GOAT: Which One of These MCs Deserves a Shot at Advancing to Round 2?
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.
In an effort to have Ambrosia For Heads readers decide the final candidates for GOAT, we are featuring 21 nominees for inclusion. At the bottom of the page, vote on your pick after sampling their finest, and reading about their cases for Greatness:
With origins dating back to the late 1990s, Curren$y let his unique slow-flow, image-driven style resonate over time. This New Orleans, Louisiana MC has been mentored by Master P, Lil Wayne, and Dame Dash at various career points, but Spitta has proven that he’s the pilot steering his own runway as he’s taken flight with truly unique songs about cars, mind exploration, and styling, that beneath the surface are truly tangible to so much more.
Few artists balance substance and style as effectively as Wale. Long before he was on the Maybach Music Group first string, this DMV MC rapped with such conviction, stuffing his catchy tracks with so much mental fiber that they were digestible to Heads in search of knowledge, and Heads simply looking to dumb out. In less than five years, Wale’s also proven to be a master of projects, making widely acclaimed and commercially successful mixtapes and albums alike, all while being true to form.
The latest DIY superstar, Logic took strong honors in 2014 with his debut album, Under Pressure. Now backed by Def Jam Records, this Gaithersburg, Maryland MC integrates a fast, nimble flow into unraveling his personal stories centered around family, poverty, and addiction. Young Sinatra, as he calls himself, has been a tour de force through live shows, deft concept, and a hard to rival connection with his legions of fans who have inaugurated a Rap star that looks new and yet feels familiar.
An alum of Kooley High, Rapsody is a student of the greats. This Wilson, North Carolina approaches Rap with an athletic sense of training, finesse, and honing one’s game. 2013’s She Got Game was among the most exciting, cohesive and intricate mixtapes in years, while 2012’s The Idea Of Beautiful basked in its ability to be heartfelt and cerebral, while still showcasing elite Rap skills. Now the Jamla Records flagship artist, Marlanna Evans is in stride to lead her class to the promised land of art-form.
With humor, flare, and a keen descriptive sense, Action Bronson went from deep underground MC to burgeoning blog artist to mainstream MC in three years. The Flushing, Queens native applied an anachronistic New York City experience to his rhymes about sex, food, and dreams of grandeur. Initially a professional chef, Bronson’s ability to use classic Rap recipes with modernized palette pleasers has made his offerings highly sought after, especially considering his ceaseless output.
Gadsden, Alabama’s contribution to Hip-Hop rapped rapidly in his delivery, incorporating a definitively rural storyline. Yelawolf’s upbringing, like his sound, is a collision of worlds. With that, the MC made mixtapes that stood apart from his peers. The presentation has been something along the lines of Deliverance meets Three 6 Mafia’s Choices. Along the way, Catfish Billy brought renewed international attention to the Dirty South, and kicked down a few walls in the culture.
In the late ’00s, Freddie Gibbs was at the forefront of the Gangsta Rap renaissance. The Gary, Indiana native became a spokesman for the criminal element of depressed economies in the recession, as Gangsta Gibbs explained the motives for the evil on his mind. Rapping fast, with a forceful presence, Gibbs used mixtapes much like 50 Cent and Lil Wayne. 2014 saw a breakthrough release with unlikely collaborator Madlib, suggesting Freddie Gibbs’ illustrious staying power.
An intentional extension of the ’90s New York City street Rap movement, Joey Bada$$ is a highly stylized throwback sort of artist who connects wonderfully with the savvy youth. Combining sharp detail for his influences and centered commentary on his own life and times, “Badman” has made acclaimed mixtapes in 1999, and led a movement of artists who are looking back to the future, and fighting to restore Rap’s arguable essence.
From a different Compton experience than his contemporary, Kendrick Lamar, YG has honed his own unique breed of Gangsta Rap. Although the CTE/Def Jam Records sensation draws plenty of parallels from the songs of Ice-T, MC Eiht, or Mack 10, YG has been able to add modern circumstance to a stellar lineup of mixtapes and breakthrough studio debut, My Krazy Life. Along the way, YG has proven that his accounts can be commercially successful, but with unique production and fully actualized choruses, the DJ Mustard protege has brought back a West Coast element that’s been missing from radio for almost a decade.
Hanford, California’s Dom Kennedy has carved in a West Coast sound unlike no other. Unsigned and DIY, this artist injected his unique geographic and autobiographic experience into the ever-present zeitgeist of 2010s Hip-Hop. In mixtapes, and two high-powered albums, Dom’s high stakes world was something plenty of Heads could relate to, as an MC who maintained a street aesthetic, but would just as much prefer making songs about sex, fashion, and living young and free.
Long before he had Nas in his corner, Fresno, California’s Fashawn surprised the industry by releasing Boy Meets World into a largely stagnant 2009 climate. The Exile protege dazzled with humility and modest accounts of his poor upbringing, temporary father figures, and small stature. Meanwhile, Fash’ packed a punch, showing his Central California unique quality of being influenced by Bay area Gangsta rappers as much as thoughtful Los Angelinos. MCs of today don’t get anymore introspective as Fashawn, and he has the ability to penetrate the mainstream as a true-school alum.
In the late 2000s, Kid Cudi helped make talking about depression and inner-demons commonplace in Rap. With a totally unique, Electronic-tinged sound, the Cleveland, Ohio native blurred the lines of singing and rapping, happiness and sadness, and Hip-Hop and everything else. Few artists have influenced their peers as early in their career and as rapidly as Scott Mescudi. With an arsenal of celebrated catalog, the Man On The Moon, has orbited quickly, and advanced his sound with every project. Although he’s had superstars in his corner from jump, Cudi fought to be his own, self-made man.
Not since Tony Yayo has an artist had so much fanfare in a homecoming as Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt. As a teenager, Thebe Neruda Kgositsile shook up the industry with a mischievous style, rooted in didactic lyricism and advanced deliveries. In between the foolery was a lot of truth about adolescence, marginalization, and society at large. With 2010’s Earl attracting a cult following despite obscure beginnings, 2013’s Doris followed, and proved that Earl Sweatshirt was resurrecting the Underground Hip-Hop sensibilities of the late ’90s.
A hybrid of regional styles, A$AP Rocky is one of the growing examples of Internet gestalt. The Harlem native applied a penchant for Houston, Texas’ Slab sound with his hometown bravado. Ushered into the spotlight through captivating 2011 mixtape Live. Love. A$AP, 2013’s Long. Live. A$AP followed, using EDM soundscapes and expanded subject matters as leverage. Few artists right now have the mass appeal as Rakim Mayers, who has taken calculated steps to use his platform as effectively as possible.
Tyler, The Creator
Odd Future’s front man Tyler, The Creator is at times a practical joker on the mic. However, uncensored, unafraid, and unaffected, Tyler’s raps have been a pillar of authenticity in the 2010s. The Los Angeles, California native showed another side of his city, blending humor, humility, and harshness together for albums exactly as he wants them. Along the way, Tyler has succeeded in capturing a modern Punk aesthetic in Rap, and bottling that energy of his live shows into albums and videos to be digested on devices.
Atlanta native Rittz is among the most skilled high-speed rapping MCs of today. The Strange Music artist succeeds in making car-friendly music that moves the body and mind. After a series of cult-lauded mixtapes, Jonathan McCullum has thrived in releasing commercially-viable albums that chronicle a unique upbringing, years of dues paid in the Southern underground, and the defined ambitions of an energetic, fully-engaged artist.
With his skills honed in the basement of his childhood home, Panorama City, California’s Hopsin represented a different kind of artist. An introvert, the former Disney Channel star left his recording contract at the famed Ruthless Records in 2009 only to take on industry heavyweights with a series of lucid freestyles. Beyond this a la carte moments, the Funk Volume co-founder has thrived as a DIY giant, making cohesive, highly-thought out albums that have resonated critically and commercially—featuring self-production and self-directed videos. Although he often appears in the margins, Marcus Hopson is a Point Guard in carrying Rap to where it may be headed next.
With unmatched sheer energy, Carol City, Florida’s Gunplay lives up to his name with his explosive microphone presence. The veteran Triple C’s member, Richard Morales, Jr. studied some lyrical greats, while making cinematic music that feels like a mad man addressing the jury before sentence. The Maybach Music Group artist is marching towards a true debut, but has sustained fans with years of nonstop mixtapes, viral videos, and pageantry that make him both a product of the late ’80s Rap character form and the Worldstar era.
In 35 years, plenty of secular artists have made spiritual Hip-Hop in the full spectrum of faiths. However, no one has seemingly found the success of Lecrae, who has made Spiritual Hip-Hop, and welcomed secular audiences. A proven Christian Hip-Hop artist of the 2000s, Lecrae and Reach Records applied the Houston, Texas-based artist’s skillful presentation to elevated beats and unpretentious themes, bringing this Anomaly to the mainstream. One of Rap’s best-selling artists of current, Lecrae Moore has taken the road less traveled and possibly paved it for many more artists to come.
A native of Las Vegas, Nevada, Dizzy Wright injected substance into an overdose of swagger. This Funk Volume artist has toured relentlessly while building a base through self-released albums and mixtapes. With elevated living, free thinking, and rebellious youth as the key, Dizzy has given fans empowerment through a host of songs chronicling a journey from the bottom to the top. Independent, prospering, and garnering mainstream attention, Dizzy Wright’s brightest days are likely in front of him.
More than 10 years deep in producing for highly-respected MCs, Detroit, Michigan’s Black Milk is finally breaking through as an MC. 2008’s Tronic may have forecast the Detroit vs. Everybody Heads now know in 2014, as Black’s ability to evoke theme, concept, and mood is second to none. With an album a year average, Curtis Cross is one of the strongest self-reliant artists in Hip-Hop today. Most recently heard in the dazzling If There’s A Hell Below, Black Milk continues to raise the bar in real-time, while making releases worthy of purchase.
So…who you got?
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