Did Biggie have better flow than Tupac? Is Lil Kim more gangsta than Snoop Dogg? A group of Hackney friends have stepped in and settled every classic rap beef once and for all with a 90s-rapper-themed pack of Top Trumps cards.
The cards – exquisitely rendered with 90s-style illustrations – pit 32 rappers from hip-hop’s golden era against each other. The rappers are scored out of 100 on lyrical ability, bling, criminality and impact so they can battle it out on the kitchen table as well as out the speakers.
Rapper Top Trumps is gaining international attention after being covered by FACT magazine. However, like many of the rappers the game features, its origins are humble. Hackney residents Ben Bishop, 36, Tom Bird, 33, and Mark Bellamy, 24, came up with the idea “mainly through discussions over beers in pubs on Southgate Road,” says Tom.
Did Biggie have better flow than Tupac? Is Lil Kim more gangsta than Snoop Dogg?
“We argue about hip-hop a lot, and 90’s is our era. As far as we are concerned, it was the best period in rap. We used to find these ‘top ten’ lists on websites about rap ability totally ridiculous, and we thought we could do a better job.”
Unsurprisingly, choosing the scores was a battle in itself. “It took a lot of animated discussion and fact checking,” says Tom. “For example, Dr. Dre makes the top ten rappers list on a few websites but he didn’t write many – if any – of the verses he spat, and scores 25/100 for lyrical ability.”
The game has taken off – Tom says he has “been shoving packs of cards in envelopes all night” – and further editions featuring ’00s and ’80s rappers, producers and groups are in the works.
However they don’t hold out for the day when players could pit Kendrick Lamar against Frank Ocean. “Doing a modern pack would be pretty difficult. I think you need a bit of time separation to really score them fairly and give a full and proper score profile.”
The game holds back from making a bold declaration of the best rapper of the 90s. “No card is all powerful,” he says. “A couple are really rubbish, but no card is totally dominant across all five categories.”
Proceed with caution – it seems like Rapper Top Trumps could cause some real life beef between you and your mates. But if you’re hurt by the harsh treatment of your man Vanilla Ice remember: don’t hate the player, hate the game.