Finding The GOAT: Joe Budden vs. Ab-Soul…Who You Got?

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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 present-day contenders for the throne: Joe Budden and Ab-Soul. Not traditional stars of the genre, these are two master craftsmen with cult followings. Without hit songs (in the last decade at least), these two men represent a fundamental return to rapping, with brutal honesty, fearless territorialism, and emphasis on the word above all else. Read these quite different backgrounds and histories, and cast your vote.

Joe Budden


For an MC introduced to mainstream Hip-Hop in the last dozen years, Joe Budden defies the traditional makings of a G.O.A.T. That is, if you haven’t met one of Joe Budden’s hardcore fans. Since the days before Slaughterhouse, the days before independent albums, the onetime Desert Storm/Def Jam artist amassed a strong, devoted following for his hardcore deliveries and heartfelt admissions. The Jersey City, New Jersey MC was talking about depression, self-doubt, and his trouble with women more than five years before Drake. “Jumpoff” was ruffling feathers, checking his peers, and vying for titles years before Kendrick Lamar’s “Control.”

With just three studio albums (plus a handful of independent releases and mixtapes), Joe Budden has been highly prolific, and tirelessly active. A battle-bred MC, Joe’s albums often don’t embody his best work—save for his self-titled debut, which hinted at both his core and commercial sides. On television, Budden may be a spectacle—not unlike his musical persona. Breathless, courageous, and unconventional, Joe left his label home to make the seven-plus minute songs that redefined his career, after “Pump It Up” and “Fire.” It’s worked, evident in the notoriety the rapper has gained since doing what seemed to be the unthinkable during a Jay Z-run regime. From the mixtape era, to the message board era, into the blog era, Joe Budden has been that dude.

Other Notable Tracks:

“Broken Wings Freestyle” (2003)
“Who?” (2009)
“Goodbye” (with Slaughterhouse) (2012)



Ab-Soul has just three albums in the last four years, but the Carson, California native is among the most G.O.A.T-championed artists of Hip-Hop’s new class. The cerebral Black Hippy member combined book smarts, strong spiritual references, and conspiracy theories with easily-digestible and relatable packaging—like Killah Priest-meets-Method Man for the 2010s. Moreover, like the 1980s giants, Soulo challenged the legends early in his career, with style and grace—but gimmick-free conviction.

Still without a physically-available album, Ab-Soul joins Jay Electronica as one of the true digital stars. Longterm Mentality, #controlsystem, and this year’s These Days… all garnered critical acclaim, and the type of commercial performance that’s been extremely rare for digital-only releases. Like the earliest days of his city’s other onetime star, Ras Kass, Ab-Soul has rapidly earned a reputation as a ferocious MC with dense research and a lot on his mind.

The self-proclaimed “Black Lip Pastor” has a growing congregation of believers that he’s one of Hip-Hop’s true game-changers. Perhaps he is one of the most completed voices in today’s music, with his street-savvy perspectives, supernatural abilities, and eyes in the skies and the books. At a time when being original is harder than ever, Soulo is a prodigious master.

Other Notable Tracks:

“Real Thinkers” (2011)
“Beautiful Death” (with Punch & Ashtrobot) (2011)
“ILLuminate” (with Kendrick Lamar) (2012)

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

Joe Budden



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