Finding The GOAT: Lupe Fiasco vs. Royce Da 5’9″…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 survivors of label politics and plenty of shoots and ladders. Still, both have defiantly weathered the storm with rare grace: Lupe Fiasco and Royce Da 5’9″ (click on one to vote).

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

Lupe Fiasco


Royce Da 5'9

Attached to superstar peers, both Lupe and Royce had auspicious beginnings, living in the shadows, and in turn, dealing with the hurdles of Industry Rule #4080. Both of these artists seemingly put on blinders, and remained dedicated to the craft, their vision, and perhaps most of all, their core fans. With gold albums that some Heads love, and highly-underground releases that other Heads swear by, these are two unique stories that have a lot of overlap, led by skills above all else. Read these quite different backgrounds and histories, listen to their music and cast your vote.

Lupe Fiasco


Few artists in the last 10 years have built the cult following of Lupe Fiasco. Billed as “a breath of fresh air” in the early 2000s by Jay Z, this Chicago, Illinois MC has seamlessly combined socially active commentary, fashion, street life, and imaginative otherworldly topics together on a handful of albums, with two gold plaques. With penetrating rhymes, unique introspect and intellect, Wasalu Jaco ushered in a class of artists with big dreams and big visions to execute a movement in the 2000s.

With his acclaimed Food & Liquor debut, Fiasco was on a different tilt than his peers. Following a strong feature on Kanye West’s “Touch The Sky Single,” Lu’s debut separated from that sound, and instead, invented one. Weaving in Pop sensibilities, Lu’ doggedly rapped with very stylized deliveries throughout his debut. From songs of hope, to songs about skateboarding love stories, this album stood apart—and to the reluctance of Atlantic Records to release the leaked LP, still garnered Grammy nominations, strong sales, and a pathway made for one of Rap’s fast-tracking newcomers.

Three albums and eight years since his debut, Lupe Fiasco has weathered a major label storm, fighting for his complete vision. The 1st & 15th co-founder has thrived as one of the most daring creators, and an MC with conviction, purpose, and power in his pen and voice.

Other Notable Songs:

“Daydreamin'” (with Jill Scott) (2006)
“Little Weapon” (with Biship G & Nikki Jean) (2007)
“Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)” (2012)

Royce Da 5’9″


For more than 15 years, Royce Da 5’9″ has been a beacon of lyricism. The Detroit, Michigan MC, a longtime close friend and Bad Meets Evil partner with Eminem was a breakthrough artist of the same time. While the B.M.E recordings painted Nickel Nine as an artist capable of upholding the D’s reputation and creativity for Horror-core, his solo materials played like anabolic updates in the Lord Finesse or Big L wheel-house. Cocky, skillful, and rapping with an unmovable sincerity, Royce’s street records such as “Boom” and “My Friend” firmly established him of his own accord.

With a halted Columbia Records stint, Royce returned to the underground that made him, where he stayed for the better part of a decade. There, Nickel maintained the blend of highly personal journal entry-like songs, highly-showcased bravado, and brilliant wordplay. It would not be until 2011’s high-profile reunion with Eminem that Royce would score a plaque, however, many Heads argue that from his Bar Exam mixtape series to his sophomore, Death Is Certain, that Ryan Montgomery is at his best when he’s got the least, in the way of resources.

Since co-founding Slaughterhouse, Royce Da 5’9″ has heightened from independent Hip-Hop mainstay to a high-profile lethal lyricist within the Shady Records family. With the industry now at his fingertips, Nickel Nine still seems to make music with his core in mind first. A distinct voice, with a massive catalog of messages, proves constantly that slow and steady wins the race.

Other Notable Songs:

“Boom” (1999)
“Life” (with Amerie) (2000)
“Shake This” (2009)

So…who you got?