Finding The GOAT: Big L vs. Fat Joe…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.

In a strong turn of events, the next two MC’s to square-off are from the same crew. Big L and Fat Joe were both showcased MCs in Diggin’ In The Crates (D.I.T.C.). Mentored under highly-respected producers, Lord Finesse and Diamond D, respectively, these rappers hit the booth with something to say, and unique ways to say it. Sadly, Big L enjoyed less than a decade of output, while Joe’s discography extends back to the late 1980s, care of The Ultimate Force. Wit, street knowledge, ultra confidence, and versatility towards all types of tracks are commonalities between these lyrical giants.

Big L


Although he only lived to see one of his solo albums released, Big L remains one of the most immortalized MCs of the ’90s and 2000s. The Harlem, New Yorker was among a class of early 1990s pupils, who closely studied the reigning greats, especially his mentor, Lord Finesse. L had a radically versatile flow, deadpan wit, and Gangsta Rap subject matter, making him accessible to a wide range of audiences. Between his Diggin’ In The Crates (D.I.T.C) crew (A.G., O.C., Fat Joe, Diamond D, Finesse) and Children Of The Corn (Cam’ron, Ma$e, Herb McGruff, Bloodshed), L was a major standout within his peers, and proves that steel sharpens steel.

After garnering acclaim with his 1995 Columbia Records-backed LP, Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous, Big L became an archetype for artists who navigated the industry at high-profile despite lower sales or lack of a contract. In the late ’90s, Corleone ran with his crews, making impactful appearances on albums by O.C., Diamond, and McGruff. Outside of that, L stayed recording his sophomore album, and being a stand-out on his crew’s studio debut for Tommy Boy Records. With a smooth cadence, ability to thrive on nearly any kind of beat, L became a star outside of stardom.

Outside of multi-platinum artists like Eminem, 2Pac, and Jay Z, Big L is among Rap’s most quoted. His sophomore, 2000’s The Big Picture, released a year after his death, earned a gold plaque. Shining alongside stiff competition, and produced as an artist whose lyrics were forever on top display, Lamont Coleman is revered at an elite level, and remembered as an iconic MC who had a Midas touch without tons of resources at his disposal.

Other Notable Songs:

“How Will I Make It?” (Mixtape/Demo)
“Yes You May (Remix)” (with Lord Finesse) (1992)
“Dignified Soldiers Remix” (with D.I.T.C) (1998)

Fat Joe


For 21 years, Fat Joe has been a force to be reckoned with in Hip-Hop. It was Joe Crack who helped give New York City one of its first international Hispanic Rap stars. In part, Joe’s ability to touch on a Puerto Rican and Cuban-American experience made his vernacular, perspectives, and cadences so unique. Like L, Fat Joe came up under D.I.T.C., and in turn, some of the early ’90s’ most heralded producers (Diamond D, Lord Finesse, Showbiz). On infectious beats, Joe delivered menacing, often braggadocious bars that touched into Hip-Hop’s roots.

Following Joe’s first two albums, Represent and Jealous One’s Envy, the Bronx artist (who is credited with a large hand in Big Pun’s discography) experimented strongly with whatever wave was most current. A sonic chameleon who often dabbled with shiny-suit sounds, Southern production, West Coast themes, and more, Don Carta’ always held his “flow Joe” delivery, no matter how the backing beats or subject matters changed.

Although Joseph Cartagena has one platinum and one separately gold LP, perhaps his best MC assets are displayed on stage. While skeptics often accuse the former Atlantic Records star of abandoning some of his core (prior to 2010’s The Darkside, Vol. 1), Joe’s commanding live show, impromptu freestyles, and ability to blend on anybody with the track (Nelly, KRS-One, Slaughterhouse, Mack 10) make him a universal soldier in the war in favor of dope.

Other Notable Songs:

“You Must Be Out Of Your Fuckin’ Mind” (with Apache & Kool G Rap) (1993)
“Twinz (Deep Cover ’98)” (with Big Pun) (1998)
“(Thank God For) That White” (2008)

So…who you got?

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

Big L


Fat Joe

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