Finding The GOAT: CL Smooth vs. Posdnuos…Who You Got?
As we continue the ultimate battle for the title of the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time), we are asking you to help us rank who is the greatest MC to pick up a mic. We will take over 35 years of Hip-Hop into consideration, pairing special match-ups in a sequence not unlike March Madness. For the next several months, we will roll out battles, starting with artists from similar eras paired against one another, until one undisputed King or Queen of the microphone reigns supreme.
The next two MC’s to square-off are introspective tour de forces—rappers who could dazzle in display, win with wordplay, and yet humble Heads with honesty: CL Smooth & Posdnuos. Each MC arguably sacrificed greater fanfare for the sake of their groups, as they are best remembered. These men helped redefine the vulnerability heard on the microphone after the mid-school era. Each worked within their groups to make some of the genre’s most celebrated, studied, and timeless songs and albums. Check out a recap of both MCs’ careers below and then weigh in with your vote.
Early on, CL Smooth was gifted with one of Hip-Hop’s purest, most versatile voices. Forever associated with Mount Vernon, Corey Penn is a native of New Rochelle who gained fast acclaim when his group, Pete Rock & CL Smooth released their All Souled Out EP in Summer, 1991. The MC’s vocal tone, lived up to his name. He delivered bars in a perfectly conversational manner, somehow making himself less of a rapper at times, and more of a wise family member rappin’ to you.
CL really hit his finest strides in time for Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s albums, 1992’s Mecca & The Soul Brother, and 1994’s The Main Ingredient. Part of the reason CL was signed to Elektra Records in the first place was P.R’s family ties to Heavy D & The Boyz and DJ Eddie F. So after the loss of Troy “Trouble T-Roy” Dixon, CL penned one of Hip-Hop’s most immortal, evocative records in “They Reminisce Over You.” While Pete Rock mourned through a brilliant sample arrangement in the beat, CL divided his attention to the life of his late peer, and his own family’s lineage. In other places, CL Smooth deftly balanced discussions on race and upward mobility, and then could seamlessly veer into whole songs dedicated towards sexual promiscuity. Throughout those two critically-acclaimed releases, Pete and CL had tremendous chemistry and execution, in both having fun and having a message.
Like so many great artists, CL Smooth’s legacy is largely attached to his group. Despite two solo albums and even an official mixtape, one of Hip-Hop’s most conversational MCs is best remembered for his on-again, off-again group. However, in those moments, such as 2004’s “Appreciate,” CL’s warm vocal transmissions, unique rhyme patterns, and relatability showed that they never lost a step. Certainly not the most prolific, CL Smooth remains one of the more purposed MCs in Hip-Hop over the last 25 years.
Posdnuos, Posdnous, or Plug 1… however you spell it or refer to him, Kelvin Mercer is one of the epitomes of MC’ing. The Long Island, New Yorker has frequently employed abstract expressions, coded language, and a high regard for his musical peers’ expressions and stylings in creating verses for De La Soul. Writing about himself and the world around him, Posdnuos has built an iron-clad reputation for tellin’ it how it is, and how it might be. In his whimsical beginnings heard on 3 Feet High And Rising, to more thematic offerings on De La Soul Is Dead and Buhloone Mindstate, Pos is down for the cause, and able to constantly break new ground.
Even if the subjects were relatively simple, such as avoiding drugs, depicting a ghetto, or makeshift party songs like “Oooh,” Pos thrived. This MC has been able to weather the changes and iterations of the genre, the culture, the group, and the media with style, grace, and a deliberately low profile. If you want to get to know Pos, his lyrics are pathways much more than interviews, social media, endorsements, acting, or the like.
Despite more than 25 years of group material, Pos has never released a solo album, and been extremely conservative regarding guest work. Through his group albums, the MC has functioned (alongside lyrical partner Dave/Trugoy) as well as any in Hip-Hop history. Through devotion and managing the message, this MC only speaks when he has something to say, and now in his forties, is among the genre’s most ageless and timeless voices.
“Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)” (with De La Soul) (1991)
“Ego Trippin’ (Part Two)” (with De La Soul) (1993)
“Stakes is High” (with De La Soul) (1996)
Voting For Round 1 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets