Finding The GOAT: The Match That Had to Happen – Big Daddy Kane vs. Rakim
The votes have been cast and the decision has been made. Eminem and Tupac will face off against one another in the final battle of the Finding the GOAT competition to name Hip-Hop’s greatest MC (as determined by you). Since the elimination, bracket-style tournament was launched in September of 2014, including more than 200 overall MCs, there have been seven completed rounds, featuring contenders from all eras of Hip-Hop. Both Big Daddy Kane and Rakim reached the Final 4 before being defeated by Eminem and Tupac, respectively. While neither will advance to be named the GOAT, a question remains that Heads undoubtedly still want answered: who is the greater MC between the two?
Save for possibly the argument about Tupac vs. Biggie, since the 1980s, Rap’s biggest debate has centered around arguably the two most influential lyricists of all-time. Big Daddy Kane and Rakim had a rivalry that is of legendary proportions. While ‘Pac and Biggie said each others’ names, this pair never did. It was strictly skills, and a few eerily close subliminal lyrics that separated Brooklyn’s B.D.K. from Long Island’s Rakim Allah. This competition began before either MC had a deal, fueled by schoolyard reputations as New York City’s most ferocious MCs. By the late 1980s, as each lyricist had would-be classic albums, hit records, and galvanized crews behind them, it was a “this or that?” debate that got many Heads hot.
Big Daddy Kane was passionate, aggressive, and fiery with the microphone. Supremely confident, even Kane’s name stated that “nobody’s equal.” Transcending simply Rap, the Juice Crew MC presented himself as a sex symbol to the masses, with a live show that to this day is acrobatic, choreographed, and deeply engaged. Meanwhile, Rakim’s lyrics were illuminated with a wisdom and understanding of the earth and the heavens that revolutionized Rap songwriting. Ra’s verses burned like the sun, and in his own estimation, no celestial body was bigger. Whether dissecting master plans for getting paid, deconstructing the creation of a melody, or taking thoughts around the world, twice, Rakim changed the genre of Hip-Hop. These masters of ceremony controlled the microphone (and the pen) very differently. Notably, both of these icons have been quiet and careful in their work of the last 15 years. Perhaps protecting legacy, both men hit the space through their influence, guest work, and indelible ability to perform. These ’88 greats carried Rap’s technicality, possibility, and impact to new dimensions. Which more than the other remains one of Rap’s true greatest debates. It’s only right that this last battle take place before the Eminem/Tupac finale. (Click on one, then click vote. Polls close at 11:59pm EST on 5/25)
Big Daddy Kane
(Sixth Round Loser, Against Eminem 71% to 29%)
(Fifth Round Bye – Through Largest Round 4 Win Margin)
(Fourth Round Winner, Against Erick Sermon 82% to 18%)
(Third Round Winner, Against Kool G Rap, 65% to 35%)
(Second Round Winner, Against Kool Keith 79% to 21%)
(First Round Bye)
In terms of commanding mic controlling, Big Daddy Kane staked his claim early. The Brooklyn, New Yorker emerged in the mid-1980s battle-scene carrying a unique balance of lethal confidence and unaffected smoothness. Antonio Hardy is able to rap extremely fast, making a nonstop case for his supremacy as an MC. After linking with Marley Marl’s Juice Crew, King Asiatic began work on 1988’s Long Live The Kane, one of the highest-regarded Hip-Hop albums of all-time. Big Daddy was a master at blending audiences, by offering something for lyric-seekers, routine lovers, ’70s R&B fans, as well as those simply thriving upon vibe. Arguably more so than other elite GOATs, Big Daddy Kane took a gold-certified style, and adapted and tooled with it on each LP, from the seductive (Taste Of Chocolate) to the hardcore B-boy (Looks Like A Job For…). Never a Top 10-selling artist, Big Daddy Kane is a stone in the sand reminder that skills may be the tortoise to the hare, and artists can reach sales benchmarks simply based upon quality.
Following 1998’s Veteranz’ Day, Big Daddy Kane has shunned solo albums for more than 15 years—leading some to question his ability to command an album in the new millennium. However, as evidenced in the Dave Chappelle’s Block Party music documentary, Kane’s live show—which he offers regularly—dwarfs his Rap peers, 20 years his junior. The confidence, moves and finesse remain in tact. In critical guest spots ranging from Big L to Little Brother, Kane teases Heads with deft lyrics that are to the level he produced in the ’80s and ’90s. Like a champ with the belt, Big Daddy Kane walks uncontested—a GOAT in his own, and the minds of legions of others. In history, weighted upon influence, album-making, and pinnacle star-power, Big Daddy Kane just might be the original, and perhaps the only GOAT.
(Sixth Round Loser, Against Tupac 49.56% to 49.44%)
(Fifth Round Winner, Against Mos Def 67% to 33%)
(Fourth Round Bye – Through Largest Round 2 Win Margin)
(Third Round Winner, Against Slick Rick 82% to 18%)
(Second Round Winner, Against Kool Moe Dee 95% to 5%)
(First Round Bye)
Rakim Allah is revered as one of the “most high” among MCs. A Long Island, New York native, Rakim made noise as a high school lyrical phenom, that had the five boroughs abuzz in the mid-1980s. By ’86, he would cross paths with an aspiring record executive, Eric Barrier, and form the heralded duo, Eric B. & Rakim. On funky tracks (many Rakim alleges he produced), the MC displayed a flow that was deeply progressive in the era of the boom-bap. From his earliest singles, William Griffin, Jr. had a malleable cadence that allowed him to break into multi-syllabic rhyming bars, and a style that was presented more as conversation than an onslaught of statements. Within that delivery, Rakim’s writing was founded upon pride, B-boy style, and the desire to be “paid in a full.”
In the next 30 years, Rakim has won over the masses time and time again. On four albums within Eric B. & Rakim, the MC grabbed platinum and gold plaques, served the people with quoteable hit singles, and maintained a supreme stage show. On his own by the early ’90s, the MC became a rare commodity, only sporadically releasing songs and albums over the last 20 years. Whether alongside Jay Z, Kanye West, or Nas, Rakim has proven that he cannot be eclipsed or overshadowed, on the mic or in the history books. Along the way, Rakim rarely relied on cursing, controversy, or crudeness to take something from “in the ghetto” and help make it truly universal.
So…who you got?