Finding The GOAT: Phife Dawg vs. Queen Latifah…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 MCs to square-off are contemporaries, who bridged Hip-Hop from its late 1980s rhyme-routines and cultivated the direction through the early 2000s: Phife Dawg and Queen Latifah. Attached to indelible groups and movements, these two tireless artists balanced style and substance excellently, raising Rap’s awareness, while still remaining unpredictable on albums. Listen to these similar icons’ music, message and read up on their impact before casting your vote.
Like Inspectah Deck, MC Ren, or Big Boi, Phife Dawg has thrived within a group that has inevitably placed him more in the shadows, despite amazing lyrical efforts. Especially on A Tribe Called Quest’s first three albums, the “five foot assassin” has been nothing short of amazing, combining wit, aspiration, humility, and skilled wordplay in his extensive raps.
A product of A.T.C.Q’s strong Jazz influence, Phife (like Q-Tip) carried a free-form approach to delivery. Throughout a verse, the altered speed, meter, and flow shifted seamlessly, which made for such an interesting listen. Additionally, Phife’s verses remain at the zeitgeist of their era. In the early ’90s, the pop culture references are spot-on, time capsules that Heads travel back to, remembering an untouchable era in music, in New York, in fashion and society. Similarly, Phife checked in with verses at the later part of the decade that suggest the many transformations, from less innocent times, to the absence of love, peace, and fellowship within Hip-Hop. By the early 2000s, before taking a lengthy hiatus from Rap, Diggy also showed a blueprint to the underground, on how to make moving, low profile Hip-Hop that upheld the standard of quality.
Moreover, Phife carried an edge to him, a balance of soda-drinkin’, sports-lovin’ innocence and lust-filled thoughts takin’ jabs at crossover Rap acts. With a one-of-a-kind vocal style, Phife is an integral, oft-underplayed ingredient to Tribe’s status as one of the GOAT groups, so why wouldn’t he be a GOAT in his own right?
Other Notable Tracks:
Before the talk shows, the Academy Awards, the Vocal Jazz career, Queen Latifah was simply a dope MC. The front woman of 45 King’s Flavor Unit (which Queen Lah’ would later take over), this Newark, New Jersey MC balanced a message with an attitude that not only cleared a path for female MCs, but simply raised the consciousness in Hip-Hop for more than 25 years.
With first person accounts of sexism in her raps, Latifah not only made room for women at the microphone, she educated the total masses on what they might be missing in the streets. Versatile as ever, Latifah bobbed and weaved in the ’80s and ’90s as one of the first highly-respected Hip-Hop artists to showcase singing and vocal melody in her song structure, while still being a lynchpin in the hardcore Hip-Hop movement. She also showed early mogul status, signing acts like Naughty By Nature, Freddie Foxxx, Apache, and Made Men (as Almighty RSO). Latifah’s ability to show depth in her releases remained paramount, and it’s beyond comprehension how she juggled such a touted solo career with a label, TV series, and burgeoning film career in the ’90s.
Although her rapping is sporadic in 2014, Latifah has mastered the ceremony into other genres. Like Ice-T, she has dropped in with albums aimed at her core, while still owning her past and her reputation as one of the stars of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Latifah is a reminder of Rap’s infinite potential, and her organic story traces back to a work ethic, style, and charismatic character that she still possesses in all media.
Other Notable Tracks:
So…who you got?
Voting For Round 1 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets