Finding the GOAT: Talib Kweli vs. Lloyd Banks…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 disciples of the late ’90s/early 00’s, who gained their recognition as part of a group, but have stood the test of time solo: Talib Kweli and Lloyd Banks. Though one is known for his raps raising Hip-Hop’s consciousness and the other for mecilessly rendering tales from the streets, each has lived in the same space nestled between the credibility of the underground and the success of the mainstream. Check out a recap of both MCs’ careers below and then weigh in with your vote.

Talib Kweli:


Though he has always technically been a solo artist, for many, Brooklyn native Talib Kweli came to prominence as a member of Black Star with Mos Def. Known for his razor sharp intelligence and cutting insight, Kweli has always been part activist and part philosopher, as an MC. Through both his work with Black Star and solo, his career has served as a bridge from the Native Tongue era through the Jiggy and Trap era’s to the present.

Kweli is respected amongst Hip-Hop’s purest Heads for his work on Rawkus records and loved by the mainstream for elevated bangers like the Kanye West-produced “Get By.” Kweli is an activist both on and off the microphone, having been one of the first artists to travel to Ferguson in support of the family of Mike Brown.

Kweli has gone full circle from independent artist to major label affiliate to indie once more, having released 10 albums and several mixtapes over the course of 15 years. No matter what the status, his art and message have never been compromised.

See: “Get By” (2000), “Definition; Re: Definition” (1998) (with Mos Def), and “The Blast” (2000) (with Hi-Tek)

Lloyd Banks:


As the most commercially successful member of G-Unit (outside of the general, 50 Cent), Lloyd Banks arguably also has been the most musically consistent member of the outfit (excluding no one). Banks’ steely, emotionless voice seamlessly blends into his oft impeccable tracks and may sometimes lull listeners into forgetting that he is unwaveringly bangin’ on wax.

After releasing a critically-acclaimed and commercially successful project with G-Unit, Banks went on to score the biggest hit of his career, as a solo artist. “On Fire” simultaneously had the clubs, the streets and the jeeps on lock. While Banks rarely deviates from topics related to the hustle and its accompanying spoils, he has avoided the caricaturization that has stymied many of his peers.

Over the years, Banks deftly has balanced his discography between solo projects (3 albums and 13 mixtapes) and those with G-Unit (2 with another one on the way), while always maintaining his own identity.

See: “On Fire” (2004), “Wanna Get to Know You” (2004) (with G-Unit), and “Beamer, Benz or Bentley” (2010) (with Juelz Santana)

So, who you got?

Voting For Round 1 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets

Talib Kweli


Lloyd Banks

Related: Finding the GOAT: Ghostface Killah vs. Kurupt…Who You Got?