Finding The GOAT: GZA vs. Cormega…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 are of the “favorite rapper’s favorite rapper” ilk: GZA and Cormega (click on one to vote). These two New York MCs are contemporaries, both breaking onto wax in 1991, and looking beyond the easy route to maintain cult audiences. Each of these artists fight to make their verses literature, never chasing radio, but rather focusing on legacy.
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While GZA has some sales benchmarks, Cormega helped pioneer the 2000s independent blueprint, out-running some of his major label peers on miniscule budgets and limited resources. Each of these MCs has held their love of Hip-Hop on high, making albums cohesive and thematic. Although they may operate on different industry levels, there is a lot of carry-over between these two dramatic lyricists. Read about these two legendary artists, listen to their music and cast your vote.
Within the Wu-Tang Clan, GZA has been the elder, supreme swordsman. With the Brooklyn, New York MC being the first signed artist of the collective, The Genius has never failed to live up to his initial name. GZA’s catalog spans back to 1991’s Words From The Genius, a testament to his style’s malleability to the standards of the day. By 1993, the razor sharp raspy cadence, highly-researched rhymes of the GZA would be a focal point of the Wu-Tang Clan’s extensive armory and brandished ability.
By 1995, GZA achieved the feat of solidifying a solo classic, in Liquid Swords. The album served as a stripped-down clinic of hard rhymes, a purists’ extension of the Wu at their core. Throughout, although GZA came from the streets of Brooklyn at a time when they were vigilante, he was inventive with message, concept, and created a cinematic world that allowed him a unique message than his Rap peers. Throughout his career, although GZA maintained a syntax and vernacular that always exemplified his environment, the artist born Gary Grice delivered his verses as if they were polished fiction, ranging from Thriller, to Sci-Fi, to Historical. Keeping his brand in check, the MC gave small, lethal doses of dope on group albums, and largely focused his attentions on six solo sets—including two gold-certified releases.
Although GZA is one of the densest star MCs of Hip-Hop history, he has been capable of not only making radio-friendly hits, but never ducking in doing so. Whether “Cold World” or “Breaker, Breaker,” this illuminating MC stuck to his swords, and still mainstream Rap took notice. As an independent, following the dissolving of Geffen/MCA Records, GZA’s pure lyricism garnered strong sales, despite small labels, and presumably humble budgets for guests and production. Not only one of the touted weapons within the Clan, GZA is a genius MC, and one who certainly beckons the GOAT label.
Other Notable Tracks:
With over 25 years of history in Hip-Hop, Cormega has stayed the course as a true original. After releasing material that predated his peers Nas, Prodigy, and AZ, ‘Mega would have to wait until the 2000s to share a vision of his full conceptual depth. Signed to Def Jam Records after a mid-1990s incarceration, the Queens, New Yorker would be one of Hip-Hop’s most unjustly shelved artists, with his Testament held back in favor of more radio-friendly records in the changing guard at the Polygram-owned label.
Once independent, ‘Mega made up for lost time, showing the world quickly and succinctly why he was a favorite of both his peers, and the streets who knew him. Rather than chase the clubs or the radio, Cory McKay opted for headphone-driven Rap, speaking to those in circumstances who could relate to the soft-spoken, poetic MC who dwells upon loyalty, respect, and a love of the music. ‘Mega’s first three releases, all on miniscule labels, would tackle the Top 200. Despite the hurdles, the MC who frequently favored silence over beats, and minimalist backdrops shined in the light.
Without the support of radio, and less than 10 videos in his 25 years, Cormega has not only survived, he has thrived. In the last five years, the MC released 2009’s acclaimed Born & Raised and this year’s Mega Philosophy. Largely abandoning tales from his hustling past as well as inflammatory language, degrading women, and championing material goods, this artist has challenged himself creatively and commercially. The accolades and trophies may look different, but Cormega is a GOAT wild card, due to durability, consistency, and of course, skill.
Other Notable Tracks:
So…who you got?