Finding The GOAT: E-40 vs. 8Ball…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 MCs to square-off deserve credit for influencing so much of what’s in vogue today in Rap: and each of them were laying the foundation more than 20 years ago. Moreover, both of these wordsmiths and visionaries continue to produce futuristic, skill-based music today: E-40 and 8Ball (click on one to vote).

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




From less-considered cities on the Hip-Hop map (Vallejo, California and Memphis, Tennessee), each of these artists put on for their regions, and invented a specific sound that Heads still look back upon. Although each artist would sign with major labels later in their careers, these two men also went the independent route, making would-be classic albums on limited resources, and grassroots followings. Gangsta rappers with strong imaginations, these two men proved that by staying ahead of the curve, there is always an audience ready to devour, analyze, and live by the lyrics. Coming up from the ’80s ideals of what it takes to be a great MC, 40 Water and ‘Ball raised the bar. Read these quite different backgrounds and histories, listen to their music and cast your vote.



The old adage, “I came to the fork in the road, and went straight” certainly applies to the career of E-40. By most standards, the Vallejo, California MC is among the most innovative, original, and nimble lyricists in Hip-Hop history, and he’s been successful at it for more than 20 years. The seemingly ageless rapper, 40 Water’s geographical disadvantage, and his loyalty to the sound and production he’s favored may have hamstrung the vocational vocalist. However, even without mainstream radio and video support, the Sick Wid It Records CEO (B-Legit, Celly Cel, Al Kapone) has garnered a plethora of plaques, and remains a serious sales juggernaut in the 2010s.

In terms of content, Charlie Hustle plays all the positions. A gangsta rapper at the core, albums like Federal and The Mailman are archetypal releases that were years ahead of their time in profiling drug sales, leeching objects of lust, and a series of anthems about cars. With The Click’s history dating back to the mid-1980s, 40 Water’s ability to brag and boast (as “Mr. Flamboyant”) are top-notch. With 22 official solo releases as of next month, not to mention collaborative works, group albums, and a conveyer belt of guest appearances, the Water has never stagnated or gone still. Instead, Earl Stevens stays passing Go, collecting at every corner.

Perhaps what is E-40’s greatest attribute has been his ability to evolve. From The Click’s earliest dookie-rope chain days to 40’s Jive Records (Too Short, KRS-One, Spice 1) run in the mid-to-late ’90s, and into the Hyphy movement in the early 2000s, 40 has always been there. His content and evolving slang has never wavered, even while the production and presentation has grown with the catalog. Several times in his career, E-40 has seen the spotlight come and go, and it’s never changed him, his consistency, or his craft one single bit.

Other Notable Songs:

“Ballin’ Outta Control” (1993)
“Sideways” (with B-Legit & Mac Shawn) (1995)
“Got Rich Twice” (with Turf Talk) (2008)



With his Eightball & MJG partner and alone, 8Ball (it’s been spelled both ways) has been a 20-year ruling force in independent Southern Hip-Hop. Although ‘Ball has often lacked the promotional push of some of his Tennessee peers, the rapper’s strong blend of flare, sincerity, and innovative subject matter have him a favorite of those in the know.

In the 23 years since he and his rhyme partner released their first album, 8Ball has been courted by Puff Daddy as a top act at Bad Boy South. His lesser known works have been covered by The New York Times, and his services have been regularly recruited by classes upon classes of in-the-moment superstars. An influence to Big K.R.I.T., Drake, and Yelawolf, Premro Smith’s imaginative lyrics pulled drug sales and (the umbrella definition of) pimpin’ out of the gridded streets of Memphis and into galaxies of creativity. Moreover, albums like 8Ball’s solo double-disc, Lost, took deep situations like infidelity, depression, and romance and played it out in a way that never tucked its vulnerability—15 years before Kevin Gates, Future, and Rich Homie Quan. With most of his career tied to limited labels like Suave House (Tela, Big Mike, Crime Boss), Jcor (Masta Ace, O.C., Tech N9ne), and smaller boutique houses, 8Ball’s audio novels are not readily available on shelves, but certainly worth hunting for.

Other Notable Songs:

“Backyard Mississippi” (with Goodie Mob) (1998)
“Gangsta Party” (with Yo Gotti & Bun B) (2006)
“Relax And Take Notes” (with Eightball & MJG, The Notorious B.I.G. & Project Pat) (2006)

So…who you got?

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