Finding The GOAT: Ice-T vs. Grand Master Melle Mel…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 early examples of ruling microphone emperors—rappers who bullied the microphone but still made it cool to vocalize for the voiceless: Ice-T and Grand Master Melle Mel. Each MC only boasted a few “hits” respectively (with the latter under the guise of his DJ and group), but their impact on the craft of rapping is unfathomable. These 30-plus-year rappers remain active in the scene and the craft today, extensions of their 1980s personas on albums. Each voice helped show the world that in the economic boom of the 1980s, it wasn’t all good for everyone—just one of their many overlapping qualities. Read some history, dip into some sonic selections, and cast your vote for who moves on to the next round.
For more than 30 years, Ice-T has been kicking what he has long considered Reality Rap. A New Jersey native, Ice-T joined the military before relocating to Los Angeles, California, where he took to the streets with an observant eye, and a lot of game. Inspired by street-author Iceberg Slim, Ice-T may not be the most versatile vocalist, but his straightforward delivery, raw insights, and pulse of the people made him a pioneer of Gangsta Rap, as well as a mentor to everybody from WC, to King T, to Tha Likwit Crew.
In the late ’80s, Ice made hard hitting albums like Power and Rhyme Pays, with conventional choruses that served as theses for Tracy Morrow’s chilling narratives about the LAPD kicking in doors, pullin’ fly women, and bridging a Superfly lifestyle into the George H. Bush era. After he was lampooned for his violent lyrics, Ice-T became a beacon for the First Amendment, getting even darker, more vivid, and fearless in telling it like he saw it.
Throughout his career, Ice-T’s music missed the mark for radio and video outlets. Still, even as a multi-millionaire actor, reality TV personality, and Hollywood producer, he’s remained committed to Gangsta Rap. Whether buggin’ out with Kool Keith and Sir Menelik (Analog Brothers), or delivering murdergrams with Smoothe Da Hustler and Trigger The Gambler (S.M.G), the Original Gangsta remains in step with the best of them through trailblazing subject matters, authenticity, and icy coolness.
Grand Master Melle Mel
While Grandmaster Flash is one of Hip-Hop’s Godfather DJs, his group, The Furious Five, boasted some of the finest MCs of their day. Grandmaster Melle Mel, the front man of the crew was the transition from the block party presentations of the late ’70s and the “Hard Times” of Run-DMC in the mid-1980s. One of Hip-Hop’s first shirtless icons, and a sex symbol of the day, Melle Mel delivered a full arsenal of attributes that MCs in 2014 still need: a style, a pose, a signature ad-lib (rawr!), and bars for days.
Between 1979 and 1988, Melle Mel (like Kool Moe Dee) was one of the few (and supreme) MCs who could weather the generational shift in Hip-Hop. Songs like “The Message” were deeply instrumental in giving Rap tracks a cohesive point that served an oral purpose, while cuts like “Superrappin'” and “Beat Street” continuously fought for Melvin Glover’s place at the top of MCs. As the competition expanded, Melle Mel’s vocal brawn pushed on, even prompting a late ’80s challenge from KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions on “I’m Still #1.”
Even today, the Bronx, New Yorker performs relatively regularly, maintaining one of the most boisterous, entertaining live shows in Hip-Hop. Without a hit solo album to his credit, “Grand Master Muscles” as he’s sometimes dubbed is a master of the ceremony—actively showing new generations just what it took to touch a mic in the boogie down Bronx while it was burning, and to sell a 12″ in the days that predate the Rap album.
Voting For Round 1 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets