Finding The GOAT: Raekwon vs. Black Thought…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 20-plus-year veterans of the mic device: Raekwon and Black Thought. Members of two of Hip-Hop’s most beloved crews, these men thrive in sharing their environment with a work ethic, and productivity that is among the strongest in music. Each has hits, obscurities, and collaborative work—all of which carries the gold standard, and cannot be replicated; two ’90s disciples who built careers to last by studying the greats of the ’80s. Read these quite different backgrounds and histories, and cast your vote.
Sometimes eclipsed even within his own clan, Raekwon the Chef crafts five-star verses, and has done so for more than 20 years. The Staten Island, New Yorker carries the influence of MCs like Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, and Slick Rick and honed an abstract original style. Like another GOAT contender in Ghostface Killah, Rae’ thrives off of slang, using a coded language poetically to depict a specific experience that seemingly everybody can relate to. Additionally, Cory Woods has one of Rap’s ultimate deliveries, the perfect balance of rasp, growl, and enunciation.
Debuting as one-ninth of the Wu-Tang Clan, Raekwon has carried integral parts of group albums starting with seminal 1993 debut, Enter The Wu-Tang. By 1995, the Loud/RCA Records artist hit the ground running with one of the finest debut albums ever released, in Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, better known as “The Purple Tape.” In the nearly 20 years since, Raekwon has dabbled with different sounds, styles, and aesthetics, all while being able to seamlessly bob and weave in and out of his core. In that period, with a handful of albums to mixed reviews, Rae’ has been a top-notch collaborator, and somebody who can blend in any moment.
Like Juicy J and UGK, Raekwon is enjoying career renaissance in 2014. Raekwon’s skilled writing, evocative delivery, and ability to touch a bygone era of Hip-Hop (and New York City) make him as strong as ever. With a truly daunting catalog, Raekwon has pioneered many of the styles and approaches to Hip-Hop that drive the engine in present-day. Without a platinum solo album, Chef is a symbol of persistence, creative courage, and underdogs who rap like alpha dogs.
Black Thought is frequently omitted from GOAT discussions. However, in a 20-plus-year career, with songs ranging from jam band stream of consciousness to ferocious battle-style verses to introspective commentary, is anybody as diverse? Tariq Trotter is a ’90s MC with ’80s timing and delivery, and a 2000s-style connection with his city and emotions. Philadelphia-raised and long accepted through his work in New York City, Black Thought is totally different than the norm—and he even uses microphones unlike his peers to remind Heads.
Despite grumblings and a handful of records and a mixtape, Black Thought has never released a solo album. Instead, The Roots’ front man (also an Okay Player and Money Making Jam Boy) has been a team player, gifted at bending genre, sharing stages, and as he does on nearly every weeknight of the year—blending his skills with anyone’s sound. With a number of heralded albums and songs, this is a purist’s MC with unfathomable endurance, on the mic and in his career.
Like so many vocalists to bands, Black Thought is tireless at making songs, conceptualizing ideas, and perhaps more than any MC in Hip-Hop history, performing. As a rapper and singer, Thought’s contributions through The Roots are deeply understated, as one of the true showmen in the genre and culture has forever kept the party moving with an approach that honors the greats.
Other Notable Tracks:
Voting For Round 1 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets