Friday, August 1, 2008

Tuesday's Top Ten: Greatest People in My Lifetime (Since 1984)

Today's Top Ten
are the best people of the last 24 years. Not people who were born in the last 24 years but people who've walked the Earth over the last 24 years who I think were of the greatest in character, spirit, talent or some other amorphous criteria. Simply put, the greatest people that I've had the noted pleasure of overlapping timelines with and that would all be invited to sit at a dinner table with me at the end of my days on the other side of this life if God saw fit for me to host such an event.

Here we go...

10.) Dave Chappelle - Funniest man of his generation. Hands down. Carved himself a nice spot in pop culture and is immortalized in folklore every time you overhear someone slip up and say "I'm Rick James, Bitch". At his best he's one of the top 5 most interesting figureheads to come out of this young century, at his worst, from his biggest critics he's the funniest man breathing however troubled you may think he is. He's the continuation of a story Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy left as '....To Be Continued' only he hasn't finished up the passage yet. He's the passage way for many of our most honest, reflective moments that only his voice lends credibility to, that the masses accept it from. Like any great comedian, Dave gives of himself only in small increments as if to always keep people wanting more and to keep their interest. Dave Chappelle is as allusive as he is brilliant.

9.) Bill Clinton - Bill was an icon in the black community. We know he was never black. Anyone with a pair of working eyes can see that but we didn't call him black because he was racially but because his background was our background. He came up like one of us. He came from poverty; from a broken home. His father wasn't there. He had a stepfather; An abusive one at that. He didn't come from a family with a prominent last name with any real strong ties to the establishment. He wasn't molded to take over his father's company and have his future path paved for him before his parents even met. He was working class. He wasn't too cool to show up on the Arsenio Hall show. He didn't just show up he played the saxophone with rhythm on the show. He thought like us and articulated himself in a manner that we understood. He moved seamlessly through two worlds the way Barack does now. He made a generation of people of color proud the way nobody done for us since the Kennedy's. On top of that, we prospered under his administration. Things were good. People my age came up on Bill like a television show.

8.) Notorious BIG - He was the greatest rap musician of all-time. Hands down. Close the doors. Drive home safe.

He came up through system like a baseball player. He was a highly touted prospect in The Source and earned his respect on the low, got his chance to show what he could do in the majors, surpassed the hype straight out of the gates, only in his story he left long before the full scope of his greatness was realized. If there's any silver lining at all that could be taken from such tragedy is that he unlike Tupac ,whose career postmortem has been handled about at well as FEMA, Nas, whose been as wildly inconsistent this decade as gas prices, and Jay-Z, whose shown signs of slipping himself, Biggie didn't outlive he greatness of his own legacy and to my recollection that puts him in pretty rarefied company. Christopher was the greatest.

7.) Denzel Washington - He came onto the scene and almost through swagger alone commanded the attention of blacks. Through talent commanded the attention of everyone else. Malcolm X was required viewing for black kids growing up and with the stage presence he brought to the character to us who weren't fortunate enough to have lived through the man's life we swore we were being re-introduced to Malcolm for the second time even if there wasn't a first time. His performance in that movie was so great, that every other movie he's been in since was a movie you had to see. Guaranteed. If you didn't have the money or time to see it in the theatres you rented it. If you couldn't rent it, you borrowed it. If you didn't borrow it you made sure that when it came on television you watched it. Denzel is the finest actor of my time (n/h). No knock on Pacino or DeNiro but Denzel IS every character he plays in those 120 minutes you're seeing him on screen. There are times when I watch Samuel L. Jackson movie and I snap out of that movie trance and just see Samuel L. Jackson yelling at someone in a wig and I have to trick my brain into suspending reality again and welding Sam and the character again but I never do that with Denzel. He's so great that he becomes every character he plays over and over and over again. You just know he's good for your $10 bucks at the cinema every time. He never cheats you.

6.) Aaliyah - Moreso than anything that she ever produced in her celebrated music career (and make no mistake about it, she was brilliant), she was the embodiment of that nameless vague picture all young men have in their heads when they close their eyes and think up their own picture of perfect and set their sails on that future Miss "Your Last Name". To me, anyway, she was like how Michael Jordan was the point of reference to everyone else who followed whose ever been touted as the next great one in basketball, however big the disservice you're doing to that doomed basketball player. She trumps all. Still the dopest woman I've ever seen in my 24 years. R.I.P

5.) Tiger Woods - His ascension was the beginning of the end of integrating the most sacred, fiercely guarded institutions in America with Barack seemingly on the cusp of shattering the final and highest of them all. We haven't seen anyone dominate his peers like him since Jordan did it in basketball. Many are undeservedly and thoughtlessly compared to MJ with no grasp of how dominating the man was singularly against the field of relentless opposition hungry to and hellbent on halting his dominance but even at their best, his best is always a little better. Tiger is so great that if he isn't playing not only are people universally not watching, the sport doesn't even enter into the minds of sports fans. Even Jordan wasn't that big. I've never seen something like Eldrick before and am likely never to see something like him ever again.

4.) Richard Pryor - Greatest Comedian of all time. I could list all the reasons he was great but I'd be leaving out something if I articulated it into words so it's best to get that message from his body of work. But if you don't believe me and think I'd be setting the deck if I posted some of his best stand-up just watch some of the off the cuff, ad-libing, roasting he did on a few comics most of you might find familiar and watch him cut through them like a butter knife. Watch genius unfold before your eyes.


3.) Muhammad Ali - Again I could tell you all the reasons he was great, of the obvious and not so obvious variety, but I'd be doing the job of the Sociology and Sporting Analysis Professors at this nations highest learning institutions and last I checked this was a free website and you have to pay for that kind of information in tuition and I'm not trying to rapidshare you guys college courses over the internet. This is one of those people that you better know about or if you don't just nod and when nobody's looking go to your nearest library and read up on or rent a documentary or two and invest time in marveling in.

2.) Michael Jordan - What can you say about someone whose either help raise you (young people), sonned you (NBA Players of that Era & Kobe) or someone you've modeled your life after (Once again, Kobe and people who obsess over his shoe collection). There's been no greater gift in sports, other than Tiger, than Michael Jordan. Even if you lived under a rock over the last couple decades you've heard the rumblings of somebody somewhere celebrating in jubilation over some shot he made, some impossible feat he just accomplished or something he did to help pull off something people doubted he could. If God played basketball it'd look like Michael did at some point on the court. Not saying he was God but if him and God were on the court it wouldn't be a blowout. LOL. Anyway, I've been blessed to have witness him in his prime and that's something the young kids haven't seen and it's really a shame because they missed out a lot. God is great.

1.) Barack Obama - For all the reasons that make him a great candidate, for all the historic ramifications of his candidacy, for the symbol he represents that exceeds even his own rhetoric that redeem the country's promise and renews it's soul, for this specific time for this moment earned by my forefathers but given and credited to me and my peers, for the future of all that follow that will accept his efforts as words in a history book and will take the option of being president as a legitimate realistic avenue and not as a joke, I am proud and consider myself lucky to be breathing the same air, walking in the pathway of and standing on the same chunk of dirt we all call home because this man is out there.

Honorable's Mentions:

Colin Powell
Thurgood Marshall
Nelson Mandela
Robert DeNiro
Al Pacino

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