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A Cut Above – Emcee vs Overnight Rapper

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People ask me all the time what the difference between being an emcee and a rapper is. These are usually the same people who ask what the differences between rap and hip hop are as well. 

For those that don’t know: 

Hip hop is the culture. Rap is an element of the culture.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, today I’m going to focus on what it means to be an emcee and what differentiates emcees from rappers.



master of ceremonies

Let’s begin by defining the terms.

Emcee/MC master of ceremonies, abbreviated MC or emcee, is the official host of a ceremony, staged event, conference, convention, or similar performance.

Rapper musician who performs the type of popular music of African-American origin that features rhythmic speaking set to a strong beat.

A good friend of mine was telling me about a hip hop gig he was hosting a few months back. One of the acts on the bill lip-synced over their studio recorded bars – which is one of those unspoken no-nos in rap.

It’s nearly the equivalent of watching a prerecorded video of someone dancing when you go to see a dance comp.

Not only did this rapper lip-sync his bars, he did it badly. What a mess. 

What a great opportunity to highlight the differences between emcees and rappers. My friend – who is a dope rapper by the way – emceed the event, while the act on the bill was a ‘rapper’. Not much of one by the sounds of things.


at ease emcee

Let me just rattle on a little and hopefully through this process i can provide some examples that illustrate the differences between emcees and rappers.

I know plenty of dope rappers that couldn’t emcee an event to save their life.

As an emcee (MC – Master of Ceremonies), you are responsible for crowd engagement throughout the entirety of an event. Whereas if you’re a rapper doing a set, you are only responsible for the crowd engagement through your set.

Now don’t get me wrong, i love rappers. I AM a rapper. There’s nothing wrong with being a rapper. All I’m saying is there is a clear difference between being a rapper and being an emcee.

Let me go back to my friends event he was emceeing..

Some of the acts on the bill had massive online followings and were doing big numbers stream-wise etc. but they had never performed live. Never performed live.. sort of defeats the purpose of live music.

There’s more elements to being an emcee than just being able to host an event though – especially when referring to an emcee in the context of hip hop.


authentic skill

OK so we’ve spoken about what being an emcee stands for but what does it mean to be an MC?

As a hip hop head, the ultimate status for a rapper is to be hailed as an emcee. 

There are many elements that contribute to being a dope rapper and still more to elevate to emcee status. One of my favourite rappers of all time is Vinnie Paz of Jedi Mind Tricks. He is dope. While I love Vinnie, he is a rapper through and through.

Whereas one of my favourite emcees of all-time is Nas. There’s a big difference here. of the legendary rap duo, dead prez writes the following in his book : The Art of Emceeing:

 “A rapper is to an emcee what an average street fighter is to a trained martial artist. They are both fighters but the degree and depth of their skill are very different.”

So let’s look at some of these elements of the art of rhyme and being an emcee:

  1. Stage presence
  2. Mic control 
  3. Wordplay 
  4. Punchlines
  5. Flow
  6. Content
  7. Lyricism
  8. Breath control
  9. Rhyme schemes
  10. Delivery                               

This is by no mean the definitive list, but the point I’m trying to make is that a rapper can have a few of these elements – and also be not very good at them – and still call themselves a rapper.. while an emcee has honed their craft to the next level.

In other words anyone can technically be a rapper but not everyone can be an emcee.. A Master of Ceremonies.


fundamental style

I guess in summary of all this I would say if you’re going to call yourself an emcee, you better come correct. Also if you’re going to call yourself a rapper It goes back to those core questions:

Do you have bars?


Do your bars sound good?

As always thanks for rocking with ya boi Prim. 

Until next time, peace fam!

3 thoughts on “A Cut Above – Emcee vs Overnight Rapper”

  1. Kunal (Platinum Solid)

    Awesome read Bro, MC will be Microphone Controller to me…

    I thought you might of covered DJs that try to be MCs.. everybody trying to get a say in.

  2. Pingback: Official Australian Hip Hop Pt.1 - Primitive

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