable exclusion of THE GREATEST RAPPER OF ALL TIME.

It's... it's... even having to point out that Ready to Die is one of the best and best-selling rap albums of all time, that "Juicy" is the best rap song of all time, that the run in "Mo Money Mo Problems" ("B-I-G P-O-P-P-A/ No info for the/ D-E-A") is the best rap verse of all time to the point that a sold-out Madison Square Garden could shout it all from memory with no accompaniment or prompting during the Jay-Z concert taped for Fade to Black — just deigning to mention that stuff seems like an insult to Biggie's legacy.

What could have provoked such a colossal mistake? One might imagine that Simmons, a notorious Boston homer, was trying to stick it to New York hip-hop, but then again he did include the NYC-based founder of Def Jam. In the spirit of not driving ourselves insane with rage, let's just chalk it up to general hateration (and the Sports Guy's longstanding East L.A.-teenager-style Tupac mancrush) and move on — besides Biggie, who else should be carved from the sheer face of Mount Rapmore? While we're sympathetic to the idea that pioneers like Rakim, Chuck D, and Run DMC should get some consideration, aren't they more like Pilgrims than Founding Fathers?

Despite occasional crossover success, hip-hop wasn't really born as a multi-platinum genre until The Chronic era, so let's give Dr. Dre the George Washington slot and call Rakim the John Winthrop of rap (DJ Kool Herc = John Smith; musical forebears like James Brown and George Clinton can be American intellectual forebears John Locke and Montesquieu). Tupac is Thomas Jefferson, both because he's Dre's greatest contemporary/associate and because, with those well-exercised abs, he probably slept with more black women than anyone on this list. Biggie, as the greatest rapper, and one who brought salvation and direction to a troubled genre, is obviously greatest-president-slash-civil-rights-godfather Lincoln. Who's the fourth? That's the toughest call, but we think there's only one choice in the Teddy Roosevelt spot — the category for someone charismatic and wildly popular whose career reached tremendous early heights but nonetheless limped to a conclusion, leading everyone to look back 25 years later and think "maybe we should've picked someone else" — the maniac in black, slim with the tilted brim on 20-inch rims, Snoop Dogg.

Time to get our chisel on. —Ben Mathis-Lilley

The Links (and Trade Machine comments) [ESPN]